INTRODUCTION Introduced the Face of the New Generation, Shin Seokho & Park Miso
- Writerby Jung yu mi
“INTRODUCTION is Director Hong Sangsoo’s Experimentation, the Action He Must Do”
INTRODUCTION, Director Hong Sangsoo’s 25th feature film and the 71st Berlin International Film Festival's Silver Bear Award-winning film, was released in Korea on May 27. The lead actors, Shin Seokho and Park Miso are the young faces that represent the ‘New Generation in Hong Sangsoo’s World.’ Shin Seokho started his film career as a staff member of Director Hong and built his acting skills by playing supporting roles in Grass and The Woman Who Ran. Park Miso is Hong Sangsoo’s new persona, who made her first feature debut with the film. We met the two actors and listened to Director Hong Sangsoo’s movie world and his new work process.
Q: INTRODUCTION won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival this year. Congratulations on your winning the prize. How did you feel when you heard the news?
Park: I felt honored. When I read the title of the article, ‘Director Hong Sangsoo Won the Berlin Film Festival,’ I thought The Woman Who Ran was the winner at first. (Laugh) I remember that I congratulated him later.
Shin: I watched the ceremony on YouTube on the very same day as the award. As an actor who starred in the film, it called for a celebration that the film was invited to the competition section of the Berlin International Film Festival, and I was on cloud nine when the film won the award. I called Director Hong to congratulate him the next morning after the award. And he said, “It’s all thanks to you guys (Shin Seokho, Park Miso). I really thank you for your hard work.” I remember I cried alone, hanging up the phone.
Q. You guys are also majoring in video and films at Konkuk University, where Director Hong Sangsoo serves as a professor. We’d like to hear about your first meeting with Director Hong.
Shin: I entered the university in 2008, and we met as a professor and a pupil for the first time. After that, I participated in his film Right Now, Wrong Then as a staff member in 2015 and appeared as an actor in Grass and The Woman Who Ran.
Park: In September 2019, I first met Director Hong in a film class. I remember that I was very nervous after registering for Director Hong’s class because I wanted to take the class so badly. I was very nervous when I took the first class, as well.
Q. So far, Korea’s leading actors in ‘Team Hong Sangsoo,’ including Kwon Haehyo and Kim Minhee, have always played the main characters of Hong Sangsoo’s movies. However, in INTRODUCTION, the director boldly cast two new actors as the main characters, which made headlines. We’re curious about the casting process.
Shin: Director Hong called me when he started working on INTRODUCTION. I naturally thought that I was joining the film as a staff member, and I said yes. At the first gathering of the staff, Director Hong introduced me as ‘an actor of the movie.’ That’s when I first found out that I was cast as an actor. (Laugh) At first, I thought I would take a minor role, but the amount of filming continued to increase. I wondered to myself, “Why am I appearing in so many scenes?” When the filming was over, I realized that I was the male lead actor.
Park: My case was similar to his. During the school vacation, Director Hong asked me for a meeting about filming. When we met, I did a test shoot right away. After that, the director asked again, “Can you participate in my movie I’m filming soon?” So, I immediately joined it as an actor.
Shin: There is no difference between Prof. Hong and Director Hong, I think. His attitude toward films is consistent. Director Hong considers a movie very noble and sacred. He keeps away from people who want to get ‘something other than a movie itself’ through a movie. In class, he reprimanded the students who tried to fake movies. I respect Director Hong Sangsoo’s view of movies.
Park: Professor Hong guides students to bring out what is inside them. He creates a situation that we can express what is in us freely out of a frame. The same was true on the set. As an actor, I was happy to act out of the box without being tied to a rut.
Q. Director Hong’s unique directing style is already famous. On the day of filming, the script is given to the actor, and the actor must immediately understand and act the character. Was it the same for INTRODUCTION? Any special directions this time?
Shin: Instead of meticulous directing, Director Hong entrusted many parts to the actors. The actors first filmed the part as they understood it, and then the director added his opinions. However, when it comes to the way of speaking of a character, he made it clear yes or no.
Park: I had no idea about that because I was busy memorizing the script. (Laugh) When filming a movie, actors usually receive and analyze the scripts in advance. We frame characters first and pull them off. However, Director Hong doesn’t give us the time to analyze characters at all, so I rather experienced that my true self was smeared in the character. That’s why I felt free while acting, I think.
Q. INTRODUCTION is evaluated as new in that Director Hong Sangsoo listened to the concerns and stories of the younger generation. How did you two actors feel about that, who director Hong Sangsoo chose as the face of the ‘young generation?’
