Parasite won the prestigious Cannes Palme d’Or in 2019. In this Art of the Cut interview, we discuss the unique methods and workflow used in production and post for that film with South Korean editor, Jinmo Yang.
Jinmo has been nominated for several Blue Dragon and Grand Bell Awards for his work through the last several years and won a Blue Dragon for the film Byuti insaideu (2015). (The Blue Dragon and Grand Bell are the South Korean equivalent of the Oscars.) He last collaborated with Parasite‘s director, Joon-ho Bong, on Okja, and also worked with him on his films Sea Fog and Snowpiercer.
This interview is available as a podcast. In the podcast version, the voice most commonly heard Is Jinmo’s interpreter and occasionally you hear Jinmo answer in English. In this transcripted interview, I changed all of the dialogue to come directly from Jinmo, so some pronouns (I/he) are changed throughout.
HULLFISH: I saw a Parasite. I loved it. It was great.
YANG: Thank you.
HULLFISH: At the very beginning of the movie we see the son going off to teach the English class and you chose to watch him as he travels to the Park’s house. In other instances, we jump straight to a location without seeing the travel. For example, you don’t see him go back and tell his sister, “Hey, you’re going to be the art teacher.” She’s just there. What’s the difference? Why show one and not show another?
YANG: That’s actually a good catch. For the second scenario, where we have the sister visit the mansion, we actually did have a scene there in the script but we decided to omit it. This is related to director Bong’s style. What he usually does is, he shows things pretty much just once, and he rarely reintroduces it again and again unless showing it again has its own significant meaning.
HULLFISH: Sometimes on films I’ve edited, if you show the travel, it’s sometimes a case of giving the audience some space. For example, if you have a very emotional scene and you’re going to a very funny scene, sometimes you can’t put them back to back so you need some “shoe leather.”
Tell me about the temp score that you use. The score is very sparse. What did you choose to temp score with?
YANG: I usually use director Bong’s previous music, mostly, or the numerous work-in-progress pieces of music that didn’t make it to the final cut of his previous films.
HULLFISH: Does he usually use the same composer?
YANG: No. It changed from before Okja. But it’s the same music composer as Okja. So this is his second collaboration with this new composer.
HULLFISH: Did you use any temp from the composer that had not been used in Okja, like from the composer’s other films with other directors?
YANG: We did borrow from classical music. For example, for the sequence where the family cooks the ramdon they used a Vivaldi soundtrack.
HULLFISH: I love to talk about inter-cutting. In this movie, there’s a sequence where the father is practicing his housekeeper scam speech intercut with when he’s actually delivering to the Park’s. Can you talk about how close that was to being scripted and how you changed it? Why were certain points “practice” and certain points “real?”
YANG: In the screenplay, it was always planned as a cross-edit sort of ordeal, but the initial assembly of that sequence was far longer and it dragged. The main problem was that the lines the father rehearsed during their rehearsal were shown again during its execution so it felt rather repetitive. So what they resorted to was to just use it once even though it’s a cross-cutting scheme. It’s as if they’re having a conversation.
Ki-Taek, the father, rehearses one line and we may cross cut to Mrs. Park as if she already heard the line. So she’s reacting to the rehearsal line. And while editing that sequence we gradually cut all the fat off it so it only had the essential elements inside.
HULLFISH: There are a few times where the camera pans between actors instead of using traditional “coverage.” Was there traditional coverage for those moments? What can you tell me about those?
YANG: If sometimes the acting or the timing was off, we resorted to getting different takes and stitching them together as if it’s one panning shot to perfect the timing and the rhythm and the acting. Director Bong and I frequently do this sort of “VFX stitch work” to perfect the timing as if it’s one shot – stitching various takes together as one shot.
HULLFISH: Lots of editors do that on a two-shot, but on a pan? That’s pretty brave.
YANG: During our previous collaboration we practiced this technique a lot and we think we have perfected it into an art.
HULLFISH: I did not realize those were VFX shots — a split. I had no clue. I’m assuming there was other coverage — overs for each one of those — what made the director want to use a pan instead of typical coverage?
YANG: To be completely honest with you, there was no coverage. Those were the only shots I could resort to. That’s Director Bong. He rarely shoots coverage unless it’s really, really, really necessary.
HULLFISH: That’s amazing. Wow! That’s fantastic.
YANG: That’s one of the amazing things about Director Bong. He doesn’t resort to coverage. Even without coverage, I’m able to solve the problem by resorting to certain methods and techniques.
HULLFISH: What would some of those techniques be?
