Foreign filmmaker eyes Korea
By John Redmond
A foreign independent filmmaker has achieved what some see as a first on the peninsula. Writing and directing a movie about Korean issues from a foreign perspective, with Korean actors.
U.S. citizen, Chris Norlund, founder and director of Ruva Film, shot a 30 minute drama titled “Into Pieces,” highlighting the struggles faced by many Korean young men in securing a steady job.
The movie focuses on Jiho, a young man whose life seems to be perfect. He has a beautiful girlfriend and great job. However he struggles to maintain a great lie.
Writer/director Norlund, an orphan and refugee from the Vietnam War who grew up in the United States, is fluent in four languages, English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean is also an Ivy League graduate.
Having lived here for three years he spoke to The Korea Times about his experiences in working with local talent and being accepted into the film industry.
Q: You have an interesting background.
A: Although now I am a U.S. Citizen, I am an orphan and refugee from Vietnam. I grew up in the U.S. making English my native language, but I am self taught to speak Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. I am also a graduate of two Ivy League universities: the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University. During the summers in college, I taught people how to captain sailboats. I've had to work for everything on my own. And I literally came to Korea just three years ago without knowing anyone. And now I'm on the doorstep of a great success.
Q: What made you want to make films?
A: I have wanted to make movies for as long as I can remember; and I consider myself very lucky to be in a position to produce a new movie every year. I started making movies when I worked at a TV station during high school, and this later led me to study acting and directing in New York. Last year, I wrote, produced, and directed the short film, “Deception.” And in 2012, the same for the short film, “Into Pieces.” I hope to make a deal to direct a feature for 2013 .
Q: You created a website Ruva Fims, could you elaborate?
A: My goal in forming Ruva Film is to produce quality independent films and demonstrate my filmmaking skill on a very limited budget. I have financed both “Deception” and “Into Pieces” entirely out of my own personal income, which, needless to say, is quite taxing. However, I believe I have the passion and talent to make films that can stand among any film currently playing in theaters.
Q: How have Korean filmmakers seen your work?
A: I think this is an interesting story because I may achieve a level of success that is unprecedented in Korea, for a foreigner. Also, I work exclusively with Koreans, as Korean is my fourth language.
Korean used to have a very hierarchical structure towards filmmaking. From film school, to set hand, to clapper boy all the way to assistant director, the process could take years. There were very few young directors. I believe that is changing.
Q: What makes your movie different?
A: Because I am a foreigner, I can see Korea from a different perspective and that’s what I tried to do in this project. Not as a documentary but include a narrative that highlights the social pressures of young men getting employed. The stigma attached to failure.
Q: How has this filmmaking experience been for you?
A: I think what makes the story good is not only am I unique, but shows how Korea is opening up to the possibilities of working with foreigners.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I intend to do the film festival circuit which begins soon. Korean investors have started to show a lot of interest in my work, so I hope to meet a lot of industry people. Also, I'm now at the ideal age when the typical person makes their first major feature film. Obviously some people can do it younger, but that takes a lot of luck and often they had a lot of inside help such as born into a famous family. Given the opportunity to make a film with a much larger budget, I have no doubt I could make a hit.
For more information visit ruvafilm.com.