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A teen director leads her audiences with simple linesThe Weekly interviews up-and-coming film director and Jeju high school student Ko Ae Ri
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승인 2011.12.09  11:19:16
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▲ Ko Ae Ri, speaking with The Weekly in Jeju City last week. Photo by Todd Thacker
Though only a senior at Jeju Foreign Language High School, Ko Ae Ri already has three short films under her belt. Self-taught, she’s turned her self-professed drama and movie fanaticism into the abilities needed by a director and has had two of her works shown at major short film festivals.

Her debut into the short film industry was with “Complex is Complex,” presented at the 13th Korea Youth Film Festival (KYFF) held from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25 at theaters in Gwangju, this year. Shortly after, “Wanna be a Beauty,” was featured in the youth film section at the Seoul International Extreme Short Image and Film Festival (SeSIFF) in Gurogu, Seoul, held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4.

All her films depict the concerns of high school students, yet convey insightful messages to audiences of all ages. Living in a dormitory and preparing for college admission, Ko has spent most of her spare time since her freshman year learning to edit video.

▲ Scenes from “Wanna be a Beauty.” Photos courtesy Seoul International Extreme Short Image and Film Festival

How do you feel about your debut?

To be honest, I really did not think I would get it. I’m still dazed. My friends call me “Director Ko” since then, but I don’t think I deserve the director title yet. My parents and relatives are shocked. They thought of it as a hobby, but they say that they are proud of me now.

Also, I think I caught too much attention for what I did, because I’m from Jeju and I go to Jeju Foreign Language High School.

I will work harder not to disappoint everyone.

How often do you make a film?

I usually make a film after exams or tests. It’s to release my stress and refresh my thoughts.

Where do you find your inspiration for your films?

It comes from my daily life and personal experiences. In case of “Wanna be a Beauty,” it was raining outside and I found lots of blogs on television stars.

How long does it take to make a film?

Most films that I have made are for my hobby and are only about five minutes long. So it usually only takes a day or two, three days max. It takes longer to edit the video than to shoot it.

What were some of the hardships you experienced?

I had to do most of work myself, from filming, directing to editing. Also, I couldn’t afford expensive equipment, so I had to look for bright spots and delete background noises manually. But it’s still fun.

Through entering film festivals, I found out that there are many youth centers where students like me can borrow expensive professional camera equipment on the mainland. But there are none on Jeju. So I had to shoot everything with my tiny Canon camera.

Is there anything you would’ve done differently?

I wish I found out about film festivals earlier, so that I could have submitted more of my work. It’s enjoyable to make my own films and watch them on my own, but sharing with more audiences and getting feedback are meaningful too. If I knew [about the festivals] earlier, I could have communicated with many more audiences through my films.

What is your strength and weakness?

I’ve heard that I frame the shots well. Also, I think I’m good at capturing the beauty of nature. My films are about ordinary students, enabling many people to sympathize.

There are too many weaknesses. Most of all, I want to be a better script writer. I want to be able to lead audiences with simple lines.

Have you thought about making a film about Jeju?

I learned about the 4.3 Incident during my modern history class. Someday, I want to shoot an omnibus film focusing on individual stories and lives of victims and donate it [to Jeju society].

What’s your future plan?

I’m still young. I will probably join a film making club of some sort next year in college. But I am interested in so many things other than movies too. I learn more about social studies. Dreams and plans change often at my age. I had been somewhat isolated on Jeju and [because of the] Korean education system. I want to experience the broader world and to learn through mistakes.

I do want to be a professional director too. However, in my personal opinion, there is a limit to what a young director can capture in film, due to lack of experience, feeling, and wisdom. I think I will be a better director and make better quality films after I learn more about society.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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