Shin: I couldn't afford to look at the whole part of the movie when filming it. But when I first saw the movie after finishing it, I thought it was definitely about the story of the younger generation. The director used to ask us about our generation quite often on unofficial occasions.
Park: I deeply empathized with the character Juwon I played because her situation resembles mine a lot. I felt that I experienced a lot of pain in the 'first and new' situation while playing Juwon. When I watched the finished movie, I felt that Juwon touched my deep heart.
Q. Youngho, played by Shin Seokho, is an aspiring actor. Although the movie does not elaborate on his story, he seems to be awkward with his father and under the strong influence of his mother. Tell us how you understood this character.
Shin: I thought Youngho is a person who keeps looking for someone he loves. The relationship with the nurse (Ye Jiwon) in his father's oriental medicine clinic in the first part is a prime example. When he was little, Youngho would have relied emotionally on the nurse. However, as his parents divorced, his relationship with the people he relied on may have grown apart. While acting, I just assumed that Youngho had a hard feeling toward his father although he didn’t hate him much. Also, Youngho listens to his mother well because she raised him all alone, but on the other hand, he seems to be very burdensome and ill at ease.
Park: I felt both Youngho and Juwon were trapped and tied in the frame made by their parents instead of resting in the shade of their parents. Juwon takes action to block the wind with her hands when her mother lights a cigarette, just like her subordinate does. This kind of scene secretly shows a strange vertical relationship the mother and daughter have.
Q. INTRODUCTION features three parts of Youngho’s journey to meet his father, lover, and mother. What was the most memorable moment while filming?
Shin: In Part 3, there is a scene where Youngho jumps into the winter sea. I was worried a lot because the waves were high and the weather was so cold on the day. However, when acting in person, I felt refreshed because it was like all the age-old grudges Youngho harbored in his heart washed away. Also, I remember the scene where Youngho hugged the nurse (Ye Jiwon) at the oriental medical clinic in Part 1. It snowed a lot on the day, but it stopped snowing as soon as we stopped filming, which was very interesting. It was like a movie.
Q. INTRODUCTION you starred in is your first feature film. What kind of energy did you get at the film site?
Park: I learned a lot at the film site. Working with many seniors, I came to think a lot about acting. Especially, I felt some freedom from Kim Minhee’s acting, which didn’t seem to be tied to anything. I felt very stiff when there was a camera around me as if my body had been tied up even when I was speaking lines. So, I learned a lot watching Kim Minhee acting freely.
Q. What is the most important advice that Director Hong Sangsoo gave to you guys at school or while making INTRODUCTION?
Shin: Since I received the script on the day of shooting, I always felt pressured to memorize it and worried about acting. Every time, Director Hong said, “Don't try to make it, just show me what you have.” Thanks to his advice, I could project myself into Youngho more naturally.
Park: What Director Hong said in the last class is the most memorable to me. He stressed, “Don’t turn your eyes away from the direction you want to go.” I shed a lot of tears when I heard that. I think I wasn’t sure about the way I had to go at that time and I was worried a lot. His advice cheered me up greatly.
Q. The title ‘Introduction’ seems to mean a lot not only to the audience but also to the actors. How did you two actors understand the title?
Shin: Director Hong let us know the title after he finished editing. He was in charge of almost all the parts, including filming, editing, and recording for the first time, and it was also shocking that he cast Park Miso and me, who are still novices, as the main characters. In that sense, I think the title means introducing the director’s experimentation in a way. The title also could mean that each chapter of the three-part film shows only the ‘introduction’ of the stories to be unfolded in the future.
Park: I think an inevitable action that we must do no matter what happens could be the meaning of the title ‘Introduction.’
Shin: Every film has the same aspect, but especially in this regard, INTRODUCTION can be felt like ‘my own story’ to all audiences.
Q. To both of you, this work is likely to be an unforgettable ‘introduction’ for overseas audiences. Could you tell us about your plans?
Shin: So far, it has been unfamiliar to introduce me as an actor. I also had some sense of shame because I didn’t think I was eligible for that. But this work changed my attitude. I want to be a proud actor to myself from now on.
Park: I know that I still have a long way to go as an actor. Nevertheless, thanks to Director Hong Sangsoo’s teaching, I became convinced of the path I want to go and the way I continue to live as an actor. I want to do what is given to me naturally as it flows. There are many things I want to do as an actor.