In order for a film to be made, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears are poured into it. From a script to filming a movie, have you ever thought about the process? Although we may simply think that movies are made by producers and actors, movies also consist and rely upon art teams who create the setting and atmosphere. Movies are created of images and background scenes throughout by film art directors. It is a team effort and cannot be accomplished alone. Art director Hee Young-Park, who has been a part of production teams for movies, such as Hwangsanbeol, The Legend of the Wind, A Bittersweet Life, Blood Rain, Sunflower, Take off, Detective Cha has been kind enough to join us for an interview and tell us about the magnificent world of film art directing.
1. What does an art director do?
An art director’s job it to identify scenes according to the script, design each scene so it matches the script, and help direct the costumes and art design staff during film production. Art directors are not only in movies, but are a part of TV dramas, entertainment programs, and variety shows. For me, I mainly work in the film industry.
2. What was your dream in the past? How did you become an art director?
I never really dreamt of becoming an art director. When I was young, I didn’t know much about art directing, so I thought if I kept working hard I would one day become a writer or a designer. Back in the day, there weren’t any majors for production design, so I didn’t have the chance to learn about it that much. But I started to find an interest in the art designs of concert stages, theatres, and movies, so I began studying the field of art. At first, I was very curious and fearful, but I soon realized that this was my calling and the type of work I wanted to do. I still think that way and I believe it is the greatest line of work in the world.
3. What are the most attractive elements of the artwork?
The artwork in movies is fascinating work. Sometimes, the work requires a hard process, but I feel great joy having the chance to work. My opinion is that in film art design, we directors are creating a whole new world. For instance, in fantasy movies or re-creating the past. To be able to read a script, create a scenario with our own imagination, and merge those thoughts with others is enchanting. It’s like creating an image when you read books. A small hut in a forest, full of people living in tents. Can you picture this inside your head? The fact that the images in my head are created into real life is the real charm.
4. What is your most memorable production?
As time passes, we think of the times when we suffered the most. It remains in our hearts and memories forever. For me, the most memorable films I worked on were Blood Rain and Take Off. The production alone took one year, and it was the hardest period of my career. I learned a lot through those experiences and as time passes on I feel honored to have worked on such films. I think the easier the production, the easier we forget.
5. I think nowadays the movies are more and more into visual effects and it seems to please the audience more. On your part, where do you get the ideas to satisfy the audience?
Like writers, painters, designers, and producers, we get our ideas from everything around us. It’s important to have a keen eye and even the smallest things can sometimes lead to great success. People in our line of work take even the most futile aspects and turn them into something worth watching.
6. After receiving a scenario, how do you prepare for production?
When we receive our task, we first do a thorough research. This is one of the most important steps. It needs a lot of research. For example, if we were to do a baseball movie, I would look into all movies that are baseball related in Korea and around the world. I would also look into documentaries and watch games both live and on the screen. If these are the basics, we would then move on the image concept and create various images from there on. Spaces, color, texture, etc. all of these are very important so we would need a lot of different resources. In order to have the perfect concept, we must feel and know our project.
7. Movie production requires a lot of teamwork and members, how many members do you usually work with and for how long?
The number of people and time frame varies depending on our work. If we are working on a large scale project, then the production could last over a year or longer. But usually it takes about 6 months. The number of people can vary from 5 to 10, but again this varies on how big the scale is.
8. I think you feel sensitive about visual effects as an art director. Is there a movie where you think you did a fine job? What is your definition of a ‘fine job’?
I think a great movie should not be based upon one field, but it has to be great overall. Trying to highlight one main aspect of a movie is unnatural. A good movie itself should consist of everything. A movie can’t be great with just great art work. Everything has to even out.
9. As an art director, when was the most difficult time in your career?
Coordination is the most difficult thing when working with several other teams. In order to make a movie, it requires dozens of staff and communication between each group. Since the movie making processes are so closely related to each other, even the smallest parts are important. Art production is also not an individual process, so it is very important to keep a good mutual relationship with the staff. I think this is more difficult than designing a set. Artists are usually emotional, so they paint on their own and work alone, but art producers are commercial and not considered as individual workers. We must get along with the staff and need full cooperation with each other in order for the film to be completed.
10. Any words of encouragement to those who want to become an art director?
An art director must have a basic understanding of films. They also need to have a basic understanding of scenarios and art. Until one becomes an art director, they usually start their career from the art team. In the art team, you need to know how to draw and imagine pictures. In addition, you should learn a lot of skills while helping out in films. Through practice as a team member, one can eventually become a team leader,
One can be ready as an art director if they are determined and have passion. Many people give up early, since the work is not an easy task. But if you pull through and give it your all, then the path will unfold on its own.
11. What is your dream?
It is very difficult. I don’t have a specific dream. It is just like how I chose to be an art director. I want to live life and set my goals as I live on.
During the interview with her, I sensed a lot of passion, charisma and strong will. When she talked about her favorite genre of books or movies, I could see the enthusiasm of a young girl. I could feel her passion when she was talking about her team. She had exceptional courage and responsibility. She insists that the art directing in movies is not a conspicuous thing, but part of a harmony. We tend to focus on only actors and scenes that we enjoy, but after this interview I learned that every detail in a film is more than meets the eye.
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