NY Asian 2014: Director Shin Yeon-shick Collaborates With Kim Ki-duk And K-Pop Idol Lee Joon On ROUGH PLAY

After years of directing self-scribed features of his own, director Shin Yeon-shick, garnered new attention with Rough Play. The cautionary tale of the perils of fast fame was penned by Kim Ki-duk, and starred K-Pop idol, MBLAQ's Lee Joon, who showed a side of himself that none of his fans could have ever expected to see. I caught up with director Shin at the New York Asian Film Festival.


The Lady Miz Diva: How did the story of ROUGH PLAY come to you?

Shin Yeon-shick:
 The production company gave it to me.  It was the investment company.  Kim Ki-duk was part of this investment company and the people there thought that Kim Ki-duk and myself would make a good team.  They all thought it was a good fit.  Kim Ki-duk had never worked with somebody who wasn't his AP or assistant in the past and I had never done something like this; taking on another person's script and directing it, as well.  So it was a unique experience all around.

Also at the festival is director Park Joong-hoon's TOP STAR, which features a similar theme about the underside of fame.  It seems like the public in South Korea is obsessed with celebrity and scandal and I wondered if that had anything to do with the timing of these films?

SY-s: 
I haven't seen Top Star yet, but in Mr. Park's case, it was probably based on a true or personal story, whereas it wasn't the case for me.  This wasn't necessarily a story about the dark side of the industry; this is more of a civilian's story - just a regular citizen's story.  Anybody who is confronted by early fame will tend to lose a sense of themselves and find difficulty managing fame and themselves, and so this is more story about that.  And this is pretty much relevant in any industry.

When we first meet the character, Oh Young, he seems a little bit off.  We don't know anything about his background or where he comes from; we just see one very quick phone call to his mother but other than that he is what is currently happening to him on screen. Was that intentional?

SY-s
:  Kim Ki-duk's script had a more detached character, in fact. So, he was less in touch with reality. And for so this film I had to add in things such as Oh Young calling his mother, that wasn't even in script; I had to add those little things in in order to make this project more of an in-between balance between Kim Ki-duk and my style, because Kim Ki-duk tends to be more of a symbolic director, whereas I'm more narrative-oriented.

Movie audiences naturally want to cheer for the main protagonist, but Oh Young isn't a particularly nice character.  Did his being unsympathetic give you a different perspective on how to present him in this film?

SY-s
:  Rising up in fame and falling down, that was already in the script, so it was probably the intention of the screenwriter more so than mine.

Talking about Oh Young being an unsympathetic character brings me to your lead actor, Lee Joon.  What made you think of someone as likable as Lee Joon was a good fit to play this unlikable person?

SY-s: 
Casting was quite difficult because the role wasn't a likable role.  However, Kim Ki-duk and Lee Joon and Jo Min-soo all happened to be on the same talk show one day, and right then and there Kim Ki-duk had seen Lee Joon, it was just a coincidental thing.  And then the part was just offered to Lee Joon and Lee Joon accepted immediately, like overnight.  He had already read the script and he was quite willing to take on this role.

When you bring on Lee Joon, it isn't just him, he represents his group, MBLAQ, and their company's fortune depends on him having a clean image.  Was there any hesitation or comment behind the scenes about his nude scenes, or the sex, or how unlikable Oh Young was? Or was he very open and willing to do whatever was needed for the role?

SY-s:
  The agency did try to keep him from doing this picture.  But Lee Joon really wanted it, so he had to convince the company to let him take it on.  It was quite burdensome for me to take on a K-Pop star who has all this commercial potential and a future where he has to shoot commercials. And so, to take on such a strong role as this might hurt his chances on getting those commercial roles, or doing commercials.  So when I asked him, "What if you wouldn't be able to do commercials? Don't you have to worry about your future? Aren't you concerned about losing endorsements?" And he said, "Well, was I even offered those endorsements in the first place?" He wants to be a real actor, not a star.

What effect has all the attention ROUGH PLAY has garnered had on your career?

SY-s: 
Two films of mine were released together last year, The Russian Novel and ROUGH PLAY. The Russian Novel did make a lot of international film circuits and did rack up a few awards there, whereas ROUGH PLAY did not necessarily.  So I think the person that benefited the most from the film ROUGH PLAY was Lee Joon himself, and it really brought a lot of attention to his acting.  But for me as a director, many other directors who have seen me work with Lee Joon have approached me with a lot of questions, asking if I'll introduce them to Lee Joon, rather than going through the agency.  I'm his personal agent. {Laughs}

As a director, are you open to the opinions and contributions of your actors?

SY-s: 
It depends on what kind of suggestion it is.  But typically for me, a script is used as a map, so it's like all of us together take off on a journey and I'm the one who takes the lead, and I'm the one who directs people and guides people.  So if we come across an obstacle such as a river, for instance, I'm the one who makes a suggestion of whether we take a ship, or do we take a bridge?

Besides being a director and screenwriter, you also produce your films.  Why is it important to you to be involved in all aspects? Do you ever see yourself doing just one thing?

SY-s:
  I am the most prideful as a writer first.  Last year, I would prefer to have won an award as a screenwriter rather than as a director; that would've been bigger for me.  When I direct my films, I only do so in order to protect my own writing.  So I have taken on another's script, but my motivation in that case is to protect that writer's writing first, rather than the money.  So when I am older, I would prefer to just be a writer.

What is coming up next for you?

SY-s:
  In the fall, The Avian Kind will premiere. It's already screened in Moscow.


This interview is cross-posted on my own site, The Diva Review. Please enjoy additional content, including exclusive photos from the festival there.
Around the Internet:
  • fairuz

    lee joon: was i even offered those endorsement in the first place?
    now u did joon

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