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Issues with the Korean Drama Industry

December 10, 2015

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So, this is a video we’ve been wanting to do for a while now. A couple of times we talked about the dark sides of the Kpop Industry, including being overworked, as well as being screwed into slave contracts. We’ve kind of stepped away from kpop since then, but now we’d like to draw our attention to the Korean Drama industry, and just how evil and insane it is as well.

Now, while we didn’t act in any Korean Dramas, we did have a few experience with Korean film crews, on just a small scale, and it soured us quite a bit, to the point that we pretty much turn down almost all offers to do Korean TV now unless we’re protected so that we don’t film in the same conditions that most Korean TV shows film. We’re not asking for limos and jars full of only blue jellybeans, but we do ask for three meals a day and to not film more than 12 hours at a time. Before we had these demands, though, and our few tiny experiences were enough for us to know that Korean TV production is a bit too poisonous and didn’t give a shit about the wellbeing of anyone involved, so long as the video is finished.

Story time: a few years ago we did a video shoot for some kimchi refrigerators. We were supposed to do five different shoots in five different locations. On the day of the fourth shoot, they decided that they wanted to shoot two episodes in one day. To do so, we’d have to start earlier and film longer. We agreed beforehand to be paid a daily rate, and so now they wanted to get as much bang for their buck as possible. That day they picked us up at around 5AM. We got in the car and drove for roughly three hours to the location, somewhere between Seoul and Busan. They said we had to film quickly, so we didn’t have time to stop for breakfast.

Us: But, hey, we’re hungry, it’s first thing in the morning. Do you have any snacks or anything in the car?
Them: Nope. Gotta keep driving.
Us: Well, we’ve been driving for a while now, can we stop to use the bathroom, and while we’re at it pick up some snacks.
Them: Sorry, we don’t have time for that.
Us: Ok then, will we eat when we get to the location?
Them: Yeah yeah, sure sure.

But that was a lie. We drove up to the location, the cameraman jumped out and started setting up while we went to the washroom. When we came back they said it’s time to film.

Us: What? We just got here. We didn’t even eat yet. We’re starving and exhausted. I’ll need at least a coffee to wake up.
Them: No time. Start filming. We’ll eat after.
Us: But we’re going to film here for a couple of hours. I can’t start the day on an empty stomach and go five freaking hours without eating.
Them: I’m sorry, but that’s what we have to do. Let’s go.

Fuck that. No, we didn’t go. I told the guy in charge we’ll film once we’re taken care of. I didn’t want a full course meal in Downton Abbey, but I needed something! A sandwich at the convenience store, anything, dammit! The guy in charge didn’t agree, and reminded us that he’s not hired to be our father to take care of us; he’s there to get the video done. So I told him to do the video without us.

We waited in the car for 45 minutes while the other car went out and got food for us. Fortunately the driver brought food for the other people on set, and everyone got a chance to eat. Oddly, though, nobody else protested beforehand, but nobody turned down the food when it came. Sure, we were seen as assholes thinking only about ourselves. Everyone is making sacrifices! Everyone has it tough! Why would we want to be treated better than everyone else? But that wasn’t the case. I wanted everyone to be treated well, but just because everyone accepts shitty working conditions doesn’t mean I’m going to do the same.

Afterwards, the guy in charge was terrible to us, threatened to not pay us, was difficult on set and scowling, and wouldn’t talk to us directly. Fine by me. Maybe in the future he’ll learn to schedule in time for people to be taken care of. Or maybe he’ll just refuse to work with foreigners ever again. Hell if I know.

I definitely sympathize for the Han Ye-seul for leaving mid-shooting of her drama, and I’m appalled that so many people complained that what she did hurt the drama. Why are people talking about the drama as if it’s more sacred than people’s health and wellbeing? Why are people treating dramas as if they’re above treating people decently? I’m appalled whenever I hear about actors fainting, but I’m more appalled when people praise them for toughing it out instead of standing up for themselves. Stop telling actors “fighting!” when you hear about how terribly they’re getting treated. Stop telling them to keep on being abused and worked almost to death, literally almost to death, so you could be entertained. What you should start doing is start telling them to get the fuck out of there and start taking care of themselves. We should care more about their health as people than we care about their portrayal of characters.

