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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PiFan 2012: Interview with Young Gun in the Time's Oh Young-doo

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Oh Young-doo has been working in the Korean film industry for 15 years and for the last couple of those he has transitioned to making his own low-budget features. He and some of his friends worked together to make the zombie omnibus feature The Neighbor Zombie in 2010 and following that Oh made his feature directorial debut with the ultra low-budget Invasion of Alien Bikini (2011) which had a very successful festival run.

Now he's back with a new feature called Young Gun in the Time, which will hit Korean screens later this month. I had the chance to catch up with him following its Korean premiere at this year's Pucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

You stretched the budget of your previous film, which was $5,000, very far. You’ve managed to do this again with Young Gun in the Time for which you had $50,000. Here the scale is much bigger, can you explain some of the difficulties you had working on such a tight budget?

Good question! First of all, we put together a much more significant staff. The team that was behind Invasion of Alien Bikini encompassed less than ten crew members and actors but this time I used a professional team. Thankfully they were also my friends, contacts I’ve picked up from my 15 years in the industry. I’m lucky to know many professionals in the field that agreed to help me with my film.

I was very impressed with the type of actors you chose to fill the various roles in your film. By and large their looks were particularly well-suited to the characters in your script. Was this a conscious part of your casting?

Normally, when I cast an actor, I meet them and quickly come to an agreement with them and as we talk about their character I take notes and often I will modify these characters to suit the actors. In truth the characters often come from the actors themselves rather than from the scenario.

On your first film, The Neighbor Zombie, there were a few directors. Do you still work closely with them?

Yes, I do. One of the directors is Hong Yeong-gun (the star of Invasion of Alien Bikini and Young Gun in the Time) and another is my wife! This is why we are so close.

Following a zombie film, a sci-fi and now an action-detective thriller, are you particularly attracted to niche genres? And do you hope to continue making these?

When I was young I was always watching Hollywood genre films on Saturday night TV, which is when they used to air. During that time I discovered another world and later I decided I wanted to make movies like these: I wanted to make fantastical films. One of my favorites was the action film, the reason behind that being that I cannot fight very well. So I would imagine how I might be able to fight off my enemies and later this evolved into action filmmaking. That’s why I always make genre films. My next project will also be one.

Making low-budget films is no picnic but perhaps more than the productions themselves, the hardest part may be getting the completed products seen by audiences. How hard is it for someone in your position to make films in Korea?

I don’t really have a position on this since I consider myself very lucky as I know many people within the industry. Anybody can make a feature and these films are an expression of the power of the people. I think I had it easier than a lot of people because I worked as staff in the industry. I used to crew for other films and then I became a director. Suddenly, I was able to shoot my own films and others supported me. I was able to rely on them for help. Of course it’s really hard to shoot a film, especially if it’s on a low budget!

You’re planning to make more Young Gun films and you’ve also said that you will make an action film. At what stage are you with that project?

Yes, I am currently writing the screenplay: it’s an action film with a female protagonist. If I have time I hope to also make another low-budget film because the system is different. Despite the limitations of a low-budget film I am afforded the freedom to do what I want but a blockbuster is far more constricting and I can’t always do what I would like to. With a low-budget I imagine many things but am confined by the finances but with a bigger budget I can realize my imagination, such as blowing up a building!

Your film is being released in Korea on August 30 by Indiestory, how do you think it will be received by audiences?

The reason I make films is that I enjoy them so much and I want to continue doing so but when I make my own it becomes impossible for me to enjoy them. Every time I watch my work I find mistakes so after each screening of Young Gun I feel it isn’t any good! But I hope that it will do well and that audiences will enjoy it, that they will find something to like in it.

Young Gun draws on a lot of influences, could you tell us a little about these?

Actually, as far as the time machine theories go, they come from the classic, The Time Machine (1960). But we were also influenced by the Back to the Future series. Another big influenced was Seijun Suzuki, who made a number of great detective films in Japan. In fact there were many Japanese influences for this film, primarily because in Korea we don’t have any private investigators, they are much more common over there. My aim was to mix time machine movies with Japanese detective films!

Will you explore new ideas in subsequent films or will time travel remain at the heart of it?

They will all be about time travel as that is the big concept behind the films: a detective with a time machine.

There were some negative comments regarding the violence against women in Invasion of Alien Bikini and I was curious to know if you had any reaction to this?

Well, I have never actually punched a woman! (laughs) In Alien Bikini, the female character is the one who instigates the violence and she is very strong. But the male character’s feelings are also very strong, he has trauma that stems in part from the fact that he doesn’t have a mother. He becomes confused between his past life and current situation and this is part of why he uses violence against her. There was no other reason for me: I simply followed the logic of the story and its characters.

Finally, what is your favorite Korean film?


Many thanks to Young-doo for taking the time to speak with me. Young Gun in the Time will be released in Korea on August 30th.

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