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DARA: “It’s an honor to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge. Thank you to Lee Junghyun sunbae for nominating me. I hope this campaign gives strength to those with Lou Gehrig’s disease. I nominate Im Soojung unnie, Lee Junki oppa and MBLAQ’s Cheondoong. #ALSIceBucketChallenge”

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YG MV Director Dee Shin - BEYONDHALLYU Interview!

Here at Beyond Hallyu, we often like to take the time to try and look behind the shiny surface of K-pop at the talented individuals who make the music, video and performances that so many fans love. Previously we have spoken to choreographers, lyricists and composers but recently we had the chance to interview a very talented, up-and-coming music video director.

Dee Shin is a film director that has worked on music videos and video teasers for a number of YG Entertainment artists including 2NE1, Akdong Musician, Taeyang and, most recently, WINNER. Two of her biggest projects for the company since she started working with them last year, 2NE1’s Come Back Home and AkMu’s Melted are probably the most unique and interesting K-pop video releases of the year so far. We were recently fortunate enough to sit down for a chat with her about her work and her experiences working in K-pop.

She kindly took the time to answer all our questions on a range of subjects including working on videos for 2NE1, Winner and Akdong Musician, creative freedom at YG Entertainment, the role of music videos for indie and mainstream artists and much more. As there was just so much covered, we have split the interview into three parts which we will release over the course of a week.

In this first part, we talked about her video for Akdong Musician’s Melted, her style as a filmmaker and what it is like to work with YG Entertainment.

Melted, the music video you directed for Akdong Musician got a lot of people talking when it was released. Can you explain to us a little bit about what you were trying to express with this music video?

Akdong is not your typical YG, as you know. The boss, YG, picked his favourite song for their album title and then let Akdong pick their favourite song as a double title. I got the song Akdong picked which I guess made sense since I’m also pretty new to the scene like Akdong and my style isn’t typically what you would expect from the label. So it really felt like YG was putting their trust in us and letting us do our thing. Both I and the kids first thought it shouldn’t feature any grownups because the song’s lyrics are rather abstract and the whole thing should just be abstract. I was going to go to Iceland and just shoot them singing on a boat amongst the icebergs.

But YG wanted it to be direct. He felt that since the song was too abstract, the video should show what they are talking about: the grownups. So I needed to find a way to show the grownups empathetically without being judgmental, because that’s not what Akdong is singing about. The kids are asking ‘Why are you cold?’ so I sort of tried to come up with the answer.

The one thing that I want to talk about is the FedEx paradigm. In every video I make I try to put in some experiment of my own which I’m sure people don’t even care about. This one is the FedEx box. If you see a FedEx commercial, there is a box which is being delivered through people’s hands. We follow the box but it’s not the main character. We see those people’s backgrounds and at the end it opens and now it’s about the box.

For this video, we follow the boy but the boy is just the box. I shot every scene as if the supporting character was the main character for that scene. I don’t know if you realized but every scene is shot in such a way that the boy is always just an extra. But it is all connected and we sort of feel for the boy and in the end it becomes his story. If I had made it about the boy it would have been too corny with all the ‘Oh look at all these grownups, they’re so mean’ but I think we did ok with the experiment because you don’t really feel that way. You empathize with character and you kind of feel that the boy is a bit naive but you still know what he’s going through.

How did you cast the boy in the video? We’ve discussed the significance of the apparent mixed racial heritage of the boy in the video. Was that something you considered when you decided to cast that particular actor?

We did an audition for it. I auditioned around twenty people for that and it took all day. I made them bark and cry and all kinds of things. I didn’t really pick him for his mixed ethnicity, it was just a plus but it was a really lucky plus. He was just the best actor so I didn’t even have to worry.

Why did you choose to film the video in Vancouver? Is it because of your own links to the city? We hear you studied in Canada for a number of years.

Yes and, also, Vancouver is so global. I didn’t want to make it stereotypically white like I was saying ‘I went to the States and shot this’, you know? It should just be about everyone. And Vancouver is the one city that I know is so diverse you don’t even know where it is. It’s just a city.

Your visual style is unique in terms of K-pop. How would you describe it?

People are saying I’m dark. That’s my challenge. Whatever I do in the short amount of time I’m given, I can’t help but making something similar every time because time is crunching and I have to do something and that is just what I already know how to do. So I usually end up with those colors and tones.

But I know every group has to have their own branding and style and I’m trying to fix that. I’m trying to show more diverse styles in my videos.

What’s it like working with YG? How much creative control and freedom are you given?

Oh yeah, they’re the best client. I started working with them last winter and now I just want to go with them as long as I can. It’s really tough since everything happens so fast all the time. But at the same time, YG gives you complete creative freedom with just a few general guidelines so I can do my little experiments while being assured it’s all going to be okay as long as I follow their guidance. I haven’t worked with other K-pop labels yet but, from what I’ve heard, idols don’t really talk, you know? It’s all the executives and the marketing people who come up with ideas. But with YG I have meetings with the artists themselves and can get inspiration from how they see their music. I think this kind of set-up is almost non-existent on the scene, it’s just YG. Total respect.

The music video you directed for 2NE1’s Come Back Home video is so different from the stereotypical K-pop style. How did you come up with that concept?

With Come Back Home, I really loved the song but the lyrics were pretty plain. YG said ‘Make it something sci-fi, make it interesting and make it sad’.  He gave us these hints and obstacles and I had to take that, solve the puzzle and make it something.

For me, it’s a sci-fi so I didn’t want it to just be a love story so it’s a ‘Come Back Home’ dystopian kind of thing. I wanted to mix a lot of sci-fi clichés together and make it something fun. At first, we actually shot it to be two videos – one for the original version and another for the acoustic version.