YANG: Just to preface the answer: director Bong doesn’t even shoot masters. The reason why he does this is that he knows how he’s going to cut the film and where to cut certain shots. But when problems arise, what director Bong and I usually do is stitch various elements of various takes together as if it’s one shot, so we can perfect the timing or make certain shots longer or shorter to perfect the rhythm and the timing.
HULLFISH: When the original housekeeper comes back to the house — when she’s at the door and she’s seen using the doorbell camera — through almost the entire scene she is seen through the doorbell camera, but then you chose to cut to her outside in the rain. Can you talk to me about that sequence and how you cut it and why it was cut the way it was?
YANG: Initially, we had the exterior — the rain shot — appear a couple more times, but — like we said earlier — director Bong and I only like to show things once. So we just wanted the drastic contrast — the impact of the drastic contrast — once. We believe that’s the only thing we needed. The reason why we shot the doorbell that way – with bad resolution – was to make the reappearance of the housemaid — Moon-gwong — more funny, and a bit obscure. That was the intention behind that shot.
HULLFISH: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with the director. How do you collaborate together? This is your second film, right?
YANG: Actually it’s our fourth collaboration. I was also the onset editor of the film Sea Fog — for which director Bong was the producer — and I was also the onset editor and VFX editor of Snowpiercer. It was one of his American films.
One thing you have to know about the Korean film industry — especially the network between directors — is that every director pretty much knows each other. There’s a tightly knit group and they have a connection. They talk with each other often.
I was the on-set editor on Snowpiercer and Director Bong became aware that I ran my own editing booth and that’s when he decided that for his next project, he would work with me as the main editor.
Most of the Korean film industry uses an on-set editor where the editor edits on set while shooting is occurring simultaneously and during this on-set editing we get the main structure of the assembly — what the film is going to look like — and then when we move on to the editing phase it’s usually director Bong and me in the editing booth and we fine-tune the details — the timing and the rhythm.
One of my strengths is that I am very apt with VFX work — CGI work — so Director Bong is very trusting in me to do that sort of work.
HULLFISH: What editing system are you using and is the VFX work in the editing system or After Effects or something else?
YANG: I cut on Final Cut Pro 7 and use After Effects for VFX.
HULLFISH: You mentioned that there was so little coverage and that Bong has such a distinct idea for the editing — for example, not to shoot a master — how do you know what director Bong’s plan is? Do you talk about that before you even cut dailies?
YANG: That’s an important role of the on-set editor. On-set editing isn’t just merely an editor being on set and editing while the shooting is happening. What’s happening is that the on-set editor receives the LIVE feed from the camera videotap instantaneously and they cut the footage instantaneously and by doing this they check if it works — if it requires more footage.
HULLFISH: And then in your edit booth, you have to go back and replace the videotap with the actual footage?
HULLFISH: So how is that done? Timecode? Or how are you replacing the videotap feed with the final?
YANG: These days I use time code to match that up, but previously it was just eye-matching.
There is a point in the movie where it’s raining very heavily. Talk to me about the music and the interplay of the music and the rain and sound effects of thunder.
YANG: Even during the editing phase, there are lots of sound layers in the sequence. The plan was for the sound to grow gradually — become more intense and stronger and when the music appears, the sound effects and the music are tied together. All these sounds become intertwined. And then it becomes a tad bit calmer when they arrive at their basement apartment. That was the design plan for that sequence.
I’m very shocked that you noticed this. Not many people refer to this scene. Director Bong emphasized that the sound and the music had to become the most intense and the strongest at the point where they almost arrive at their basement house — that’s when the sound is the most intense and chaotic.
That was during the editing phase. I don’t really know how they mixed the sounds together in the sound booth.
HULLFISH: In the United States, the editor is often on the sound mix stage. It sounds like that’s not the practice in Korea.
YANG: The editor isn’t involved directly in the sound mixing but I visit the sound booth often. One important thing during the editing phase is that all the sound-related notes that are created during the editing phase. Then we send it off to the vendors for them to work on. So all the notes — all the requirements — are created during the editing phase. Director Bong makes a note of it with me and then we send it off to the sound mixers.
HULLFISH: How much temp sound effects work did you do?
YANG: The thing about Director Bong is that he prefers to do as much as he can Inside the editing booth. So what usually happens is I take care of almost all the sound — all the temp sound effects — and I fine-tune the timing of those sound effects. But the problem is that the sounds are low quality. So I assume that almost all of it gets replaced during sound mixing.
