Hangul Celluloid: Prior to your short film '528 New York', you produced and directed numerous films most recently worked as a writer and editor for independent films as well as working in the directing team on feature movie projects. Could you tell us more about your background and previous film work?
Jules Suo: My background is working as a graphic designer and film editor to support myself as a filmmaker. As far as filmmaking, I’ve written, directed, and edited all my own short films as well as assisting on numerous short and feature film projects as a script supervisor.
Hangul Celluloid: Where did your desire to make 'Dosi' originate and how did the storyline for the film come about?
Jules Suo: I was inspired by an article I read in the New York Times about Moussa Magassa an African immigrant cab driver who had lost his children to a horrible fire in the Bronx. I grew up in a very multicultural society in Northern California and in also living New York City. The people that I've met over the years all have been a real inspiration to me in writing this story.
Hangul Celluloid: 'Dosi' centres around the same characters as '528 New York' but features a different storyline. Was '528 always meant as a pre-cursor to the feature-length film or was it originally a completely separate project that you subsequently wanted to extrapolate?
Jules Suo: I always intended 528 NY to be a feature film but made it as a short film trailer to show a potential investor prior to shooting a feature film. I didn’t have the opportunity to show the short because the business had folded and turned into to a commercial editing house. When I shot the short film I realized that I wouldn’t be able to shoot the feature with the same story line as time had lapsed. I also wanted to keep the dialog fresh and didn’t want the story to sound so scripted. Going forward with Dosi, I’ve learned so much from making the short since I already knew my characters well and have a clear sense of who they are. It’s important to engage my audience as they play a big part of the filmmaking process to see these characters in a new setting.
Hangul Celluloid: The lead female Korean character in 'Dosi' is played by Lee Eun-woo, who recently gave an incredibly powerful performance in Kim Ki-duk's 'Moebius'. How did you secure her interest in starring in the film?
Jules Suo: Actually I found her through Yoon Jung Lee (Remember O Goddess). I asked her if she knew of any agents in Korea and she introduced me to her friend who works as a Casting Director. I showed her a photo of Eun-woo and said that I wanted her in my film, and told her how impressed I was with her in Kim Ki-Duk’s Moebius. The CD had gotten in touch with Eun-woo’s agent and Eun-woo read the script saying she liked it and expressing her desire to work mainly in Independent films as well as working abroad in the US which she’s never done before. I like her willingness to try to new things and she doesn’t seem so confined to herself.
Hangul Celluloid: Why did you choose to have Lee Eun-woo play Nari in 'Dosi' rather than Lee Eun-jung who played the character in '528 New York'?
Jules Suo: Both actors are amazingly talented but mainly to do with scheduling. Eun Jung had told me that she was getting married around the time of our production and said that she would be in Korea for a while with her new husband. Eun-woo's scheduling was pretty open.
Hangul Celluloid: Last year, I interviewed Yoon Jung Lee as she undertook a Kickstarter project to fund a feature-length version of her short film 'Remember O Goddess' in Korea (which was ultimately successfully funded). I believe you know Yoon Jung and her film Remember. Did her successful crowd-sourcing funding efforts play a part in your decision to seek funding through a Kickstarter project?
Jules Suo: Yes, definitely. Yoon Jung is so inspirational - she just went for it. I admire her courage and determination. She is brilliant in a lot of ways not only a talented filmmaker but also great at marketing her film.
Hangul Celluloid: What other factors led you to seek funding through Kickstarter?
Jules Suo: I’ve been following it a lot more within the last year but mainly for the last 6 months. It’s a great platform to build an audience and to introduce your projects and ideas to others. I realize that I have a pretty big battle to conquer and don’t mind getting four hours of sleep. I have this burning desire in my heart and I’m going to follow it.
Hangul Celluloid: During my interview with Yoon Jung Lee, she spoke of the difficulties faced by independent filmmakers in Korea in getting investment for their projects and even in having their short films screened. How do you feel the investment/screening situation differs for you as an independent filmmaker in New York?
Jules Suo: We live in a film world mecca in New York City. There are so many filmmakers trying to make a film and to acquire funding and as a first time feature film director the process has been a pretty difficult battle.
Hangul Celluloid: 'Dosi' tells the story of a number of characters whose "lives take an unexpected turn that will change them forever". Considering the fact that New York is a melting pot of cultures, such a story fits the city's setting perfectly and speaks of not only the characters and New York itself but also their place within it. If you had perhaps been making a film in Korea, do you feel a storyline driven by such varied character arcs interweaving would have been harder to achieve and would you perhaps have chosen to tell a different story entirely?
Jules Suo: I like films with great humanism; particularly the films of Kenji Mizoguchi who is a huge influence on writing this story. One of the reasons that I chose such varied characters in Dosi is when I’d watch a lot of
independent films, I really couldn’t relate to a lot of the characters. Dosi is the world I know living in NY and having lived in California people with real issues that affects us all. I want to make films that represent a broader audience and not just a small group. When I envision myself making a film in Korea I always think of one storyline about a family.
Hangul Celluloid: You were born in Korea and grew up in America. As 'Dosi' details a tale of immigrant disparity and struggles, did your memories of being an immigrant in a new country perhaps play a part in this story being the one you wanted to tell above all others?
Jules Suo: You’re asking me some real heartfelt questions. I’m getting teary eyed. I moved to the states when I was seven years old and remember life being very difficult as immigrant and I still ask how my parents did it. They were so brave to dive head-first into a new world with a new culture. I was thinking how difficult it must’ve for them with three children to support not knowing the language.
Hangul Celluloid: During our brief conversations, it has been fairly clear that you are a fan of Korean Cinema. Would you like to or ever consider making a Korean film, in the future?
Jules Suo: Yes, funny you ask that. I always envision making a film in Haman, Korea about a family similar to my own.
Hangul Celluloid: As a Korean-born filmmaker working in the US, what are your thoughts on the recent increase in well known Korean directors making films in the West?
Jules Suo: I think it’s great. I love the idea of adding new voices that aren’t the typical traditions of Hollywood. Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer is very intriguing to me and I'm really looking forward to seeing it. I would love to see Kim Ki-duk make an American film. He’s films are so unique and universal - I have so much admiration for him to make films that break traditional cultural barriers of Korean society today. He’s definitely an inspiration to me as a filmmaker.
Hangul Celluloid: How well do you feel Korean sensibilities fit within Western films and vice versa? Do you personally see Korean and Western cinema as completely separate entities or simply narratives centred in different countries?
Jules Suo: I think that combing the two can be a wonderful thing if it’s done accurately with a certain style. When I watch films by Lee Chan Dong, Hong Sang Soo and Kim Ki-duk they go against everything that is Hollywood, although there are a lot of Korean films that don't mirror some Hollywood films. I’m not completely opposed to Hollywood blockbuster films as I’d like to make films with a universal appeal. However, I also see films fabricated with a lot of Hollywood warmth, which we see too often from some of the bigger studio funded films. The truth of the story gets muddled by trying to imitate the previous blockbuster films.
Hangul Celluloid: Finally, what would you like to say to those reading this interview?
Jules Suo: Thank you for this interview Paul, and thank you all for reading this article and please support independent filmmakers.
I would sincerely like to thank director Jules Suo for allowing me to interview her at such length.
You can find director Suo’s short film ‘528 New York’) at: