Behind the screens

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Behind the screens

BUSAN -- More makeup than a Max Factor warehouse.

Brighter lights than the aurora borealis.

Enough celluloid to go around the world -- twice.

That's the Pusan International Film Festival, the biggest 10-day picture soiree in Asia.

This year's version kicked off last week and runs through Saturday. At every function in movie theaters, press conferences and dinner receptions, bigwigs arrive and leave in black sedans, the press squeeze into shuttle buses. Shrieking fans pulsate behind human barricades formed by musclemen in Day-glo black suits. Poster guys slapdashedly decorate the common areas and gushing groupies pack city streets until the wee hours. Never known for its speedy traffic, Busan watches as cars creep snail-like, while the Korean film industry fast-forwards.

In the hustle of this craziness, in the madness of it all, it isn't the directors, the actors, or the producers who imprint this event. It is the other people, the ones you never noticed or barely knew existed. Until now.


Laying it all out

Jeon Jin-yun, 31

I'm a founding member of Frog, a stage production company based here in Busan. For me and my four staff members, this is our first time working for the film festival.

Unrolling the red carpet is a big part of the deal.

We unrolled the carpet for opening night and we'll do it for the closing ceremony. We cover the entrance of the Busan Citizens Hall like the Red Sea.

What kind of carpet is it? We use brand new Fitex carpet, which you would normally see in offices or at special occasions. For the entrance alone, we unrolled 80 meters.

For opening night, we arrived at the hall at about noon, and it took us about three hours to spread the carpet. We don't use glue. No, no. We used tape to adjust the carpet, all the time making sure the surface is smooth.

After the ceremony, it took us only 30 minutes to strip off the carpet. Then we brought the carpet rolls to our warehouse in Songjeong, at the northeastern end of Busan. We'll go back and get the rolls again on Saturday.

Fall is the busiest time of the year as there are many international events in this city. So I rarely get to think about who will step on our carpet. To me, unrolling and smoothing the carpet is just work.

I usually don't have time to notice who is walking down my carpet, but I do remember one time last year when I rolled out a red carpet for President Kim Dae-jung in Centum City. I think he liked it. At least he looked like he did.

Right now I have to work another event in Daegu and at the same time wait for the event company, which contracted us for this festival, to let us know when to prepare for the closing ceremony.


The reels on the bus go round...

Suh Kwang-ro, 44, shuttle bus driver

In the past I have worked on tourist courses. This is my first year working as the designated shuttle bus driver for the festival. I go from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day, Although I live in Busan, I've never been to the film festival before. Because I work, I won't be able to see any movies. But for the festival, the company just installed a new video monitor in the bus, so I'll just watch these trailers all day.


Step back or I will snap you

Chung Myung-ho, 25, bodyguard

I'm one of 20 bodyguards dispatched from the Busan district of the Korea Bodyguard Association. I started working at the festival 15 days before it opened. The bodyguard's job is to ensure the safety of VIPs and participants. In the beginning, we were given the VIP list, but I cannot tell you who's on the list. Foreigners? I don't think we have any famous foreigner VIPs coming to this event. So far it's been smooth, with no accidents.


Kurosawa? That a noodle joint?

Lee Min-hyuk, 20, aspiring director

I'm majoring in photography, motion pictures and media at Kyungbuk Foreign Language Techno College. I got a student pass which allows you to see four movies a day, but so far I've seen only one. At school, I run my own Internet broadcasting station, so I shoot the festival events with my video camera. I've seen the Korean actors Ahn Sung-ki and Kim Soo-yong during the festival. I came here from Pohang to see how movie industry professionals work because my dream is to become a movie director in the future.


A job you can stick with

Lee Sung-won, 24, poster guy

This is what I wanted to do, so I love doing it. I have worked all day, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day since Nov. 12. My job is to promote new movies. Promotion through posters seems to work, so I went back to Seoul and came back the same day with more. I brought 10 banners with me. I'm hanging them in the square. I will stay in Busan until the last day and see people's reactions and come up with more new ideas.


A bundle of laughs

Park Seung-dae, comedian, 34

I've been preparing for this for the past month. My goal is to meet with most popular Korean stars -- Lee Byung-hun, Song Seung-heon and Kim Jung-eun. I wanted to cover their fashion concepts. I've been here since 7 a.m. and stay here [Busan Citizen Hall] until 10 p.m. My report will be aired on Saturday at 8:50 p.m. on KBS2-TV. The program is called 'Yeongyeoga Junggye.'


Wish you were here

Yu Min-he and Lee Na-yeong, 20,

dedicated stargazers

We're students at Pusan University of Foreign Studies. We came here to see our favorite stars -- Jang Dong-gun, Kim Jung-eun and Song Seung-heon. We saw them, and this is fantastic! We haven't seen the festival program. We're not sure we're going to see any films. We're just happy that we saw stars.


Bag lady

Ms. Kim, 47, street cleaner

I've cleaned the PIFF Square from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day for the past seven years. During the festival, there's twice as much garbage. I pick up everything, put it in a plastic bag and leave it where the truck will pick it up. Hey, look, I'm busy, I don't want to do this interview. Go away.


Now in the subjunctive case...

Amber Spurrell, Laura Fuller, Melissa Bevan, Melody Schiaffino,

English teachers

We've come from Ulsan except for Melody who lives in Busan. We've watched 'Absolute Warhola' and 'Eliana, Eliana' so far. During the next three days, we are planning to see what are supposed to be good Korean films: 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' and 'The King and His Sculptor.'

We have one complaint, though: There are empty seats in the theater and they are not selling them. Otherwise, the festival is a colorful event where there are so many things going on.


Every night a sellout

Han Mi-ra, 24, ticket sales

I applied to be a volunteer when I was in college, but I didn't make it. But this time I made it. I sell tickets from 8:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. I began working one month before the festival started. I sold the tickets in a local bank. At the bank I used to get paid 5,000 won per day, but now I'm in a booth and I get paid 10,000 won a day. But money is not my why I'm here.

I don't like dealing with people who demand things or who yell. I'm losing my voice because I speak with hundreds of people every day. Every once in a while, I hear a rumor that someone famous is coming to the square. Then I get really excited, though I don't get to go outside. When foreigners try to talk to me, my response is simple. I just say 'Sold out.' Anything other than that, I can't help them much.

by Inēs Cho

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