Art of the Cut: Kogonada on “After Yang”

Art of the Cut rarely gets a chance to speak with the directors about the intent of their work as it applies to their editors. In this enlightening discussion, we get to hear from director/editor Kogonada about his work on the film After Yang.

Kogonada was nominated for the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and received Independent Spirit nominations for Best First Feature and Best First Script for his film Columbus (2017).

He is a South Korean-born American filmmaker who started by creating innovative video essays about cinema.

Listen while you read…

HULLFISH: I’m excited to talk to you, I don’t often get to talk to directors.

First of all, you are a real cinema lover and a student of cinema, which I think is very evident in this beautiful film. Did you have any specific muses or inspirations for this?

KOGONADA: Who knows when it will fade, but there’s always a collection of filmmakers that I wanted to be in conversation with, like certainly [Yasujirō] Ozu, Edward Yang, and Wong Kar-wai, but I would never compare myself or feel worthy to be in the conversation with them.

There are a lot of Asian filmmakers that so much of my own sense of being and my own sense of identity has been shaped through the conversations of these films. But [François] Truffaut as well. There are just so many filmmakers and films that have stayed with me.

There was one film in particular, though, that I realized that this film is so much in conversation with, and I’ve seen it so many times. Just recently I had a chance to program a double feature with my film and I chose Afterlife by Koreeda Hirokazu. This film is so much in dialogue with that film, and so that certainly is one.

I could just talk about so many filmmakers that are inside of me that, I’m sure as I was making it, were seeping through all the choices that I made, even in the writing of it. There is a Japanese film called All About Lily Chou-Chou, which is referenced directly in the film. There’s also a documentary called All in This Tea that is referenced in the film. So, there were some direct references as well, but Ozu is always a part of what I’m trying to understand. But this is such a different film than any Ozu film.

I could just talk about so many filmmakers that are inside of me that, I’m sure as I was making it, were seeping through all the choices that I made.

HULLFISH: I loved the editing of this. Why not bring in another editing voice? What went into your decision to edit this yourself?

KOGONADA: Because we’re going to talk about editing, I can’t believe I didn’t mention Alain Resnais and also [Steven] Soderbergh, who I think is a big fan of [Nicolas] Roeg and Resnais, because the editing of the human memory with the echo and repetition made me so excited about that formal element in the film.

I’m such a fan of the way that all three of those filmmakers will play with editing to capture a certain kind of subjectivity of time, experience, and memory. So, they were definite references when I was thinking about one element of this film.

And the decision to edit, myself, was because it always has felt like the cooking part of a meal. I have always felt everything else is about getting the best ingredients you can, and then you finally try to make something with those ingredients. Editing is how I entered this field with these essays. It’s just a skill that I learned and it felt very intuitive. So, I’ve thought quite a bit about the cut.

I’ve worked on documentaries too, and I think so many editors really make incredible documentaries out of a collection of footage—and obviously with the director as well—but there’s some real work that editors do in creating meaning.

Having that experience and feeling so affectionate about even the amount of frames when you cut—sometimes it’s just saying, “Three frames here feels right,”—so there’s something so intimate and so personal about it that at that point in my life, I wasn’t willing to give it up.

I’ve been in a position at times where someone else is doing it, and you feel like you’re burdening them by saying, “Could you try three frames back?” So, it was really about me at a particular time really not being ready to let go of the intimacy, the decision-making, and the minutiae of editing that I love.

Now, I’m several years from that moment and you meet great editors who share sensibilities. I’m more open than ever to that value of an editor who can also be in conversation with you. I’ve never edited something this long.

My first film, the first pass I did was almost three weeks. It was very quick. When I direct, I know how I’m going to cut a scene. That process can go fast. But this film I was in for months, which I guess is normal for most projects. I was largely doing it alone. I had an assistant editor, but we were separated geographically. I could also see the value of being in conversation because there were moments where I felt very lost in my edit.

