Gook Explores the True Meaning of Family
Gook, winner of the Audience Award in the NEXT category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of two Korean American brothers who own and must defend a shoe store during the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict. Producer James Yi and Director and Screenwriter Justin Chon have worked together on projects for a number of years and this is their first time being accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. Both children of Korean immigrant parents, the two wanted to make a film that explored the tense and complex relationship between minority inner-city populations.
Adobe: Tell us about your backgrounds.
Yi: I’ve been an indie producer for almost 15 years and this is my twelfth feature. Justin Chon and I have partnered creatively on many projects. He’s more known as an actor in Twilight and 21 and Over, but this is the second film he’s directed. Most recently we worked on the film Man Up, and we also produced the documentary Twinsters.
Adobe: What is the premise of Gook?
Yi: The film is about two Korean American brothers who own a shoe store in Paramount, California, the events that they go through in the neighborhood, and their experience on the first day of the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict. Though set 25 years in the past, the film is very relevant in terms of the social and political climate and what’s going on in the United States right now. It’s a minority-centric film about families and relationship in the inner city, and we’re very proud of it.
Adobe: How did the film come together?
Yi: We’ve been developing the film for three or four years. With the 25th anniversary of the riots this year, we decided it was time to push through and make the film. We started the process of pulling everything together in late 2015 and started raising equity in January 2016. Justin was part of an op-ed series with the Washington Post and NBC News where he talked about dealing with the lack of diversity in Hollywood, gentrification of Asian characters, and stereotypical and racist Asian auditions. That helped us garner the attention we needed to build our private equity.
We went into pre-production, shot the film in August 2016, produced a rough cut in September 2016 to submit to Sundance, and now we’re in the final stages of post production. Luckily for us because we’d been developing the concept for so long we had a good strategy from the start. The time frame for the physical making of the film was accelerated, but it was only possible because we had years of planning behind it.
Adobe: How long have you worked with Adobe Creative Cloud?
Yi: I was a Final Cut Pro editor for a long time, but migrated to Premiere Pro when Apple stopped supporting professional editors. We asked some commercial production companies that we’ve worked with to co-produce the film and support us with camera packages and Creative Cloud. The film was shot with RED cameras and edited in Premiere Pro, with most visual effects produced with After Effects.
Adobe: What do you like about working with Creative Cloud?
Yi: I love the structure of Premiere Pro, the smoothness of the interface, and how the bins are so easy to understand. The built-in tools are also great. For our short films, commercials, and online projects I do color correction using the Lumetri Color panel in Premiere Pro, in fact, for a lot of projects I won’t even do an external color. We didn’t use this on Gook because it’s a black-and-white film. We shot in color and then desaturated it. On set we had all monitors set to black and white, and we never put anything in the can with a color look on it.
All of our 2D effects are done with After Effects and the workflow between Premiere Pro and After Effects is easy and smooth. I also like Adobe Media Encoder. The ability to queue up projects in Premiere Pro, send to Media Encoder, and still go back to Premiere Pro to work on things while I have a render happening is very useful and efficient.
Adobe: Why did you choose to produce this film in black and white?
Yi: It was primarily an artistic decision. It automatically gives it a period-piece feel. Our biggest influences were Do the Right Thing and the French film La Haine. It is cinematically shot in a European, post-modern noir style but the content is American urban, which is a nice contrast. Also, because it is a low-budget film, black and white made production and costume design much easier. Not having to match a color palette made it much faster.
Adobe: Did you transcode to ProRes or edit natively?
Yi: We edited natively on set. Instead of having a digital imaging technician we had editors on set during the whole shoot doing rough assemblies. The 4K editing capability is another great thing about Premiere Pro. You still need a great computer to handle that much processing, but being able to plug and play with R3D files is pretty awesome.
Adobe: Why did you choose this topic?
Yi: Justin and I are both Korean Americans. I grew up in a black neighborhood in San Francisco. Justin was raised in Orange County and his father actually had a shoe store in Paramount that was looted during the riots. The relationships between Korean American and African American families in the film are based on our personal experiences.
There was a major migration of Korean immigrants in the 1980s. We’re the children of those immigrants and the story of where we came from and how we existed in the inner cities hasn’t properly been represented. That’s what inspired us to make this film.
Learn more about Adobe at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival