The Petrichor - Dreams Don't Expire
By Carin Chea
Korean-Canadian filmmaker, Junga Song, is aptly named: It is not only her filmography that tells a moving story.
Song's life is, in itself, a melodic and poignant tapestry of perseverance, grit, and hope, which (coincidentally) are the major themes in her upcoming feature film The Petrichor.
The Petrichor follows the journey of a figure skater who faces devastating tragedy, only to literally pick herself up in order to pursue her dream of competing despite life's brutal hurdles.
Meanwhile, in Junga Song's personal universe, The Petrichor had been written and waiting to be made. But, for whatever reason, it just couldn't. And so, it went into the vault for nearly a decade while life went on.
But, as the saying goes, timing is truly everything, and 8 years after it was birthed, The Petrichor was finally made into a film. To hear Ms. Song's story of unending determination and tenacity is a privilege and a reminder of a tenet we should always hold close to our hearts:
Never, ever, EVER, ever give up.
You studied marine science, but your calling is filmmaking. How did you transition from the sciences to the arts?
In Korea, I just studied the sciences. I'm 42, and that was over 20 years ago. At the time, it was very hard to convince people that I wanted to be a film director (especially as a woman) so I had to choose whatever was available at the university.
After high school, we had to go to university. It was a rule. I had to decide on a major. When I said to my teachers and parents that I wanted to be a filmmaker, they just said, "Okay...you can try that later in life, but for now, you have to go to university."
Reality didn't support women film directors back then. To do what I needed to do, I had to get into a good university. I did what I was supposed to do, and then I moved to Canada.
Did you study filmmaking in Korea prior to your move to Canada?
I only studied filmmaking in Canada. I studied English first, then I had to go back to Korea to finish university. During vacation, I came to Canada to check it out. I wanted to go to Hollywood, but I had no one in Hollywood.
But, one of my best friends was in Canada. She told me there were many film courses available in Canada. So, I moved to Canada, studied English for 3 months during vacation. Then I went back to Korea in university for 2-3 years, then came back to Canada, and I've stayed here since.
What was the inspiration behind your upcoming film The Petrichor?
That word means "the fresh smell of the earth after rain". That's my favorite smell, right after the rain. Right after I wrote the [untitled] script, I wondered what kind of title would be appropriate. I didn't want a sports title. I looked at the main character, and "Petrichor" came to mind, and it's very much symbolic of the protagonist's life.
I met our lead actress [Olga Korsak] through our other feature film, which is science fiction. I had already written The Petrichor 8 years ago. I tried to make it happen, and gave up. I moved on and worked on other feature films.
I met Olga, and she told me she used to be a figure skater. That's when I told her I had a script about a figure skater. Olga's a Latvian figure skater who came to Canada to enter into competition.
Unfortunately, she broke her spine and it ended her figure skating career. That inspired me a lot. In fact, I changed my storyline. In the film, even though the lead character is a 30-year-old figure skater, she still pursues her dream.
After talking to Olga, I thought, "What if the main character goes through all these tragedies, but still pursues her dream at the age of 30?" In figure skating, 30 is very old.
I originally wasn't going to make this movie, but because of Olga, I brought this movie back. Whatever didn't happen 8 years ago, happened now. The funding, the casting, everything. I felt Olga was part of my destiny; it was like everything happened all at once, and at the right time.
The Petrichor is written, directed, and produced by women, which is awesome. Was this a deliberate choice?
Our producer [Eugenia Protsko] is Russian and immigrated to Canada. I've known her for over 15 years. We've always wanted to make a film together. We tried to make the figure skating movie 8 years ago, but couldn't make it happen. But, when I met Olga, everything happened all at once.
When I tried this time around, Eugenia had already become friends with a very famous Russian figure skater [Evgenia Medvedeva]. Then, through Eugenia, we were able to get another famous actor, Alexey Serebryakov, who is a top-rated actor in Russia.
It just so happened that during those 8 years that I put The Petrichor on hold, Alexey had immigrated to Canada and became friends with Eugenia. All of a sudden, I had a lead actor who was a figure skater (so we didn't even need to hire a body double), a famous Russian figure skater, a famous Russian actor - so, when we asked for funding, we got it.
That is amazing, how the timing truly worked out!
That's exactly right. I really did work out.
What inspires you as a filmmaker?
When I was young, I watched lots of Korean movies and dramas. Every time I watched one, I thought, "I could write a story like that," or "I could film that." I was always thinking like that.
If I liked a movie or drama, I'd watch if 10, 20 times. I'd look at the shots, the acting - I'd see those elements that none of my friends saw.
How old were you at this time, when this started?
I was 6.
Well, my sister also watched everything. She was a hard-core film-goer, which meant I was exposed to it early on. My passion, my blood is writing stories and making movies. It's always been in me, but I never had the opportunity to explore my calling [in my younger years].
When I got older, I couldn't deny that this was something I was supposed to do. If I don't do this, something feels wrong.
If you were to collaborate with any actor, who would it be?
Jake Gyllenhaal. He's my favorite actor. I saw October Sky. I don't think it went big, but it inspired me a lot. I completely believed him as that character.
Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to tell us about?
I have another script called Safety City, which is a sci-fi film. In this story, wearing a wristband (called The Safety Band) protects you. If anyone tries to attack you, this band detects your emotional levels and destroys your attacker.
But, in this story, the Safety Band is very expensive, so it becomes a story about class. Basically, only the very rich can afford to be safe.
That is so great that you have a deeper meaning attached to all your films!
You're going to want to stay up to date with Song's progress at JungaSong.com.
For more information on The Petrichor, please visit ThePetrichorMovie.com.
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