How a director can think he is making a thriller and end up with a romance
Back in the good ole days when I was young and stupid, I thought going to a prestigious film school in Seoul, South Korea would open up new opportunities for me. In 2008 when the American economy was falling apart right after I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology, it sort of made sense to jump off the grid for a while and see if I could find my success on a path less trodden. This was my play book. I would go to Korea, enroll in a language school for a couple years, and than teach English while saving up money. After that I would apply and get accepted to Chungang University where I would then mingle with famous directors, network with future collaborators and finally produce my cinematic masterpiece. Everything seemed to be falling into place until I actually got accepted to film school. Then I realized film school was not what I expected.
There was in fact one famous director at the University, but the last thing thing he was interested in was hiring an inexperienced foreign director with a bad American accent. I did try to network with my fellow film students, but most them seemed more interested in drinking while talking about movies than actually making them. The school provided zero funding for movie projects. The equipment that wasn't outdated was broken anytime I wanted to use it. And classes were designed so that you had to finish a movie during the semester. Whether you were ready financially or not, you were expected to produce or you would have to enroll in an extra semester and spend even more money. It was a rude wakeup call for a student who didn't have a lot of money. But despite all of those setbacks, I refused to become discouraged.
Fast forward to my very last semester! I was determined to finish my film schooling strong. After all I had prepared four years to attend film school, I wasn't going to graduate without my masterpiece. A script that I was passionate about it had been marinating since I first enrolled at Chungang. It was unique. Let's just say it was a coming of age thriller, One who flew over the cuckoo's nest meets Conspiracy Theory if that makes any sense. I prepared in between semesters finding the perfect actors and going through script revision after script revision. This was going to be the culmination of years of my efforts of becoming a "real" director.
A month before production was supposed to begin, the two investors of the movie suddenly bailed and I was left in my very last semester with nothing. I had several options. I could have delayed my graduation. This is something professors actually encourage. But what they don't take into account in the case of foreign students is that we can't just take a long break and get a job. We have visa issues we have to deal with. So that wasn't an option for me. I had to produce something that semester. But, what? How was I supposed to write a new script, find actors, locations, and crew all in one month? Well, I did what I had to do--something bizarre actually.
I went down the list of locations and actors I had available from the work I had done on the movie that I had prepared for a year and decided to shape the story around the resources I had available. I obviously didn't have time to ponder about my story for that long so I went stream of consciousness with my scriptwriting for a weekend and ended up with a script with a very vague title, An Unforgettable Day. At that point I don't think I even told the actors my predicament. We had a meeting and I presented them with an updated draft of the script. It wasn't what they were expecting. It wasn't what I was expecting. I wrote a romance, something I was never interested in doing.
Fast Forward a few stressful months! I screened the movie in front of my fellow students. Some people liked it, some people hated it, but a few people told me they loved it. I suddenly realized something very valuable. I'm not sure if I became a better director while attending film school, but I discovered new things about myself. Ultimately my journey ended with a movie, a romance, that I never thought I would make. I don't consider it the culmination of my ideas on cinema, but it is valuable to me in the sense that it reminded me that movies are magical. Whether we are making them or watching them they help us grow and improve as human beings. Perhaps going to film school wasn't a waste of time after all!
Here is the thorn in my side.
The unexpected conception.
A glimpse into my subconscious.
"An Unforgettable Day"
Interested in hearing the background story on "An Unforgettable Day." I interviewed the editor in the A Creation Podcast. We talk about the difficulties of telling a story when our audience is so culturally diverse.