We had the good fortune of connecting with Heewon Jeong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heewon, why did you pursue a creative career?
Because I want to tell stories, in the form of art!
The strongest memory I have for my childhood is all of my family going to the video store and always borrow the same “Winnie the Pooh” series. Then I, as a child, was always excited and draw all different kinds of pooh, and sometimes the rabbit, who is my favorite. That was my every early memory of art.
Kids days went fast and the next chapter of my life was “good girl” who only cares about the grade. Because I wanted to talk too many things to people and I thought that was what smart people do. During Junior-high, I aimed to be the smartest kid in the class and only cared about my grade. And then, boom! On the midterm day in high school freshman year, I just could not walk to school because of the pressure.
That was when I realized. Talking to people was my goal, not “being smart”. I obsessed with only the method, not the means. From then, I start to watch all kinds of media that I can resonate with and tried to figure out who I really am and what I really want. The final goal for me was that I want to draw and my drawing can tell people.
Animation is a great mixture of moving images, real lives, stories, all the different forms of art, and drawing. Also, that is a category which “Winnie the Pooh” is.
The drawings and stories, the designs and animating, and all of the other components merge together to send a message to the audience. That is what animation is meant to and that is exactly what I want to do for my career.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Storyboarding is somehow like drawing comics for the film. You get a script and you have to visualize it. Think about the characters. From characters’ acting choices, type of shots, the mood, the compositions, and most of everything you see in a film shot, should be considered in storyboarding process. It is not easy. You will get a lot of critique and notes, sometimes, you spent a whole week and it just can be gone in one second. You might compare yourself to others. I made a short film in my senior year in college and in doing so, I have experienced all of those harsh processes and as a working professional in the art industry, I still have to deal with all of the stages. Sometimes, you get sad because you are at the level you want. You might cry over critique or note. Even back in school, you have to work literally every day including weekends and it could be still not the best.
What I want to say is that it is okay. You will learn. It is not a “failure”. It is a “journey” to success. Bad work is the process of making a masterpiece!
There is no such thing as “huge failure”. There is nothing like “critical” or “fatal” failure. You know what? You can always fix it. If they do not like it, or they give tons of notes you have to fix, that is okay! Everything you will experience teaches you.
During the process of making a thesis film, I was really depressed. My work was not the best, I got rejection emails every week, and the money problem was always there. It seemed like that I have no control over my life and felt like I messed my life up. No, but I have the control and I could fix it. I reworked on shots for the film. I updated my portfolio. I canceled my installment saving account which now makes me work harder. I am still not in the “best” status and had never been. However, it is okay. Everything is a learning experience and all of these make my story.
Back to the storyboard, I wanted to talk a bit more about shots. Close-up shots, over the shoulder, upshot (low angle), and even more. There are a lot of different kinds of shots functioning all differently. When you do a storyboard, you have to know how they make the mood and tone and find the best one that suits your story. For example, let’s say there is a strong guy there. We want to show how strong he is. It would not work if the camera looks down at him making him smaller. It would be better to bring the camera lower than him and make him bigger, taller, and stronger. That is the fun part. We can change the mood or tone with just only different camera angles.
Life is like that. If we set our story as a very moody, sad, and depressing camera, it would be like that. However, even with the same setting and character, we can change the whole mood and genre only with just. changing camera angles. When I feel like I am so pathetic, I try to think of it as a comedy. Then, “pathetic” is not the depressing sad drama word anymore. It can be in a line in the comedy movie, which is my life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oregon is such a cool city. To be real honest, it has been about only a month I have moved to, however, I loved the city so much already. I am living around the Beaverton area which is close to my work in Hillsboro. This is my first time living on the West Coast!
Definitely downtown Portland should come first. I first want to walk around the downtown street with gelato ice cream. Portland has lots of famous ice cream places. Last week, I walked on that street and saw the line for the gelato place which I could not see the end. Walking on the street, seeing all the beautiful trees, feeling the wind and the sun without humidity and gelato can be some of the best ways to start an amazing day! Also, there are lots of amazing restaurants around that area so you can pick any sort of food and have that for lunch! My personal favorite is sushi as a huge seafood fan.
Portland Japanese garden is another place for must-go. Oregon’s driver’s place has a tree on it and you will see why. There are hundreds of different kinds of trees. Some of them are small and cute and some of them are taller than some apartments. It is such a refreshing experience to see amazing nature. Also, sitting there and drawing all trees are one of the biggest inspiration here in Oregon. There are gardens full of flowers. Especially, the roses are incredibly beautiful. Seeing nature and all the people having fun there is a pretty awesome experience which I highly recommend.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Definitely my family! It is such a cliche answer but it is. It is not because they support me to the fullest or love me always. It is because that they showed their own way to solve problems. They have their own problems with their lives. Sometimes it is not involved with parenting and sometimes it is. Life is not always rainbow and unicorns, big problems come together, the money ran out, and there are some horrible days. However, observing how they deal with problems and humps has inspired me and at the same time, motivated me to keep working. As grown-up themselves, and as a parent of two girls, they live their own life. That is how they support me. Not only my family but also all of my friends, faculty, and almost literally I met in my life helped me in all different forms. My Korean friends, who can overcome 14 hours of time gap are the reason that I never shatter. Four years at Ringling College of Art and Design also shaped me as a strong and persistent person. Most of all, all the people I met always make me realized how important all the relationship is for work, and for life.
Also, Luise Rinser’s “Mitte Des Lebens” had led me here and it will lead me forever. That was the book I read in my junior year in high school and that keeps me forever motivated and try my best. Nina, the central character of the book encounters the challenges of life and as she survives with all the humps, she establishes her own identity. She has been my role model and forever she will be.