HULLFISH: That’s one of those places that I feel like an editor is a value. I can definitely understand your desire to be more intimate with the material, not to have a barrier between you and doing what you want to do, but to not have another set of eyes or another brain is where I would find it hard to deal with alone.

Somebody is asking me to direct and they said, “Do you want to edit too?” I said, “No. If I direct, I don’t want to edit.”

KOGONADA: Yeah, I can see that. I think I’m going to try to figure out what the balance of that is. This is true for all my department heads; I hate being micromanaged by someone. I’ve been hired for something and people trust me, I want to give them space. So, I would really want to work with someone where I don’t feel like they’re just doing what I’m asking them to do since I know how to do that. I would want them to also offer their insight and sensibility.

But there’s a part of me that wants to know that if I wanted to work on it for a bit that every change wouldn’t have to be me saying, “Could you try it?” I would just want to have a pass at it so that I could explain to the editor something that I am trying to work on.

I just did this series for Apple TV (Pachinko) and it was the first time that I didn’t edit something that I directed. The editors were great. There were times where I was just dying to edit sequences, but I also could see the real value of a great editor.

Also, I realized how DIY I edit versus someone who does it professionally and knows how to use an assistant. Everything about their process is at a different level of organization and it feels more substantial in ways. In some ways, I edit like I have film, tape, and scissors. I try to keep everything on one video track.


KOGONADA: Oh, great. Often in this film, I used the dissolve for the first time because I had to, but I really love straight cuts. I really love finding the art of it being in the way you time it by the way these cuts relate to one another.

HULLFISH: What NLE did you cut it in, and why did you choose it?

KOGONADA: I used Premiere. I was a Final Cut child and then when they switched over to Final Cut Pro X. I did that a little bit too when I was doing my video art and essay work. I used that in the first film but just transferring it was so messy, so I just thought, “I’ll learn Premiere.” That’s the closest to what Final Cut looked like. I used Premiere because the learning curve seemed quicker.

HULLFISH: I love some of the really deliberate compositions and the editing choices made me feel that most scenes didn’t have a lot of coverage. Is that true? Was there a section about Yang having had multiple owners?

KOGONADA: Yeah, so there was an earlier cut that was in Cannes where that was more elaborated. After Cannes, I had actually asked A24 if I could make a few more adjustments, and the lengthier conversation of that was what was trimmed out, but there is a discussion of, at least, this beta owner that Yang was owned before for five days, so that conversation still exists.

What I cut out was never about the alpha ownership, which remains a sort of surprise in the film, but it was a lengthier consideration of that period when Yang was owned by this other family.

HULLFISH: The compositions are just stunning. Because you direct, you know how you want to edit the scenes. Do you feel like you use less coverage than most directors would because you know where it’s going?

KOGONADA: Absolutely. I have very limited coverage. I think one of the things I really realized early on when I got to direct is shots I would never use. I just wouldn’t use it in the sequence. Sometimes, a DP or someone would say, “What about this shot?” and I just knew the way I would want to cut it which does eliminate shots.

So, I am editing in my head all the time, which is so great because I think when you have to change on the spot, you can start re-editing it and know what is no longer needed or what might be needed. Obviously, you have a team around you that’s helping you think through that as well.

My coverage has been very limited in both films. Doing this TV series essentially with the show runner, it was a real dive into another kind of approach where there are a lot more options that people want. I’ve been thinking about that too in the future of my own films, do I need to give more room for those? Because obviously in the editing room it’s always nice at times to have an option, but you’re always giving something up.

The other thing is that without having as much coverage, you can really make every shot count. You can really make it as detailed as it needs to be. You have more time with every shot, as opposed to trying to do a scene and covering it 10 different ways. It’s about asking what do you want to sacrifice?

Often, I want to sacrifice options for really trying to capture that moment in the way that you want to, in the best way that you would like to present those scenes.

HULLFISH: Beautifully said. There’s a discussion of technos at the museum. I’m assuming that you had coverage of the discussion, but the discussion is largely covered with these beautiful shots of bodies.

KOGONADA: This is so nice to talk to an editor. It’s such a different way of talking about film, and I so much love that. Yeah, I’ll be honest, it was the one space in our film that—because you want to make every shot count, you want every space to feel compelling and interesting—it was a space that was a bit of a struggle, both in finding the space and the design of the space. Even finding angles or shots that felt worth the while of really spending time, as I always say.

It was one of those expository moments that existed. It really was trying to solve that circumstance of being in a space that didn’t offer as much value as we wanted it to, and then realizing that this museum space—which we shot separately and it was a reshoot to capture that display of the technos—this will help us cover this conversation but also give that conversation real visceral context. So, it became a really good solution.

HULLFISH: I love that. You mentioned the importance of three frames, so I know that everything that you did was very intentional. So, one of those intentional things that I wanted to ask about is at the end of the discussion at the museum when she is saying that she’s dedicated her life to techno-sapiens, she walks away from him and we watch her walk away. What is the value of watching her walking away?

KOGONADA: I did this essay on neorealism, and it was [Vittorio] De Sica ‘s Terminal Station film. [David O.] Selznick—who was this producer who loved neorealism and his wife was a fan of neorealism—did this film with De Sica, and then De Sica presented his cut. Selznick felt like there was too much walking and too much in between moments, and he did his own version of the cut. My essay is about this moment in film where we get to see two different sensibilities and two different values in their cut.

I love international films because they give moments for things that some times in Hollywood feel disposable or excess, which is the time of movement in space that we all experience. I have that in Columbus too—of a girl walking around. Obviously, I think of [Jacques] Tati and just so many great films where it’s just about an in-between moment. It’s just about the moment after the drama or after the information. The accumulation of that is valuable to me. It may not be in the sense of story, but in a sense of time, there’s just something that has always contributed to my feeling of space and time in those kinds of films.

The films that have stayed with me the most are the ones where the background doesn’t feel simply like a setting. It feels like real space, and I don’t know why those stay with you, but I think if you don’t have a sense of space and time, those experiences can feel very disposable. It’s almost as if they don’t have the bones to carry memory for you.

Originally, I had her walk all the way and enter the door, so I did choose to cut earlier, and I trimmed it even a little bit more after Cannes, but it’s still enough. So, for me, it’s always a question of, “What’s enough to feel like I don’t want to cut right away?” Obviously, there’s some subjectivity to that.

HULLFISH: And it’s also giving the audience a chance to process something that they’ve heard that was important.

KOGONADA: That’s well put. My DP and I always talk about palate cleansers and just really having a moment to cleanse your palate for the next thing.

HULLFISH: A little ginger after the sushi, right?

KOGONADA: That’s so good. Yeah, exactly.

HULLFISH: I love it. Talk to me about the sound design in Yang’s memory playback scenes. There’s gorgeous sound design through that. Obviously, a sound designer worked on that, but what kind of base did you give that person to work from as an editor?

KOGONADA: I had a real artist design that space for me versus a real traditional VFX house. His name is Raoul Marks and he works with Patrick Clair with They do a lot of those opening credit sequences for Westworld and I think they did True Detective. They’re real artists in their own right. I knew that I wanted that interface to not be just like a computer desktop interface. I wanted it to have emotion in and of itself, and I wanted it to feel mysterious.

So, I’d asked Raoul’s help for design, and I just want to mention him because even in his design of it, he added the musical elements to help us understand the design, and it was so captivating that it was influential in the way we thought about it.

Then, Ruy Garcia, the sound designer, took that and we had more conversation. We obviously added music to it as well, but I didn’t want it to be full of scifi-tropey sound effects. I wanted it to feel organic and spatial. You hear birds initially, you hear wind movement, and you start feeling the sound of memories. We were really locating that in the Atmos to really help us feel the search of memory. So, it was complex. Everyone contributed. Ruy did a remarkable job and took quite a bit of time to create the spatial feeling of these memories.

HULLFISH: There’s a montage of Mika memories. Talk to me about the shot size selection and the sequencing of the shots in that.

