24th Udine Far East Film Festival: In Conversation with Park Dae-min, Director of “Special Delivery”

It took a while for Park Dae-min to make his first film. Although he graduated with a degree in architecture, he found his passion for filmmaking back in 2002 when he directed a short film Hey, What Are You Looking For, which was invited to screen at the Busan International Short Film Festival. Park Dae-min waited a few years before filming his first feature, Private Eye (2009), a murder mystery set in Seoul in the early 19th century, starring Hwang Jung-min and Oh Dal-su. In 2015, he tackled the comedy genre with Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River, which was also a period film set in the Joseon Dynasty. 

Even though his latest production, Special Delivery, finished filming back in 2020, unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the film had to be released in 2022. The film officially premiered at the 51st International Film Festival Rotterdam, followed by the Italian premiere at the 24th Udine Far East Film Festival. 

Special Delivery is quite simple and uncomplicated due to its direct storytelling. This is partly thanks to the main character’s backstory and the plethora of interesting, fully fleshed-out side characters. It is an entertaining and engaging story that fits somewhere between the genres of action, drama, and thriller. 

During the 24th Udine Far East Film Festival, we met with the director, Park Dae-min, and chatted about his new film, the casting process for Park So-dam and Jung Hyeon-jun, and the action scenes that involved some fast driving with Park So-dam behind the wheel. 

Image © 2022 Alice BL Durigatto [Far East Film Festival]

Ekran: Before discussing what was behind the production itself, we were wondering what inspired you to make this film?

Park Dae-min: First of all, I wanted to make a film with a female protagonist. I was thinking about how to best tell the story, and I was looking to create some kind of catharsis. I wanted to tell the story simply so that the storyline leads to one straightforward goal while still keeping in line with the genre. The story is about protecting a child that the protagonist meets by chance. 

I was influenced by an American film called Gloria (1980), written and directed by John Cassavetes, which has a somewhat similar story. In that film, the heroine is someone who is quite ordinary. The flow of the narrative is similar, but I wanted my driver to be a professional, someone who knows how to push that gas pedal. 

View of the Arts: Since you wrote and directed this film, how rigorously did you stick to the script while shooting?

Park Dae-min: In all honesty, there are no films where changes don’t happen throughout the filming. I was open to improvising on set. As for lines, some actors made their own on the spot, which was interesting to see. However, car chases weren’t something that you could improvise [laughs], as they could potentially cause accidents and injuries. We did many simulations with a 3D graphic programme.

In terms of physical action scenes between different characters, some things were made on the spot, although everyone was doing production work and training in advance. As the places that actors used to practice were different from the actual places that we were filming in, they took a couple of days to work with the environment and discuss things to make a better picture. 

Image © Next Entertainment World

Ekran: I would like to discuss casting. How did Park So-dam get involved in the project, was she who you had in mind from the start? And how much of the driving did she do herself? 

Park Dae-min: When the scenario first came out, Park So-dam was the first choice for casting. I was looking for someone of the right age for the character and also an actress whose performance I didn’t have to worry about. In addition, she was also interested in the action film, so it all worked out [laughs]. 

Park So-dam is someone who doesn’t have to exaggerate and can still look cool. I wanted her character to have that vibe, and she naturally has it. I was very satisfied to have her on board for the film. 

At the time of casting, Park So-dam didn’t have a driving license. However, right after the casting, she got it and she practiced a lot. And, aside from the biggest car chase scenes, it was all her driving in the film. That scene in front of the baseball park, and the scene where she had to drive like a pro, that was all Park So-dam. It was really impressive to see. 

View of the Arts: The car chase scenes, as well as fight scenes, are very well-executed. How did you film and arrange those scenes? Especially that fast-paced fight near the end of the film. 

Park Dae-min: This is related to the first question, really. Seeing someone who is outnumbered and fighting successfully, especially against those who are much stronger than them, creates catharsis and relief. That’s why I think the climax emphasises this concept. Another idea I wanted to portray was “one versus many”. This was influenced by zombie films such as 28 Days Later and I Am Legend. What you see in zombie films are individuals versus masses of zombies, and what’s interesting about these films is that the protagonist overcomes any sort of weakness and beats/fights the zombies. When it comes to Park So-dam’s character, she uses space to her advantage. For example, she was able to beat her enemies by turning the lights off as she was familiar with her surroundings. 

Image © Next Entertainment World

Ekran: My question is two-sided. Apart from Park So-dam, this film depended on other actors’ performances. My first question is with regards to Jung Hyeon-jun; as this is a high-octane action film, working with a child actor in a very demanding environment must have been hard. How did you approach that casting, and also what was the casting process like for Song Sae-byeok, why was he perfect for the villain’s role? 

Park Dae-min: The most important thing I was looking for was a child that was lovely and had a child-like quality. I was looking for an actor whose acting wasn’t trained, but truly natural and innocent. Above all, Jung Hyeon-jun is very cute [laughs]. 

In terms of action scenes, such as car chase scenes, Jung Hyeon-jun wasn’t in those dangerous scenes. When it came to the climax scene, the one in the water, where the danger might have occurred, everything was done very carefully, and Hyeon-jun even enjoyed being in the water. The other actors, not so much [laughs]. 

Of course, the night shots were challenging as he would get sleepy, however, we made sure he got his breaks to rest. We did try not to make him too tired, but this was still difficult while filming.

When we thought of Song Sae-byeok, we also thought that this would be a new kind of role for him. I wanted to express how different his acting is, but it was very difficult to tell with only the subtitles [the audience tends to concentrate a lot more on reading subtitles than the actors’ performances], so that’s an unfortunate part. I want to tell the audience how great he is as an actor. His role was extraordinary, for sure. 

Image © 2022 Alice BL Durigatto [Far East Film Festival]

View of the Arts: What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of this film, at any stage of the production

Park Dae-min: The story of when Eun-ha first came to Korea, how she lived, and her relationship with NAS as such was initially a part of the narrative. But instead of showing more of her background story, I thought it would be more important to focus on the speed and the rhythm of the film. 

There was also a scene that we shot in Busan of Song-won and Eun-ha playing catch, but I felt like this would have slowed down the pace of the film and we didn’t want it to be too sentimental either. 

Ekran: Did COVID-19 disrupt the production in any way?

Park Dae-min: Almost all of the shooting was finished before the pandemic started, except one scene which was previously scheduled to be shot abroad. We were made to film it domestically. I think the biggest disruption we experienced due to Covid was the delay of the release date. We were supposed to release the film back in 2020, but we ended up releasing it this year [2022]. 

Written and transcribed by Maggie Gogler

Interviewed by Maggie Gogler [View of the Arts] & Sanja Struna [Ekran]

Translated by June Kim [Programming Associate – Far East Film Festival]

Image © 2022 Alice BL Durigatto [Far East Film Festival]

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