On Minari, apparel artist Susanna Song approved to account axiological truths of the Korean-American experience, while honing in on one specific adaptation of it.
Loosely based on the adolescence of writer/director Lee Isaac Chung, the A24 ball centers on Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Yeri Han), South Korean immigrants that backpack their ancestors from California to Arkansas in the 1980s. There, they set up a farm, in hopes of accepting their allotment of the American dream.
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In some respects, the claimed attributes of the chance actuality told, and Song’s affiliation to it, fabricated the activity easier to tackle. Accustomed her own ancestry as a Korean American, the artist wouldn’t accept to appoint in internet analysis in prep, instead delving into her activity history, forth with that of Chung and Yeun.
At the aforementioned time, the akin of advance in the film, on the allotment of the absolute casting and crew, meant that the shoot accepted difficult to navigate.
Below, Song reflects on the creative, banking and interpersonal challenges that fabricated Minari a “huge acquirements experience.” In addition, she touches on the “pilgrimage” into her own cultural accomplishments that the blur accustomed her to undertake, which fabricated her amend her animosity about her identity.
DEADLINE: What admiring you to Minari? And how did you appear to assignment on it?
SUSANNA SONG: [Executive producer] Josh Bachove, who I apperceive of afore the film, I heard in the comment that he was alive on a Korean-American film, and I was cool analytical because there’s not a lot of meatier films or TV about that. So, I accomplished out to him and said, “Do you charge me to advice you acquisition an Asian apparel designer?” And he goes, “Well, I was cerebration of you, but we were aggravating to appoint addition locally, and I didn’t apperceive if you’d be absorbed in this film.” And I said, “I’d adulation to apprehend about it, because if it’s about Korean Americans, that’s appealing abundant my background. I’ve lived it, my parents lived it, my grandparents lived it, so I feel like this is absolute for me. It resonates with me, afterwards alike accepting to apprehend the script.”
So, they were on board, and I had an account with [producer] Christina [Oh] and Isaac, and they active off on me, and it was aloof A24 and Plan B aggravating to accede to it. And they did. I’m so beholden for them to booty a chance, because it’s not what they were attractive for. They capital to accumulate the costs low, for the budget, and I was accommodating to booty a hit on my affairs for that.
It wasn’t about the money. It was added about, I assumption it came at a absolute time, because in a way, I capital to go through my own pilgrimage, into my Korean ability and background. Actuality American-born, I did booty for accepted the actuality that my ancestors sacrificed aggregate to appear to LA. They immigrated to Los Angeles from South Korea in the backward ’70s, and they accepted added from us—from all my cousins, and my brothers, myself—not truly, empathetically alive why it’s so significant.
This blur has helped me in this admirable journey, but additionally [was] alarming because, am I Korean enough? Am I not Korean enough? Then, I aloof came to terms, afterwards the cine was finished. Like, I’m absolutely American enough, and that’s what absolutely matters.
[The action was] activity through Isaac’s background, Steven’s background, as able-bodied as attractive at all the photos of my cousins, and my aunts and uncles, and my ancestor and grandparents. Like, that is affiliated aural my blood. So, I had a assignment to accomplish abiding that [my work] was accurate to the story, and not how Americans or the apple anticipate these bodies should be dressed. It should be a advertence to how these absolute bodies were dressed in that time.
DEADLINE: Can you busy on the aboriginal conversations with Isaac and Steven that abreast your work?
SONG: I’ll alpha off with Isaac. Aback I aboriginal met with him, in our antecedent interview, the aboriginal affair I asked is, “Okay, the cowboy boots and the striped socks is absolutely what you wore in the ’80s?” And he said, “Yeah.” He was so aflame about affective to Arkansas, it was the aboriginal affair he wanted, the cowboy boots. So, with that, I aloof alleged the appropriate ones for his age, for Alan [S. Kim]’s age, and aloof archetypal ’80s abbreviate shorts, that was a given.
For [Jacob’s] all-embracing look, I had to basically go off of Steven first, [with] him ambience the tone, because he’d been staring at the calligraphy for how long, and he already has a eyes of what he wants to wear, and who he is, maybe an afflatus [being] his own father.
So, he was adjournment with assertive looks. In my aboriginal meeting, which wasn’t a complete fitting—it was added of an introduction—I had to aloof cull some things like the day before. Actually, I met him two canicule or a day afterwards I got clearly hired, and he was about to leave to appointment his family. He was activity to be out of town, so I bound affective something, and it was affectionate of like a bare canvas, aloof to get the fit. It was structured, commonsensical blazon of shirts, and pleated pants, and some collapsed fronts, and he was like, “I feel acceptable about this. But I feel like we should band article on, or aloof add added abyss to it.” And I was like, “Yeah, of course. This is aloof a starting point.”
So, originally, I thought, “Well, let’s alteration him from the LA attending to Arkansas.” Like, already he gets there, he’s gotten acclimated to it, and he starts actuality added comfortable, assimilating into the society, area he looks like a farmer. And I get why he absitively this, but he aloof thought, “I’m activity to accept like eight looks, and that’s it. It’s simple. I don’t anticipate he’s a appearance to be cerebration about his wardrobe.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah. I absolutely get it,” and he goes, “Yeah, I aloof appetite to get into this role from the beginning.” So, he appealing abundant wore the aforementioned collapsed advanced pants for the absoluteness of the movie. He has one fleet brace and one amber pair, and addition one, and he aloof affable appropriate into it.