Since we’ve just about stopped working with Korean production companies, we have done some work with film crews from other countries, and we’ve also spoken with friends that work in the industry in countries that we haven’t worked with. All of them are appalled by Korea’s work conditions. And though that doesn’t make their country’s tv industry shining beacons of integrity and ethics, I think we can all acknowledge that the Korean Drama industry is sick and ethically bankrupt. I don’t want to support it anymore.

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Issues with the Korean Drama Industry

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  1. I been a fan for Korean dramas for some time now. Or should I say I kinda grew up with them, although this wasn’t the only media that I watched growing up since I am from the States and all. I could call myself a fangirl but I am the thinking type even if I have would have the typical fangirl behaviors and such.

    I started running a blog about reviewing Korean dramas although it’s no longer just about reviewing dramas but that was my original intent when I started out.To make the long story short the more I started to get involved with my blog, the more I started to question how everything operates when it comes to Korean dramas. I think the first time being exposed to the not so good side to Korean entertainment was with the Korean boyband EXO….that’s when I started to see the light. After that initial exposure of what was so wrong about Korean entertainment made me look into it even further. The more I did my research regarding the subject I began to see a lot of problems with the industry itself.

    I realized that the Korean idol singers were overworked, underpaid and basically were treated like slaves. After being exposed to what was so wrong about EXO, it didn’t stop there. I realized that this was the case with a lot of the Korean idols; both male and female. After knowing this fact I thought to myself, “Wow, these idols work in such hard conditions, I am so glad that the actors in Korea have it so much better.” This is what I thought initially until my dream was shattered once I found out that the actors were overworked, underpaid and basically treated like slaves just like the pop singers. The actors didn’t have it any better except for a few big names.

    I felt so sad finding out such a dire fact about the working conditions in Korea.I thought it was just the idol singers but the actors weren’t exempt from this either. I have so many actors I like in Korea, even more so than idol singers. There are many actors in Korea that do have the potential but then they are held back because the industry is so messed up. The creativity is so staled that they crank out cliched dramas every year like hotcakes but I think they should start thinking about quality instead of quantity.

    There are times when I feel that some of the actors that I do respect a lot should go to other countries like America, Canada, Europe or even Japan. Lately, I heard actors indirectly expressing their feelings towards the work that they are doing and I don’t blame them. I think they should have a union or something to protect their rights. When I read an article somewhere about actors protesting in front of the tv station because they were getting ripped off and not getting paid, this shocked me utterly. A developed nation like South Korea shouldn’t be treating their workers this way. It’s so unfortunate that the actors/actresses I care about have to be treated this way……..The actors/actresses in Korea need to take the matter into their own hands other wise this will keep happening….

    1 year ago
  2. Just an asian drama fan here.I have a question regarding eating scenes in, well,lets say in korean dramas. I was delighted to see food was being actually been eaten in eating scenes. Wheras in the american equivelent, food is just used as a prop. I will the main reason for this is having to do multiple takes.Of course there will be
    excptions in both cases. So do they have multple takes in korean dramas?
    But looking at the video, and reading the article, and the comments, i wonder if the reason food is eaten so enthusistically in korean dramas, is because that’s the first time the actors have had anything to eat. Put it another way, are actors delibretly not allowed to eat, so that when it comes to eating scenes they can look more realistic.

    On characters suddenly falling for each other, when there didn’t seem to be any connection before. I’m not sure if I have saw anything like that. But in Protect the boss, even though the lead actress liked two guys, she suddenly (to me it seemed sudden)went for one guy over the other. But I never saw any indication that she would choose this guy. Later on, she gives a sort of explanation of why she chose him. But it’s always better to show than tell. Still, how many times have you seen on hollywood movies, people kissing 15 minutes after meeting. I have to say that in the majority of korean dramas I’ve watched, and I’ve been watching them for about 5 years now, when it comes to kissing scenes, make me delighted, because of the story. Wheras kissing scenes in hollywood movies just leave me cold. Of course there will be exceptions. Okay I’m comparing a movie to a drama. So it’s not really fair. But I’ve just had this wild notion, wth no real evidence to back it up. Asian movies and American dramas don’t for the most part have love scenes, wheras Korean dramas, and american movies do.
    I’m prepared to be shot down.

