New York Asian 2019 Interview: Kim Yoon-seok Talks Directing Debut ANOTHER CHILD, Plus Latest Thriller DARK FIGURE OF CRIME

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New York Asian 2019 Interview: Kim Yoon-seok Talks Directing Debut ANOTHER CHILD, Plus Latest Thriller DARK FIGURE OF CRIME
After receiving the New York Asian Film Festival’s Star Asia award last year, actor Kim Yoon-seok returns, this time as the director of his first feature, Another Child, the sensitive tale of two teenagers caught in a web of domestic upheaval.
 
Kim spoke exclusively with LMD about his directorial debut, his role in the also featured thriller, Dark Figure of Crime, and confirms his upcoming collaboration with director Ryoo Seung-wan.
 
 
The Lady Miz Diva:  Welcome back to the festival on the occasion of your directing debut.  I remember discussing plans for your first directing project last year.  I am also happy to see that you must also be a fan of the hit drama, SKY CASTLE (ANOTHER CHILD features SKY CASTLE stars Yum Jung-ah and Kim Hye-yoon).
 
Kim Yun-seok: {Laughs} I want to say that the movie was made before Sky Castle.
 
LMD:  What was it about the story of ANOTHER CHILD that make you think it was the right project for your directorial debut?
 
KYs:  This film was actually based on a play that I saw in the winter of 2014.  The play was about two schoolgirls trying to deal with adults who had cheated on each other and had a baby.  
 
So, I really wanted to raise the question of what is the distinction between adulthood and non-adulthood?  We tend to think that distinction comes with age, but is that really true?  Can you really say that just because you’ve reached a certain age, does that mean that you are fully grown, and an emotionally and psychologically-integrated human being?  Can you really say that?  That was the question I wanted to ask.  
 
LMD:  The emotional life of a teenage girl can be very complex.  What grabbed me was how sensitively you portrayed their emotional lives, but still gave them the realistic innocence and freshness and craziness of their youth.  As a 51-year old man, how were you able to render those teenage characters so authentically?
 
KYs:  I think, naturally, because I am an actor, I am able to catch up on those qualities that high school girls can have.  Also, having my daughter; I also observed her, and her behavior.  I also went to counseling sessions for kids that have divorced parents with my cowriter {Lee Bo-ram}, who I wrote the script with, and that was helpful, as well.  Other than that, I really sought out information and words from a lot of women in my life.
 
LMD:  Please talk about working with Misses Kim Hye-Jun and Park Se-Jin.  Miss Kim has done a number of projects, but Miss Park is pretty new.  Did you handle these actors at different stages of experience differently?
 
KYs:  It’s interesting that you say that, because Miss Kim is experienced, but once I met her, I realised that she was not that experienced.  She had a little bit, but it wasn’t enough to really work with the material that I wanted to work with.  
 
So, I really talked with her a lot, had a lot of conversations with her over drinks, sometimes.  We rehearsed a lot before we commenced shooting.  Both of them are studying acting in college, right now, but it was a lot of rehearsal, and a lot of just heartfelt conversations with them to open them up and prepare them for the roles.
 
LMD:  That reminds me that in our last conversation, you mentioned how you like to work closely with your directors to create your characters.  I get the sense that you encouraged that with your cast, but regarding the younger actors, I can imagine them being a little shy about volunteering ideas or suggestions.
 
KYs:  These two actors were selected out of a pool of 500 actors.  And so, one of the most important standards that I had when getting them on the phone was, how comfortable were they with conversation?  How comfortable are they with talking about the characters, or about everything, in general?  I really wanted to work with actors that were honest about who they were, and really had their own voice, rather than someone who is trying to imitate someone else.  So, that really was another standard that I had.  
 
So, these two actors had that as a base to work from, which was very helpful.  In terms of working with them on set, and working with suggestions; because I am an actor, I knew very well, basically, what is going on inside actors’ heads when they’re acting, so, I was able to catch up on that from them, and really work through that with them.  So, that was an advantage.
 
LMD:  In those conversations, did those actresses add anything to the characters that you did not originally envision in the script?
 
KYs:  Absolutely.  In my conversations, and in rehearsals, I was able to find out that Kim Hye-jun, who plays Joo-ri; she is so nice, so considerate, very vulnerable, and also has a very big sense of responsibility, and especially doesn’t make it apparent when she’s having a hard time.  She really keeps those feelings inside.  So, that was definitely reflected in the character, for her.
 
In the case of Park Se-jin, who played Yoon-a, she definitely has a stronger personality than Kim Hye-jun, but she is not quick to reveal that strength: She really does use it sparingly.  So, that was also reflected in her character.
 
I think when it comes to creating characters, rather than having a set mould of characters that you want to fit these actors into, I don’t think it works that way; I think it’s more a process of fitting the role to the actors, and meshing them together.
 
LMD:  Yoon-a says, “Mom, couldn’t you help me like you just a little?”  I felt that way.  I tried hard to sympathise with Mi-hee, the mistress, but it was tough.  Was there a risk in showing this possibly polarising character? 
 
