Last weekend, over a couple of beers, we sat down with director Yoonha Park, known for the gorgeous new video for Washed Out’s “Amor Fati.” As we talked music, film and his recent shoot in Iceland, it became obvious that this is a guy who loves what he does.
Park moved to New York around ten years ago to attend film school at NYU. Before making the move, he had called South Korea home for nine years. “I moved around a lot as a kid,” explains Park. After college, he worked on a show called Juan’s Basement, which pretty much ended up playing out the narrative of Wayne’s World. “I had known Juan for a while,” said Park, “and I had been helping out with the show,” which had been airing on smaller outlets. “One day I got a call from Juan saying, ‘I got an email from Ryan Schreiber [CEO/Founder of Pitchfork,] he wants to buy our show!’ We were like, oh shit…we’re going big time!’” Juan’s Basement went on to run for 16 episodes on Pitchfork.
Around the same time that Juan’s Basement got picked up by Pitchfork, Park was shooting his first music video for a band called Enon. “I didn’t know how to spend money at the time,” laughs Park, “it was kind of a disaster.” The video is based on the last scene of a 1981 movie called Ms. 45. “I really wanted to shoot a party scene,” explained Park, and “Ms. 45 was this old dirty gritty New York city movie, where the climax takes place at a Halloween party.” In the last scenes of the cult revenge movie, the main character dresses up as a nun and blows everyone away. “So we wanted to do that. We got all the costumes and Toko [part of Enon] played the nun.”
Fast-forward about four years to “Amor Fati,” a very different video. “I met Ernest Greene [Washed Out] a few years ago at SXSW,” however, it wasn’t until two years later that the two began talking videos. “We started trading images, and I think the first image he sent me was the album cover. That really set the tone for me,” Park explained. After deciding that they would shoot in Iceland, Park started gathering ideas. “I put together this package of Google images, just searching for basically ‘Iceland, beautiful.’ I came up with these postcard-like images, but I didn’t really know what any of them were.” But since so many of the images were from Flickr, many of them were Geotagged, showing exactly where the photos were taken. “So we punched that into Google maps and basically just printed out this itinerary.” At first Park thought, ”there is no way this can work…but I sent it off to my contacts in Iceland and they said, ‘Oh yeah this is actually a sensible itinerary.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
Although it may sound like everything came together effortlessly, there are always a few bumps in the road when coordinating a shoot across continents. “Originally I had thought that the video was going to be with Ernest and his wife. I needed at least a full week to shoot, but he only had two days off.” Ernest suggested that someone else play the part. Park admits, “I was OK with that but at the same time panicking.” Park ended up casting musician Luke Rathborne, who he had known for years. “We had actually met on a student film [shot and cast in Maine] in 2004. Luke was 16 at the time. Luke was this really smart and artistic kid.” So Park was on the train with a friend, “thinking ‘Oh God, I have to find someone,’ and the doors opened up and Luke walked right in.” Park asked Luke if he wanted to go to Iceland, and a few weeks later their tickets were booked.
After two weeks, Park returned from Iceland with footage from a road trip, flecked with the humbling landscapes of Iceland. “It was mind-blowing to see the countryside,” exclaimed Park. “[We also met] such awesome people, who totally got what we were trying to do.” Park adds that the video seems “more like home movies than a narrative, but we did have a loose script going in. We were having such an amazing time that we would be like ‘Oh, we have to put that crazy thing that just happened in the video.’”
One of these unplanned scenes appears when Luke is being lifted up by a bunch of dudes at a house party. “That was the guy’s [house where] we stayed for the week prior. The guy was a promoter in Iceland. We needed someone who would put up with drunk guys… I mean we are all professionals,” Park justifies, “but the spirit of things was kind of shaggy. We ended up partying with these guys and everybody in that scene was just friends at that point. It was just coming from a really good place.”
After watching Park’s striking treatment for “Amor Fati,” we are definitely excited to see more from this director. Park is currently finishing up a new video for Psychobuildings, which he tells us will be completely different from this one – expect dancing. Park is also teaming up on a creative production company, called Neighborhood Watch. “We are pooling all of our projects,” says Park, “and just doing projects that turn us on.”—Annick Mayer