    1 year ago
  3. eva

    I`ve been watching Korean dramas already 3 years, and I was wandering how they were produced bc the fishy stuff in the storylines and so. I was quite shocked after I found it out how it goes usually. Still hard to beleive it. There are 2 dramas that I`ve seen recently, that kind of deal with this subject, more in a humorous and (maybe critically ironic way): “The King of Dramas” and “The Producers”. The Producers is more about reality through. I just finished “The Village Achiara`s Secret” recently, where the script was finished actually before they started to film. At least that what I`ve red somewhere. Loved this show. I hope that change is really coming to the Korean drama industry and we are going to enjoy more and more smarter storylines (not like Heirs, which was awful from the start – agreed), and of course, better conditions for the actors and filming crew.

    1 year ago
  4. Sadly, I wouldn’t get far in that industry. I’d be callin in sick all the time. Like last week. I had a cough, so I called in. Course, I work in a factory so my cough would have just gotten worse.

    1 year ago
  5. I’ve had a lot of experience in Hollywood, from major film productions (Tarantino, Scorsese, Cameron Crowe) to small-scale stuff like commercials and even indie projects, and I can unequivocally say that these Korean companies are full of shit when they claim things must be done the way they are done in Korea. The industry here isn’t perfect, of course, but if it can manage to be arguably the most significant film and television industry in the world without abusing and exploiting the people working in it, I think Korea can probably manage not doing it too.

    Here are some completely unremarkable examples of totally standard experiences in Hollywood:

    1. I was a non-union background actor, or “extra,” on a major film. The first day on set, craft services (they provide tables with snacks for people to eat throughout the day between meal breaks) had set out a full table for the main crew and then a much smaller one for the extras (I think it was just a bunch of apples, something weird like that). Those extras who were union members spoke to their representatives, and the next day the production apologized and said that all extras, union and non-union, would of course have access to the same craft services as the crew.

    2. For one commercial, the extras had to dance in a room filled with soap suds. You know how some clubs/raves will drop foam from the ceiling? Kind of like that. All the extras, including non-union like me, were paid extra for working in an extreme environment.

    3. Same set as above. I and some of the other extras found it a bit hard to breathe after a while due to the soap fumes getting all churned up into the air. We were all free to leave and reenter as necessary so as not to stay exposed to it for longer than we felt comfortable.

    Do bad things happen in Hollywood? Of course. Not too long ago a stylist was killed by a train when production had not properly coordinated with the railway they were shooting on. That was unacceptable. But it was also rare, and there was outrage throughout the industry. There are little day-to-day issues too, but the bottom line is that the abuses in the Korean industry are neither normal nor unavoidable. Each one is a choice, and they can choose to make a different one.

    1 year ago
  6. Used to work for this company that caters to some Hollywood production shows and I’ve seen extras treated like nothing. The supply for extras is so great compare to the demand that people are willing to wait 10 hours for a 15 min scene for no pay and no food (from what they and my friend who did an anthropology report on it tell me). They’re so desperate to get recommendations to be unionized. As long as the demand is greater than supply, it’s going to be hard to change unless something drastic happens.

    My old theater prof who sometimes act minor roles in those crime TV shows where she’s the relative of the dead or something told us that actors are sometime on set for days sleeping in their trailer because even though they cannot can’t film the whole day, they must do stunt works and work with their double.

    I remember cast of Glee used to talk about their 16-18 hours work day on top of practicing and memorizing their dance numbers and studio time to record the songs.

    It sucks this is the reality but it is better now than before. Hopefully the Korean film industry improves its standards. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

    1 year ago
  7. Re: Heirs….I did muster the energy to finish the series (I try to finish all the ones I start) It was horrible! Also, this video helps me understand why the main character got a makeover in She Was Pretty. Running Man seems to make it a running joke when people (Song Ji Hyo) fall asleep on set or in car rides. They almost make it seem like she is just derpy sometimes and will just fall asleep.