KOGONADA: I think that we had this whole idea that we have these human memories that are long scenes and echoes of that scene. Then, we have Yang’s memory, which I decided that his memories were limited to just a few seconds, that he could only really store a few seconds of memories and that our experience would be in the accumulation of these fragments, that we would get a sense of what he valued and what he was attending to.

Knowing that Mika was his primary responsibility within this family, we would get a feeling of his time. Also that it would be a bit of a sting to Jake too, because as a father, he’s struggling with being present. So, we knew that it would have this sort of double quality to it that it would both reveal things that Yang cared about, not only nature and the family moments, but that his attention to their daughter was so integral to who he was and how he saw himself. Then, also knowing that Jake was seeing through the eyes of Yang and saw everything he was missing in his own absence and his own variation.

HULLFISH: I love that. You alluded to this earlier in our discussion with this use of repetition and fracturing of time. One of the first places that’s evident is in this discussion of tea. Yang is having this discussion with Jake asking, “Why do you love tea?” Can you talk to me about that use of hearing him repeat things in the edit that he probably only said once in the conversations? Tell me about the sound design, the jump cutting, and the repetition.

KOGONADA: I knew it was a sci-fi film, and I think people have described this as soft or lo-fi. I didn’t want it to be dominated by tech and a certain kind of sci-fi that exists—and I love some of these sci-fis that are more industrial, tech-heavy, and effects-heavy.

I wanted to use the language of cinema or the technique of cinema itself to create these moments of reality. So, let’s say when we’re in Yang’s memory, instead of having some graphic that showed the timecode or something like that, it was just going to be that we we had a different aspect ratio, we used a different lens, we use these sort of momentary fragments, and then obviously the interface would tell us that we were in this space.

I didn’t tell my actors that we were going to shoot it this way but I did tell my DP how I was going to cut it.

With human memory—and I was so excited for this—I didn’t tell my actors that we were going to shoot it this way but I did tell my DP how I was going to cut it. We just shot these scenes fully and covered one side and the other side, but doing multiple takes because I was imagining memory almost as if we were auditioning the statements to try to get a better sense of the right take of it.

It was almost like filmmaking, that human memory is almost as if you’re trying to get to a scene in your life, understand the perspective, and hear it again and say, “No, that wasn’t it, maybe it was this way.”

They say that you never recall the same memory the same way.

My own study of human memory is that every time you recall it, it changes you. They say that you never recall the same memory the same way. Your own subjectivity at the moment might alter your memory. In the human memories what I love is that I don’t know if you just saw an objective shot of that scene, if it would feel as intimate, quiet, or loving—because now, when Jake is starting to recall Yang, he has a different kind of affection for him than when he did at the beginning of the search when it was almost more like he’s just an appliance. He softens up to Yang and suddenly that conversation feels more meaningful. So, I love that about it.

The same with Kyra when she’s thinking about this conversation about death and butterflies, and there’s a take where Justin [H. Min] started to cry. He didn’t want to cry and he apologized afterwards, but I knew how I was going to cut it. I had given him permission because he said, “I’m feeling so emotional, but should Yang be this emotional?” and I said, “Let’s do a take and don’t worry about that. Just be in the moment.”

I knew that because it was not an objective memory, that it was subjective, in Kyra’s own sadness of now suddenly feeling the loss of Yang, that it may be affecting the way she was recalling Yang’s own emotion.

Having two takes of it and then returning to one where he’s not as emotional, I just loved it as an editor. It’s so different from the rest of the film. It just gave me another way to go back to the filmmakers that I love. I love Soderbergh’s The Limey and I’m a big fan of [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s Solaris. When he did Solaris, he played with temporality in that way and I just love how it puts you in a space of subjectivity. It’s all about the cut.

I love that because that subjectivity is not by creating a lens effect that says, “We’re in this perspective.” It’s really about nonlinearity. I love that kind of cinema. Resnais did that in Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima in Mon Amour. So, it was one of my favorite parts of cutting the film.

HULLFISH: For those listening to this that might not know you, one of the things that you’ve been known for before you started directing is these beautiful essays about cinema. For those that might not know what essays you’re talking about.

