Officially Selected Alumni Interviews

Julie Joohee Jeon: Lift-Off Short Listed Season Awards Filmmaker Interview

Julie Joohee Jeon is a first-time director and a film composer who has worked on renowned films based in South Korea. She’s also a singer-songwriter and music director. Growing up in Vancouver, Canada as a Korean-Canadian, Julie has always been passionate about storytelling through the power of music and film.

Julie’s directorial debut, Happen to Happen, follows Noori’s journey as she tries to return her friend, Sena’s cat, Tori. In this charming and adventurous tale, things take an unexpected turn when Noori mistakenly hops into a driving school car instead of a taxi, leaving her stranded in an unfamiliar town.

Happen to Happen screened at the Paris Lift-Off Film Festival. We interviewed director Julie Joohee Jeon to hear a little more about how this film came to be, and her path as a filmmaker.

Happen to Happen has been short-listed for Best Feature Film for the 2023 Lift-Off Season Awards.

Interview by Ollie Baines

What is your film about? And why did you want to make it?

Happen to Happen is a heartwarming road movie that explores the theme of personal growth and the unexpected journeys that shape our lives. The story follows Noori, a woman on her way to her destination with her friend’s cat, Tori. However, things don’t go as planned. Through Noori’s journey, the film illustrates the transformative power of embracing the unexpected and learning from our experiences, even when they don’t go according to plan.

“The film’s central idea is that while we may have a clear goal in mind, the path we take to get there can be full of surprises, mistakes, and unforeseen events. However, these obstacles often serve as opportunities for growth and change.

“The intention is to convey that we will eventually reach our goals, but the process and the path may be different than what we initially thought, and sometimes even better. Sometimes taking a wrong turn can lead to the right destination. Through Noori’s character development throughout the film, the audience should feel a sense of warmth.

“In addition to the theme of personal growth, ‘Happen to Happen’ also emphasises the importance of human connection and the role that others play in our lives. The film highlights the idea that we are all interconnected, and our lives are enriched by the relationships we form with others, be they human or otherwise.

“Overall, Happen to Happen is a heartfelt and uplifting exploration of the human experience, celebrating the beauty of life’s unpredictable journey and the power of human connection, even in the face of mistakes, accidents, and unexpected events.”

Who are your 3 biggest filmmaking inspirations and why?

“Wes Anderson’s distinctive approach to filmmaking is a constant source of inspiration, particularly in the realms of camera angles and colour usage. His meticulous attention to visual detail and symmetrical framing in films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom has set a high standard for cinematography. The vibrant and carefully curated colour palettes in his work add another layer of storytelling, making his films not just visually striking but also emotionally resonant.

“Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films are known for their unique ability to convey genuine human emotions and relationships. The slow, deliberate pace of his storytelling allows for a deep and natural feeling to permeate his works. I had the opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival in 2023, where I watched Kore-eda’s latest film, Monster, while I was working in colour post-production work. The experience left me profoundly inspired.

“Park Chan-wook’s masterful use of colour, camera angles, and production design in films like Decision to Leave, The Handmaiden, and many of his other films, has been a profound source of inspiration for my project. His distinctive style has had a lasting impact and has significantly influenced my creative vision for this film.”

What is next for you as a filmmaker?

“In the next phase of my journey as a filmmaker, I’m excited to bring my latest project to life. The current title for this project is ‘ReLying’. I’ve completed the script, and I’ll be pitching it with the goal of shooting it next year. Over the course of the year, I’ll be dedicated to refining the script to ensure it encapsulates the vision I have for it.

“What makes this project particularly intriguing is its unique blend of suspense with a thought-provoking exploration of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and the ways in which media can influence our perceptions and behaviours. This combination promises to offer audiences a fresh and engaging cinematic experience that challenges prevailing norms.

“However, this is just the beginning. I have more ideas for future projects, each with its own distinct voice and message. So, I invite you to stay tuned and keep an eye on my work as I continue to explore new frontiers in storytelling and filmmaking. I can’t wait to share them with the world. Thank you for your support and interest in my creative journey!”

Don’t forget to view the complete Winners and Special Mentions and Shortlisted Season Awards Filmmakers list from Paris Lift-Off Film Festival.