    Question to EYK: How long do you guys spend producing your videos start to finish? I understand a youtube video is different than a drama, however you all seem to put a lot of effort in your videos. Just wondering…

    1 year ago
  8. As a Korean, I know Korean darama industry is harsh. But not every person in the industry is treated like that.Only the people who have less talent will work with small and poor compay so that’s why they get bad work condition. Obviously they don’t offer great sevice to their less qalified workers. But I heard that if the person prove his/her ability in his/her feild they will be paid enormously.And well,, you mentioned about Song Ji-hyo and Han Ye-seul. They are one of the most famous actresses in Korea. They work hard because they don’t want to be forgotten and stay top in their field. I definitely agree that that the situation is insane and other Koreans also concern about the harshness of film industry. But I heard that people like the CEO of great companies in other countries also work very hard.I think there is no difference.
    In case of your case, didn’t they inform you they would bring you at 5 a.m.? If you weren’t informed ahead of schedule, that was supervisor’s fault. But if not why didn’t pack your meal before you go to work or ask if they offer your breakfast?
    They provide you a meal and you AGREED to work for their film. And you quit in the MIDDLE of their working. That’s so irresponsible, immature and non-professional. What I don’t understand is they still provide worker a meal than why do you blam him. Is that because they didn’t give it when you were hungry?

    1 year ago
    • So you’re admitting that the Korean drama industry is harsh and unfair but at the same time you’re excusing it? People are not machines that you turn on and off at will. These companies are acting like their workers are slaves from the Joseon dynasty. Not only that, you’re so used to this kind of treatment yourself, that you don’t see how bad and inhumane it is. It is like being held captive but still defending your captor. Agreeing to work for someone does not mean giving up your most basic rights like food and sleep.

      1 year ago
    • small company or not, human right is still a human right. get that into your head.people like you are the reason why your job industry is one of the worst in the world. you are living in modern lifestyle, oh yes indeed you are, but all those techs means nothing when your minds and your lifestyles are similar or even worst than the third world countries. ‘pack your own meals??’ listen to urself!

      1 year ago
  9. I worked in the modeling and acting industry here in korea for about a year before i rage quit as well. i had two back to back horrible experiances. i had finished the shoots but i told my agent i was done. i remember that one time i was filming for a kpop video being shot in january. i was told it would be a 6 hour shoot and they needed us for one scene where we had to dane in cocktail dresses. there were both korean and foreigner models there. and we were given equal treatment. because it was so cold and early in the morning none of us were in the dresses yet we were in our pajamas practically and no makeup. we drove a few hours to the location. apon arival we were rushed out to stand on the street not being told anything. and sudenly they tell us we are starting filming. what? for the danceing scene? no this part is comedy so just come over here and start being funny and react to the idol boys. WE WERE IN OUR PAJAMAS WITH NO MAKEUP. and they were like okay cameras are on go. this wasnt even what we were brought here for. and no preptime given. no notice. we had been there 8 hours already and our scene we came for hadnt even been set up yet. but we did get lunch while they set up. we also changed and did our makeup at that time. after that all us models got shoved into a small van where we couldnt take our coats or bags with us because of space. and we went up a huge mountain. and sat for 5 more hours. the driver turned off the heat and we were dying in there. we were all skinny models wearing skimpy dresses and had no jackets. and its january winter on a mountain. we all complained and shivered. but by the 3rd hour we were too cold and basiacally unresponsive. by the time we started filming id been there 14 hours already. the directer was so pissed because we were so fridgid and un responsive. even to him yelling at us we just kinda stared blankly with our teeth chattering. after we finished the danceing scene id been there 20 hours. and i thought we were finally finised. OH NO. surprise there is a third scene we had to do. F*+K U i have a flight to china in the morning get me back to seoul now. no we cant do that there is still more we have to film. f@&k that i agreed to 6 hours. i didnt even get a dinner. and ive been shivering without a jacket all day. and they told me to not worry that wed finish the last scene in time for my flight. i didnt trust it because it was already 3am and my flight was at 8. i asked them to call me a taxi and they refused. i walked down the mountain in my dress and heels in winter to the other location asked a crew member to call one. thankfully he did. i rushed home grabbed my bags and ran my A$$ for the airport. still im my dress and heels no time to change or shower. i amlost missed my flight. and my agent said i wont get paid because i didnt finish the whole shoot of what was asked by the producer.

