me having a Mary Tyler Moore moment, rumpled shirt and all ❤️️
A couple of months after appearing in KTX magazine, I was asked to be in a short promotional video highlighting some of the most notable tourist spots in Daegu. The production team wanted the video to be filmed, completed, and distributed within a really tight time frame, so once again I wasn’t given much advance notice. On top of that, the timing of the video fell right before the holidays, and right before we planned on leaving the country for a trip.
And once again, I said no.
At the time, Sly’s parents were in Korea visiting for just over a month and my MIL really wanted me to do it (and watch in the background, haha). With Sly and my MIL’s convincing, I eventually changed my mind. As mentioned previously, I’m just not an in-front-of-camera person, and the thought of being recorded on video made me feel that much more anxious.
What’s worse: me “modeling” for a Korean magazine or me “acting” in a promo movie? I’ll let you decide.
BEHIND THE SCENES
For this shoot I was told to wear “something bright,” “bring a camera,” “wear comfortable shoes,” and to “bring a jacket to wear in between scenes but not to wear while shooting because we want you to look vibrant and energetic.” I didn’t realize jackets = not vibrant and no energy. Once again this wasn’t a fashion shoot, so beyond the don’t-wear-a-jacket instructions given to me, I had to stress over what to wear and how to tame my frizzy hair. For some reason, that’s always the worst part for me.
The theme of this video was more or less the same theme as for the KTX Magazine photo shoot, except I was the only person in the video. The “mood,” so I was told, should convey “happy and light.” Clearly they didn’t know me very well…
Since I was the only person in the video, I was really concerned that I would have to speak, or worse, speak in my mangled Korean. Thank GOD I didn’t have to do either or I don’t think I would have been able to get through 10 minutes of filming. Plus, the video editors would have probably had to voice-over anything I said anyway, which would have been kind of awesome in its own right.
The day’s schedule was supposed to go something like this:
- 11 am – Meet at mountain, ride cable car to top.
- 12 pm – Lunch.
- 1-4 pm – Continue shooting at various locations, end shooting at 4 pm.
Here’s what really happened:
- 11 am – noon – Meet at random drugstore, meet video crew including a translator who didn’t really need to be there but who became my bff anyway. Ride in chauffeured car with blacked out windows to base of Apsan mountain, take some video of me taking fake photos while waiting for the cable car, board cable car with about a million other people and realize there won’t be any great video footage taken while heading up the mountain. (I’m confused as to why the city couldn’t arrange to have a cable car set up for just us to shoot in, without the crowds, since this was a video for their city?) At top of mountain, hike in slippery boots to the lookout point for more video footage with more people.
- noon – 1pm – Halt production to eat lunch because Korean people cannot function without a minimum 1hr (usually longer) lunch break. Drive around trying to find a place to eat and then realize that they are actually trying to find a non-Korean place to eat on account of me being American and all. I let them know that I’ll eat anything. Despite protests, we still end up eating pasta.
- 1 pm – 2 pm – Coffee break. Another thing that confused me: why couldn’t we have just started AFTER lunch/coffee?
- 2 pm – 3 pm – Crash someone’s wedding.
- 3 pm – 4 pm – Return to Cheongna Hill to shoot some video. Continue on to a poet’s traditional hanok style house for photos in a hanbok, or Korean traditional clothing.
- 4 pm – 4:30 pm – Drive to next site (downtown Daegu) and go in circles trying to find parking. Realize we are losing light and make the executive decision to film the rest of the day at Suseong Lake
- 4:30 – 5 pm – Film at Suseong Lake
- 5 pm – 5:30 pm – Another coffee break and finish filming
Wedding crashers! Many Korean weddings are held in somewhat public spaces (in this case, an old Confucian School), so anyone can ‘drop in.’ It was quite obvious that I didn’t belong given that I was the only white person there – wearing jeans no less – and was being followed around by cameras. So very awkward.
This photo makes me laugh because it was pretty hard to “act” as if I was unaware of all the people staring at me, not to mention the very obvious fact that a camera man was rustling in the bushes behind my head. It’s surprisingly difficult not to stare straight into the camera/interact with the cameraman and crew when being filmed. Totally normal and natural. Korean Academy Awards, here I come!