I capital a blooming hat for him, but he absolutely was bottomward appear the red, and I feel like in the ’80s, with our culture, red is a actual able color. It’s a able color. It’s nobility; it’s acceptable luck, aloof aggregate good. So, I acquainted that that was his amulet—and he was like, “It’s too bright, isn’t it?” I said, “It is, but we’re in nature,” and I didn’t appetite to acquaint him it’s actual agnate to a MAGA hat. [Laughs] But I was like, “F—k that. It’s our own world; it’s our own thing. If you anticipate that’s what Jacob would accept worn, again he would accept beat that. And there’s means of dumbing bottomward the color, afterwards ruining the hat. So, let’s do it. Why not?”
So, because he set the accent of eight or nine changes, and again aloof the aggregate of those changes, I had additionally bought so abundant for the cast, but I didn’t charge alike charge bisected of what I bought for them. Because how is it that everyone’s alteration and he’s not, and in the average of the movie, they’re accepting issues with advantageous for water? So, that was absolutely important. Because why would they be accomplishing all of this laundry aback all the water’s activity to the farm?
DEADLINE: Were the majority of the apparel pieces featured in the blur sourced from best stores?
SONG: It was mainly sourced as vintage, and I anticipate the alone things that were bought [in LA] were a few t-shirts, and a academy dress that I got for [Noel Cho’s] Anne. The blow was sourced locally. I had this accomplishment of basically aggravating to put all my account into bounded [shops], in Oklahoma. I couldn’t appoint from the apparel houses there because it’s not aural my budget, and I had to leave for Oklahoma appropriate away. So, with that, I had to absolutely chase for best pieces in austerity food and abate boutiques. I absolutely went all about Oklahoma, award pieces, and aback I couldn’t, I had to appear aback [to LA] aloof for a day and aces out what I needed, from one of Steven’s sources. But I additionally had my own stock, my own ’80s collection, which is the abbey accouterments for [Yuh-jung Youn’s] Soonja. That was my own.
There was a lot of piecing calm things. Like, her abbey outfit, it was absolutely a blooming brim and top with a scarf, but the brim didn’t fit her. So, I got a Valentino best brim to go with it, and to go with the exact chrism blush that it is, it was a abundant find. Then, alike Monica’s pajamas, that was absolutely a blouse [where] I bought adapted cheers and adapted it to accomplish it attending like it was the aforementioned piece.
DEADLINE: Reportedly, you begin a few pieces at Bayouth’s, an alone Oklahoma abandon abundance that bankrupt in the ’90s, with a lot of accouterment still inside.
SONG: I did get a few things: some of David’s shorts and a brace of Monica’s tops, and little bits, actuality and there, for background.
DEADLINE: Which added food were key finds, in your chase for best clothing?
SONG: [One] was alleged Bad Granny’s Bazaar. That was in Oklahoma City, and it’s a actual continued drive from Tulsa, so that’s how atrocious I was, award things, because I was award mainly ’90s things, and not absolutely so abundant ’80s. So, there was that, and again there was addition best store. I would go aback like alert a anniversary to accomplish abiding that I didn’t absence anything, and they would get new shipments in all the time. It was alleged Cheap Thrills Vintage, and that was appealing abundant my two go-tos that adored my butt, out there in Oklahoma.
DEADLINE: In chat with Deadline aftermost month, Chung mentioned that it was difficult, at times, to toe the band with this blur amid fiction and nonfiction. While Minari was based on his story, the ancestors on awning was not absolutely his own, at the end of the day. Was accomplishing the appropriate affectionate of antithesis difficult for you, as well, as his collaborator?
SONG: Yeah. I feel that in the beginning, he was actual accessible to my suggestions. But from my point of view, I didn’t apprehend in the alpha that anybody would bell in—which is doable, right? But because this is everyone’s story—especially Christina’s and Steven’s and Isaac’s—everyone capital to bell in. So, my job was to accept to anybody and allay everyone, and affably aloof be like, “That’s affectionate of not activity to work. But what about this instead?” Then, [I was] ambidextrous with the acclimate and continuity, and the actuality that I did accept best pieces, [so] I didn’t accept doubles of everything. And it’s not as if I had the account to appoint my own seamstress. I was my own seamstress, so I aloof didn’t accept the time to body anything.
So, I got [Isaac’s] assessment on what worked. But also, as a guy, he’s apparently not activity to bethink the specific capacity of what his sister wore, or what his mom wore. So, accepting his photo anthology absolutely helped a lot because it was article that I could recognize, and it’s the accent that I speak. Like, a baiter close top, and collapsed advanced pants, and a polo shirt.
DEADLINE: What were the highlights of your time authoritative this film?
SONG: Every day was an chance because I was in a accompaniment that I’d never been to, in acclimate that I had not experienced. This was the aboriginal time [for me] that there were a acceptable bulk of Korean Americans, or Koreans, on the alarm sheet. That aloof fabricated me so proud, aback I saw that. The administration active were Korean, and again there was additionally that cultural claiming of aggravating to accept Korean production, and again additionally accomplishing what I usually do in this industry, what I’m adequate and accustomed with. So, it was a huge acquirements experience. It was body analytic and [you bare to] be able for anything, and be able for added people’s credibility of view, and aloof assignment with anybody as a family. Because that’s basically what this blur was.
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