This week I’m doing something a little different, and updating you all on a project I’ve been working on for a while. Before we do, however, I feel compelled to tell you all a story.
Like many artists, I have anxiety and ADHD. I choose to treat them like assets. ADHD allows me to be a perfectionist and tackle multiple projects from different angles. Anxiety acts like a motivator. However, while I am better adjusted now, throughout middle and high school I had difficulties with them. I usually expressed my anxieties through art, as it was what allowed me to connect with others – it didn’t matter whether or not someone had the same experiences I did exactly, but so long as the feelings could get across to my audience, I felt a sense of victory. Unsurprisingly, I became attached to K-Pop because of its unique way of expressing emotion.
My film teacher in high school gave me a great environment to work in, one in which I could escape from everything else that stressed me out. My freshman year I started editing with K-Pop music videos, particularly BIGBANG, for assignments. One of my videos took a month of work, a video art piece comprised of a number of pop culture references talking explicitly about my anxiety. Looking back on it, it was by far not my best work, but it was an important piece for me in my artistic development.
For the rest of high school I had a safe and secure outlet for everything happening in my life. I spent a lot of time editing K-Pop videos, molding them to match messages I wanted to communicate. My sophomore year, I made a two-part video art piece about the two sides of the K-Pop industry. One was emblematic of the poppy, bright, and happy side we were all accustomed to, the other was a darker piece that was explicitly about artists who either evolved in different ways or struggled to get to where they are (particularly BIGBANG and Super Junior, but with a lot of VIXX mixed in for their Error and Voodoo Doll concepts.) I ended up posting it under the pseudonym Romana Pond, one that I’ve had since I was fourteen to conceal my identity to avoid people finding my location online (there aren’t exactly a lot of people with the last name O’Hop in the United States.)
My anxiety hit its worst point when I was seventeen, for reasons best reserved for another day. However, my friends at the time were very protective me, and I entered therapy. At the same time, BTS was in their Most Beautiful Moment in Life phase. “Run” had just came out, and I sat with a friend at school and started running through all of the connections between that, “I Need U”, and “Prologue”. I watched a couple of theory videos online about what the plot may be, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the stories that were being told. Not that there was anything wrong with them, I just didn’t connect with the fan interpretations in the same way I connected with the music videos.
Thus, Neverland was born.
Neverland was one of my first experiments in narrative filmmaking. I wanted to build a cohesive, concise narrative and tell the story I wanted to tell. Obviously, that’s hard with nonlinear music videos, all of which have different aesthetics. Not only did I have to base my story off of the existing motifs, I had to create my own. One of them turned out to be subtitling – I synced some subtitles with the music in the background or dragged them out longer for maximum impact.
The second motif, however, was much harder. I wanted color to be an important storytelling element, as a way of justifying and connecting the different aesthetics. This required me to go frame by frame and cut certain people out, making them grayscale to explain certain plot elements – particularly, deaths. I had tried a similar effect in my video art pieces before, but it’s a different situation when you have a 40 minute short film as opposed to a 6 and a half minute art piece. However, in spite of the difficulties, I enjoyed working on it. I ended up using this effect in another experimental piece in college, using clips from the K-Drama Blood to depict the relationship between the two main characters. I recommend watching it, but there are spoilers for the show, so if you do want to watch a vampire doctor crime show with an adorable romance…maybe save this video for later.
The editing process ended around the time BTS’s Wings came out. I spent a month trying to get support for the video at my high school, so I could have a screening. Finally, I got permission from the school to show it at a small lunchtime screening in early December. It got fairly good reception from my peers at my small high school. To get a wider audience, I posted it on my pseudonym account. Anyone who met me would know that I was the person behind it, but I was careful not to release that information elsewhere. Besides, I didn’t really care about glory or anything, the satisfaction of other people’s enjoyment was enough. The full movie is below.
Fast forward almost three years later. I’m about to start my third year at NYU Tisch School of the Arts as a Film and Television major. I’m not much of a BTS fan anymore – I just don’t particularly like their new music, and after seeing BIGBANG fall apart from one night to the next, I’m always skeptical when a band becomes that famous. This isn’t out of dislike for the members themselves, I have a lot of respect for them. It’s more about personal taste.
That said, I rewatched Neverland recently. I was still proud of everything I had accomplished, but I realized there was so much I had learned in two years of NYU Film that I felt I could do much better. The story still means a lot to me, and BTS’s music from 2 Cool 4 Skool through You Never Walk Alone will always be among my favorite K-Pop songs. I am still enough of a fan at heart to appreciate what they created.
I still have other projects: a documentary that will be officially announced shortly, and a number of scripts and commissions, not to mention updating Reel K-Pop. But there is a feeling of satisfaction that comes from K-Pop editing that I have honestly missed, since schoolwork tends to pull me away from the personal projects I want to work on. Now that I have time over the summer, even with summer internships, I wanted to get back to what I love: writing and editing.
Which brings us to The Neverland Project. The Neverland Project is a remaster of Neverland, this time in 1080p with (hopefully) better editing. I plan on doing it in episodes as opposed to one full movie, and updating this website on my progress. I’ll also give mini analyses on what my thought process was in how I edited the final product. I plan on uploading a teaser in the very near future, but again, since I have other projects going on and articles to write, that might not be for a while.
My aim with this work is not to take anything away from BTS – instead, I want to show where the heart of BTS’s work was, and where my heart is. I want to show people what K-Pop is, and also what it can be. I want to be an educational resource for film students and enthusiasts. And with any luck, my experience in creating this work will be useful to others who want to find their own voices.