How Bong Joon-ho’s Storyboards for Parasite (Now Published as a Graphic Novel) Meticulously Shaped the Acclaimed Film

In Seoul, where I live, the suc­cess of Bong Joon-ho’s Par­a­site at this year’s Acad­e­my Awards — unprece­dent­ed for a non-Amer­i­can film, let alone a Kore­an one — did not go unno­ticed. But even then, the cel­e­bra­tion had already been under­way at least since the movie won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Some­thing of a home­com­ing for Bong after Snow­piercer and Okja, two projects made whol­ly or par­tial­ly abroad, Par­a­site takes place entire­ly in Seoul, stag­ing a socioe­co­nom­ic grudge match between three fam­i­lies occu­py­ing stark­ly dis­parate places in the human hier­ar­chy. The denoue­ment is chaot­ic, but arrived at through the pre­ci­sion film­mak­ing with which Bong has made his name over the past two decades.

When Par­a­site’s sto­ry­boards were pub­lished in graph­ic-nov­el form here a few months ago, I noticed ads in the sub­way promis­ing a look into the mind of “Bong­tail.” Though Bong has pub­licly declared his con­tempt for that nick­name, it has nev­er­the­less stuck as a reflec­tion of his metic­u­lous way of work­ing.

The son of a graph­ic design­er, he grew up not just watch­ing movies but draw­ing comics, a prac­tice that would lat­er place him well to cre­ate his own sto­ry­boards. In so doing he assem­bles an entire film in his mind before shoot­ing its first frame (a work­ing process not dis­sim­i­lar to that of West­ern film­mak­ers like the Coen broth­ers), which enables him and his col­lab­o­ra­tors to exe­cute com­plex sequences such as what the Nerd­writer calls Par­a­site’s “per­fect mon­tage.”

With the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Par­a­site: A Graph­ic Nov­el in Sto­ry­boards now avail­able, video essay­ists like Thomas Flight have made com­par­isons between Bong’s draw­ings and the film. Start­ing with that cel­e­brat­ed mon­tage, Flight shows that, where the final prod­uct departs from its plan, it usu­al­ly does so to sim­pli­fy the hand-drawn action, mak­ing it more leg­i­ble and ele­gant. In the short video just above, you can watch one minute of Par­a­site lined up with its cor­re­spond­ing sto­ry­board pan­els, one of which incor­po­rates a pho­to­graph of the real Seoul neigh­bor­hood in which Bong locat­ed the main char­ac­ters’ home. This is rich sto­ry­board­ing indeed, but in his intro­duc­tion to the book, Bong explains that he does­n’t con­sid­er it essen­tial to film­mak­ing, just essen­tial to him: “I actu­al­ly sto­ry­board to quell my own anx­i­ety.” Would that we could all draw world­wide acclaim from doing the same.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Secret of the “Per­fect Mon­tage” at the Heart of Par­a­site, the Kore­an Film Now Sweep­ing World Cin­e­ma

Mar­tin Scors­ese Intro­duces Film­mak­er Hong Sang­soo, “The Woody Allen of Korea”

Watch More Than 400 Clas­sic Kore­an Films Free Online Thanks to the Kore­an Film Archive

How the Coen Broth­ers Sto­ry­board­ed Blood Sim­ple Down to a Tee (1984)

Aki­ra Kuro­sawa Paint­ed the Sto­ry­boards For Scenes in His Epic Films: Com­pare Can­vas to Cel­lu­loid

Rid­ley Scott Demys­ti­fies the Art of Sto­ry­board­ing (and How to Jump­start Your Cre­ative Project)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.