KYs:  Yes.  With the character of Mi-hee, I really talked a lot with Kim So-jin, who was portraying her, as well as having multiple conversations with my cowriter on the script just about the character, Mi-hee.  
 
The character of Mi-hee, she could be a very difficult character to portray -- that some actresses may even be reluctant to play -- but if you think about, ‘Do characters like this exist in real life?’  They do exist: Mi-hee, for example, I’ve seen people like that around me.  
 
Mi-hee became pregnant in high school, so she was forced to become an adult from that point, and so, having survival as her priority, she has not been able to afford the time that most people usually have to grow emotionally, and as a human being, to a mature adult.  And then at the same time, as you have seen in the film, her boyfriend is just not there.
 
So, even while having to survive, she hasn’t really received a lot of love in her life, so she is always hungry for that love.  I think Mi-hee is one of those characters that really signify the title, which in Korean is translated as “Non-Adult.”  So, I think she is one of those characters, that she is physically an adult, maybe, yes; but in her inner life, maybe she is not that way.
 
LMD:  Were there any unexpected challenges that arose as you directed this film?
 
KYs:  I would say one thing that I hadn’t really expected was in the art department.  I realised that once the art is done for certain places, or for the set, it’s difficult to change; and every time you change, it costs more and more money.  
 
So, the next time I work on a film, I would love to be able to use more resources in terms of art direction, and the art department; to work a lot more in a detailed way for that.  But, I will say that for this film, because the art in this film is in the characters’ faces, and in their emotions, I thought that it worked out quite well for this film. 
 
LMD:  Obviously, you will direct again.  Do you have upcoming projects in mind?
 
KYs:  So, right now on my laptop, there are so many stories that I have yet to breathe life into.  So, I need to figure out which one that I want to start on.  But, that being said, I do feel like, as a director, I want to keep on directing films that focus on the lives of ordinary citizens, and the special moments that arise in their ordinary lives.
 
LMD:  The festival is also showing your latest thriller, DARK FIGURE OF CRIME.  Last time, we discussed how important 1987: WHEN THE DAY COMES was to you, personally, as it captured a moment of history that you had actually lived.  DARK FIGURE OF CRIME is also based on a true story, as are your films THE CHASER, and THE CLASSIFIED FILE.  
 
As you just said, you are interested in making films about ordinary citizens, but even in your acting projects, are you more drawn to stories that have a basis in reality?
 
KYs:  I think the overall thing about films that are based on real stories, is that they really have a great story foundation that you can work from.  So, naturally, I will say I am drawn to stories that have such good foundations.  
 
But I will say that I think it’s not enough to just go off on the true story; I think it’s really about going beyond that to find the hidden stories, and the hidden elements that people do not necessarily know about.  I think the directors of 1987, and Dark Figure of Crime, they’ve really done a good job to really mine the characters and the hidden stories, and so that’s really great.
 
LMD:  I am fascinated by your generosity as an actor:  In DARK FIGURE OF CRIME, you costar with Ju Ji-hoon.  In this film, as you have done playing opposite actors like Gang Dong-won, Ha Jung-woo, and Yoo Ah-in, you strike a wonderful balance, where you allow your costar to really stretch and spread their wings, while providing a very steady base that holds the movie together.  
 
You were talking about your conversations and meetings with your actresses for ANOTHER CHILD, to help them achieve their performances; is that your normal process when you are acting with those actors that I mentioned?
 
KYs:  No, not really.  I would say the conversations, and all that, if I start to talk about acting with my fellow costars, that can come as a burden, and that can also generate a sense of unease for the actors, which is what I do not want.  
 
So, when I’m filming -- it’s interesting that you mention balance, because when I am filming, I do think of the balance in the scenes: What’s important in the scene?  How can I balance out with my other costars?  So, I always do have that in the back of my head, but my rule for myself is if they don’t come for me asking about character, or whatever, I don’t tell them what to do.  
 
So, I think, actually, for me, not overstepping boundaries is my way of achieving that balance that you mentioned.  Of course, if we’re on very friendly terms, and it just naturally happens to come out, yes, but as a rule, I won’t engage.
 
LMD:  I have read in Korean press that you are attached to something called ESCAPE, directed by Ryoo Seung-wan.  Is that correct?
 
KYs:  Yes, actually that is confirmed.  After the film that I’m filming this summer, in November, we will start filming abroad.
 
LMD:  I heard it is meant to film in Morocco?
 
KYs:  Maybe, maybe, that is one of the places that is being considered.
 
LMD:  I like that with director Ryoo, you get to travel.
 
KYs:  {Laughs} I’m not very sure if I like that. {Laughs}
 
This interview is cross-posted on my own site, The Diva Review. Please enjoy additional content, including exclusive photos there.
 
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Another ChildDark Figure of CrimeEscapeInterviewKim Yoon-seokKorean CinemaNew York Asian Film FestivalNYAFFRyoo Seung-wan

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