    now the last shoot i ever did was the following week after the MV. i was doing a commercial thing. i was to be in a cherry picker on top of a mountain wearing again bearly any clothes. being that high up and having the wind blow on you removed all the heat from my body. we did a rehursal yadaya okay cool. then i just sat there witing for i dont know how long. the sun had actually started to set and they had to usa a ballon light to make a fake sun. after waiting like an hour i asked repeatedly can i come down please. im so cold. and they were always telling me no the producer will be back soon. and crew people kept coming and going because THEY were too cold to stay there. what about me im up here in the wind let me down out of here. of at least lower me from the 50 feet that i am. im naturally olive toned but my skin was the whitest id ever seen and my fingernails purple. i felt i looked like a disney villan. and i was shivering so hard my body was spiratically jerking from here to there out of my control. when filming finally resumed the sun had compleatly set. and i was getting yelled at for my smile not looking sincere. but i could beraly stand. let alone smile. i had never felt so near to death in my entire life. all the organs in my body felt like they were quitting. it hurt so bad the worst pain ever. when i was finally let out of the cherry picker after who knows how long. everyone was all clapping and like good job yay. i couldnt even step down off the machine. my leggs werent working. i finally managed to get back to the place where my hair and make up was one crew member handed me a paper cup of tea. i drank it and i felt he might have just saved my life with that. because my core temperature had dropped so low. with drinking the tea it brought it back up.
    i was there for about 12 hours and with having been there that long all i was given was a cup of tea. while i was packing up the makeup artist asked me if i enjoyed the dinner. i answered no i didnt eat dinner yet. she was shocked and said why not we all had the dinner here… apparently the crew and producer had eaten dinner while i was in the cherry picker… while i was aksing to come down. whith that i was like im done. i quit.

    although i compleatly hate the industry here. having put me through all that in a one week span i quit. but a few of my friends are still doing it here.

    1 year ago
    • that was horrible. im sorry it happened to you. i wish you get better working conditions in future.

      1 year ago
  10. Doctor Stranger!!!!! Oh my god. That show had so much potential – when it started, I thought, wow, a show that isn’t just a love story, and it’s great. Well, it was a love story, and love stories can be great ofc, but I liked that it went beyond the romance and developed things outside of it. There were real risks for the characters, political backstories, tensions (outside of romance), and they made it really interesting. Then, wow, it got so bad. So bad.

    What you said in the video explains it. But why… why did they do that…. Things didn’t make sense anymore, I couldn’t take the “risks” and decisions made in the story seriously because every single thing was made to be so drastic/dramatic/life-or-death AND they kept changing their minds in those decisions…. and I think regardless of who he ended up with, I would have been unsatisfied… because they kind of made me lose faith in the friendships/relationships and things felt unfinished/unexplained/nonsensical. Just disappointed because it had such a great start!

    1 year ago
    • eva

      agreed on this drama, could not finish it, I have dropped it at the middle. The story line went to a ridiculous mess.

      1 year ago
    • P.S. And I totally agree ofc, people’s healths over any of this other craziness! 23 hour workdays and 4 hours of sleep in 3 days…. I believe you, but at the same time I feel like I can’t believe it. Like how can someone physically stay awake to keep working?? Well, I guess that is why the body forces you to pass out.. if you won’t listen to your doctor…. Anyway it’s crazy and I don’t understand why there aren’t more laws protecting employees, whether they are company employees or temp employees.

      1 year ago
  11. I think this is all just a small part of a much bigger problem, crazy working hours are not only found in showbusiness, koreans actually start with this kind of mindset as a students or small children. For the few on top korea sacrifices many.

