A coming of age and dark Korean comedy about a beloved K-Pop star, N.D. (a.k.a "Never Die"), who dies tragically. He leaves behind a hidden message in one of his songs, allowing four fanatic girls to cope with the aftermath by seeking to fulfil his last wish.
Hi Jerome, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
My pleasure. Other than my pet fish dying the other week, life is pretty good.
Idols Never Die is part of the Canada Not Short on Talent selection what does it mean to be bringing your film to Cannes?
It's an honour to be 1 of 15 selected films across Canada for Telefilm's Not Short On Talent showcase. It means a lot. To be able to put my stories out there and for my voice to be heard, especially, in a prestigious festival like Cannes where the film world will gather is tremendous. I'm happy to be receiving all the attention.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
A bit of both. I'm nervous, to show my film at a festival where the standard is so exceptionally high. It's a gathering of so many respectable artists and visionaries, that I sometimes feel like a fraud being in that crowd. I only started making the film last year so compared to most, I still have lots to learn. However, I'm very excited to have the opportunity to share Idols there.
What do you hope to take away from your time at Cannes?
Every once in a while there is a film that makes my blood boil and invigorates me with passion. It would be cool to leave inspired by directors I look up to like BONG JOON HO and QUENTIN TARANTINO who will be in attendance for the world premiere of their films.
Can you tell me a little bit about Idols Never Die, how did this film come about?
Idols Never Die is a love letter to my K-Pop loving adolescence. After the death of beloved K-Pop idol "ND," four high school fangirls, accidentally discover a subliminal message in his music. They contemplate this hidden message asking them to spread his ashes, and reach the conclusion that they are the fated fans to fulfil his final wish. It's really about fandom, loss, and sisterhood. The entire film (shoot, post-production, delivery) was done in 8 days as part of an annual filmmaking competition in Vancouver called Crazy 8s.
What was the inspiration behind this film?
I grew up listening to K-Pop music. It's been amazing to see how much exposure Korean pop has been receiving as of late because of artists like BTS and Black Pink. The OG is definitely Psy's Gangnam Style though, which went viral on Youtube in 2012. The story is inspired by some hardcore K-pop obsessives I knew growing up, who would listen to their music as an escape from their difficult reality. Especially to those who came abroad to study English, it was a connection they could latch onto when adapting to their new, foreign environment. The nature of using certain stimuli, whether it's drugs or music to cope can become an addiction, which is why I thought it would be intriguing to explore the premise of fan girls struggling with the loss of their idol.
"I wanted to apply influences from all my favourite directors with my first film Gong Ju, so it felt inconsistent at times."
What was the most challenging part of bringing Idols Never Die to life?
The casting was incredibly difficult. We would go through the traditional casting process with Vancouver casting director, CIARRA COOK, however, it was nearly impossible to find a trained actor who was fluent in Korean and could play a high schooler in the system. We ended up having to broaden our scope and use Facebook, as well as approaching local schools to find talent to audition. Our lead CATHERINE SHIM was accompanying a friend to our auditions without intending to audition. Once I saw her I knew she had to come into the audition room. She didn't prepare anything, but after a 5-minute conversation, I knew I found the lead for our film. I'm very proud of the four lead actors in our film who never acted before Idols, and grateful they trusted me through the entire process. Also, only having 8 days to complete the film was stressful. 3 days of shooting, and 5 days of post-production.
What have been the important lessons you've taken from making Idols Never Die?
Chaos is a friend of mine. I believe in preparation and process, but the result is almost always elevated when there is a twinkle of chaos or uncertainty. The need for the organic manifestation of the scene or moment on the day. Not fully knowing. I think that's beautiful.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I started out as an actor so I've always had a passion for storytelling. I recently turned to write and direct. Currently, I find that more creatively fulfilling.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
I was very experimental with my first film. I wanted to apply influences from all my favourite directors with my first film Gong Ju, so it felt inconsistent at times. Idols is my second short, which I started conceptualizing half a year after my first, and I felt more confident in my vision, and execution. However, I'm still figuring it out. Isn't everybody?
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
"What we do as artists is like sand art. It's a whisper to the Gods." Is what a mentor of mine once said and it definitely struck a chord with me.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
There are lots of moving parts in filmmaking, but actors are the soul of the story. Don't forget about them, and respect what they do. Be communicating your ideas and be receptive to theirs. You will both be happier for it.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Idols Never Die?
That K-Pop is dope! Plus, I want to shed light on fandom culture, and its community who doesn't judge others by their background, or status. There's mutual love and how that brings people together is pretty damn amazing.