The drive to succeed

Park Dae-min on working with Park So-dam and shooting action in Special Delivery

by Jennie Kermode

Special Delivery
Special Delivery

If you’re in South Korea and you need something to be transported from A to B with no questions asked, avoiding or evading and police or gangland trouble, who do you call? Park Dae-min’s new film Special Delivery follows driver Jang Eun-ha (Park So-dam), who works for just such a service and seems never to have met a situation she couldn’t handle – until she meets ten-year-old Kim Seo-won (Jung Hyun-jun). He’s on the run because he saw the men who killed his dad, and just might possess something very important to them. She’s the only one who can help him. The film contains some truly breath-taking action scenes, not least when So-dam gets behind the wheel.

Special Delivery is very different from Park Dae-min’s previous films, Private Eye and Seondal: The Man Who Sold The River. When we met at the Fantasia International Film Festival, conversing with the aid of a translator. I ask him how he made the leap into action directing.

“There are some kinds of small action scenes, like the chase scene, in Seondal,” he notes. “I had so much pleasure shooting them that I thought to myself ‘Oh, why not make an action movie, a feature movie that shows a lot of action all the way through? That will be a great challenge for me and it should be very interesting. That’s how I planned this movie, and while I was preparing for Special Delivery, what I really wanted to show was not only the action, but something that had a storyline led by a very strong woman character. That was my most important point: the female main character must be a very strong person. Naturally I chose action because that was the most efficient method to show that character.”

Special Delivery
Special Delivery Photo: Fantasia International Film Festival

How did he cast that role? And did you know at the time that Park So-dam had previously been injured in a car crash and had,.as a consequence, developed a phobia which meant that she had never learned how to drive?

“First of all, I thought that she could very much fit for this role,” he says. “She has a very cool attitude and kind of composure and I thought that it would be a great fit for the role. Also I read in some interviews that she wants to be in an action movie. That’s why I sent her the scenario. However, during the first meeting with her, she also told me that she was scared of driving because of some past accident experience – but at the same time she showed her desire to play the role and she said that it would be challenging but she'd like to do it and she could work hard to get ready before the movie started. She showed a lot of enthusiasm for the movie.”

It’s a very physical role with a lot of fight scenes alongside the driving scenes. Did she do much of her own stunt work?

“Yes,” he says. “We used stunt actors, but there are many things that So-dam herself did in those scenes. It was only for very dangerous things such as falling from very high points, things like that were done by the stunt team, but most of all, she wanted to show herself, and so from the beginning she was involved with creating the action sequences with the cooperation of the stunt team, and they practised a lot together. So most of the action scenes, she did.”

As well as having a strong female lead, he seems to have made an effort to write and cast outsiders as supporting characters. He’s pleased that I noticed this.

“Yes, as you see around Eun-ha, most of the people are marginalised people in society, who have some disadvantages. I wanted to show that through their solidarity and their cooperation with each other, they can live better and work to make this world a better place for them. It's my personal hope.”

We move on to talking about the car chases, some of which are very long and complicated, moving around cities and involving some unlikely moves. How did he begin to put them together?

Park So-dam in Special Delivery
Park So-dam in Special Delivery

He approached them in a very precise way, he explains. “For example, I wanted to show the changes in those car chase scenes in terms of, first of all, the space – so sometimes the cars drive on main streets and sometimes they change to a very small and narrow road – and also in terms of speed. I wanted to show very high speed, but also very slow speed movements and some stopping between high speed movements. Things like that. And in order to show these changes and various aspects of speeding and car chases, we worked in advance for a pre-visual, using 3d simulation. So, with that, we could select what scenes could be realised and what things were not likely to be shown effectively, so we chose what to show in advance through this pre-visual work.

“I also used many other references to realise these car chasing scenes as effectively as possible, for example, Project A by Jackie Chan and also more recent car chase films and commercial films as well, so I could figure out what kind of techniques can be best show through the outlet of film.”

We are running out of time at this point, so before the conversation ends, I ask him what it was like working with young Jung Hyun-jun

“First of all, for the child the role, we selected the actors through audition. I think we saw almost all the child actors who were working at the time or had ever been in that kind of career, but we liked Hyun-jun most, so we selected him. It was only after casting the role that we heard that he worked with So-dam in the same movie [Parasite]together. Because So-dam knew Hyun-jun very well through this experience, she could take good care of him all through the filmmaking. That meant that Hyun-jun could attend all through the filmmaking without much difficulty, and he enjoyed the shooting a lot and acted like a pro. Because the two of them know each other very well, while we were filmmaking he used to call So-dam ‘teacher Jessica’, and after we got used to our film better, and he started to call her Madam Jang’.”

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