Chung-hoon Chung, who was born in 1970 in Seoul, South Korea, started out as a child actor and cinephiles everywhere can be thankful that he turned out to be “a horrible one — really bad.”
After 10 years of emoting while attending Dongguk U. in 1990 as theater major, he turned his focus on cinematography, directing three shorts and learning the ropes. During his senior year, he made his debut as cinematographer on a feature called “Yuri.”
“It was based on a famous Korean novel, and they had no money to hire a real d.p., so I jumped at the chance,” he recalls.
“Yuri” was invited to Cannes and Chung’s career seemed set to take off. Instead, he struggled for several years to establish himself. “First, I had to do the mandatory military service for two years, and then I couldn’t get any work for five years.”
Chung also became a victim of Korea’s strict hierarchy in the camera realm.
“You’re supposed to work your way up from the bottom, but as I started off as a d.p., the camera society rejected me, and I considered quitting and opening an ice-cream shop,” he admits.
He got his big break shooting Park Chan-wook’s 2003 thriller, “Oldboy.” Chung has since shot all of Park’s films including Nicole Kidman starrer “Stoker,” his first English-language feature, which debuted at Sundance.
In its review Variety says Chung “appears to be channeling photographer Gregory Crewdson’s eerily high-key Americana in his lighting schemes.”
“My goal is always to translate the director’s imagination into images and give the actors a comfortable working environment,” says Chung, who’s currently based in L.A. where he’s studying English. “I have a lot of work and offers in Korea, but I’d really like to stay and work in America now.”
Favorite tool: “I love Arricam and 35mm. I don’t dislike digital but I much prefer shooting in 35mm though I know I’ll have to make the change now as it’s all going digital.”
Inspiration: “Martin Scorsese’s films really influenced me, especially ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Taxi Driver.’ And I love Sam Peckinpah’s movies. ‘The Wild Bunch’ is a favorite.”
Representation: WME’s Jasan Pagni, Devin Mann, Holly Jeter