Seonghoon Eric Park was one of the Student competition winners in last year’s Sony Future Filmmaker Awards for In Cod We Trust – the short film examines the endangered fishing trade in the New England town of Gloucester. Born in South Korea, Seonghoon Eric studied Film and Television at Boston University. He’s now based in New York and is focused on establishing his profile as a cinematographer, director, and documentarian. We catch up with Seonghoon Eric to discover more about his passion for making films.
How did you get into filmmaking?
As an imaginative movie-loving child, I was fascinated by the idea of bringing my vision to life. I started making short films with friends using a small digital camera, ran a filmmaking club, and made short commercials with family members. With limited equipment and crew members, I had to be a director, cinematographer, editor, and sometimes even an actor, in each of those small projects. Retrospectively speaking, staying busy and being eager to learn how to be a ‘one-man-band’ filmmaker helped me have a holistic understanding of all the different aspects of filmmaking.
What was the first filmmaking project you were proud of?
I directed, edited, and acted in a 30-second spec commercial for Facebook Korea called Constellation with my friends, and it won the official Facebook Korea commercial/film festival. It was a story of an astronomy student running into a painter who paints stars and constellations. They watch a meteor shower together. It was one of the five films chosen from over 400 submissions. Aside from the thrill of winning the award, I had so much fun working on it with my friends.
What's the best piece of career advice you've ever received?
Besides the classic mantra of ‘just start shooting’, the best advice I’ve cherished would be: ‘a good film should work even without sound.’ I believe in the power of visual storytelling and want every shot to move my narrative forward.
Who or what are your creative influences?
As a director, I'm inspired by all my favorite Korean and international filmmakers. Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook, Bong June-ho, Andrei Tarkovsky, Paul Thomas Anderson, Lucrecia Martel, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog, Steve McQueen... and the list goes on. As a cinematographer, Sir Roger Deakins is my role model. I've learned so much from his work and I can't express how great of an honor it is to win an award that was judged by the master himself.
In your opinion, what makes a good short film?
I believe that a good short film tells a story that makes you wish it was a feature-length but leaves early – it leaves you wanting more. A strong narrative brings the audience into the perspective of the characters, allowing you to enter a completely different world in less than five minutes. However, by kicking you out of the world before it reveals too many of its secrets, the film keeps the power of its narrative and allows you to reflect on it.
Is there anything you've learned about your filmmaking process since winning your award?
I never thought of myself as a documentary filmmaker, as I have mostly worked on narrative films. I used to think that those two are completely different and don't share many similarities. However, watching the diverse work of all the filmmakers I met at Sony Pictures Studios and listening to their vision changed my mind. It made me realize how I limited my work to the boundaries I’d set for myself. I want to explore all the great stories around the world without being limited to preconceptions of genre.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a documentary project about a town in New Jersey. It's an environmental, social, and political documentary about the town's struggle against environmental crisis and pollution. The project follows the chain reaction that shaped the town's problems and explores socio-political changes in the community.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time at Sony Pictures Studios?
The biggest takeaway from the experience was interacting and making friends with amazing filmmakers from all around the world. I learned so much from them and had such an enjoyable time in Culver City together. I can’t wait to see our connections grow into long-term friendships and collaborations!
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