Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Park Jung-min, Choi Woo-shik. The four actors who have written their own history in movies cross paths by chance in the film Time to Hunt.
These actors’ names would be brought up when people are discussing about the “next” thing in Korean cinema. They gathered together for the film Time to Hunt. Choi Woo-shik arrived at the photo shoot venue at 7 AM, spending the night before on the filming set shooting all night long. Park Jung-min had just returned from his overseas filming in Thailand, while Ahn Jae-hong was in the middle of his promotion schedule for the movie Secret Zoo. Even when his part was done, Lee Je-hoon waited for his younger brothers because he wanted to have a group interview together with them.
That is how precious the movie is to these young actors. Lee Je-hoon picked ‘generation’ as the representative word for the movie. “Besides me myself, there are also Ahn Jae-hong, Park Jung-min, Choi Woo-shik, and not to forget, Park Hae-soo; is there any movie where you can see the new generation of Korean cinemas under one title? It might be possible to gather two names, but the fact that we have five of them in one single project is exciting in itself.” Choi Woo-shik added, ”The movie’s characters, lines, and feelings were all great, but it’s not just those; being able to work together with these older brothers is a priceless experience.” Ahn Jae-hong, citing the movie Shiri, which was the movie that opened the new era to Korean cinema, said, “Both Han Suk-kyu and Song Kang-ho sunbae-nim were around our age when they filmed the movie Shiri. Just like how they were together with their fierce, intense hearts, we are united here today.“ Park Jung-min described their movie as a ‘tribute to the senior actors’: “There are always lots of things to be learned from acting alongside more senior actors in a production. But then, to be able to act together with young actors you can call hyung and dongsaeng is deeply meaningful. I want to show Time to Hunt to the senior actors who set the foothold for Korean cinemas, dedicating the movie as a tribute from the humble heart of us.” Park Jung-min recently acted in various movies, namely Start-Up, Svaha, Tazza: One-Eyed Jacks, and Psychokinesis; all helmed by new directors. Time to Hunt is the latest offering of Director Yoon Sung-hyun, who brought home the New Director Awards in the 32nd Blue Dragon Awards for his movie Bleak Night.
Bleak Night has become the go-to reference in the archive of indie films. The lines have also become a staple for the young actors in open auditions. Park Jung-min himself had received the lines that belonged to Becky/Hee-joon, which was the character he portrayed in Bleak Night when he went through an audition. “They probably did not know that it was me (laughs).” Even with the huge success of Bleak Night in the indie film arena, what was the reason it took 10 years for the director’s next project Time to Hunt to be released?
“The director and I are cinema comrades, so we had talked about the plan that would become Time to Hunt since 4~5 years ago.” Lee Je-hoon explained. “I witnessed him planning different kinds of genres throughout the years (Director Yoon Sung-hyun planned various film genres, including cyberpunk). I have always supported the director ever since Bleak Night, and I have set my mind to accept whatever role he offers to me. Our relationship transcends beyond the scenario booklet. Of course, Time to Hunt is a shocking project itself. While the story unfolds itself straightforwardly, it will remind you of the movies Terminator, No Country for Old Men, and Mad Max. Perhaps, the director wanted to produce a movie where people can enjoy the genre-centric elements in it.” Ahn Jae-hong thought that it was exciting to be given the scenario from the director of Bleak Night. “Bleak Night gave me the feelings that were close to shock. As an actor who grew among the indie movies, I received a lot of influence from that movie.”
Bleak Night has become a must-seen title among the filmography of Lee Je-hoon and Park Jung-min, and it’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since it was first screened. The same goes for the filming site witnessing the reunion of both actors with the director. Park Jung-min shared on how vivid it was for him when he first arrived at the location. “As I walked out of the make-up bus, the director was there sitting in front of the monitor and Je-hoon hyung was hanging around on the set. It was just like 10 years ago when we first filmed Bleak Night. The set did grow bigger in size, but apart from that, everything was the same as 10 years ago. Even as the time goes on, our burning passion is never changing from that time.” “There’s something that has changed: we got food trucks on the set.” Lee Je-hoon added as he laughed. “Back then, the scale and the budget were small since it was an indie movie, and we mostly had kimbap or cheap packed meals (dosirak) on the set. Nowadays, we had the luxury of food trucks and even snack trucks coming to the set. Of course, the persistent directing ability of the director in unchanging. He would always ask for something over the limit of the actors.” All the actors laughed in unison, agreeing with the statement.