Wait, you shot two videos? How did that work?

They were supposed to each have their own full story lines that followed on from each other. But when YG saw the two videos he felt that they weren’t tight enough to be two full music videos. So we re-edited and mixed the two stories together and made this rather avant-garde video with puzzles to be solved.

In an interview, YG CEO Yang Hyun Suk described the video as a commentary on people’s growing obsession with smartphones and the virtual world and how this disconnects them with the real world. Was that your original intention when you made the video?

For me, the challenge was to mix the two familiar themes. The virtual reality concept we’re all familiar from watching sci-fi films and the tragic love story we always hear in pop songs. I didn’t think of it as having a moral message like ‘Stop living in your smart phones!’ but I think people connected more to the story of the video after that explanation from YG.

You also made a music video for respected Korean indie group 3rd Line Butterfly which was well-received at a number of international film festivals. The video has quite an experimental visual style that seems to match the group’s experimental sound. Do you take a different approach when making videos for indie and alternative musicians?

I haven’t been able to do indie this year because so many things are happening with YG but I’m definitely going to start making them again. I guess, the music is different and we have to get inspired by the music. But I don’t see it as ‘It’s an indie thing so it should be cool’ or ‘It’s an idol thing so it should be this way’, I don’t think that way. It’s about the music. With K-pop, there’s a lot of money and pressure so I can’t just do whatever I want but, with indie, it’s more about the musicians and the music rather than the budget.

So do you think it’s a pay off between more budget and more creative control?

Yeah but with YG, as I said, they’re giving me the perfect amount of creative freedom. It’s not like ‘We’re giving you this amount of money so you have to make this’. No, it’s almost the same as indie videos. People don’t believe this but it is like total freedom. I put pressure on myself thinking about the fangirls and what they’re expecting so I guess I have to be careful not to make stuff that’s too artsy-fartsy and indie. Because, you know, their music is not indie, it’s K-pop.  There are certain things that are so unique to K-pop and I need to respect them.


Do you think well-produced music videos could help Korean musicians outside of the K-pop scene receive more attention nationally and internationally?

Definitely. The 3rd Line Butterfly one was sponsored by Hyundai Card to do that exactly. I think they’re doing it every year and our team is also trying to do that too. We have to make money so we do the big projects and then spend our own money producing music videos for our favourite bands. There are so many good ones and they don’t have the budget for proper music videos. It’s a definite yes but so far I haven’t done anything to make it happen but we will do it eventually. Now we’re building our names because we’re the second-generation of directors, compared to other directors, and we do listen to indie music.

Lately you’ve been working on teasers for WINNER. Can you give us any information about they’re upcoming debut?

Actually, I just shot another teaser for WINNER. It’s like they’re teasing forever, but they are really debuting this time. August 1st.

The teasers look a little like the kind of promo videos high fashion brands use. Was that deliberate?

Oh yeah. It’s not my idea actually, the whole team is branded as a fashion brand for this album. That was my homework: ‘Consider this as a fashion brand and then make something’. In the most recent one I produced, I  shot a whole fashion show with them. That’s the final teaser.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Probably YG all year. I get assigned to do teasers mostly but I think I get to make a music video when the song has the indie vibe that matches my style. I love making teasers since it’s a genre of its own and I get the most creative freedom when I’m doing teasers.

Outside of your own work, do you have any opinions on K-pop music videos in general?

This is something I’m currently working on with a whole group of directors. To be completely honest, we don’t always like other K-pop videos. Sometimes they seem like they’re from a factory. It’s all about the dancing and singing.

But at the same time that does have its own value. That’s what people want and what they expect when they hear ‘K-pop’. So I’m getting used to those kinds of expectations but I haven’t had a chance to show a mix of the two as of yet. We really want to make music videos that are proper ‘music videos’, as in, we want to create a special visual for each song. But, at the same time, for ‘Come Back Home’, we didn’t shoot any of the typical singing and dancing and I am regretting it. In a way, we have to give the viewers what they are expecting because it’s so special.

So I guess that’s my next challenge, I want people to really respect it. K-pop videos are fun to watch but I want to make something where you can have fun watching it but, at the same time, you can still respect it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring music video directors?

Yes, I do! Just make it. There’s no excuse because it’s so cheap now to rent a little DSLR camera and the editing software is so easy to play with. So just pick your favourite song and make it and people will see it if you just upload it. Try competitions like Genero.tv. I was doing mostly commercials and had a break so I submitted a video to the competition and that’s when I got the most exposure to my works.  I’m looking for new directors that I can work with. Labels are always on YouTube trying to find new filmmakers. So just make it and it doesn’t have to be perfect because when we see it, we can see the potential of a director. That’s how I got picked with my little low budget videos. YG saw the potential and he just gave me a lot of money! So just make it! It’s so easy.

You’ve worked with lots of different YG acts. Who are some of the ones you’ve really enjoyed working with so far?

I like Akdong. I mean we all have a soft spot for them, right? They’re just down to earth. Those kids, they’re so… they’re just them. What you see is who they are and they’re so smart. I also like 2NE1. I’m one of the few female directors and they’re a girl group so I have a soft spot for them.

People are always really curious about K-pop idols and what they are really like behind-the-scenes. What have you found working with YG’s artists?
They are surprisingly really sweet. Everyone is. What you see is who they are. I was surprised too because I thought they were pretty much fake. They’re really clean and super hard working. Every day, all day they’re at the office practicing.

Source: BEYOND HALLYU PART 1 | 2 | 3

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