The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing now with many opportunities to catch some terrific films.The Festival is almost like a big teaser for when some of the films come out in the theatres. You may have seen and heard the buzz about the heavyweight contenders that are pulling out all the stops with well-known celebrities in attendance, but many film lovers I know also find the real gems in TIFF’s Discovery programming which focuses on the future of cinema and films by “Directors to Watch.”
In Her Place caught my attention this year and is gaining a lot of attention. It is a compelling drama about a wealthy woman who seek to secretly adopt an unborn child of an poor and troubled rural teenager. What unfolds is a bold and simmering story about the relationship between the woman, the teen and her mom.
I had the opportunity to interview director, Albert Shin as he gets ready for the world premiere. Albert was born in Ottawa and studied film and video production at York University. He has produced several shorts and in 2012 screened his feature Krivina at TIFF. In Her Place is his second feature.
So, WOW! Where did the story idea come from?
The main location in the film was a family farm that belong to my extended family and had always intrigued me as a setting for a film. It used to be a bustling dairy farm back when I was a kid, but had sort of been abandoned at some point and was wasting away. I spent years thinking about a story idea that I could set there, but wasn’t making any breakthroughs. Finally, a few years ago I was at a restaurant in Korea when I overheard a large family in the midst of a heated debate regarding the legitimacy of an absent family member’s pregnancy. Half the table thought she was pregnant and the other half thought she was faking it. Their discussion brought back memories of my own family gossiping about how so-and-so was not the real child of so-and-so. I then started to do more research on secret adoptions in Korea, and found it was something that used to be extremely prevalent in their culture and still happens today. I knew I had finally found the story idea to match my location.
The title of this film “In Her Place” has landed in so many different ways for me, personally, but what does it mean to you?
The title seemed to communicate the essence of the film so succinctly, that once I settled on it, it was a no-brainer; however, we actually didn’t have an official title until the film was all edited. There are some obvious meanings suggested in the title, but the one that speaks strongest to me is how it alludes to the film’s emphasis on character point of view and perspective.
Can you tell us about the cast, particularly the teen and the adopting mother?
I had an amazing cast of very experienced and highly regarded actors from both the screen and stage and I feel extremely lucky that they would agree to work with a young and unknown Korean-Canadian director. Yoon Da Kyung, who played the city woman who comes to the farm, was somebody that read the script and immediately responded to it. Right from our first meeting, we were on the same page. However, for the teen, I was having trouble casting the part after auditioning potential actresses for months. Then Ahn Ji Hye came to a casting call without much acting experience and completely blew me away. She has the rare ability to communicate more by doing less and her take on the character was really different and fresh.
What’s the film industry like in Canada?
Just like any artistic industry, I think you have to look for ways to open doors for yourself and not wait for the industry to magically open doors for you. In this day in age, making films on your own has gotten much easier to do with the access to better and cheaper equipment; literally anybody can make a film with a group of friends. That’s how I started out and if you stick with it and can prove yourself, hopefully the industry takes notice and it gets easier to continue to do it.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you about the industry?
Chalk every road block and rejection as a form of character-building.
What do you love about TIFF?
Being a Torontonian, TIFF has always been a wonderful avenue to discover new and exciting films and artistic voices over the years. it really does rejuvenate my love of cinema and filmmaking.
What causes the most stress for you during TIFF?
World premiering a new film in such a high profile venue can be quite frightening. But deciding what to wear for events seems to stress me out much more than it should.
The audience participation at TIFF has always been a very cool feature, what was the strangest (or craziest, or best) question you’ve ever had to answer?
I once did a press line for a film I produced when I quickly realized the journalist asking me questions was confusing me with somebody else. Not sure why I didn’t correct them, but I proceeded to do the interview anyway as this other person, vaguely answering questions about a film I knew nothing about.
What’s next for you?
I’m producing the feature film, The Waiting Room, directed by Igor Drljaca through our production company, TimeLapse Pictures.
Okay, this film was pretty intense, so what do you do to decompress?
I go for long aimless drives.
Your favourite movie of all time?
If you could work with any actor, who would that be?
The most amazing location you’ve filmed?
The main farm location in In Her Place. No doubt!
Just go for it!
Describe yourself in three words.
Nervous energy galore.
IN HER PLACE is screening during the Toronto International Film Festival 2014. For more information visit tiff.net