Posts Tagged ‘formaldehyde’

PAST MEMORIES… and other Korean-isms.

May 24, 2013

We finally screened Formaldeyhyde, a film about a suicidal young man rediscovering the joy of life through the eyes of dead people in his father-in-law’s morgue.

We shot it in Busan, South Korea with the help of Dongseo University.


Past Memory. Park here. It will be different when you return. In a way it’s tautology. In a way it’s true. As humans, we really need to watch our version control… we forget a lot.

The film making and the trip were both amazing experiences. At the time, they were too, but I forgot how difficult they were. The past has a way of reinventing itself in softer light and prettier ways.

Alex Valencia, who documented the making of, reminded me of how it really was. Sure, there were moments of amazing. But when you’re going 35 setups a day with a tiny crew in tricky conditions, the wheels come off everybody now and then… specially if you only slept three hours the night before.

I laughed, at myself and the co-workers I know and love. I cried with embarrassment for my bad skin, the 16lbs I lost recently (captured on camera for all time), the sweat, and mostly, the lack of cool. And I swore to be cooler in the future.


The entry way: Already the restaurant name has changed to “past memories”. Plural. Inside, however, the kimchi is always amazing.

What’s best about it all in the end? I like the film we made. It’s strange but it’s beautiful.

No idea what it says, or what what I said translated as in the end.

No idea what it says, or what what I said translated as in the end.

Shooting in a Foreign Language – Korean-American filmmaking

July 28, 2012

Film is a universal language, but English is not. And even the universal language of film is spoken differently in the USA and in Korea.

I’ve been taking a travel course, for which I directed a short film called “FORMALDEHYDE” in Korea, in Korean, shot by Nuttanai Lertpreechapakdee (a US student from Thailand) and key crewed by students of various nationalities from my school, Chapman University with the Dongseo students taking oddly-named but essential roles and supporting us in every possible way. It was an amazing experience relying on someone else – Director’s Assistant Woong Yoon, the best English speaker on the Korean team – to help me direct actors. For a director, your performance is your most important (but not only) job. So he and I built huge trust over there, which is coming in very handy as I production design their film and we try to make our days with the ever even-headed Tom Derr keeping the clock while Woong doubles as translator and AD. It’s also taught me to trust my instincts over my intellect when it comes to what is truthful behavior from actors and what is “acting”.

Saving the planet, one plastic reusable cup at a time… we write our names on them and pour our soda into them from big bottles. Also prevents people leaving cans all over the show and losing their drinks!

PD isn’t really a key role in Korean student film culture, so I’m executing their vision creatively at the last minute more than I’m truly production designing in this case. I make suggestions, they make the choices. Now and then I dig in my heels about continuity. We have a five minute argument about the number of sausages that should be in one shot today. When it comes to sausages, I tend to get stubborn and autocratic.

In a way, there are two directors, two producers, two cines, two everythings, on each of our productions. It’s if we each have a Korean or “American” counterpart who doesn’t quite do the same job we do, or even the same job we think we do. (PS. My Cinematographer Nate/Nuttanai Lertpreechapakdee is Thai and I’m South African but for these purposes, we’re all from the USA.)

We bought a chicken on a stick in Busan, for use for eyelines. Now it seems there’s a rival on set… The Chicken’s not gonna like that.

The chicken who’s not going to like that. Pics of Chicken and rival by Nate, which is why they’re so awesome.

We made our day today – more or less. Three more to go and “NEIGHBORHOOD” (Directed by Jaehwan Lee, working title) is looking good. There have been times both on Neighborhood and on Formaldehyde when I’ve struggled with doing things a totally different way. But in the end, working with people creatively is all about accepting that you can’t have it all your way all the time, and that to do what is best for the film, you should always, and always will, work as hard as you have to, and keep smiling.

Yeah, I’m inspired.

Eating Everything in Busan, South Korea.

July 14, 2012

I feel a sense of wellbeing that I’d forgotten feeling. Sure, I’m exhausted from walking up and down hills, sunburned because everything you put on, you sweat right off in the humidity. And… no that’s about it! I’m really happy here. It’s a lot more like South Africa than America is. A big part of what I’m loving wasn’t familiar – the food.


Kimbap! This, believe it or not, is breakfast. The roll has sushi rice, veggies, flat slices of fried egg, and pickles. Sounds weird? I adore it. This was the breakfast our hosts from Dongseo University’s film department gave us every morning in the bus on the way to the film set.

I think part of the reason I am so happy eating here is that I love, love, love rice. I may also secretly adore MSG, which is in everything, and glutin, which is in everything too. Our team’s producer is gluten-intolerant and has been struggling. The Koreans have never heard of this problem and think she’s just a very fussy eater. Poor girl.

This pig wants you to eat her.

Although I eat pescatarian in the USA, mostly, I have abandoned that here as have all other veggies on our crew. It would deprive me of almost everything as pork is used a lot in cooking and flavoring the food. Koreans have a friendly and humorous relationship with the animals they eat. The pigs are excited to die. The fish are displayed in tanks outside restaurants. They’re alive, and you can pick out what you want. Talk about “fresh”…

The little picture of the pig and the cow means that those are their specialties. The animals have dialog: “We taste good!”

Wait… I think (I hope) that this isn’t a restaurant. Mostly because I’ve heard cats taste terrible. As far as I’m concerned, either all animals are food, or none are. In my opinion, cows and pigs are just as loveable as dogs and cats.

It’s wonderful to get away from the franchise culture that’s making American eating less and less interesting by the day. The fear of eating anything that might cause stomach issues means many people won’t eat somewhere that doesn’t have an “A” health rating. My feeling is they probably just eat too much for their body to process. I eat everywhere (I’m currently working my way through the mexican hole-in-the-walls on Tustin street, with the goal of trying them all). And I am fine, I swear. Here, small, cheap eateries become famous for their food and will be busy all day until they closing time.

KFC? This is actually a regular Korean restaurant; just the branding is definitely a reference. I don’t miss that kind of food, at all (not that I ate it in the USA). Or hosts graciously gave us deep fried breaded chicken for dinner one night, to give us a break from rice. It seemed tasteless and poisonous by comparison to the food we’ve been enjoying.

If the person in the picture above the door and the person in the doorway look similar, it’s because they’re the same person! This is fairly common in Korea. I find it really charming. We actually ate next door, where the owner / cook was about 80 and had bright purple hair.

This place specialises in late night octopus stir fries. We hit it after set one night. Yummy. The cinnamon tea was the nightlight for me though. It’s made with cinnamon, sugar, and honey. Boiled. Cooled with chunks of ice. Helps takes the heat off the spicy red bean sauce you stir into your meal.

Celebrities cash in on their fame by lending their picture to food joints. This is a rare thing: a franchise. The lady in the photo is a well known actress. Korea has a thriving national cinema. The government encourages it and protects it from American encroachment. It’s really inspiring – and the movies are great.

Unless you’re getting take-out, the food is served in china or metal bowls, and you’re provided metal chopsticks (in one fancy place, silver!) and a spoon to eat with, as well as jugs of water and small cups about the size of American shotglasses. I love it and it’s a great relief after the wastefulness of American eateries. I feel excited and blessed and renewed by Busan. It’s most similar (for me) to Antananarivo in Madagascar, just much bigger and very high-tech. I could live here – I really, really could.

PS: I’ll add more pictures of cool restaurant signs in the next few days. I have to leave now to go on a mystery trip to a mountain.