HERE IS a man who has never been afraid of racing towards his goal to become a film maker despite the mountainous obstacles ahead. As an independent film maker, Lee Sang-woo (6th Sem., Graduate School of Communication) has produced seven long films over the past seven years. His recent movie, Mother is a Whore won two prominent awards in 2009 Kyoto International Student Film & Video Festival including the Grand Prix. This film was also invited to other prestigious film festivals such as Hong Kong International Films Festival (HKIFF). The Yonsei Annals had a chance to interview this brave, hardcore film maker armed with an indomitable spirit.
A love affair with film
In my school days, I loved to watch movies in the theater so much that I skipped most of the classes to watch them. I could only think of careers related to movies. For further studies about film and plays at the university, I took the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) four times, but I failed each time. After two years of military service, I decided to look for an opportunity in the United States. Through studying English desperately and acing every course I took in the community college, I managed to enter the Dept. of Film Studies in UC Berkley. I studied during the daytime and worked at restaurants in the evening to make a living. Even though all the circumstances were not favorable, I could not stop studying movie making.
The lonely path of an independent movie maker
The movie Tropical Manila, my second movie after graduation, was produced only with ￦3 million. It includes some sensational scenes depicting the Kopino issues in the Philippines. The movie Mother is a Whore shot last year also portrays an obliterated family in Korea. Even though I was raised in a normal family, I still have a lot of ideas I want to express to the public about family issues. Such desire encourages me to keep pursuing independent films despite the difficulties independent film makers usually face. In these movies, I used some extreme techniques to deliver the topic dramatically. Because independent movies strongly reflect the ideas of film directors rather than focusing on the interests of the audience, they do not gain much empathy from the general audience. Therefore, investment in independent movies is extremely limited. I managed to raise the capital for making films by investing my own money. Sometimes, I have a hard time due to financial problems or disputes among the film crew. Once, I was sued by one of the actors for delaying the payment, because the production cost was not recouped. However, receiving encouraging responses from the audience or film festivals keeps me addicted to my work.
* Kopino: A child born between a Korean male and a local Filipina in the Philippines. It is the compound word derived from the words "Korean" and "Filipino."
Preparation for another big leap
I have admired Yonsei University since I was a high school student; therefore I am highly satisfied with my opportunity to study at the Graduate School of Communication in Yonsei. Here, I share my ideas about movie making, camera skills or graphic techniques with renowned people in the film industry. I also had a chance to shoot an omnibus film called The Long Shadow with Professor Jon Jost, who is well known for producing low-budget independent films that criticize the problems of U.S. politics. This year, I am planning to crank out five independent movies. Currently, I hope to receive investment for y movies and pioneer a selling market by participating in the HKIFF. Next year, I will make my first commercial movie which will be recognized more publically than independent movies. This will be another challenge for me and I am highly looking forward to it.