From playwright to director: Bold move
A highly regarded Korean playwright, Jang Yu-jeong had a megahit with the musical “Oh! While You Were Sleeping” in 2005. But since then, she has embarked on a very different endeavor.
Jang decided to turn her attention to directing, with the film “Finding Mr. Destiny,” which first premiered as a musical in June 2006. The original musical production, which Jang wrote, had more than 1,600 shows each year and drew 360,000 viewers.
The story is about a man named Han Gi-joon, who leaves his mediocre job at a travel agency and starts a new business venture - an agency to help people find their first love. He meets Seo Ji-woo - a girl who wants to find her own first love after breaking up with her boyfriend - even though Seo can barely remember him except for his name, Kim Jong-wook. She had been dragged to the agency reluctantly by her worried father.
This sweet and attractive story is what made the musical popular and turned out to be Jang’s chance at the silver screen. It isn’t common in Korea for an original musical or play that was shown in a small theater to be made into a movie - much less for a playwright to hold the megaphone herself.
But Jang’s efforts are paying off. About 1.1 million viewers have already seen the film since its release on Dec. 8.
“Directing the movie was like a journey into the abyss,” Jang said. “When I finish something I always feel like there is something else to surprise me. Musicals are a lot more stable compared to films in that aspect.”
Jang has released a new production each year since her debut in 2005 and numerous reviews have complimented her, saying she has consistent talent and shows a high degree of competitiveness.
A Joongang Ilbo survey of 150 musical actors and actresses rated Jang the top playwright. She won 46 votes, almost double the second-place winner’s total.
“In my field of work, we say that the assistant director’s opinion is scarier than the viewer, meaning that those who are working alongside you have better insight,” said Jang. “The fact that actors have considered me the best is better than any award I can receive.”
Jang graduated with a degree in Korean literature from Chosun University and continued her studies in play direction at the Korean National University of Arts. Jang said that when she was an elementary student, she would often grab a book to read at her friend’s house or create skits to show off at field trips.
Maybe it was this early obsession and talent that allowed her to craft successful written works - there have been many requests for replays of her works, like “Oh! While You Were Sleeping,” “Finding Mr. Destiny,” and “Hey, Bro?,” which enjoyed sold-out sessions at almost every production.
But it’s where she gets her inspiration that may be the key to her success.
“I thought of ‘Oh! While You Were Sleeping’ while I was volunteering for some unfortunate families,” Jang said. “‘Finding Mr. Destiny’ was written after having my heart broken by my first love and ‘Hey, Bro?’ came to me when I married the eldest son of a very conservative family.”
Even though her works come from personal experiences, she said that any story should be written so the sources can’t recognize themselves when they watch it.
“You should not be too involved in your writing,” Jang said. “You must learn to take yourself out of the picture so that the audience can relate to the characters.”
Surprisingly, “Finding Mr. Destiny,” was written in only four days.
“I guess if I was a chef, I would actually start cooking only when all the necessary ingredients are fully prepared,” said Jang. “I only start writing when I complete all my research and character selections.”
But Jang, despite her diverse talent, said she isn’t quite sure what she wants to do next.
“I have different thinking caps for writing and directing,” Jang said. “Being a director means to remove the character from the paper and paste them on stage. I hear that my writing feels alive and the reason to that is probably because I also direct. Of course I can’t forget the actors and actresses who make my work shine.”
By Choi Min-woo [email@example.com]
Related Korean Article [중앙일보]
무대 위의 크리에이터 ② 극작가 장유정
사흘 만에 써낸 뮤지컬 ‘김종욱 찾기’ 30만을 모으다
뮤지컬 배우들이 뽑은 국내 최고의 극작가는 장유정(35)씨였다. 2005년 뮤지컬 ‘오! 당신이 잠든 사이’로 혜성같이 나타난 장씨는 극작과 연출을 넘나들며 어느새 뮤지컬계를 대표하는 스타 창작자중 한 명으로 뚜렷이 자리매김했다. 아기자기한 글맛, 탄탄한 구성력, 살아있는 에피소드, 반전의 미학 등을 주무기로 삼고 있다. 중앙일보가 뮤지컬 배우 150명을 설문 조사한 결과 장씨는 총 46표를 획득, 극작가 부문 1위에 올랐다.
＂우리끼린 관객보다 조연출이 더 무섭다고 해요. 그만큼 같이 작업하는 이들의 눈이 정확하다는 거죠. 배우들이 저를 인정했다는 거, 솔직히 웬만한 상 받은 것보다 훨씬 기쁜걸요.”
어쩜 이리 말을 잘 할까. “1등 한 소감이 어떠냐”는 식상한 질문에 장씨는 미리 준비해 놓은 답을 내놓은 것처럼, 정확한 모범 답변에 적당히 살까지 붙였다. “글만 쓴 게 아니라 연출을 한 덕을 크게 본 거 같다”라는 겸손 버전도 살짝 내비쳤다. …
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