HULLFISH: I would think that the production sound during that rain sequence was unusable. Was that all sound effects and ADR?
YANG: I tried to use the location sound as much as possible, but for the rain sequence the location sound couldn’t be used.
HULLFISH: What is your process as you start getting dailies? You’re getting dailies straight off of the videotap. How close are you on set? Are you literally next to video village or are you isolated but close to the site?
YANG: Right next to the video village.
HULLFISH: Cutting on Final Cut Pro 7 with local storage? A big hard drive?
YANG: Yes. Thunderbolt.
During on-set editing — before I’m actually on set — I study the storyboards thoroughly. So when they actually shoot, I’m conscious of how I’m going to edit the footage. At the moment the director yells “cut,” I’m finished editing the footage within ten seconds. I just set the in and the out and cut the footage in.
Just an FYI: I was the on-set editor until Okja, but for Parasite I sent my assistant editor as the on-set editor because I had to be in the editing booth.
HULLFISH: What were you doing while the on-set editor was cutting? Were you trying to match the onset editor’s work?
YANG: What usually happens is: the on-set editor sends over his or her work and the dailies, then in the editing booth I fine-tune the editing work so that once director Bong is wrapped, he has the on-set assembly and his fine-tuned assembly ready so that we can begin editing A.S.A.P.
HULLFISH: So you are actually in the edit booth watching dailies like a normal film not as a videotap, obviously. Are you choosing the same takes?
YANG: There are times that we change the take. Sometimes it remains the same.
HULLFISH: Is the on-set editor actually getting feedback from the director almost like a script supervisor would? In the United States the editor is only getting notes from the director, but the on-set editor — as you describe it — could be getting direct feedback from the director, since they’re in video village.
YANG: Yes. You are absolutely correct. The on-set editor also checks for continuity as well. They check with the director constantly throughout the shooting process. It’s as if the on-set editor also works as a script supervisor — although we do have a script supervisor — we share the same sorts of work in checking whether continuity is correct.
One of my plans – when I begin editing in the States – is to apply this on-set editing system. I plan to import the idea into the U.S.
HULLFISH: The other person that uses a very similar system is Tim Burton. Director Tim Burton has an on-set editor that’s taking a videotap as they’re shooting and they’re actually editing the same way. I did an interview about shooting the live-action Dumbo movie and it is described there.
YANG: I didn’t know. Wow.
HULLFISH: And on one of my last films, we weren’t using a videotap, but I was just offset when I edited during dailies.
Before I worked for one of my regular directors, back in the early straight HD video filmmaking days, they brought the full-res footage straight from the camera into their FCP7 system and would cut with that as it streamed off the camera in HD. Some people are using methodologies similar to yours, but very, very few.
When the director chooses takes on set, oftentimes the choice that they make on set is not what they would make when they finally see all the takes or see the takes in context. Does that happen?
YANG: Yes. You are absolutely correct. The take that director Bong chooses isn’t etched in stone. It just usually means that the blocking is correct and it’s enough that we can move on to the next shot. What usually happens is that we select the perfect shot while we’re in the editing booth together during editing.
Director Bong has a very efficient workflow. His process is incredibly efficient.
HULLFISH: How do you approach a blank timeline? The director seems to have such a vision for the scene, but how are you choosing the shots that you’re editing when you start cutting a scene together?
YANG: I’m not too concerned about director Bong’s distinct vision. What’s usually the case is that the shots I think are perfect usually align with the shots that director Bong thinks are appropriate. That’s probably why director Bong and I work together. As more and more projects accumulate, our time together is becoming shorter and more efficient. So now we’re at the point where even without speaking we know at what point to cut, at what point it’s finished and it’s okay.
At some points, director Bong just leaves it to me. For example, director Bong may just say, “This sequence is dragging. Please fix it. Make it faster.” Then the next day he’ll check it and say, “It’s fine.” Sometimes it works like that.
HULLFISH: I’m really interested in the approach to actually cutting the scenes. So you have all the dailies. You’ve got an edit that’s been done on set. How do you choose where to start?
YANG: Director Bong does not shoot master shots, so the storyboards kind of dictate what shots have to be used, so it’s already pre-decided. This is just exclusive to director Bong.
Not every Korean director does this, but for director Bong – for each scene – the first shot and the final shot of the scene is already predetermined. Although the scene as a whole can fluctuate and we can do tweaks and changes, those first and last shots are already predetermined at that point. Even if we do want to use another shot, the shots aren’t there. It just doesn’t exist, so we have to use those first and last shots.
