Bong Joon-Ho Talks Craft at the DGA
The Directors Guild of America recently hosted a virtual interview with Academy Award winnig director Bong Joon-Ho. With physical distancing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DGA Special Projects Committee has gone the extra mile to provide the same events its members have come to expect. On January 21, members from all over were able to log in online to view the virtual event; The Craft of the Director: Bong Joon-Ho.
In an in-depth conversation using a translator and moderated by Director Rian Johnson, Bong discussed topics ranging from his use of multiple takes (shooting the same set up over and over) to get a scene right, how having his shots all mapped out (using shot lists and shooting order) can be a constraint to the creative process, directing suspense and his preference for a directorial team that can think on its feet. He also talked about having a great affinity to one of his favorite directors; the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Dressed in a sweeter and bundled in a scarf, Joon-Ho has the movie posters of his own films along his office wall. Among them is one poster of a Hollywood classic film; Hitchcock’s Psycho. He had more than a few words to say about his favorite film by his favorite director, (SPOILER) "When I first saw Psycho I didn’t know that Anthony Perkins was the mother and the mother was him. I will never forget the shock of that moment." If you haven't seen the film yet and your read past the SPOILER warning, that's on you.
Joon-Ho also revealed how, like Hitchcock, he really relies on storyboards to guide the shooting and aid in his editing process. He said, “It’s kind of a paradox where I draw all my storyboards myself with Memories of Murder, Parasite. And when I’m working on my storyboards, I have this desire to make everything perfect, edit everything. I’m gonna be like Hitchcock. No one can touch this edit, but when I’m actually in the editing room after finishing shooting, I try to destroy my storyboards and find what I missed in that process and while shooting, and invent more things by shuffling around the shot, changing this and that, but I find that it’s not so easy because I don’t shoot coverage and there’s not enough footage to really shuffle things around so there are some restrictions with doing that.”
At 51 years old, the South Korean born filmmaker began his career in an industry that functions very differently today. “The industry is changing so much. When I was an assistant director it was an apprentice system, working like a family. It’s much more systematic now. I’ve grown to understand the crew members and artists and actors who work with me and now see things from their perspective and work with them that way”.
When Johnson asked Boon-Ho about his approach to setting the tone of his films, the director didn't hesitate with an answer, saying, “when I’m working on my projects I don’t really think about it when I’m writing or directing and I don’t talk about it with my actors, so I don’t know how it happens. Absurdity explains everything. I was born in Korea I went through a military dictatorship and now I make movies. I think naturally that’s just what our lives are like. In Korea we go through so many emotions throughout the day so we’re very used to that speed and dynamic - faster than other societies."
Being a member of the Directors Guild definately has its privileges, and one is having access to the voices of the successful filmmakers of the day. Having virtual Q&As has opened up guest possibilities that were previously limited by location. Now that virtual is the norm, I have no doubt the guild will expaned its interviews to include the work of directors from all over the world without the inconvenience and cost of travel. The world just keeps getting bigger and bigger.