As for Choi Woo-shik and Ahn Jae-hong, 10th January 2018 was the first day of filming for them. That night, Ahn called Park Jung-min after he got off filming, saying, “I think I’ll need to go on a trip.” That was how Ahn underwent an experience where he went over his limit. “I won’t be able to forget that day. It was one take for the first scene. Perhaps, it could be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the most takes made for one take in the first scene of a movie, shot on the first day of filming. Although Woo-shik’s perfect portrayal of his character from the get-go was a huge help, it got me thinking that the praises Bleak Night got wasn’t for nothing.” Choi Woo-shik chipped in, “I think I saw a glint of madness in Jae-hong hyung’s eyes. The movie continued to be more difficult as the first act unfolded. I think that the tension from the first filming continued until the later part. Thanks to the director’s clear and precise direction, the actors did not stray off from the intended path.” Lee Je-hoon was there on that day, witnessing the two actors’ first filming on the set. “Frankly speaking, seeing the two of them together with the director didn’t seem unfamiliar at all. But then, it was great to see Woo-shik and Jae-hong perfectly in character and how they worked together with the director. Let me tell you, it’s worth anticipating.”
Four friends and an unidentified chaser appear on Time to Hunt. In a city with futile hope, a fresh out-of-prison Jun-seok (Lee Je-hoon) devises a reckless plan with his close friends who are like family to him: Jang-ho (Ahn Jae-hong), Ki-hoon (Choi Woo-shik), and Sang-soo (Park Jung-min). As the get closer to a new life they dream of, a mysterious chaser (Park Hae-soo) appears, forcing them into a deadly hunting ground. At that time, Choi Woo-shik was looking for the image of him that became the reason why he was cast as the rebellious Ki-hoon, who only possesses loyalty. “Although I am portraying a character who is of the same age as these hyung, I am someone who doesn’t talk much with people I just met. However, the director strangely said that he could see Ki-hoon in me. In fact, once we went into filming, it was as if I found a shirt that fit me perfectly; once I found my way to the character, it wasn’t difficult. Perhaps, I owed it to the director, who approached me like an older brother. Maybe it has something to do with the small age difference between us, but he really approached me familiarly, like how an older brother would be towards his sibling. Although any director would have a lot of conversations with the actors, those with Director Yoon were real conversations.” Ahn Jae-hong also agreed, “We met frequently even before we started shooting. Be it during formal meetings or personal ones, the director always held deep conversations with us. Thanks to that, it was easy to transform into the character from the first filming.”
There’s no doubt that Ahn Jae-hong underwent the most drastic transformation for his character in Time to Hunt. When we talk about him, there’s this kind of image that will come to our mind. From the image of innocent North Korean student in the film that shot him to stardom The King of Jokgu, to the talkative PD you can’t seem to hate in the recent Melo is My Nature. He is an actor that is the symbol of goodness. In this movie, he dyes his shaved hair into grey and swearwords are frequently heard from his loose mouth. “There’s this pleasure of showing another side of me, different from the usual characters I portrayed before. People will be able to see a new Ahn Jae-hong through this. I think that was also the director’s way of reeling me into this.” After they wrapped up filming, they had to come for post-recording session a few months later. Ahn Jae-hong was struggling to find back the voice of Jang-ho. “That was how it was to live as a totally different character. Apart from my transformation, you can also anticipate the changes for other actors too. This is just one of the biggest charms of Time to Hunt, where you can see the new side of the actors.”
Director Yoon Sung-hyun gave a thumb drive to Ahn before they started shooting. He gave specific type of images instead of movies or scenario to him. They were reference clips. I can’t tell you the details but they were visually unique. One can’t help but to wonder if the visual reference used by the director was from Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine; the young men and the tunnel without any exit that made their appearance there. Even in his daily life, Le Je-hoon wore street fashion style similar to those featured in La Haine per Director Yoon’s suggestion, and it has been 3 years. In order to portray the youth who have lost their path and hide their insecurity under the oversized, baggy sportswear, the Chav style was adapted, which was previously known as subculture before it took off.
Lee Je-hoon did not throw away the clothes from the set until now, although filming has long ended. “This is the first time that the fashion style in the movie has influenced my real-life style. My body has gotten used to it, so it seems that I will continue to enjoy dressing up like that. (Others: “Hyung’s fashion is better compared to before.”) I admit it. Sometimes, I find it hard to understand myself when I go through the photo library and see my fashion in older pictures. Perhaps, I should try to dress up and be more vogue (laughs).”