KOGONADA: Really it’s probably the way I was able to break into filmmaking by making these essays and getting commissioned. I did some installations as well, but the really lovely thing about that experience was it’s so experimental. There were no rules for time and still aren’t. I could play with a cut. Of course, talking about ingredients, when you’re re-cutting [Terrence] Malick or [Stanley] Kubrick, you’re just using the best footage ever and it’s a delight to do that.

I also love the possibility of what happens when you are cutting extremely fast because it creates its own sort of dynamic experience.

So, getting to play with form in that format was really instructive, not only in regard to the kind of images that they captured, but what is possible. As someone who, when it comes to films, is drawn to slower cinema, in those essays you’ve got a lot of cuts. I could play with that. I also love the possibility of what happens when you are cutting extremely fast because it creates its own sort of dynamic experience. It was really just a great way to think through cinema and think through the cut.

HULLFISH: I love it.

This is more of a directing question. Ada has this first talk with Jake and I think they’re in a car. You chose to use coverage that looks like a shot/reverse shot, which it was, but they’re facing opposite directions.


HULLFISH: I love that. What was the choice of doing that? Did you have another one where they were looking at each other?

KOGONADA: We may have. Again, being a fan of Ozu, he often crossed the line and he was so bothered by what he almost considered the Western burden of continuity. There’s a reason why he’s just this master filmmaker and he just made his own kind of cinema, but that really, for me, resonates at an emotional level. If you look at his films, he often is switching the lines. Sometimes, it can be wholly distracting, but sometimes you already have a sense of the orientation or the image is strong enough that it won’t matter.

If you look at his films, he often is switching the lines. Sometimes, it can be wholly distracting, but sometimes you already have a sense of the orientation or the image is strong enough that it won’t matter.

Classically, he sometimes does a scene between two people across the table and he will mix the eyeline up, but he will also have bottles jumping around on the table because in every shot, he just cares about the shot itself and how to attune yourself to the shots. He would easily move bottles around because he just wanted to make a certain kind of composition that would orient your eyes to where he wanted it to be oriented to.

Of course, the script supervisor would say, “You can’t,” and he would just say, “I don’t care.” And, in fact, no one does. Now I think if you weren’t as mindful of the details, it could be distracting, but there’s so much more you’re paying attention to in regard to that frame.

So, there was a reason in regard to reflection and limitations to those shots within the car technologically. When making the decision, again, it’s always about privileging one thing over another, and I thought, “No, let’s not privilege continuity. Let’s privilege the best possible shot in regard to our constraints and the reflection.” I do think I had one that would have kept continuity but it just felt like it could exist this way.

There’s something about the burden of rules and what is conventional, but maybe most editors also feel burdened by continuity.

There’s something about the burden of rules and what is conventional, but maybe most editors also feel burdened by continuity.

HULLFISH: I think that I could find some editors that would agree with you. You look at Thelma Schoonmaker who disregards continuity often. I just saw a video essay about Goodfellas where there are just two wide shots that are cutting back and forth and nobody notices—unless you pay attention to it—to see that in one shot a guy is smoking a cigar and in the other one he’s not. But you don’t feel any of that because you’re so involved.

Let’s talk about music really quickly. There’s a beautiful section in the museum with Jake carrying Mika and there’s a beautiful slow cello score under it with held shots. Then, right after that, there are also scenes where you would think there would be score, but there’s not. I just loved the choices of spotting score. Can you talk to me about that?

I’m still figuring that out and trying to figure out where the balance will be.

KOGONADA: I’m still figuring that out and trying to figure out where the balance will be. I really opened myself up to score more and partly because I was working with Aska [Matsumiya] and [Ryuichi] Sakamoto too, who have always been my favorite composers. Ryuichi Sakamoto actually was already committed to a project, but he was so gracious enough to create a theme for us.

But in my past film—and I think just intuitively—I have shied away from too much score in my films. I think my first film was very ambient, but the score was lovely. I remember telling them I almost wanted to come out of the ambience and not even know if you were hearing ambiance or music sometimes, and they did a remarkable job. I thought that’s probably where I will want to be in making films.

