KCC UK Year of the Professionals: Jo Yeong-wook 조영욱

Following on in the success of previous visits for ‘The Year of the Film Professionals’ from the KCC UK, the hugely talented film composer, Jo Yeong-wook (조영욱) paid London a visit. The KCC UK screened six films he’s worked on before his arrival (The Contact, Dirty Carnival, The Concubine, Nameless Gangster, Glove) with his season climaxing in a Q&A with him along with a screening of Oldboy.

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Before Oldboy was screened, we were able to be part of a group interview with the main man and learn all about his work and discover how his natural gift with music has made him into one of the ‘must have’ composers and music directors in current Korean cinema.

Jo Yeong-wook was a lovely man, very warm and enthusiastic when giving his answers. As people coming from a background with not much knowledge on the intricacies of music, it was very interesting to learn about his profession and he gave us a great appreciation of the hard work and imagination that must go in to composing and directing music for feature length films. For example, when learning about just how you go from thinking about composing for films to actually getting something done, he said “I’ll read the script and think about what film it is and what role music plays in that film. Also, what I really want to say to you all is that I don’t work alone, I work in a team where I have several composers that I lead as a team and we’ll have discussions about what style of music would suit, what instruments should be used and what kind of rhythm should appear. We’ll discuss all this while the film is being made. Firstly, I will focus n the script and then I think about the role of the music” (quote).

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He also expanded on his close relationship with Director Park Chan-wook and about their many collaborations on films such as Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. Jo Yeong-wook gave us a great insight into their working partnership, telling us that “I have a very special relationship with director Park Chan-wook. We have been extremely close friends since before we both began our film careers so we will watch films, contemplate films and discuss films together. As you may know, Park Chan-wook is also a major fan of music – he like classical music etc – and initially I think that’s why he trusted me. He would give me a script and recommend that I think about the music that would go well with that film and when I go back to him with my suggestions he would largely tend to accept them” (quote).

He also had something to say about his latest film, Kundo: Age of the Rampant, “I think the reviews that described it as a spaghetti western style are absolutely correct because that was the intention. The director of ‘Kundo’ approached me with a concept for the film in his mind as well as a concept for the music. He required it to have a spaghetti western style, I said that sounded very interesting and I suggested working on it together. In terms of the process of creating the music I concentrated on recreating something old rather than creating something entirely new and so I studied the music in many spaghetti westerns intensely; looking at the instruments and style used” (quote). Kundo is also this year’s London Korean Film Festival‘s opening film! So if you think this sounds interesting, you’ll be able to experience his new score for yourself soon.

The ever diligent and thorough Mr. Hangul Celluloid has a full transcription of the interview on his website, so please head over and have a browse if you fancy reading his in-depth and informative answers.

Philharmonia Orchestra

To mark the end of the Jo Yeong-wook season, there was also a screening of Korea’s most famous film Old Boy. Before the screening we were treated to a very special performance from the Philharmonia Orchestra who played a number of Jo’s film scores. The set consisted of 7 titles and we got to experience Jo’s knack for creating and building atmosphere with a performance of Symphathy for Lady Vengeance self titled track (2005), ‘Under a Streetlight’ from Thirst (2009) and another track from The Classic (2003).

We then got to visit the music from his more recent films such as The Concubine (2012), New World (2013) and Nameless Gangster (2012) where the track “1982” transported us all back to 80s Busan. And of course the Philharmonia Orchestra couldn’t leave without giving us something from the star of the night Old Boy, ending their set with the very iconic melody from the film titled ‘Cries & Whispers’. It was sensational and a wonderful start to the evening, we wish we could have watched the whole entire film with the Orchestra performing live. Jo Yeong-wook’s friend and neighbour, Park Chan-wook, also sent over a very special message in support of the Composer’s special visit to London!

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The KCCUK’s 2014 Film programme, the Year of Film Professionals will now be going into it’s last season and we look forward to films Ryu Sung Hee, Production Design – Oct to Dec 2014. Make sure you subscribe to the KCCUK and Korean Film Facebook pages to stay up to date. And of course us at KCM Blog! For all things Korean in the UK :)

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