‘Wedding Palace’: A Conversation with Christine Yoo

by | February 2, 2014 at 1:27 PM | Cinema Asian America, XFINITY ASIA, Xfinity On Demand

Christine Yoo’s “Wedding Palace.”

This month, Cinema Asian America on Xfinity On Demand presents Christine Yoo’s long-awaited, screwball-romantic-family comedy, “Wedding Palace.” Shot in both the US and Korea, and boasting a who’s-who of American and Korean comedic talent, “Palace” follows the exploits of soon-to-be 30 year-old Jason (Brian Tee, “Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift”), as he desperately attempts to find a suitable mate, to avoid a family curse that threatens to kill him lest he is married before his third decade. A hysterical (and hilarious) family stages various interventions, all of which cause more panic and problems than necessary.

When he meets Na Young (Kang Hye-Jung, “Oldboy”) during a business trip to Korea, right in the nick of time, all seems well….except there is a small detail about herself that she’s withheld which threatens to unravel everything.

Teeming with talent (and featuring a cast including Margaret Cho and Bobby Lee) and carrying a madcap, kinetic comedic energy, “Wedding Palace” takes the wedding film to quite another level.

In “Wedding Palace” you’ve made a madcap, relationship comedy starring, as you have described, “The Kims, America’s Craziest Family.” What was the starting point, the comedic kernel for the film that you built out from?

CY: My own extended family – my dad, my uncles, they’re some of the funniest people I know. It’s not so much that the personalities found in the film are directly inspired from my family (I have each of the actors to thank for channeling their own relatives), it’s more the idea of a tight knit family all up in your business!

Also, I just love comedies and just wanted to entertain people. Some of my favorites are Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” and Steve Martin’s “The Jerk,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Tropic Thunder” are all big influences.

Your leads are the American actor Brian Tee, who we’ve seen in “Wolverine” and “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift”, and Hye-jung Kang, a Korean actress perhaps best well known in the US for her role in Park Chan-wook’s original “Old Boy.” What drew you to these two as the romantic core of the film?

CY: When I saw Brian Tee co-leading “Fast & Furious” I felt he had the charisma to carry a leading role. Most people know Kang internationally from “Oldboy,” but the role I loved her in was from the Korean hit film “Welcome to Dongmakgol.” She had this magic that reminded me of Audrey Tatou in “Amelie.”

“Wedding Palace” looks at the kind of cultural gulfs and gaffes which Asian Americans, as often arbiters of two different cultures might stumble into. The film itself is also a co-production between the US and Korea; can you discuss what it actually means to have a film financed between two countries, and how this impacts the storytelling?

CY: As far as the storyline, not much. As far as the actual production, the film is truly a hybrid. Working in Korea had a huge positive impact on the film. The LA production was shot like a Hollywood union film, with U.S. cinematographer, Ernest Holzman, ASC, and shot on 35mm in Panavision. At the time we shot the LA leg, the transition to digital was happening so we were able to get a great deal on film stock and cameras. I think “Wedding Palace” may be one of the last truly low budget indie films shot with 35mm. Creatively, we established the overall look in the US. The Korean team took the film to another level. There, we shot the film with an all Korean crew in the Korean production system. I especially loved working with the Assistant Directing and Production Design teams in Korea. We edited and did the final sound mix in the US, but the CG work, animation sequences and color correction was done in Korea. Musically too, the film is a real mash-up hybrid of the two countries, which is now also released as a soundtrack on iTunes.

You have a cast loaded with a who’s who of Korean American actors and comedians, including Bobby Lee and Margaret Cho, Kelvin Han Yee, Joy Osmanski and more. Can you talk about this showcase of talent you’ve assembled?

CY: I loved working with this cast. We had a blast, especially shooting the scenes involving the family members. Those scenes were loosely scripted because I wanted plenty of room for improv, which is exactly what happened. Yes, we had some familiar names, but I’m also really excited for audiences to discover new faces too. Charles Kim who played the “Professor Uncle” (the guy with the big glasses) always sparked the improv, and then Stephen Park would build on that and then Nancy J. Lee would also add her own flavor. It was an organic process. Shooting the film was very difficult, but what kept me going through the struggles were the cast performances. They would just make me laugh and I knew other people would laugh at it too.

What are you working on next?

CY: A new feature I’m starting to cast.