How the director of Squid Game got so good at cinema

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Before Hwang Dong-Hyuk was the “director of Squid Game,” the man behind what is set to become Netflix’s biggest TV series this year, he was a student in a university that claims the who’s who in today’s cinema: the University of Southern California.

Famous USC graduates include “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchise creator George Lucas, one-eyed assassin Elle Driver in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films Daryl Hannah, director of “A Beautiful” films Mind “and” How the Grinch “Stole Christmas” Ron Howard, and “Grease” film director Randal Kleiser.

Hwang joined this illustrious group when he enrolled in an MFA in film production at USC’s School of the Cinematic Arts. By that time, the Seoul native already had a bachelor’s degree in communication from Seoul National University – the country’s most prestigious university – and had credits for writing and directing short films. such as “Our Sad Life” and “A Puff of Smoke”.

“I was very interested in social issues as an undergraduate student, so I often participated in protests,” Hwang told Chosun Ilbo. “I started making movies because I was so frustrated with all of these unresolved social issues that I saw.”

The Squid Game director presented the short film “Miracle Mile” – a story about a South Korean woman searching for her long-lost brother in LA – as a graduation project at USC. But USC is not just a film school – and Hwang would be nothing more than a simple director.

A student skates on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, August 25, 2020. Source: Frederic J. Brown / AFP

Alma mater, director of Squid Game: the house of the greatest

USC is known as an “academic stronghold” in the film arts. Its film school is not only the oldest in the country, it is also one of the best.

From 1973 to 2006, at least one USC graduate was nominated for an Academy Award.

“We would like every student who goes here to have an employable skill,” Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of the school told The New York Times.

The program of the director of Squid Game reflects this. Modules cover projects shot using digital cameras and edited on non-linear systems, cinematic ethics and the post-production of an original episodic drama, shot on original sets on stage and on location, for n to name a few. It is a combination of theory and practice, using a camera, lighting a set, and learning movie or television theory.

A seminar, for example, contains a “detailed investigation and discussion of various aspects of television, including genre, textual analysis, production and distribution systems, and audience research.”

Ask the graduates, however, and some will say that the most valuable part of their film school is the projects they do. As a graduate student, Hwang would have to direct several films to graduate. The Squid Game director’s student project short “Miracle Mile” has reportedly been screened at over 40 film festivals and won the DGA Student Film Award from the Directors Guild of the United States.

Lucas also directed several short films during his time at USC. These include “Electronic Labyrinth: THX-1138: 4EB”, winner of the 1967-68 National Student Film Festival.


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