It is often thought that Time to Hunt is similar to Bleak Night. From the same director and the same actors to the shared theme of young men’s story, the resemblance is uncanny. Park Jung-min assured that they are different. “Bleak Night is the story of relationship between teens, expanding into the relationship between humans that calls for sympathy of the viewers, while Time to Hunt is a genre movie in some ways. The friendship of these young men develops along with the story and the emotions.” Director Yoon Sung-hyun said this in an interview: ”If Bleak Night is a movie that requires you to watch it under the microscope, then Time to Hunt requires you to focus on the phenomenal experience. [redacted] Just like the movie Akira that we watched when we were young or the newer Terminator and Mad Max, I wondered what would be the distinct feature of this medium (movie) which can only be expressed through the cinematic experience of watching a movie.” That was how high the probability is for this movie to be a first of its kind in the archive of Korean cinema. Park Jung-min felt the euphoria of the novelty. “Even the angle was something never seen before. I even got jealous of the actors who got to be featured in the scenes where the cool angles were used. As an actor, I’m happy to be a part of this movie.” Choi Woo-shik continued to use all kinds of words (unusual, fresh, daring, strong) as he described his experience. “Even for the lighting, Practical Light was used. I was completely captivated by the images and tones I haven’t experienced before.
When asked about the message of this movie, the actors shared a common consensus, “It’s not a movie with lessons; it’s a project with emphasis on experience.” What is a cinematic experience to them? It’s certainly not the generic experience behind the theatre doors like the scent of the seat’s fabric, the rich sound in the theatre instead of the mobile phone, or the strength in the story; when one thinks of the experience unique to movies, a movie is a medium for experience instead of a medium to be watched. Time to Hunt aims to maximize that kind of experience. The actors talked about their own cinematic experience. Lee Je-hoon said this with regard to the movies Interstellar and Gravity, “(It is) something that only movies can give you. The moment when actress Sandra Bullock (in Gravity) went MIA in the outer space with no end set it apart from generic space movies. It was close to shock. This is where movies carry the visuals that can’t be embodied by literature or songs. I recently watched and liked Long Day’s Journey into Night starring Tang Wei. The fresh composition and the auteuristic aspect adapted by the movie just an hour into the story were impressive. From now on, I also want to be able to try out something new without being afraid of the unfamiliar concept.” Ahn Jae-hong chose Joker. “There was something about Joaquin Phoenix’s expression when his face contorted after being laid off by his boss; it was as if something jumped out of him. An actor has the power to deliver suspense through his overwhelming acting and present the cinematic experience to the viewers.”
An actor isn’t only providing the cinematic experience to the moviegoers but also to himself as a party directly involved in the movie. Choi Woo-shik starred in the 2014 movie Set Me Free, which earned him the Actor of the Year Award for the year’s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). He recalled that he had to cry a lot while shooting the movie. An autobiographical movie of Director Kim Tae-yong, Choi Woo-shik portrayed a 17-year old student who would do anything to remain at the group home facility where he was staying for the past few years. Although the actor had the image of a cute and bubbly boy next door back then, the director decided to cast him after watching him in Etude, Solo, a short film screened during a mise en scene film festival. The reason? His somewhat fishy eyes. What Park Jung-min said was right, “It is important for an actor to meet the right director.”
It is also important for an actor to meet the right actors. Lee Je-hoon admitted that it was an experience which pushed him to his limits both mentally and physically to film Time to Hunt; it wasn’t an easy feat and he would have given up if he had to do it alone. “I was able to keep holding on because they were friends whom I can share the burden with as we breathed together. Even when it was a situation when people would normally complain about it, no one said a word about it. That was because everyone was happy to be able to do this together and build the world hand in hand.” Ahn Jae-hong added, ”We were so close that the word chemistry couldn’t hold a candle to it. Park Jung-min saw the process of working alongside the other cast as a cinematic experience for him. “Of course, it was a given that I was influenced by the director’s filming style and direction, but it wasn’t just acting with the four of us. It was as if the four of us did something together. It was like a real thing. It was a very enjoyable time for me, to the point of feeling sad when my part ended.” Even until this moment, the private group chat of these four actors, together with actor Park Hae-soo and Director Yoon Sung-hyun is still very active, with notifications going off from time to time.