American Gem 2006 Short Screenplay Competition Winners - SOMEWHERE BETWEEN CALM AND PASSION
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Hyemin Koo

Second Place Winner

Hyemin Koo
of Gangwon, South Korea

Hyemin Koo was born in in Seul seventeen years ago in Seoul and followed her father to the U.S. It was in her 4 1/2 year stay in Dallas, TX that she learned English and fell in love with film (unattended TV, too much time). It was mostly the TAG program that brought her where she is now; TAG allowed her to write, draw, and make the craziest things, totally free from the suffocating academic oppression prevalent in Korea. Korea was where she defined herself as a person, but America was where (to quote from Jodie Foster) she was taught that her finger-paintings were Picassos, where she realized it was okay to create, invent, imagine.

Currently, she is a senior at Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, a private boarding school with an unbelievable name located somewhere in the mountains of South Korea. She has produced amateur work on a regular basis (posted on her homepage)- movie reviews, essays, novels, poems, unfinished screenplays- and even a few ‘student films’ with her filmmaking club. In college she plans to major in Literature and Film Studies, so she is looking forward to how her next four years will turn out. Basic scenario- Philosophize a little about life and movies, grow out of it- relish the mind-numbing college experience. After that, she’ll probably be pursuing her ultimate dream as a movie director. But, you see, her biography has only just begun. So sing along with her~ Unwritten, undefined, the pen’s in her hand and the ending’s unplanned. Ain’t life grand? 


I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter.......  

When I read the screenplay of Brokeback Mountain. Before, I thought that a screenplay was simply a basic blueprint of what the movie was supposed to be. Directions, dialogue, technicalities. But when I realized that a well written script was a work of art in itself, a story expressed in images, that a screenwriter was the initial creator of a movie, that is when I knew that I wanted to write as well as direct.

I know I've succeeded.......  

When I google my name and find it in a list of winning screenplays? I guess success is a funny word to use at age 17, but there’s no reason to overrate success, is there?

My inspiration to write SOMEWHERE BETWEEN CALM AND PASSION.......

Everything around me. The private boarding school, the college-crazy students, daily lectures on how to write that winning essay, the roommates- I try to take in everything and spit it out, in a (hopefully) more enjoyable form.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Hyemin Koo: Since the 2nd grade, nothing in my life has escaped captivation in words (I kept a DIARY- most important move of my career) I go through my absurd life and try to make sense out of things by writing them down. Tennessee Williams once said that he wrote because he found life unsatisfactory. Well, I think I share his allergy for life in its crude form. I write to express reality, sublimate reality, forget reality. It was when I felt the need to share my world with a larger audience that I was inspired to become a screenwriter and a filmmaker.

FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to write your first script? 

Hyemin Koo: SOMEWHERE BETWEEN CALM AND PASSION was my first script, at least the first one I finished. I basically typed ‘screenwriting’ at and ordered the first 5 results at the school library. When they arrived, I read these books from cover to cover, mainly The Screenwriter’s Bible by Trottier. I tried to follow his advice on storytelling and formatting, but in retrospect I think I pretty much ignored everything in that book while writing SOMEWHERE.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write SOMEWHERE BETWEEN CALM AND PASSION?

Hyemin Koo: Yes. This script took about 2 months to plan and one day to write.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Hyemin Koo: Being a full-time high school student, it’s hard to have a set routine (except for my diary and composition assignments). That is why my script was written on such a unique schedule- I had no choice. I would scribble down ideas about plot turns and characters on my textbook, during class, between classes, and organize them in my notebook after school. After two months of doing this and sabotaging most of my courses, I had one day left until the contest deadline and two days left until finals. I took my laptop out in the hallway where the electricity wouldn’t be cut off, took out my notes and wrote my screenplay from 7 PM to 6 AM, slept from 6 to 7, revised it from 7 to 8, then went to school looking like a madman(woman).

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Hyemin Koo: When you’re as amateur as I am, I think it works as a great morale booster. Since this was my first screenplay, I considered making Top 300 a miracle. Even if you don’t win anything in the end, any kind of feedback (negative ones motivate you, positive ones let you believe in your own potential) offers the best help an aspiring anything can get.

FilmMakers Magazine:
What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Hyemin Koo: Stephen King wrote in his autobiography that the nail on his wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it (he apparently sent his stories to a bunch of magazines since he was young). Following his tradition, I entered this contest for my first rejection slip, but I guess the best laid plans often go awry.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Hyemin Koo: Those that paint pictures with words, like Brokeback Mountain, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon- those where the dialogue rings in your head, like Annie Hall, Fight Club, Clueless, Dead Poet’s Society- those generally well-crafted screenplays like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Crash, Memento, American Beauty, Magnolia, and The Godfather, where the screenwriter makes life easier for the director. I think that pretty much covers everything I’ve read. Just read anything you can get your hands on; there are bad experiences, but never worthless ones.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Hyemin Koo: Writing in general, film, drawing, literature (old English, modern Korean), French (poetry, food, movies), Broadway, music, singing (I’d like to take the lead in a musical before I die), 60s oldies, Hollywood, Bollywood- Basically, I’m in love with art in any form.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Hyemin Koo: I don’t think I have one. But I have a bunch of favorite writers. Salinger once said that a writer, when she's asked to discuss her craft, ought to get up and call out in a loud voice just the names of the writers she loves. I love Salinger, Rimbaud, Austen, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Shakespeare, King, Lee, Eliot, Chopin, Twain, Mitchell, L’Engle and Rowling(!).

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Hyemin Koo: Michel Gondry. Seeing how bizarre his works are, I think he’d be best capable of visually representing my mental world, which is my raison d’expression. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Hyemin Koo: Edward Norton. Primal Fear freaked me out, and that was the first time that I got a gut feeling of what good acting was. Also, I think he is one of the few intellectual actors who actually understand what they are doing while doing it.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Hyemin Koo: As a puberty-stricken 17 year-old, I’m in no position to give advice. Just try anything you want to. It won’t work out every time, but if you’re truly devoted to what you’re doing, it will someday. Like Steve Jobs said, connect the dots, even the failures, and it will turn into something. Sometimes you flunk your Physics quiz, and sometimes you win 2nd place with the first screenplay you wrote between classes in high school. Shit and dreams happen. But at the end of the day, it’s only life, so don’t ever worry :)

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Hyemin Koo: Tomorrow, mid-terms. Next month, college applications. Next year, college, hopefully the one I’m applying to next month. More, better scripts which aren’t so adolescent. And some day, a filmmaker directing my own screenplays. My ultimate, ultimate dream is to write and direct a series of movies, like Star Wars, which creates a whole new world just as fantastical. A world incorporating kids, teens, adults, and all their imaginations, like Harry Potter or Tolkien, with elements from literature all over the world (Film and Literature, my two infatuations). I am searching everywhere for something newer than Jedi Masters, Muggles, or Hobbits. Any suggestions?

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Hyemin Koo: Where will a newbie college graduate be? I have no idea. But I hope I’ll be someplace far away, trekking my home country (Korea), rafting on the Congo River or partying in Havana. Experiencing life, finding something newer than Jedi Masters, Muggles, or Hobbits, you know?

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