By Puja Talwar
South Korean superstar Jung Hae-in is back in the much awaited sci fi thriller ‘Connect’ which won rave reviews at Busan International Film Festival. The story of man Dong- soo ( Jung Hae-in) who is kidnapped by organ harvesters but manages to escape with his one eye missing. In his pursuit to find his missing eye which is being used by a serial killer Dong-soo is determined to pursue the killer and get whole again.
Directed by critically acclaimed Japanese director Miike Takashii ( Audition, Gozu) ‘Connect’ being his first Korean series collaboration and has been produced by Studio Dragon. Studio Dragon has had to its credit mega successful and hit shows such as ‘Crash Landing On You’, ‘Sweet Home’, ‘It’s Okay To Be Not Okay’, ‘Vincenzo’, ‘Hometown Cha Cha Alchemy Of Souls’, ‘Little Women’ to name a few.
In an exclusive interview with financialexpress.com, Studio Dragon’s Creative Producer Song Jin-sun who has to her credit hits like ‘What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim’, True Beauty’ and ‘Rugal’ discusses her latest ‘Connect’, a possibility of Indian Collaborations and more. Excerpts from the interview:
We can’t wait to watch ‘Connect’, you have a knack for successfully adapting Webtoons on screens? What draws you to these?
Having enjoyed comic books since I was young, I once worked as a cartoon story writer. Around ten years ago, cartoon story writers earned little and had little influence. Since then, I wanted to make cartoons into videos. I was led by my determination, but there were also advantages of producing drama series out of Webtoon originals.
In the global content market, works of well-known creators are selected. We could view the Webtoon itself as a creator or writer, and bring in producers or writers to engage in various creative activities. Furthermore, well-known works are advantageous in terms of promotion and marketing, so we have the opportunity to work with new but talented directors and writers.
‘Connect’ your latest is a pacy dark thriller. What drew you to this particular story?
The concept of the Webtoon drew me in; it was interesting from the beginning to the end. Above all, I thought it was a good item to expand on, in terms of the main character’s ability and the Webtoon’s universe. I was confident that once we add in the universe of the creators adapting the original work, we would tell a substantial story.
More specifically, I was thrilled to work in a genre in which I could share my views. The psychology behind the characters chasing each other allows me to mix various genres such as thriller and horror. Moreover, the characters’ motives are clear: to find the eye vs. to find the eyewitness. I was certain it would become an interesting drama series.
This also marks Studio Dragon’s collaboration with Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike. What was the idea to work with him?
I produced many weekend dramas and daily dramas, and I had the opportunity to work with various Korean writers and directors.
As I moved from SBS to Studio Dragon, I desired to produce new, refreshing stories. I desired to select unfamiliar stories, add dramatic narrations from my experience, and produce creative works. Studio Dragon was a new, passionate company that provided such an environment.
However, if I had entrusted this original work to a director specializing in drama plots, it may have lost its sense of unfamiliarity. So I searched for a creator coming from a different background and a different source of creation, who does not set limitations or filters in his creative process and is willing to try anything. I wanted to include ‘the catharsis of breaking away from the ordinary’, which I felt when I watched the films, ‘Lesson of the Evil’ and ‘As the Gods Will’.
Director Miike was an obvious choice, as he is the best at producing such genres. Both director Miike and I were heading toward the same destination. He accepted my proposal in three days and we started discussing right away, even before signing a contract.
‘Connect’ is a drama series with six episodes. If you watch all six episodes, you will definitely feel the catharsis coming from the genre.
‘Connect’ has an amazing cast with Jung Hae-in Ko Kyung-pyo, if you tell us what it was like working with these talented actors. Can we expect ‘Connect’ to have a season 2 as well?
I am grateful to the actors Jung Hae-in, Ko Kyoung-pyo, and Kim Hye-jun for having the courage to join our journey. There were many things to be worried about, from the different language to the different production experience. They enjoyed the adapted script and trusted director Miike, which led to the creation of ‘Connect’.
This is also the first K Drama to be directed by a Japanese filmmaker, going ahead will we see more international collaborations, especially given K Drama’s international popularity?
I love watching movies and whenever I do that, I tend to remember the way directors view their characters, and the strengths and weaknesses of the universe they build up.
If we have a clear story to tell and a firm grasp on the emotion we want to convey through our characters, we are bound to meet a creator who could make that happen.
If we are looking in the same direction, we could head toward the same destination, even if we speak different languages and have different experiences. I believe there are no limits to our collaboration.
Studio Dragon has had an impressive slate this year with some of the most popular titles like ‘Alchemy of Souls’, ‘Little Women’, ‘Under the Queen’s Umbrella’, ‘Yumi’s Cells’. What is the creative process and stories that the studio is looking out to produce?
Within Studio Dragon, there are young, passionate producers who are open to creators. They are not afraid to challenge themselves as they plan stories that make their heart beat.
There are times when experienced producers cooperate with inexperienced producers, constantly communicating with each other. Through this creative process, producers plan and develop various stories.
K Dramas have been breaking viewing records in international markets, from Asia to America, Europe, Middle East, and creating history. What kind of impact has it had for creators and storytellers?
Not many stories are truly new; countless ‘original’ stories have existed from the past. Creation is the process of varying these stories, adding our unique thoughts and emotions, and ensuring they appeal to the general audience. In a world where everything is shared, familiar and predictable stories and characters tend to change rapidly.
Works from Korea (i.e. a new, unfamiliar environment) with dynamic, emotional, or fast-paced stories, evoke a sense of unfamiliarity. Nowadays, unfamiliarity is enjoyed rather than rejected; people often enjoy the overthrow of the mainstream and non-mainstream.
I do not think that K-dramas were created or improvised all of a sudden. Korean producers have been making dramas for a long time, it is just that they were unnoticed. Although today’s K-dramas reflect our past dramas (i.e. our outstanding classics), they may seem new and unfamiliar as they contain stories, characters, and settings that the world has never experienced before.
I am sure that this unfamiliarity will motivate storytellers and viewers, and continue to bring change and development.
Which is the other Webtoon you want to adapt?
I am in the process of adapting a Webtoon original called ‘Surviving Romance’. I am working with the outstanding director Kim Ji-yong on this unusual story, which is not a typical romance. The story may seem unfamiliar, but we are enjoying this sense of unfamiliarity. We are passionate about presenting a new viewing experience.
India has a huge audience for K Dramas, can we expect an Indian collaboration in the future? And have you watched any Indian content?
I love Indian content. They hold passionate emotions and stories. I would love to set my dramas in India. I hope for an opportunity to collaborate with Indian creators to tell fascinating stories.
What’s your favourite drama?
My favorite dramas are ‘Punch’ written by Park Kyung-soo and ‘My Mister’ written by Park Hae-young.
‘Connect; also stars Ko Kyoung-pyo and Kim Hye-jun and will premiere on December 7 on Disney+.