Gyu Kim describes herself as a ‘creative hybrid’ and this description works on a few different levels. She’s a creative concept developer, video art director and editor for digital and integrated media, she’s both Korean as well as German and likes to keep her expertise varied. She loves working in both traditional and ‘digital’ advertising, but loves to put storytelling at the heart of everything she does.
Born and raised in Germany, she moved to Seoul in 2013. And nowadays she’s a creative director at Cheil Worldwide.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Gyu.
LBB> You've ended up as a self-described 'creative hybrid' - where did the path towards combining technology and creativity begin?
Gyu> I majored in media production with a focus on film. But in the first two years everybody had to take mandatory courses like media culture, management, audio visual technology, system development (coding), graphics and obviously filmmaking - just to name a few. Even though I didn’t necessarily like to program a database or learn how to operate a professional sound studio, it made a big impact on my own creative process, the way I come up with ideas or handle a project. The more interdisciplinary your base knowledge is, the better in my opinion. And in my case I found it extremely beneficial to know how to execute, shoot, edit, animate, colour correct or record sound to be able to navigate my project into the right direction.
LBB> How did you get into filmmaking and editing?
Gyu> The life story:
I grew up watching a lot of Korean movies with my parents. These days Korean movies are popular world-wide. But growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s in Germany, nobody knew about Korean entertainment nor was there a lot of access to it. But usually in immigrant communities, there is always someone who knows someone who has a shop somewhere where you can get a video copy of the newest movie. So in my family we celebrated watching movies as something special and I think it naturally shaped my interest in film and storytelling. In the process of my studies and career I realised that editing is such a powerful part of storytelling. And I found myself sitting in front of my laptop exploring different ways to tell the same story hours on end. Just like in other areas of life sometimes what matters more is not what you say but how you say it. For me, how you tell a story is defined through how it is edited.
The career story:
The ‘career story’ would be that after university I interned at an ad agency as the assistant to the (film) director. The only question he asked me was ‘can you edit?’ and when I answered ‘yes’ I was hired. I always liked editing but after a while I decided to change my path and pursue a career as a creative. But editing was like a boomerang. It kept coming back into my life whether I wanted it or not. So I naturally incorporated it more and more into my everyday work as a creative and now 14 years later I am still editing a lot of my projects and I love it very much.
LBB> What project or role helped you most to figure out the sort of creativity that you excel in?
Gyu> Looking back, more than any project or role it was problem solving in a high pressure situation. That sort of situation where you try to do anything in your power to to turn it around.
When I was an art director we flew to Paris to shoot this big TV spot. After the shooting everyone flew back and I was left to oversee the editing process on my own. But sometimes things don’t work out as well as you would hope and to avoid getting fired I sat down and edited it myself over night. As fast as I could. And that version was aired shortly after. That was one of those boomerang moments I referred to earlier. At that point I didn’t touch an edit for maybe seven years, but after that I never really stopped. Because it is hard to describe an idea or your vision in a way that everyone has the same understanding. Especially when working on a TVC production there are so many people involved that any tool to make your vision clearer and more tangible will help to avoid the chain reaction of misinterpretations. Even today as a creative director, I still edit sometimes when I feel the need to clarify certain situations. And it has always been a very helpful tool to talk about something as abstract as creative work.
LBB> What motivated your move to Cheil in Seoul in 2013? And what was the contrast like having lived and worked in Germany?
Gyu> When the opportunity presented itself to me to start working at Cheil in Seoul I was living and working in Berlin. I thought about it for about a year. The reason why I eventually decided to pack up all my belongings and move 8,122 km to Seoul was because I wanted to experience Korea. Being born and raised in Germany my experience in Seoul was limited to the occasional summer holidays I spent with family. I spoke the language but never had a life here. On top of that mobile tech was an area I never worked in so I was curious to give it a try.
There are so many contrasts when comparing the work/life in Seoul to Germany. Apart from cultural differences, work is a much bigger part of life in Seoul than in Germany. I have never worked as many hours as in Seoul but on the other side I have never been as passionate about my work.
LBB> What work are you most proud of in your career?
Gyu> There’s no specific project or award I am ‘proud’ of. Honestly, we are not saving lives in advertising. But on a personal note I come close to saying that I am proud that I made the move to Seoul and that by bringing in my multicultural background into the mix might have changed one or two minds about the work process here. And obviously this goes both ways. This might sound a bit cliché but I really think moving to another country, being exposed to new environments and being challenged by new cultures is such an eye opener not only as a creative but overall as a person. It’s not always easy but it's worth it.
LBB> Outside of work, what's inspiring you right now?
Gyu> Many things are inspiring to me for different reasons. But what will always be the most inspiring are the people around me. Some might disagree with me, but I have never met more passionate people than in Korea. Even though I’m not a specialist, I find the Korean system harder for people who don’t want to live the ‘typical’ life. The rule of thumb is to graduate from school, get a college degree, find a good job, get married and have a family. And I am not implying that either or is better or worse but compared to let’s say Berlin it feels much harder to deviate from that path, be different, to have different goals or to ‘follow your dream’. So when I talk to people who chose to take another route, I feel the passion behind it because it was that much harder and riskier. Whether it is my friend who recently opened a gay bar in Seoul, or another one who is persuing his music career, or another who found the courage to get out of the big company to open up their own little design studio, all these little businesses and stories make Seoul one of the most vibrant and inspiring cities in the world to me.