    1 year ago
  12. I work in the TV industry here in Singapore and because of our manpower law we have here, we cannot exceed a certain hour of filming so our daily filming would be capped at 10 hours (not including overruns) unless it is required to film beyond that. Even if we do, they would get another camera crew to take over the previous one but the directors and ADs would have to stay on. But long hours are a common sight in any production because we only have this amount of time to complete a drama and anything beyond that is extra cost. The only thing about my company is that the camera crew and propsman get paid overtime but the directors and ADs don’t, which kinda suck because our pay is already way lower than that of the camera crew.

    Many overseas actors have mentioned that it is more relaxed and comfortable it is to film in Singapore because our working conditions and hours are better. Our dramas here are usually filmed months before the scheduled broadcasting date, except for long running ones, so we would have time to edit and do all the necessary post prod so I find it weird that filming and broadcasting runs concurrently in Korea, and some other countries as well, especially how last minute scripts can come because I feel that it is better for the actors to know the flow of the whole story so that they can better understand their character which they can then deliver their role better.

    I hope something can be done about the situation in Korea though. How is it legal to make anyone work for such long hours without proper rest?! Even I feel bad for working such long hours because I hardly have time to spend with my parents.

    1 year ago
  13. Hey there, first time writing here, though i have been stalking eatyourkimchi for…. 3 years already. Hey everyone!~

    I have several friends working in the Japanese tv industry. One friend of mine is working for a morning show at one of the big Japanese tv channels (won’t name either channel nor name of the show). Since it’s a morning show that is mainly covering news, he can never acutally take days off, because the always have to present the latest news and they air 5 days a week. On Saturdays, he’s mostly preparing the features that aren’t news for the rest of the show, going on location and stuff. When he’s lucky, his work finishes at 7 in the evening, although he starts at like 5 or 6 in the morning, and most of the time, he’ll just sleep at the channel. Thus, he’s always tired.
    I remember that one time when we had a drive to Shizuoka to go fishing, and he had worked the day before. When he picked me up with the car at 3 in the morning, he had maybe slept one hour before. As the day went on, he got sleepier and sleepier though he was trying really hard to have a fun time (probably also for my sake? I don’t know … I would have prefered if he had slept and just stayed at home^^”’) but at the drive back to Tokyo, he was driving and fell asleep behind the wheel for a few seconds. The car actually drifted to the right and almost hit the silver thingy that prevents you from leaving the road. It was just a few second sleep, but still quite dangerous. He apologized and jokingly said that it’s good nothing happened, because it would be big news if a foreigner dies in a car crash, but i could sense that he was feeling really guilty and bad for falling asleep. Though he shouldn’t have to… the tv channels should feel bad for making their people work such an insane pensum.

    So… that’s a true story from Japan. I could tell more, he’s often complaining about work, but i don’t want to spam.

    Forgive the long post and the crappy English, please ^____^

    1 year ago
  14. Someone on your twitter commented about it being an example of a general attitude of nonchalance toward reckless endangerment that shows up in other areas of Korean life as well. I thought that was a very perceptive comment. Every country has a few cultural personality traits that are passed from generation to generation. They usually stem from some kind of shared experience. I always thought Michael Moore was very sharp to point out that America’s tendency towards being defensive and scared of everything probably stems from Pilgrims settling lands where they had absolutely no idea what was out there. Obsession with survival is a very American trait that shows up in a lot of unexpected places. It gets me wondering about where this particular Korean trait comes from.

