Yesterday I started spontaneously filming anything interesting I could find with my phone, rushing about the city of Gyeongju on my bike, shooting the flowers in the trees, the train rushing along beneath the sunset, the traffic racing over the bridge, the takeout tents and the neon signs flashing over Hanbok rental stores. I had been instructed several hours earlier by one of my friends to just, like, film Korean shit—shoot it, edit it together really fast, throw in some good music, put your book cover in at the end, and you’re good to go. Everyone knows that ebook commercials are all the rage these days, another friend reasoned, and a decent one might help increase my exposure; if I simply release the book right now without any kind of a change to my dismal promotion methods, no one will buy it.
It began in the university classroom, when my students were busily at work, hunched over their papers, scribbling, thinking, and out the window the wind was surging through the flowering trees on the mountains, the tops of the pines swaying against the backdrop of green and blue peaks piled on top of one another—and the very instant the class ended I was pressed up against the window, looking shamelessly bizarre to the students filtering out the door as I began making my first movie in at least eleven years (not counting a few clips I randomly shot in college). By nightfall the phone’s hard drive was full.
I started my career as an artist not as a writer but as an actor and a director. The story was the same as a lot of other people who are really crazy about films. I would get the neighborhood kids together and try to make some sort of action movie with them, forcing them to dress up and run around with fake guns. I was a tyrannical, asshole director, mostly because the people on the screen never did exactly what I wanted to, and the camera had been purchased by my parents many years earlier to videotape Important Family Moments and was not suited to recreating my favorite blockbusters—at the time I think Goldeneye (both the movie and the game) was probably influencing me the most. Editing was also almost impossible. If I screwed up a shot, I would have to take the minitape out of the camera, put it into a larger adapter video tape, put that into the VCR, rewind the tape to the right moment, take the tape out of the VCR, take the minitape out of the adapter tape, put it back into the camera, and rush back outside, where my actors were waiting for me, bored and annoyed. Movies had to be filmed in sequence, and were mostly improvised; our best production concerned a murderous Furby.
So after six months or a year, I’m not sure, I gave up, and switched to writing. Here through this medium I would have complete control over everything on the screen: if the camera was too cheap, if the sets were weak and if the actors were lame, the fault lay entirely within my own imagination, and could be corrected with enough focus and determination, while in the real world it would take nearly inhuman amounts of patience to find myself behind a giant black camera filming a gorgeous blossoming explosion with some sweaty muscular dude running away from it. Why wait?, I reasoned. Why not start filming now? My fingers struck the keys, and in moments my favorite spaceships were zooming through the night, their warp cores ejected, their corridors filled with flashing gunfire. Many years of scrivening followed.
But yesterday I had an okay camera, a decent set, a workable idea, and freedom from actors. It didn’t take me long to realize, with this happiness surging through me ‘midst the wind and the light of the sunset, that I liked making the commercial for the book more than making the book itself.