Editor Jinmo Yang has had an incredibly successful creative partnership with director Bong Joon-ho over the years all the way back to Okja and even his days as a VFX editor on Snowpiercer. Now the two have re-teamed for a third time with the genre defying Parasite. The film has become a global phenomenon with their film winning the top prize at Cannes and winning over international audiences and critics. This week, with the film at the center of every Oscar conversation, Jinmo Yang has earned his first ACE Eddie nomination.
Alongside Korean translator Jaehuen Chung, Jinmo Yang spoke with Awards Daily on what it has been like to see his film reach international audiences. Going into detail about some of the film’s key scenes, he discussed what it was like guiding audiences through the film’s emotional core highlighting Song Kang-ho’s performance. It should be noted that throughout the interview we go into details about a couple of major moment in the film so consider this your warning if you still haven’t seen the film.
Awards Daily: You and director Bong Joon-ho have had a long creative partnership working on films like Snowpiercer, Okja, and now Parasite. How did you two first start working together?
Jinmo Yang: I don’t remember exactly how it came about for Snowpiercer. Maybe it was the director of photography Alex Huang who introduced me to the project or maybe it was another director I had worked with. I know for the project specifically Bong was looking for someone who could speak English and someone who had a background in VFX. So because of my background that is how I came on board for our first project. Afterwards our communication went well and as I opened my own editorial suite he was looking for someone to work with on Okja. Now we’ve continued working together through Parasite and I’m incredibly fortunate.
AD: What were your first impressions of Parasite when director Bong Joon-ho approached you with the script?
JY: Beforehand with Snowpiercer and Okja we couldn’t say they were 100% Korean films whether because of the collaboration nature or Netflix aspects. Receiving the screenplay for Parasite I was really excited because it resembled Memories of Murder and Mother in the sense that it was a truly local Korean film. I was really excited and happy about the opportunity and more importantly I was excited because I finally had a chance to work in detail on the footage of a project. I saw an opportunity with less limitations.
AD: Over the past six months Parasite has become a global phenomenon both at the box office and with critics, even becoming the first Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. What has it been like to watch the phenomenon play out?
JY: To be honest I think it goes for all of us that we are very happy because we had the opportunity to put the very best version of the film out there and because of that it has become a global explosive phenomenon. Even now doing this project it’s hard to believe where it has taken us.
AD: In many ways Parasite defies genre seamlessly blending elements of drama, comedy, and even elements of heist and thriller. What was it like for you as an editor to help set the tone throughout the film?
JY: Throughout various interviews I’ve been receiving this question about tone all of the time. While we were working on the film it wasn’t like we were separating each tone per se. We weren’t looking at each scene and saying “this one needs to be a thriller and this one needs to be a comedy.” We didn’t draw a line like that but we tried to work on it so it wouldn’t be conscious and instead flow naturally. There were moments in the process when we questioned comedic aspects and wondered if we needed to pull those comedic elements back a little bit. We were deliberate and conscious about seeing the film as a whole.
AD: A majority of the film is confined to two families and two locations but with storytelling that emphasized so many specific details and the inner workings of the two families what was it like making sure the audiences understood all these moments?
JY: It’s not something unfamiliar in the sense that I’ve worked on many films that feature even more characters than we see in Parasite even with the more complicated blocking. In that sense I wouldn’t say it is more complex however when we’re talking about interactions and glances between the characters my job was being faithful to the storyboard, something Director Bong laid out in detail. For me my job was really about picking out the takes with the characters especially when we go to the party scene right before all the violence happens. Mr. Kim and Mr. Park are having a conversation and I had to be really deliberate and conscious about picking out the expression, emotion, and the intricacies going back and forth between the two.
AD: I was hoping you could walk me through the editing process of some of the film’s most pivotal moments. First, the sequence at the beginning that shows how the Kim family scheme their way into the Park household. The sequence is so tightly edited that almost reminds me of a heist film.
JY: I think you’re referring to what director Bong has called the “belt of faith” sequence. He doesn’t talk a lot heading into each sequence but he did mention how it was going to be a really complex and entertaining sequence to attack.
This sequence is where you see a lot of jump cuts and many, many shots and because of that Director Bong wanted me to put what he called concentrated juice into it. We worked on it for a very long time in the beginning of the process because of this.
AD: What about the infamous climactic moments at Da-song’s birthday party?
JY: To be honest it wasn’t all of the stabbing that was complicated for me. The especially challenging part for me was the moment right before with Mr. Park and Mr. Kim wearing the Native American headband. They have a conversation and that moment is most challenging because there is a sense of anger or resentment that had been building. Because of the difference in status Mr. Kim couldn’t really let it out until the moment with the knife and he explodes. Leading up to that moment I was very conscious and deliberate about picking out the right emotion and reaction for Mr. Kim. That was the challenging and complicated aspect for me.
AD: Was there a specific scene in the film you had the most fun editing?
JY: I had the most fun cutting together the ramdon sequence. The Park family had left the mansion and they just hear that the family is coming back and right up until the moment they slide under the coffee table. I love the tempo of the sequence because of all the intercutting and that kind of work makes me excited.
AD: Were there any sequence in particular that was the most challenging?
JY: The sequence that I just talked about was by far the most challenging one of the entire film and it all hinged on that particular moment. It’s a moment that Director Bong and I talked about in detail even as he was writing the screenplay. It was much more about Mr. Park convincing Mr. Kim. We also had to convince the audience. If they didn’t buy this moment then the entire film wouldn’t work. I was really conscious and deliberate of picking Mr. Kim’s expression and emotion to convince and guide the audience. That shows how great of an actor Song Kang-ho is because he’s able to pull that off.
AD: Where can audiences catch your work next?
JY: It’s not set in stone but I am hopefully going to be working on the Train to Busan sequel and I believe the English title will be Peninsula. I believe the film will be released in the summer of 2020. I’m also currently in discussion with an American agency and there’s a chance that I’ll begin working on some American projects as well.