Interview with director Leeseul Oh

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

 In my case, it is the best way to tell my story through animation. In the process of writing a script for the film, I found that eventually, I wrote down my inner story. In the past projects, I was more interested in the technical aspects of animation, and I wasn’t so confident in storytelling. Since I worked on Scales, I have realized that animation is a vessel for the director’s story.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

 Well, I don’t think it’s essential for everyone. There are professional tutorials and knowledge online, so I’ve seen some animators without going through film institutions. Although, I think studying at Kingston University was a great chance for me. I was able to communicate with talented colleagues and professional tutors who can give feedback, which helped me a lot throughout projects.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

 I think it’s harder to keep going. I suppose making animation myself is running a long-distance marathon. There were times when I ended up getting exhausted because of difficulties like technical problems and long hours of work. I guess it’s most important to have the patience to continue at the same pace without being deterred by the outside.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

It needs to be concise to deliver the message and follow your direction for production. The number of scenes that were planned was reduced in the process of animatics, as some of the scenes seemed to interfere with the meaning transfer. In fact, I had to make changes until the end. Most importantly, I felt that the viewer should be able to understand my work. Taking an objective view and receiving feedback from people around me have been very helpful. Otherwise, even a small part might have caused the confusion.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

 I produced everything except music, thereby it was mostly up to my decision. In fact, I still have a lot to be desired, so I think a compromise with myself was important. 

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The most experimental and enthusiastic choice is the first time I have decided to use the oil paint-on glass technique. I learned this technique by going through mistakes while the process. Also, I decided to use only black and blue as a colour palette to convey the message. It was a good choice in terms of the time. 

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I produced the animation by myself, but in the case of music, I was looking for a composer to make ambience piano music. In the early days of production, the music was produced by a composer from Goldsmith University as we had a collaboration project from University. I am very grateful that he understood my work deeply and made a beautiful piece of music that goes well with Scales. 

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I think the audiences’ feedbacks should be reflected some extent, but I doubt that’s the purpose of the filmmaking. I believe the director has to be faithful to deliver the message. If the filmmaker was overwhelmed by others’ preferences, the film could be different from the original intentions. In particular, in indie films, I guess it is crucial to make films that are original and experimental.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

First of all, I think it is meaningful in that my film can be presented to people of various ages and genders around the world. It’s a rewarding and valuable experience to be able to meet new audiences and listen to various reviews at the film festival. When my work was lucky to receive an award or screened seem to fill my confidence as well. For all filmmakers, it is essential that their work is known and appreciated in the world, so I think film festivals can provide opportunities in many aspects. 

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

 It may depend on each director, but I think it’s better to try something new. As always, directors’ unique ideas leave a deep impression on the viewer. This is also my anticipation by using oil paint-on-glass techniques, and I hope there’re more animators who will use experimental techniques in this regard.