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Oldboy cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung shares his filmmaking secrets

By Cassio

30 May 2014

Chung-hoon Chung is an internationally renowned cinematographer whose work includes cult classic Oldboy. With almost 20 years filmmaking experience, he has worked on projects both in Asia and in Hollywood. He visited MetFilm School to provide students with a cinematography masterclass, where he shared some tips on how to become a world-class cinematographer.

Here are the tips he shared:

  1. Build a connection with both your director and your cast. Working with a director that you connect with creatively facilitates your ability to bring a tale to life effectively. Chung-hoon Chung and Oldboy director Park Chan-wook have collaborated on several productions together. In addition, in order to tell a story a good relationship and and dialogue with actors is key, as this will enhance what you can achieve visually.
  2. Understand your story. Go through a script as thoroughly as if you are an actor. Try to understand characters in detail and consider their back-stories and what the present and future holds for them. From this you can interpret how you should shoot characters. You might for example, feel that close-ups might be the most appropriate technique to bring their story to life or that shooting from a distance might be more effective.
  3. Storyboard in detail The movie storyboard is the key tool that guides how creative you can be with your shooting style. For complex shooting sequences a good understanding of what is required via the storyboard can make all the difference to your output. For example: for the central fight scene in Old Boy, (often referred to as the best single shot fight scene filmed ever), was storyboarded with150 plus frames before shooting commenced.
  4. Forget about the film format Though some filmmakers like shooting on film rather than HD digital, the reality is that in LA there is only one dark room left and HD digital is becoming the industry standard. Don’t get hung up on film format, it’s how you shoot, not what you shoot on that’s important.
  5. Explore arts disciplines beyond film to inform your work. Today anyone can make a film on their smartphone. A filmmaker needs to add something more to make his or her work stand out. Build an understanding of the arts more broadly. Take in insights from architecture, read philosophy.  Expand your experience to inform your filmmaking work.

Find out more about MetFilm School’s range of cinematography courses.

Watch the trailer for Oldboy, regarded as one of the best neo-noir films of all time!