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26 YEARS Producer CHOI Yong-bae

by SONG Ji-hwan   12.28.2012
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THE HOST 2 Scenario Coming Up Soon
 
 
We met with CHOI Yong-bae during the 3rd week of December, when 3 million admissions for his new film were assured. After much meandering, he told us about the production of 26 Years. He also explained its meaning and the inherent sense of duty of the movie and discussed the story that people around the world have been waitring to hear: The Host 2.
 
- When did you decide to make the web-toon ‘26 Years’ into a movie?

In April, 2006. When post production on The Host was almost finished, as BONG Joon-ho was doing a great job on completing the film. I started reading the web-toon ‘26 Years’. I felt sorry and sad to see the main characters that lost their parents in Gwangju in the year 1980. I empathized with the victims and felt anger towards the inflictor. It was more attractive than former stories about 5.18. I went to see KANG Full and heard about the rest of the stories. It was not about what happened in the past but rather about the current situation 26 years later. KANG Full was astonished by by these people
s stories and wanted to show the young generation that couldn’t tell the difference between 8.15 and 5.18. I felt the same way and wanted to make it into a movie and tell the world. That's how we came ot an agreement right after the release of The Host in July that year.
 
  
 

- Meanwhile, the director and many of the actors have changed.

The writer and director was changed to LEE Hae-young. He’s good at directing and working on scenarios and the dramatization of the original work was not easy. RYOO Seung-bum, KIM A-joong, JIN Goo, HAN Sang-jin, CHUN Ho-jin, BYUN Hee-bong were cast. Everything was ready right before the shooting in 2008. But the main investor suddenly backed out. He came over and told us that he might get fired so the investment can no longer be continued. I coincidentally met him this year and heard about the backstory. Back then, the president of the investor company had been called in to the Blue House and was told to stop investing in 26 Years and the rest of the investors eventually backed out as well. We tried several times after but it wasn’t successful. and years passed. Last autumn, when the mayor of Seoul changed, the investors said they wanted to reinvest in the movie. However in March this year, there was a situation where we could not continue with the movie. There was no money. If the situation continued, there was a sense of crisis that 26 years could not be completed. The right of the original piece had been agreed between the producer and the original writer but if the production was to stop because of the external pressure, it would leave a very bad image for the movie. There were a lot of people that wanted to see the movie 26 Years at that time. There even was a campaign urging for the production of the film. The citizens wanted to complete the movie themselves. And we wanted a final discussion with them. We met with KANG Full and mutually decided to gather up money from the citizens. We believed this could be the driving force. we tried crowd funding and the target was 1 billion won. By the end of May, 9000 people participated and 380 million won had been gathered. It was a failure. but meanwhile, individual investors came along and gave us hope that it could be made. Singer LEE Seung-hwan offered to give help and some others were willing to give a large amount of their money. It all started again like that. As a filmmaker I felt a responsibility to complete this film. Moreover, I didn’t want to give in to those who wanted the movie to fail.
 
- You should feel a sense of accomplishment.

It was a difficult production. At the beginning we only had 30% of the budget. I was afraid and anxious. During the later half of the filming, choosing a distributor was a problem. It was rejected by all the large distributors. It was risky but was solved somehow. Fortunately on the first and second week of the release, it placed first at the box office but we could not secure many theaters. There is too much disadvantage for small and medium-sized distributors. The seat occupancy was very high and tickets were sold out since its release day. But overall, it was not a fair game compared to the films from large distribution companies.
 
- How was working with CHO Geun-hyun the former art director?
He did not join because he wanted to do such kind of movie and he used to be a staff. So unlike other directors, the attribute of a writer was comparably little. An art directors needs to listen to the director, lead the team and adjust to the environment. It has to be in his fiber. That’s why it was easy and what should be accomplished and what should be abandoned was not the issue. CHO Geun-hyun was the art director for 26 Years all along even when the directors changed. That’s why he had a lot of understanding.
 
- The animation in the beginning of the film was a very effective tool.
It was work done by OH Sung-yoon of Leafie, a Hen into the Wild. This part had to be most adorned part from LEE Hae-young’s script. LEE Hae-young did a good job in compressing the past of the main characters. The animated part was also the reason for it being PG-15. There are children that really went through the slaughter and in Korea’s reality, these kind of children do exist. This is why we came to decide that ‘this kind of situation should be seen and we must bear with the shock’. Though it was not our intention to go too far.
 
- There must have been some impressive reactions from the audience.
There were a lot of people that said “This really happened? I didn’t know”, “I cried really hard”, “I want to go to Gwangju someday” and “Thank you for making such movie.” What most comforted me was when I heard “It's enough just to have made this film.”
 
- What’s your plan on submitting the film to international film festivals?
I’ve gotten calls from Europe and we’ve just finished with English subtitles. We weren’t able to check everything in detail because of the tight schedule. We have submitted to one festival and plan to upload it through the kobiz online screening service.
 
 

- People are curious about your next film The Host 2.
There is an extremely high level of curiosity surrounding The Host 2 from abroad. The overseas buyers were able to make a lot of profits from The Host. This is why we are getting a lot of calls. PARK Myung-chun has been chosen as the director and it will be completed with domestic CG technology. For The Host, 3.6 million dollars was used for 120 CG shots. It was a lot of money. The film was meaningful at that time for it being the very first creature movie in Korea. Through the monster, we were able to show and symbolize social irregularities very well but lacked the local skills needed to work on the monster itslef itself. As a creature movie, there needs to be a strong visual sense regarding the action. It felt quite impossible to work on this visual effect with overseas partners. So I went looking for Korean companies. PARK Myung-chun and his company came out with a pair of two minute clips. It was shown in many film festivals. As a result of that, they’ve found out that The Host 2 was being made and have been calling ever since. The scenario is being written by YIM Pil-sung and will be finished by the end of December. The outlook of the monster is very similar to the first one but will a few changes. For the first movie, there was only was one monster but now there are two of different sizes. We are planning to release the film in early summer 2014.
 
- What’s your plan for next year?
I’ve been preparing something. KANG Full’s web-toon ‘Every Moment of Yours’. It’s about the end of the world. There have been a lot of new viruses that have struck fear into people over the last 10 years. SARS, avian influenza, novel swine-origin influenza A, bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It is about these phenomena really happening. Disasters, end of the world and zombies. It was a big hit as a web-toon. I am now working on The Host 2 and this in detail and one or two more. This year seems to be the revival of Korean films. There were different kind of movies with great quality. I’ve heard that Korean movies were more fun to watch. This needs to be continued in order for producers to try brave things. This year has been one of progress for Korean movies and we hope next year will be too. Even if there aren’t many exports of Korean films for now, if this phenomenon continues 2-3 years, overseas markets will open up to us. The amount of Korean film exports is directly proportional to the energy of Korean film industry.
 
Photo KIM Jin-woong

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