How Past Lives director Celine Song earned her cast’s trust

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about this story ,Past Lives writer-director Celine Song First appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap magazine,

When the topic of “Past Lives” director Celine Song becoming a filmmaker for the first time came up, her lead actress Greta Lee nodded seriously. “On the record, I deeply doubt it,” he said, smiling. “I keep hoping she’ll zip up her body and out will Scorsese or Linklater or someone.”

Assuming Lee is wrong and Song is not an experienced director hiding in a thirty-year-old Korean-Canadian woman’s “Men in Black”-style body suit, “Past Lives” signals the arrival of a confident filmmaker. whose previous experience was as a film producer. Playwright. The tender story of a pair of South Korean childhood sweethearts (Lee and Teo Yoo) who reunite as adults in New York, this drama is a surprisingly assured study in economy, with Song making a beautiful and thought-provoking debut. I organize gaze and eloquent silence.

We spoke to Song about the making of her debut film, which is now available to stream on multiple platforms.

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Greta Lee and Teo Yu in “Past Lives” (A24)

The film was inspired by you and your husband meeting a childhood sweetheart from Korea in New York City. Were you confident that such a personal story would connect with a wide audience?
No, I wasn’t sure if it would connect or not. So I told the story to some very close friends, just telling them the story of me sitting at the bar (with my husband and a childhood friend she hadn’t seen in decades), and it inspired every single one of them to tell me a story. Tell. They may not be Korean, they may not have immigration experience, they may not have the same standard of living as me. But he still had moments when he sat between two people and felt, “I am divided and I am whole.”

And then we’ll stop to talk in depth about time and space, aging and changing. We became better friends because I told him the story. So because of that, I really felt like maybe this was a story worth telling, even if it wasn’t an easy story to tell.

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When you were writing it, did you have a clear sense of how you would approach it as a director?
Some things, yes. And then some things, no. Like, the Skype section was a mystery to me. I was really scared of it. Illustrating technology is a really hard job, and I had no idea how I was going to do it. But when it comes to the opening scene, or when they see each other for the first time, there were parts of it where it was already etched in my mind. And then of course, when I’m working with my DP and production designer and everyone, it’s just going to be an improvement on what I had in mind.

Coming in as a director for the first time, when you did things like telling Teo Yu and John Magaro that you didn’t want to meet them in real life until they met on screen, or when you asked Teo and Greta Did you feel any shock? Don’t touch until they touch the screen?
No, I actually didn’t. They were able to trust me. I think part of being a director is that you’re the burning, bubbling center of gravity for how much everyone will give and how much everyone will believe in it. I believe that trust needs to be earned, and I think it was really important for me to earn trust. And once I earned that trust, they believed in me and they believed in me.

In casting, you may be looking for actors who are comfortable saying a lot without saying anything at all.,
I think the ability to have meaningful silence matters a lot if the actor knows what the silence is about. Just as if the audience knew what silence was, they could sit in it forever. I really believe in that.

John Magaro and Greta Lee in “Past Lives” (A24)

At the end of the film, Nora (Lee) and Hae Sung (Yoo) have a long and intense conversation, mostly in Korean and in front of Arthur (Magaro). But then there’s a long scene where Nora walks Hye Sung to her Uber and then drives back home. They may have been saying a lot on that trip, but maybe there’s no need for it now.
No longer needed. You have said everything you need to say. People talk to me about that silence, the two minutes of silence waiting for an Uber. But it is only 45 seconds. I was trying to decide on the monitor when to queue for an Uber, and this felt right. And the reason why we have such a great interest in that silence is because they’ve already said everything in the very first scene.

I’ve found that people have a different relationship to the ending depending on where they are in their life. Some people think it’s a sad ending, some people think it’s a happy one. I’ve heard, “Your movie makes me want to go home and hug my partner and tell them I love them and I’m happy to grow old with them.” And I’ve also heard, “This movie made me think that my relationships aren’t very good and that I should go away and move to another country and revisit the relationships I’ve never had.” did not do.”

I think there’s an underlying sadness at the end because you’ll never be 12 again. You can never go home again. But this is the inherent sadness of life.

It sounds like directing is a job that agrees with you.
Yes. it was crazy. [Laughs] I never felt that way about anything I did. I just felt like this was the love of my life and nothing more. I was thinking on the set, yes, I am right here. It felt like home.

Read more about the Race Begins issue here,

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