Behind the Scenes in K-pop: YG Music Video Director Dee Shin Interview pt. 1
Here at Beyond Hallyu, we often like to take the time to try and look behind the shiny surface of K-pop at the talented individuals who make the music, video and performances that so many fans love. Previously we have spoken to choreographers, lyricists and composers but recently we had the chance to interview a very talented, up-and-coming music video director.
Dee Shin is a film director that has worked on music videos and video teasers for a number of YG Entertainment artists including 2NE1, Akdong Musician, Taeyang and, most recently, WINNER. Two of her biggest projects for the company since she started working with them last year, 2NE1’s Come Back Home and AkMu’s Melted are probably the most unique and interesting K-pop video releases of the year so far. We were recently fortunate enough to sit down for a chat with her about her work and her experiences working in K-pop.
She kindly took the time to answer all our questions on a range of subjects including working on videos for 2NE1, Winner and Akdong Musician, creative freedom at YG Entertainment, the role of music videos for indie and mainstream artists and much more. As there was just so much covered, we have split the interview into three parts which we will release over the course of a week.
In this first part, we talked about her video for Akdong Musician’s Melted, her style as a filmmaker and what it is like to work with YG Entertainment.
Melted, the music video you directed for Akdong Musician got a lot of people talking when it was released. Can you explain to us a little bit about what you were trying to express with this music video?
Akdong is not your typical YG, as you know. The boss, YG, picked his favourite song for their album title and then let Akdong pick their favourite song as a double title. I got the song Akdong picked which I guess made sense since I’m also pretty new to the scene like Akdong and my style isn’t typically what you would expect from the label. So it really felt like YG was putting their trust in us and letting us do our thing. Both I and the kids first thought it shouldn’t feature any grownups because the song’s lyrics are rather abstract and the whole thing should just be abstract. I was going to go to Iceland and just shoot them singing on a boat amongst the icebergs.
But YG wanted it to be direct. He felt that since the song was too abstract, the video should show what they are talking about: the grownups. So I needed to find a way to show the grownups empathetically without being judgmental, because that’s not what Akdong is singing about. The kids are asking ‘Why are you cold?’ so I sort of tried to come up with the answer.
The one thing that I want to talk about is the FedEx paradigm. In every video I make I try to put in some experiment of my own which I’m sure people don’t even care about. This one is the FedEx box. If you see a FedEx commercial, there is a box which is being delivered through people’s hands. We follow the box but it’s not the main character. We see those people’s backgrounds and at the end it opens and now it’s about the box.
For this video, we follow the boy but the boy is just the box. I shot every scene as if the supporting character was the main character for that scene. I don’t know if you realised but every scene is shot in such a way that the boy is always just an extra. But it is all connected and we sort of feel for the boy and in the end it becomes his story. If I had made it about the boy it would have been too corny with all the ‘Oh look at all these grownups, they’re so mean’ but I think we did ok with the experiment because you don’t really feel that way. You empathise with character and you kind of feel that the boy is a bit naive but you still know what he’s going through.
How did you cast the boy in the video? We’ve discussed the significance of the apparent mixed racial heritage of the boy in the video. Was that something you considered when you decided to cast that particular actor?
We did an audition for it. I auditioned around twenty people for that and it took all day. I made them bark and cry and all kinds of things. I didn’t really pick him for his mixed ethnicity, it was just a plus but it was a really lucky plus. He was just the best actor so I didn’t even have to worry.
Why did you choose to film the video in Vancouver? Is it because of your own links to the city? We hear you studied in Canada for a number of years.
Yes and, also, Vancouver is so global. I didn’t want to make it stereotypically white like I was saying ‘I went to the States and shot this’, you know? It should just be about everyone. And Vancouver is the one city that I know is so diverse you don’t even know where it is. It’s just a city.
Your visual style is unique in terms of K-pop. How would you describe it?
People are saying I’m dark. That’s my challenge. Whatever I do in the short amount of time I’m given, I can’t help but making something similar every time because time is crunching and I have to do something and that is just what I already know how to do. So I usually end up with those colours and tones.
But I know every group has to have their own branding and style and I’m trying to fix that. I’m trying to show more diverse styles in my videos.
What’s it like working with YG? How much creative control and freedom are you given?
Oh yeah, they’re the best client. I started working with them last winter and now I just want to go with them as long as I can. It’s really tough since everything happens so fast all the time. But at the same time, YG gives you complete creative freedom with just a few general guidelines so I can do my little experiments while being assured it’s all going to be okay as long as I follow their guidance. I haven’t worked with other K-pop labels yet but, from what I’ve heard, idols don’t really talk, you know? It’s all the executives and the marketing people who come up with ideas. But with YG I have meetings with the artists themselves and can get inspiration from how they see their music. I think this kind of set-up is almost non-existent on the scene, it’s just YG. Total respect.
Thanks again to Dee for taking the time to answer our questions! Stay tuned for the rest of the interview which we will be releasing over the next couple of days which includes 2NE1, WINNER and much more. In the meantime, you can find out more about the director herself and her work on her website.