HULLFISH: How much did the structure of the film change from the script? Did things have to get deleted or moved or switched in their order?
YANG: You might be sensing a pattern by now, but with director Bong, the structure rarely changes. However, there were a couple of scenes that were omitted.
The structure within a scene often changes. For example, using cross-cutting. The intention of the scene changes from the script.
The other thing that’s interesting about director Bong is that he doesn’t do rehearsals. He likes every take to be fresh and genuine, so no two takes are ever the same. Often the acting is different. There is a change in something within the takes.
Just as a side note, Kang-ho Song who performs Ki-taek — the protagonist — usually nails the first take. I believe that his best takes are the beginning takes. The takes he does, in the beginning, are the most genuine. The exception is when they have a lot of lines in a take. If that’s the case, then the latter half of the takes are usually the better ones.
HULLFISH: And if one actor is best in early takes and another is better in later takes, then what do you do?
YANG: There were those instances. One of the ways we resolved this problem: there was a scene where Ki-Taek’s family is celebrating inside the mansion with drinks and food. There was this one shot where we have Ki-taek — the father — talking and then we slowly pan to the drinks and then we pan to the mother and the problem was that Ki-taek really nailed the first half of the takes whereas the mother nailed the second half of the takes. The problem was that the shot had no cutaways. It was just one continuous panning shot. So I had to stitch different parts of different takes together to make it one shot, so we had perfect acting for both actors within that one shot.
We created this line — this yardstick — for where we could cutaway, which was in the beverage bottles and at that point we stitch to a different take, but it looks like one seamless shot.
Director Bong knows that this is one of my strong points. I’m very apt at doing this. Sometimes director Bong requests some unearthly request. He wants something stitched together that is very intricate and difficult.
HULLFISH: How close was your assembly edit to the final? What was the length of your assembly before you started on the director’s cut?
YANG: The on-set assembly was about twenty or thirty minutes longer than the final.
HULLFISH: Because there is such a clear vision for the film, does it then become much harder to try to cut that 20 minutes out?
YANG: No, not at all. Trimming down the duration is a frequent task that I have to do. For example for Jee-woon Kim’s movie, The Age of Shadows, the on-set assembly was three hours and 30 minutes and I had to cut it down to two hours and 20 minutes. Compared to that, Parasite was a cakewalk.
HULLFISH: What was the schedule for shooting and then for post until you got to the final mix?
YANG: The shooting took roughly four months and then we edited the film for three months.
HULLFISH: Tell me a little bit about using Final Cut Pro. Have you tried other NLEs? FCP7 is just not going to work anymore eventually.
YANG: Yes, you are absolutely correct. The reason why I use it is that I’m used to it. I used Final Cut Pro from the very beginning of my career. For now — regarding sound mix and the workflow — it’s really simple to use. However, I haven’t been able to update my OS for four years.
HULLFISH: In Korea do you cut in reels as we do in America? In other words, you break the film into 20-minute chunks? Or are you editing on an entire two-hour timeline?
YANG: It’s a case-by-case basis. When I feel that the scene is too intense and requires special attention, I’ll edit that scene separately or by reel. There are times where I cut the whole assembly at once. Nevertheless, when I turn it over to other post-production vendors I turn it over via reels.
HULLFISH: Yeah, that makes sense. The vendors usually want reels.
YANG: The directors frequently want to watch the whole thing, so working in reels or just scenes often doesn’t work.
HULLFISH: When you were bringing the footage into the Final Cut Pro system, what were you editing with? What media type were you editing with?
YANG: ProRes HD. The files sent to director Bong are full HD, and others get half HD.
HULLFISH: Anything else?
YANG: It’s an incredible honor to work with director Bong always. Even now – as you are interviewing me – I never really had this experience before. It’s very rare. It’s all thanks to director Bong.
HULLFISH: Awesome. It was a pleasure speaking with you. I love the film. You did a marvelous job. It was an honor to talk to you today.
YANG: Thank you. My pleasure.
The first 50 interviews in the series provided the material for the book, “Art of the Cut: Conversations with Film and TV Editors.” This is a unique book that breaks down interviews with many of the world’s best editors and organizes it into a virtual roundtable discussion centering on the topics editors care about. It is a powerful tool for experienced and aspiring editors alike. Cinemontage and CinemaEditor magazine both gave it rave reviews. No other book provides the breadth of opinion and experience. Combined, the editors featured in the book have edited for over 1,000 years on many of the most iconic, critically acclaimed and biggest box office hits in the history of cinema.