Then, with this film it just felt like I needed music more or wanted music more. I thought if I’m working with Sakamoto, he’s a master and I’m not going to tell him anything except to do what you feel is right. Then, he created this incredible theme and Aska, the composer, took this theme—and it was so lush and moving—and I just saw the value in that.

So, I’m going to try to figure out continually what the balance of score and silence is because I think it’s critical. This is one pass with me as a filmmaker learning and trying to understand that, but I was happy with incorporating the score.

This particular piece that you’re talking about was a real vision of Aska. She had a song that she had always loved and felt like this was the right film for it. She then added these incredible strings. Then, that little piano line became a big part of our film and she added strings to the Sakamoto theme as well that echoes the strings here.

So, it was really an ongoing process of learning. I was so glad that I opened myself up to more music, but also finding times for silence. I love ambient sounds, which feel musical to me. I think it’s called concrete music, albums where it’s just ambient sounds, and I mentioned that to my sound designer as well. There are real moments where you can feel the sounds of birds or the rhythm of something in the background like a transportation system that feels equally lyrical to me and musical.

HULLFISH: One of those places that doesn’t have score that I really loved— because so often score tells the audience what to think—when Yang’s talking about being a good brother and struggling about his identity in the car. It’s such an emotional scene. No music.

KOGONADA: I love the sounds of that tunnel, and what I love too is that sometimes cars are that place where we’re most reflective. We are almost always outside the car and feeling the reflections pass by and there was just something about the intimacy of that conversation and so many conversations like that that I’ve had where it’s just you and the sound of the road lost in thought or lost in conversation.

There are some really nice sounds that Ruy created in those tunnels that really deserve a little bit of a highlight and solo sometimes too, so I love that.

HULLFISH: Absolutely. There’s a moment where Kyra is watching memories of Yang and there’s pre-lapping of her having the memory and being in the memory that she’s watching. Talk to me about that use of a pre-lap.

KOGONADA: It’s funny because it was another one of those things that in the writing I felt so happy about because it existed right there. This scene was really going to be the first time we see Kyra have a memory of Yang.

Once I had her sit where Yang sat and see what Yang was looking at when he recorded that memory, I just thought, “Oh, this is going to lead to the moment right after Yang records this memory, and she’s going to make that connection that this memory she’s seeing was right before she had this conversation.” In that moment, she’s going to turn her head like Yang did because she entered that scene. Editing-wise, I really couldn’t wait to edit it. So, it was written that way.

HULLFISH: I love it. You mentioned dissolves and your love of a cut—and I think most editors love a good cut—but there’s a beautiful section of dissolves in the “face matching” sequence. There’s a sequence where Jake says, “Match this person’s face that I’m seeing and find all the other shots of this person.” Like you said, in a typical sci-fi movie it would be glitches, but you use dissolves. What was the purpose of those?

KOGONADA: I really wanted to stay in that kind of realm of what the language of cinema offers. There’ve been some really classic, incredible dissolves in cinema. It’s good to open yourself up. I think almost as a point of pride, I thought, “I’m just going to always stay with just a cut,” but I realized in that particular sequence it was right to set it off from the other elements.

There is something about the mystery of this girl, Ada, the history that she has with Yang, and us also feeling that this movement from him first meeting her to them having some sort of relationship, there was something about the dissolve that really helped feel the elongation of that from the very first moment to some other relationship.

Taking it out of some sequence where you’d be like, “This is when they met her, and now this is two weeks later.” I had tried that and I just thought there was something about presenting the linear relationship that felt lacking, and almost in some ways too brief in a way.

So, once I started blending time, going back, feeling the beginnings and then suddenly dissolving into something that was more established and then getting to play with the head turn, it just made everything more layered. It literally layered that relationship.

There was something about the mystery of this relationship that needed another way of presenting their time together and that experience.

