Interview with Kim Kkot-bi (김꽃비)

Breathless / 똥파리 goes on DVD release on Monday 22 March

Interview with Breathless director, Yang Ik-june here.

I want to thank Joey from Terracotta Films for arranging the interview. I would also like to thank Kim Kkot-bi for giving such an awesome interview.

What is difficult to act in such a demanding film?

When you are actually watching the film, there are so many stories and harsh narratives going on and for the actor you are acting out what is going on, but when you are watching it you are looking at it in cumulative effect, so it wasn’t as difficult to act as it was for the audience watching.

To me the acting is quite intense, more than usual, so I was wondering whether it was difficult to act in an intense and deep role. It is not something that you can walk on set and act; you have to really think about it and get into the role.

Of course it was difficult, but it wasn’t as painful as it appeared in the film and even for people that lead those kinds of lives, it might be painful and stressful, but for them it just about living and going through the emotions of day-to-day life. And thus, it might not be as intense for those outsiders looking in on their lives, so yeah, there are many heartaches and even though it was difficult to act, from the audience perspective, you feel a lot more in terms of sympathy and pity and getting a more intense reaction than those actually leading it.

How did you go about acting in the film? Was there any preparation?

Honestly, with my own family and background, I did not have an experience like that in the film, so I wasn’t knowledgeable about it. However, there are documentaries in Korea where a team go in and look at people living these kind of lives and I watched a lot of these shows, so I tried to feel what they must be going through and this is one way I learnt it. And most importantly, I talked to the director quite a lot and he based the story on a friend of his and he talked a lot about her and this was another way I got into preparation. Even though you don’t have such experiences, you can always use examples of your own feelings; even though the feelings are different, there are still times where you are sick of your own family and you feel angry with them, or you feel tired or full of rage. I could draw upon my own experiences and use that for acting.

What have you learnt and gained after acting in the film?

In terms of acting as an actress, it felt like I was going up a step and I could feel I was developing a lot more and progressing in my acting and it was very important I met the director and I am very grateful and thankful for this opportunity.  Even in the future, he will be someone I can rely and depend upon.

In terms of other things, I have gained from this film, there are just so many. I have been invited to so many film festivals and going out there and meeting lots of different people – as such, the world has become a much smaller place for me. Also, I have gained quite a lot of recognition and acknowledgement, although it may not be reflective of my actual ability, it has opened up a lot of doors for me, which I am immensely grateful and thankful for.

How does the experience of working on Breathless compare to other films you have acted in?

That is a very important question. The key answer to that, as mentioned previously, is the director. He was also an actor previously, so he knew how to manage us; how to elicit in terms of the acting – the physical aspect of it – this is why I did so well because of his management skills and because the director is the leader and the atmosphere always depended on him.  He went to great lengths to individually pick the staff and the actors to the extent that the filming set was always very light, funny and pleasant. We had a great time; although the story line was really hardcore and it was a painful issue we were filming, we became very close. In comparison to any other films, I have worked on; I have never managed to develop a bond as close as with the people on the Breathless film set. The actors, the lighting team, the directors, or the research team, they are have all become older or younger brothers and we keep in constant touch and I meet them quite frequently. We have become very close, and we are now almost like family and this is all down to the director.

What was it like it to work with Yang Ik-june?

Like I mentioned previously, half of what I have said is complementing the director. He is a really nice guy and he is not at all like what he is like in the film, but he is really energetic, very bright and very cute as well. This film could have only been made because of him.

What have you been doing since Breathless? Have you been acting in other films?

We finished filming in 2008 in February time and the film was finished around October in time for the Pusan Film Festival. The film was released in the beginning of 2009, but regardless, as actors, we finished filming at the beginning of 2008 and that was a long time ago and I have been doing a lot of stuff since. The most recent work I have done was a project I finished filming a month ago, but I have no future plans at the moment.

Has the film opened any doors for you – not just outside Korea, but within the Korean film industry as well?

Paradoxically, because we were invited to so many film festivals and won so many awards, it has actually had a bigger effect within Korea in gaining recognition and acknowledging my efforts, so it is quite ironic how that works. This has definitely contributed to opening more doors in Korea and I hope it would in the future as well.

Are there any directors you would like to work with? Any of the big guns, so to speak, Bong Joon-ho (봉준호), Park Chan-wook (박찬욱), Kim Je-woon (긴지운), Lee Chang-dong (이창동)….

Actually, my favourite Korean director is Kim Tae-yong (김태용),

You worked on one of his films – Family Ties/ 가족의 탄생.

Yes, I did, but it was a small role. I love his films, so one day, I want to work him.

I was wondering what you think of the Korean film industry as a whole; do you think Korean films are becoming too commercial, or are you more interested in independent films?
I don’t want to distinguish between the two. Regardless of whether it is funded by a commercial budget or whether it has been independently funded, as long as the people working on it have the intentions of wanting to make a genuinely honest and good film, that’s what is important to me and therefore the labels of commercial and independent films become irrelevant.