I feel like writing a post, but nothing exciting is happening here in Hawaii. But, I remember I have the third (and last?) K-Pop story to write, so here goes (the other posts are K-pop Part 1 and K-Pop Part 2).
Last year in Korea, we met an unusual bartender, WB. She had nearly perfect English, but claimed to have no special instruction beyond what is customary in Korean schools. For a long time, we thought she was tricking us, and dreamed up all sorts of strange scenarios to explain her good English. Her explanation, "I learned it just watching western movies and TV programs", was simply too amazing for us to believe. In the end, we learned it was indeed true, and she simply must have a gift for learning language. She also confided to us that she wanted to quit her bartender job and get a job in the movies, and was studying and writing scripts in her free time! We wished her luck, and were surprised to hear in November (2004) that she was indeed quitting and going to work "in the movie business". (Alas, I can't find a photo of WB - I'll try to get one next time I see her and update this post).
Well, I was at home in America over the Christmas holidays, and I received an e-mail from WB. Turns out her new "movie" job was with a company making music videos, and she needed an western man to be an "extra" in one of her upcoming projects. She asked me to do it when I returned in January. Of course, I agreed immediately. The stage was set for The Stumbler to launch his second career!
On the appointed day, we were supposed to meet around lunch time. As often happens to me in Korea, there was a delay. Several delays, in fact. Finally, near dinner time we meet near the area of filming, and I am treated to dinner (that's my pay for the job). After that, we proceed to her company's office. I am met by 2 ladies who are Koreans from Canada, who have been called in to translate for me. It was a little strange, since WB spoke nearly perfect English, but apparently some office politics was in play, and WB kept the English to a minimum after that. Anyway, we waited. And waited. And waited. Several times we received a call that they were ready for us, and we would put on our coats, only to received another call saying "false alarm". Finally, about 11pm, the translators and I went "on strike" and left to a nearby bar to eat and drink. Our food order had just arrived when we were called back - for real this time. After finishing off our beer, we all piled in the taxi with bags of food and headed to the filming.
The Stumbler, The Director and HN (Translator)
Let me explain first that one very popular style of music videos (MV) in Korea is a short drama which is played out along with the song. Many of these stories are quite sad and tragic (at least they appear so to a foreigner). One comment we frequently hear from other Asians (non-Koreans) is that Korean MV are always so sad, because someone always dies of brain cancer at the end. This MV appears to be no exception, there is a death at the end involving brain trauma (not cancer). I know the details of the short segment we were filming that night, and I can pick up on a little just by watching the MV, but I really don't know what the overall plot is.
My role was a western CEO who was signing a deal with a Korean CEO. We were to walk down the stairs, talking and laughing with each other. We were going to a press conference, and were accompanied by a bunch of body guards, including actor HJM. It's a good thing he was there, and him specifically, because some crazy man jumped out of the crowd with a knife and tried to stab my Korean CEO friend, only to be thwarted by HJM.
The Stumbler with HJM
We did this scene for about 2 hours. Down the stairs, back up, down again, OVER and OVER... I did get in slight trouble with the Director at one point. The Korean man playing the other CEO spoke some English, and when we were walking down the stairs each time, he would ask me some questions. For example, "Do you like kimchi?". One time, he asked me "Do you like soju? (a korean drink, similar to sake)" I said "Yes, do you like pok-tan-ju?" (this is the korean word for a "bomb" drink). This made everyone laugh, including HJM, which was a problem - he is supposed to be a bodyguard, never smiling. My translator ran to me with instructions from the director - "no more pok-tan-ju". As this scene finishes, HJM protects the Korean CEO and fights with the crazy man carrying the knife. If you watch this MV, you will see that it was a bad week for HJM and knives.
Filming the Knife Fight
There was another scene, a ribbon cutting ceremony, which two ladies had been setting up for the entire time we were filming this first scene. They really worked hard - preparing huge banners, carefully twisting ribbons and blowing up balloons. They just had everything in place as we finished, but they had to cut that scene because they were running so late. What a pity - I felt sorry for those ladies who had spent all that time preparing. We finally wrapped up the filming about 2:30am, and the film crew was supposed to drive to another city about 2 hours away to film the last scene at 6am in the morning! I don't know how they do it. I don't think I could make it in this business, so I'd better stick to engineering.
The Stumbler's 5 Seconds of K-Pop Fame
One last follow-up to this story. One night, shortly after the video was released, my friend CH and I were eating dinner in our favorite area. He was out of cigarettes, and I volunteered to get him some more. I walked across the street to a convenience store. As I was paying, the clerk said to me, "You're in that new MV, aren't you?" He called to his colleague, "come here, see this man, he is in a MV".
Thus was The Stumbler's 5 seconds of fame.