Unlike him recalling the missed childhood of Mika—which I think as parents, we know that sort of passage—there was something about the mystery of this relationship that needed another way of presenting their time together and that experience. As soon as I opened myself to the dissolve, it all started to work. So much of editing is trying to solve an issue both aesthetically and emotionally, and as soon as I said, “Okay, what does this look like?” it started working immediately, and then it was just a matter of how it was going to play with those layers.

HULLFISH: Like many editors might do for their director, did you cut alternative versions of scenes for yourself, to see how they’d play?

KOGONADA: Yeah. I did. Again, I think I can see the value of having a conversation in the alts, and you do it for yourself. I didn’t really do it for others. I think that there would be real value in having a conversation with another editor about the alts because a lot of that was by myself. Although, I had a lovely fellow filmmaker that was separate geographically. He helped initially assist, so we would have those conversations, but I would like it to be more direct in the future.

This rare NY Eichler home was used as a primary location in After Yang.

HULLFISH: I loved how you trusted the audience with that tea crystal scene. There’s no dialogue. There’s no explanation. But you just said, “Let’s give this to the audience and let them experience it.” Talk about choosing to leave that in a movie where that’s not part of the plot. That scene could have been cut out. Why leave it in?

KOGONADA: It says something about Jake, where he is, and this almost fetishization of this kind of old way of tea because we find out that the pursuit of tea for him is so meaningful. It’s not just about a commodity for him, but it’s really about a pursuit and trying to be connected, which is really this ongoing struggle for Jake and has been a struggle for me sometimes in life, just feeling connected. Sometimes, it’s cinema, craft, or some idea that can really ignite that for you. That existed in Jake, but when we find him at the beginning of the film, you can tell he’s a little bit lost.

So, this notion that in the future there’s a much better version of tea—at least that most people think—and he’s not even a part of his world. So, there was some reason that I wrote it for sure, but it was also a palate cleanser, giving space. Again, going back to this realism of just giving space and time for a person and having a moment with them that doesn’t necessarily push a plot or an emotional point.

But there was this idea that even as this sort of crisis is starting to happen about fixing this robot, his head is still in the sort of business space. Is this a moment where he’s open —maybe in the way that I’m open to a dissolve—he’s open to this. He did such a lovely job because in the script, I write that he drinks this tea and he has an expression but we don’t know if he likes it or dislikes it. We don’t actually know how he’s evaluating it.

There was a version where I had cut that scene out. You’re right. There’s nothing lost in regard to the film itself, and for many people maybe it would help pace it up. But the thing that was lost was just a moment of time with Jake before we go into this more dramatic conversation between Mika and Yang about being adopted. It really was a bit of a palate cleanser, just a feeling of being with Jake before this sort of burden and journey continues.

More than a palate cleanser, I think it was a moment with Jake that felt really valuable because so much of what is happening for him is interior and so much of why he’s not paying attention to Mika is also his occupation with this sort of failing business. There’s just a lot of things I liked about writing it, and then just having a moment in time with him.

After Yang is based on the short story Saying Goodbye to Yang by Alexander Weinstein.
After Yang is based on the short story Saying Goodbye to Yang by Alexander Weinstein. Read an extract here (spoiler warning).

HULLFISH: I love it. Thank you so much for your time and thanks for making this beautiful film. This is going to stay with me for a while. I will be thinking about this film for a long time to come.

KOGONADA: Thank you. That means so much coming from you. It was really lovely. These are questions and conversations that are so unique, and I love the questions you asked and really loved the way you watched the film as well with just some of the insights that you had and things that you noticed. It just means a lot. So, thank you for inviting me and I really appreciate it.

Steve Hullfish

Stephen Hullfish is an internationally respected producer and editor, and has written six books about the professional scene in Hollywood. He has edited seven feature films, including "Courageous" and "War Room", as well as "The Oprah Winfrey Show". Steve has also worked with industry leaders like Avid, Adobe, Blackmagic, Fujifilm, and Tektronix on technical and creative projects, and produces bespoke training for companies like the NHL, MLS, NBCSports, and Turner Networks.

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