Decision to Leave Co-Screenwriter on 20 Years of Collaboration With Director – The Hollywood Reporter

If you have been to draft an inventory of the artists most accountable for the ever-expanding international recognition of Korean movie and tv, Park Chan-wook — the director of Oldboy and this yr’s Oscar frontrunner Decision to Leave — would undoubtedly fall someplace on the prime. Far much less identified, nevertheless, is the identify of the girl accountable for co-writing all of Park’s movies because the early 2000s: Chung Seo-kyung. Park met Chung, then an aspiring author, whereas serving on the jury of a Korean short-film competitors wherein she was competing someday round 2001. After successful the Cannes Grand Prix in 2003 for Old Boy and deciding to that his subsequent film could be extra female-centric, Park remembered Chung’s spark and peculiar sensibility and reached out to her to write a draft of a script.

Chung Seo-kyung


That challenge grew to become his sixth function, 2005’s Lady Vengeance, and the duo have co-written each one of the director’s Korean options since, from his acclaimed 2016 erotic thriller The Handmaiden to final yr’s beautiful Hitchcockian drama Decision to Leave, a number one Oscar contender in the most effective international movie class, in addition to a darkish horse contender for greatest director. Park commonly credit Chung for giving his tales a extra balanced gender perspective in addition to many of the sharp concepts which can be generally recognized as his signature. THR related with Chung for a dialog in regards to the evolution of her inventive partnership with Park.

When I spoke with director Park across the time of Decision to Leave‘s premiere at Cannes final yr, he talked about that you simply co-write your screenplays in a really literal method. He mentioned you sit throughout from one another in the identical room, with the script open on your respective computer systems within the cloud, and then you definately actually write and revise the identical doc concurrently. Decision to Leave is such a wealthy and complex movie — is that actually how you probably did it?

That doesn’t describe your complete course of, however it’s a huge half of it. We talk about and agree upon a therapy collectively, after which I transfer ahead with the primary draft. Then, for the second draft, we undergo revisions working facet by facet as you described. At the very ultimate stage, director Park works on the script alone, or with a couple of members of his solid or crew, including his ultimate private touches. But yeah, for an enormous half of the method, we sit facet by facet and revise and write concurrently.

How did you develop your technique?

When I began working with director Park, I used to be nonetheless a brand new screenwriter who had not but formally debuted. Meanwhile, he was already thought of a grasp filmmaker who had not too long ago gained the Grand Prix at Cannes [for 2003’s Oldboy]. But regardless of that distinction in our standing, he regarded me as an equal inventive accomplice — and that’s how he’s at all times handled me ever since. Personally, although, I didn’t really feel the identical method. I used to be not assured that I might give you the option to write knowledgeable, industrial function at that time. But despite the fact that I didn’t have a lot religion in myself, I simply labored away on the script on my very own as a result of director Park was so busy and he had requested me to write a primary draft. I did my greatest — however reflecting again on it now, I don’t suppose that draft I ended up giving him was of a really excessive caliber. But someway he wasn’t bowled over by the standard of it in any respect. Instead, all he mentioned was, “Well, now we are able to begin revising.”

So we rented out a lodge room with a big desk and we sat throughout from one another. We had two screens and two keyboards and we began revising the script collectively in tandem. A bunch of the opposite crewmembers and colleagues would collect across the desk and watch us as we labored — it virtually felt like individuals watching a recreation of desk tennis. We labored collectively in that area for a lot of days and nights, going forwards and backwards, and that’s how we completed the revised script of Lady Vengeance. Reflecting again on it, it was a such a enjoyable expertise as a result of it actually was like a recreation the place I didn’t need to lose with all of the crewmembers watching me. And after we completed that draft, I feel director Park and I each knew that neither of us may have written that model on our personal. And that technique of working collectively has basically continued on for the previous 20 years.

Are you in a position to distinguish what you every deliver to the work — your particular person qualities, colours or strengths as screenwriters?

At the beginning, it was straightforward to distinguish what elements of the script we have been every accountable for. For occasion, I used to be largely writing the feminine characters and director Park would write the motion sequences. But ultimately, the boundaries grew to become much more blurred, and now it’s very exhausting to inform who wrote what. There are strains that appear like director Park should have written them, however they really got here from me. And conversely, there are strains from the feminine characters that you’d suspect got here from me however which have been truly director Park’s. And there are lots of strains that got here from each of us as a result of we every tweaked them subtly alongside the best way.

The final time I spoke with director Park, he advised me that once I converse with you, I ought to be conscious that you simply usually say issues in interviews simply to tease him. He virtually appeared to be warning me upfront that I ought to doubt you!

(Laughs.) Well, let me put it this fashion: When we first began working collectively, I thought of our relationship to be that of a boss and an worker. Later, it began to really feel like we have been spending most of our time within the workspace collectively simply chitchatting, and it started to really feel like an actual friendship quite than simply one other work relationship. Now, at this level, we’re usually spending even our holidays working collectively, and I really feel like I’ve way back observed all the pieces there’s to discover about him — the various good issues and, of course, the unhealthy issues, which I tease him about. You may say we’ve reached the stage the place we’re like household. So it’s true: When we’re onstage at occasions collectively in Korea, I like to play just a little aggressive and tease him in entrance of the group. But it solely makes them applaud him all of the extra as a result of of course he’s very elegant and gracious about all of it. So, then I’ve to tease him much more. (Laughs.)

You know, in Korean society, there’s a powerful cultural expectation of respect to your elders, so since director Park is each my elder and such a globally esteemed determine within the movie trade, I feel persons are at all times entertained to see me give him just a little exhausting time. It’s like we’re a comedy duo.

Interview edited for size and readability.

This story first appeared in a Jan. stand-alone subject of The Hollywood Reporter journal. To obtain the journal, click here to subscribe.

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