Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Education Abroad", a mini K-drama filmed at CMU.

Season 1, Episode 1, from December 2012. Links to other episodes are found on Terry Song's YouTube channel.

An errant Google search recently turned up Terry Song's "Education Abroad", a mini Korean-language drama series filmed and set in Carnegie Mellon University over the past year. Song is a Pittsburgh native and built the cast for "the dramatic story of two fated lovers who meet in high school and are reunited in college" from local Korean students. There are ten episodes of the English-subtitled series across two seasons and running on YouTube. A series synopsis, from the February 2012 Kickstarter campaign page:
The show is about Danny Han and Heejung Kim. Two seniors who meet in high school and fall in love. Though Heejung is a new foreign exchange student from Korea, Danny is able to make a connection with her. However, when Heejung's father finds out that Danny is from a poor immigrant family with no high ranking name and can't even speak Korean, he quickly rejects their love and sends Heejung back to Korea. Although she cannot forget about Danny, she does as her father wishes, but returns to America for college at a prestigious international university. Danny, heart-broken, vows to never let something like this happen to him again, and goes to Korea himself as soon as he graduates. There he gets a tutoring job teaching English. He returns to America for college about a year later with a firm grasp of the language, culture, and even a Korean name. But what the two never expected was seeing each other again, as they both happen to attend the same prestigious international university!
Terry was kind enough to answer a few questions by email this week:

On deciding to film a Korean drama here:
Ever since I saw my first Korean drama several years back, I was inspired by the touching characters and complex plots. I very much enjoyed the concept and wanted to inspire people the way I was inspired. Initially, I didn't plan to make "Education Abroad", but came up with the idea when I was a member of the CMU TV Club and was bored with the current club activities. After pitching the idea of a Korean drama to the president and later the general body, I was given the green-light to move forward and begin production with the other members.

In order to film the series, part of the plan was to stay inside the realm of possible. We had the setting; Carnegie Mellon University, as well as the actors; CMU being an strong Asian student oriented school. All we needed was the will and determination to actually do it. Therefore I built the entire "Education Abroad" world around CMUs campus. Everything you see in the show (aside from a few off-location scenes such as Danny and Heejung's homes) was shot on campus.

"It was a producer's dream in terms of location scouting. A truly beautiful campus." I once said.

Casting as well was primarily done at CMU. Both lead actors Scott and Karen were students there. Later Jaegang, also a CMU student, as well as Judy and Yeyong, from our neighbor school Pitt, joined the cast for season 2.

Unfortunately, due to later internal affairs within the club, the show was cancelled four episodes in. After a few months hiatus, I reassembled the cast and a new crew of my own and resumed production. This is why there are two seasons that premiered back to back and a notable difference in production quality in the second season.

On his audience and the feedback received thus far:
At first, our audience was simply the students who attended CMU. As the campus TV club we planned to air the show on a weekly basis. I never really planned to air it on youtube instead, but am glad it turned out that way. My target audience is hard to say. I wanted to reach out to anyone who loved Korean dramas or culture, in short, and I think I have. Many of the people who watched the show were from other countries. They were people all around the world who loved Kdramas, a truly diverse audience. The fact that I could reach out to them made me happy.

Feedback has been mostly positive. Everyone has been really nice and has given the episodes a lot of likes and comments. I didn't think it would be received so positively. I'm very grateful thus far.

On some of his favorite Korean TV series:
When I first started watching dramas I began with the classics. I watched the Endless Love series; Autumn In My Heart, Winter Sonata, Summer Scent, and Spring Waltz. I loved each one. I've seen a lot of others since then. Some of my favorites are "Secret Garden", "Snow Queen", "Stairway to Heaven", "Iris", along with others. Have they influenced "Education Abroad"? I would say definitely. In fact, the show would not exist without their influence.
You can watch the series on YouTube and can find Terry Song's other projects on his Facebook page.