Lee Jeong-eun on Producing “Ditto”: From Script to Screen

Being a female film producer today means that you are part of a growing movement in the film industry to increase diversity and representation behind the camera. Historically, the film industry has been male-dominated, and women have faced significant barriers to enter and advance in this field. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards greater gender equality, and more and more women are taking on leadership roles in film production.

During the 25th Far East Film Festival, View of the Arts had the pleasure of sitting down with Lee Jeong-eun, a film producer, to discuss her recent work on the 2022 film “Ditto.” In our interview, we discussed the production process behind “Ditto,” including editing, and her experiences working with the film’s talented actors, like Yeo Jin-goo, and the director, Seo Eun-young. 

What made you decide to be a part of the project? What did you look for in the “Ditto” script?

Lee Jeong-eun: I wanted to make a film about dreams and love, and because this is something that unites people across different time periods I felt that this story was something that could say something about dreams and love. But also show how it’s present in different generations, and that could make for an interesting dynamic. Were women working together? How is that?

How was your experience working with Seo Eun-young?

Lee Jeong-eun: The director is older than I am, and she entered university in the 1990s, like one of the main characters of the film. Director Seo entered her university in 1997 so she is very familiar with that background, whereas myself, I am closer to the present day, so in that sense, we brought different perspectives and worked together very well.

Did you experience any creative differences? Producers tend to pay attention to the financial side of the production and directors pay attention to the more artistic side of a film. What about you and Seo?

Lee Jeong-eun: The major point of discussion was over the running time because I felt strongly that the running time shouldn’t be too long if it’s over 2 hours in particular. There seems to be this trend these days that films are over 2 hours, and that slowly has started to irritate the audience. The director wanted to include a lot of footage that was shot as well, but if we had included those scenes the film would be too long. Therefore, we deleted many scenes that had a similar emotional tone to them, which was also difficult to decide on. [I think] if we hadn’t done it, it might have caused the audience to lose interest in the story.

As a producer that often must deal with the budget and keep up with deadlines, did you experience any difficulties while working on this project? Also, how do you stay up to date on industry trends and changes, and how do you incorporate this knowledge into your work?

Lee Jeong-eun: I feel like if I tried to hide from the trends, because I would end up making a lightweight film. But if you look back over classic films, and can capture something classic within a film, the project tends to be more enduring in the long term. I’m focused more on creating and supporting a more classic approach when it comes to filmmaking. And since the original “Ditto” [2000] still holds up, that means [it is a good direction to head towards]. Also, we must pay attention to other things such as the manner of expression that changes over generations too. Particularly these days, with things like YouTube and everything else, the way that people consume content is they’re used to a different speed and style when it comes to editing. So, taking a classic approach in terms of structure and storytelling while finding a contemporary way to present it is how I like to work.

When it came to casting, did you have much say about who is going to play who?

Lee Jeong-eun: It’s common for a production company to put together the casting first and then present it to the producer or to the investors. With this film, I was able to handle the casting first and, because I have experience working in the investment department before becoming a producer, I know the kind of casting that investors are going to want, or like. In the case of Yeo Jin-goo, he’s an actor who can bring the audience to the cinema or [in front of the TV], he’s been a very successful actor for years. We wanted to work with him from the beginning. We waited a year for him to become available as he was very busy with his own shooting schedule at that time. In terms of the rest of the cast, I feel that we were quite lucky that we got to work with the people that we wanted to work with. Many of them have experience on TV, but haven’t had a chance to take a central role in a feature film.

As a producer, did you oversee the editing process as well?

Lee Jeong-eun: At the beginning the director began by putting it together herself, but from the middle stage I was involved, getting comments in from the perspective of an audience. You know, from the director’s point of view, when you’re working intensely on a project and do most of the editing, it becomes more difficult to look at your film and stay objective. I was the objective viewer, I tried to give a better sense of what the audience will be feeling while watching different stages of the film.

It is said that “Ditto” is a remake of the 2000 film of the same name, starring Yoo Ji-tae and Ha Ji-won. I feel like the two films are different when it comes to historical background. The 2000 version has a 1979 mention of the student demonstration, there is more story to the students and their identity as young people. The current film is more of a romantic, light-hearted story of two people longing for love. Could you elaborate on the similarities between the two? Why was the historical background taken away from the 2022 version?

Lee Jeong-eun: As I mentioned before, there were many scenes we cut during the editing process. There were scenes where the main protagonist was involved in things politically, including her involvement in labour issues and some demonstrations. However, during the editing, I thought that in the 1980s the younger generation was political, everyone was taking part in demonstrations, but in present times, university students are very different. They are not involved politically the way the previous generations were. Although the aspects fit the character, she also became an outsider and didn’t match the narrative so we decided to cut that part of the film.

Are you working on any new projects right now?

Lee Jeong-eun: I am currently working on a film project that is loosely inspired by a Japanese novel, and the characters and the situations have all been changed. It will be directed by the same director who shot “Juror 8”, Hong Seung-wan. It’s a psychological thriller about the relationship, or more of a conflict, between two men.

Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Interpreter: Darcy Paquet

Featured image © View of the Arts

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, and art, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop / K-music, and Asian music in general, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.

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