Mini MUFF Profile: Hye Yun Park
Mini MUFF Profile: Hye Yun Park
Film: Sisters, from the HEY YUN The Web Series
Championing local female filmmakers is a huge part of why the MUFF Society sought out it’s new home in NYC. There are so many immensely talented filmmakers here, and luckily that’s reflected in the seemingly countless film festivals that appear throughout the city. Even though there’s no shortage of festivals to submit your film to, creating a space for local female filmmakers exclusively is still very much a needed resource.
Hye Yun’s short, Sisters, is a lovely compliment to our feature screening of The Craft – both films deal with female relationships, notions of sisterhood, and the struggles women face and overcome. So we felt it was fitting to have our inaugural NYC event open with this fantastic short, which is actually a web series episode, from HEY YUN The Web Series. And who better to tell her story than writer, director and star, Hye Yun herself?
MUFF: What lead you into filmmaking as a career?
HYE YUN: Filmmaking came to me as an accidental necessity. I was a struggling, chunky Korean American actress trying to find work in New York City, and no one knew which box to put me in. It was hard enough to come across interesting roles for actresses of color and people were often thrown off by that fact that I couldn't check the boxes of “sidekick,” “karate girl,” or “sexy Asian vixen.”
So rather than try to mold myself into a role that I couldn't fit, I decided to make my own films as a way of creating an elaborate audition tape. It was daunting in the beginning, since I’d never gone to school for filmmaking or writing, but I had nothing to lose. I started by imagining characters I wanted to play, and built the worlds and stories around them. And now, I am the happiest I have been as an artist and actor.
MUFF: Can you tell us a bit about the short we’re screening?
HYE YUN: In 2013 I created HEY YUN - the Web Series, a comedy about an angry whimsical Korean artist, wildly inspired by comedian Louis C.K.'s self titled show Louie. If people could get engaged in a funny shlubby white man’s self reflections, why couldn't it be the same for an Asian woman counterpart? And I simply went for it! With a micro-budget and the volunteer talents of artist friends, I filmed four episodes in four days. Season 1 had an arc of my fictional self's struggle to stand up for herself, touching upon micro-aggressions, hipster racism and flaky encounters in NYC. The episode "Sisters," which MUFF is screening is the 5th episode of season 2, which had a mockumentary storyline about her rise to success and her healthy dosage of narcissism.
Right now as a storyteller, I'm really into bringing real life pains and struggles and crafting them into unique and hilarious fictional stories. (One day, I may shift gears and make kick-ass zombie flicks, but even then, I'm sure there'll be an autobiographical aspect to it.) I get such a kick out of it when I witness other artists make work to process through their real life nuggets and by doing so, create space for people to resonate and talk about their struggles.
This episode in particular, was one of the most personal ones. Although I don't have a sister in real life, the things we talk about are drawn from my very real, real life struggles. Also I am proud of the fact that this episode is just two Asian American women talking about real life issues in a raw and honest way, where we're not a sidekick or a stereotypical role to serve the story. We're seeing more of this through shows like Orange Is the New Black, and I want more and more of it.
MUFF: Do you consider yourself a feminist and if so, why is it important to your filmmaking?
HYE YUN: I am a feminist because I believe in gender equality and we are not there! It's important to my filmmaking, because I was told, "you shouldn't act like that since you're a woman" all the time while growing up and still hear hints of that statement in 2015 as I navigate my life. It's also important to me because our society puts women in pressure through awfully impossible and limiting beauty standards, and media/films/tv is such an effective way to break apart those standards and revolutionize.
And most importantly, even though we take up half of world population, the percentage of women filmmakers & storytellers in the industry is ridiculously low and even more minuscule for women of color. Until this percentage is fixed and there is much more diverse storytelling, my drive for filmmaking will never stop.
MUFF: Who are some of your favourite women working in the film industry?
HYE YUN: Miranda July, Jennifer Phang, Gina Kwon, Reed Morano, Melissa Leo, Jane Campion, Sarah Polley, Jill Soloway, to name a few.
MUFF: If someone were to make a film about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?
HYE YUN: It would be an experimental dramedy with Lori Tan Chinn of Orange Is the New Black starring as me.
MUFF: What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve ever received?
HYE YUN: "The cavalry isn't coming. No one can stop you from doing exactly what you want to do. If you can accept that the cavalry won't come, and if you can be the cavalry, it gives you a chance to be happy." - Mark Duplass
I did a standing ovation in my underwear in my bedroom after watching the YouTube clip of him giving this advice.
MUFF: Can you describe your film dream team?
HYE YUN: I squirm whenever people say they feel "blessed" about their lives, but I'm going to pull one myself. I'm truly #BLESSED to have a team of awesome women filmmakers as friends. So many! My fantasy dream team would be as follows:
*Writer: Myself and Nancy Schwartzman, who is an amazing filmmaker, mobile app developer, and human rights activist. She's also the producer of HEY YUN and a wickedly brilliant magician with words.
*Director: Deborah Kampmeier, writer/director of films such as Virgin and Hounddog -- the way she works with actors is spectacular. She's currently finishing up her new film SPLiT.
*Cinematographer: Joanna Arnow, whose latest film Bad at Dancing, which she wrote, directed and acted in, won the Silver Bear Award at this year's Berlinale. She was one of the DPs of HEY YUN Season 2, and it was a dream to work with her.
*Production Designer: Mikaela Martin, who is an actor, photographer & filmmaker -- she has a fantastic aesthetic for stories and is an expert at thrift shopping. She was the production designer for my short film Sumi and she does art directing for all of the films she makes with her partner.
MUFF: What’s your go-to jam?
HYE YUN: I go all old school K-pop and listen to my favorite Korean band Jaurim's first two albums a lot. And I crank up The Who's "Who Are You" when I need that extra spunk to get work done.
MUFF: Which male pop icon or movie / TV character are you dreaming will get a gender-swap?
HYE YUN: A gender-swap in The Usual Suspects and Rocky would be awesome. Both made huge marks in my early love for acting and movies. I'd love to play a crippled anti-hero.