For writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (Neon), editor Jinmo Yang has already earned assorted accolades including his first Oscar nomination as well as an ACE Eddie Award win for best edited dramatic feature film. Last May, Parasite won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. And this month Parasite earned a total of six Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, Best International Film (South Korea) and Best Director.
Parasite introduces us to the Park and Kim families. The former clan is affluent and resides in a magnificent house. On the flip side we have the Kim family who live by the seat of their pants, stealing wi-fi and hustling to exist and subsist. In a scheme hatched up by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. The Kim patriarch and matriarch become the Parks’ chauffeur and cook/housekeeper, respectively. The Parks do not know that their new trusted support team is from the same family. A symbiotic relationship forms between the two clans but then two third parties, the Parks’ former housekeeper and her hidden husband emerge, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.
This story of class struggle and the widening gap between the rich and the poor at some points plays out like a comedic caper as the Kims are almost lovable con artists. But the comedy turns dramatic and more deeply poignant as a new reality sets in, making for a unique mix of the hilarious and the heart-wrenching.
Yang’s shared filmography with Bong also includes Okja, which debuted at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Beyond his work for Bong, Yang has cut such other notable features as director Jong-Yeol Baek’s The Beauty Inside (2015), earning South Korea’s prestigious Blue Dragon Award for Editing; Sang-ho Yeon’s Train To Busan (2016), an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, and Hae-Young Lee’s Believer (2018), winner of the Producers Guild of Korea Award for Editing. Yang’s additional editing credits include Jee-woon Kim’s The Age of Shadows (2016), Joon-Hwan Jang’s 1987: When the Day Comes (2017), and Sang-ho Yeon’s Psychokinesis (2017).
Yang, who originally aspired to be a director before he discovered his affinity for editing, reflects on what drew him to Parasite, the challenges that movie posed, and his working relationship with Bong.
SHOOT: What led you to pursue a career in editing?
Yang: I studied film at Bard College wanting to be a director. So when I went back to Korea, I started my carrier as an on-set editor to learn the filmmaking process from directors on set. I ended up doing this on-set editing for 10 years and realized that I am actually enjoying this editing process and have more talent. While I was an on-set editor, I established a very good relationship with great directors who later gave me the chance to become their main editor. Director Bong was one of them.
SHOOT: Tell us about your collaborative relationship with writer-director Bong Joon Ho. When did you two initially come together? What was the nature of your collaborative process, how did the two of you team on Parasite?
Yang: Snowpiercer (2013) is the first film that I worked with Bong as an on-set editor and visual effects editor. Since it was a global project with a lot of CG work, he was looking for someone who can speak English and has a visual effects background. I was introduced by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong who I’ve known for years. Then, I joined on Okja and Parasite as an editor naturally. For Parasite, I sent my assistant editor on-set, editing immediately while shoot is happening. Via this, I have the rough and basic structure of the assembly already prepared. So as soon as shooting wraps, director Bong and I begin editing immediately. We dive right into tuning the sequences and shots by combing through all the takes. For about three intense months, we worked very hard to create Parasite’s authentic tempo and rhythm.
SHOOT: What most attracted you to Parasite?
Yang: Parasite was very unique and original, and had this mix of genres that only Bong can create. It also has a great cast, such as Kang-ho Song, Woo-shik Choi, and many others. I am a big fan of Bong’s previous films such as Memories of Murder and Mother. Parasite was somewhat similar to those and had the chance to become greater. Most of all, it was director Bong’s new film!
SHOOT: What was (were) the biggest creative and/or technical/logistical challenge(s) that Parasite posed to you as an editor?
Yang: Parasite has very unique structure which combines various genres in one film. One of my toughest tasks was keeping a “constant tone” throughout the movie without losing the tension or mood for each sequence. I had to watch the assembly over and over to view the film as a single organism, yet also pay attention to the small details which make each sequence more vivid and rhythmic. I had to find a right pace for each sequence and shot, and at the same time blend them into Parasite’s world.
Director Bong has such a clear vision on how he’ll edit the film that he rarely shoots any coverage or masters. I have very precise materials to edit but at the same time they are very limited. If a specific shot is not perfect as we’d like it to be, I need to find a way to make it perfect. For example, I would weave a couple elements from different takes to make one perfect timed shot. Often these “stitch marks” are veiled in quick pans or other camera moves.
SHOOT: What was your biggest takeaway or lessons learned from your experience on Parasite?
Yang: This film taught me the “art of fine details” in editing. For Parasite, director Bong had a specific rhythm in mind while writing the screenplay, and had specific shots in mind while creating the storyboards. So with this clear-cut plan already established, my job was to delve deeper into smaller units of detail and focus on more delicate changes to make. Parasite was a film that convinced me when these minute details are accumulated, something great can emerge.