You may recall this location – Cheongna Hill – as the site where my friend Devon and I were photographed for KTX Magazine. It’s a pretty popular tourist spot, and an iconic Daegu location because this style of Western architecture is not very common in Korea. If I’m not mistaken, this complex of buildings was built by Christian missionaries.
The series of steep steps is known as 3.1 Independence Movement Road where in 1919, a group of mostly students organized in this location to resist against Japanese occupation. Nearly 100 years later, one can hardly tell that these picturesque steps were the site of so much political unrest.
In the middle of Daegu’s downtown skyscrapers, the home of renowned Korean poet, Yi Sang-hwa, still stands as it did many years ago. Li Sang-hwa was active in the resistance against Imperial Japan, and wrote metaphorical poems about nature to express his political beliefs and frustrations. The entire complex of houses is now a cultural center where one can rent a hanbok.
I didn’t have any choice in my style of hanbok. The lady who ran the hanbok rental booth dressed me in royal attire, complete with a “pin cushion” headdress. I don’t think I would have selected something so ornate on my own but then I guess it was a good thing that I wasn’t stuffed into a courtesan outfit! It was my first time ever wearing a hanbok, and while the dress itself was pretty comfortable, it felt kind of ridiculous to be dressed up in such a flashy outfit with a poofy skirt and elf-toed high heels. Plus, everyone was staring at me like crazy. It took me a while to get over the awkwardness of it all…
…and snap into character. I guess this is my serious face.
Places, everyone, places!
The interiors of the houses are usually off-limits, but we were given special entrance to film the video inside the carefully preserved home. It was actually really cool, even if I felt like a giant in a miniature doll house. This is me attempting to ‘read’ a book…upside-down. Good one.
By far the most embarrassing part of the day was when the director asked me to take selfies. It’s true that Sly and I take a few selfies here and there, but who is going to get dressed up as Korean royalty, stand in the middle of some old buildings, and then to proceed to take selfies? Me, that’s who.
I forgot my phone in the car so I had to borrow the translator’s phone, which we discovered about 15 minutes into shooting, had a Marvel comics phone case. Hahaha. Oops.
Our final shot of the day was supposed to be in downtown Daegu, where I was to watch street performers and sample street food. I was really looking forward to the street food part, but after driving around forever in search of a place to park, the decision was made to head to Suseong Lake instead. We caught the last bit of sunlight as the sun set over the lake, and then warmed up with a hot cups of coffee at one of the many cafés lining the lake. Not a bad way to end the day.
Besides Daegu’s English language Facebook site, I’m not exactly sure where this video was posted and across what channels, so I re-posted the English version here.
Enjoy the music!
I confess that I didn’t have high hopes for the video at the time it was being filmed, mostly because I kept laughing awkwardly during every take. Once the awkwardness of the situation (somewhat) wore off, I admit that I did have a lot of fun. It helped that the videographer was super funny in a very silly Korean way and kept cracking me up. I guess I didn’t do too badly because the director asked if this was something I wanted to pursue, and if so, if it would be okay for him to contact me for future projects. Um, what? Were we shooting the same video? Guess this old lady has still got it! Just kidding. I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon.
PLACES SHOWN IN THIS VIDEO
Apsan Mountain | Take the cable car to the top for the view, then continue on the trail to the right to reach the lookout point.
Yi Sang-hwa residence | Home of a famous Korean poet and now a great place to dress up in traditional Korean attire and tour the old part of town. What I love most about this spot is the mix of old and new – it’s surrounded by skyscrapers and one block away from Daegu’s bustling downtown district.
Daegu Hyanggyo / Daegu Confucian School | I’m not sure if this is always open to the public or just during events, but if it is, make sure to visit in the fall. The gingko trees in the courtyard are absolutely aglow with neon yellow leaves and against the backdrop of traditional Korean architecture, it makes for a very special place.
Suseong Lake | One of my favorite places in Daegu: mountains, lake, and lots of good food and drink.
Photo Credits: City of Daegu Press