    1 year ago
  15. My fiance worked in the industry for some time and according to what he told me, things look a bit better in my country. First of all, there are no extremely long days; if something is not finished in time by whatever reason, it usually ends up with the deadline pushed further. Second, no overworking the actors. He said that, actually the most important thing in the whole production is the actor himself and everything around is just adjusted according to him. So, if they need more time to prepare for the role, they got it. Sometimes even the scripts get adjusted according to the actors. And the scripts are ready way before the filming. There are no last minute changes or viewers’ opinions peeking through. Set crew can eat and rest properly during breaks, and there are a lot of tea/coffee/smoking breaks. There are no contracts for crew members though (most of the time) and there are no overtime pay but usually there’s no overtime work in the first place. He said that everything mostly go by word of mouth, business-wise, so not paying the crew or treating them inhumane is at minimum. And if you mistreat your workers or actors? You can kiss goodbye future job opportunities as a production company. Because your company image is everything if you want to remain in the industry. As a downside to all these: no attention paid at safety. He told me that if someone gets injured during filming, most probably it’s gonna get overlooked. But generally nobody cares about safety here, so it’s a day to day thing. Also, the wages for crew members are low, but again, it’s the reality of my country in many lines of business. I’m sure it’s not all flowers and sunshine all the time but it still sounds better. I wish we could do something about the situation in Korea though, because I think they’re just wasting a lot of talented people.

    1 year ago
  16. Coming from California and all those glittering Hollywood lights, I cab honestly say that even the lowest of the low people on the totem pole get treated better than that. Now, it wasn’t always like that. Truth be told, these kinds of conditions are why the performers formed unions that served to create a better work environment for everyone. For the most part though, all of the United States seems to try to regulate how many hours a person can work back to back and when we should be fed, etc. etc. I’m really bothered when I see a country so beloved and advanced seem so backwards in areas such as what Iwould consider to be basic common sense in my own country. It’s 2015 everywhere in the world but Korea at times and it’s something we definitely hope to see changed in the future for the better. It’s not as if they can’t be better, just perhaps that they aren’t quite there yet.

    1 year ago
  17. I remember in the beginning of running man Song Ji Hyo would fall asleep everywhere. In the middle of challenges on high towers they would find her curled into a ball passed out. They laughed and joked about it like it was cute but I thought.. “Is she ok?” Now I wonder if it was because she was filming dramas simultaneously – or perhaps if running man was just incredibly harsh giving none of them any down time. It also makes you wonder if Yoo Jae suk is human?? Infinity.. running man.. plus everything else he gets into, and he always powers through. How can they have any time for their families? :(

    1 year ago
    • oh yeah, Running man is really physical hard ><
      When i watched Family outing they usually go to sleep at 1-3 am and wakes up at 7-8am and i was thinking, that for me it's quite normal and why they get up so hard… but now i understand. One time Daesung's team lost and had to get up at ~5am to do a job, so Yoo Jaesuk with other older guys didn't wake up Dae, cause he knew how much he is tired after Bigbang's schedule. that was so sweet

      1 year ago
  18. I’m studying film producing in grad school, and the basic understanding here is that you have to have meals every six hours of work, and you have to have a twelve hour gap between ending production one day and starting it the next. That’s basically what will keep you safe with all the US film unions. Film work is already so stressful, I can’t imagine working without these guidelines! Once I had to make my crew have just 11 hours for turn around, and I felt terrible.

    1 year ago
  19. As a media student, I’ve had several lectures how these kind of shoots are so many kinds of wrong. Most of the time very illegal. Definitely think S. Korea needs a push for change. The good episodes of the drama show how talented writers can be, but they do not have room to grow. You can see the potential creativity in writers, directors, and actors. The desire of volume for minimal cost over value(which will probably cost more) sounds like the struggle.

    1 year ago
  20. I work in the industry here in LA, and I can definitely attest to the fact that there are moments similar to what you bring up in your video. Does it happen all the time? Technically, no. But it does happen often enough for it to be an issue.

    For instance, it’s not unheard of to receive scripts at the very last minute, even receiving line changes or new pages just before you’re about to step out in front of the camera. This is more common than you know, at least in TV.

    Also, our crews would easily be pushed to work 12-14+ hours in a day, were it not for financial penalties put in place by the unions (our one saving grace, for those of us who are fortunate to be in the union – non-union shows (of which there are many) are a different matter).

    And people are not treated well if they do complain. Just look up the backlash Katherine Heigl received several years ago when she complained on Letterman about having to work 17-hour days on “Grey’s Anatomy”. Pretty much everyone (in and outside of the industry) thought she was being a baby. In this industry (as I’m sure it is with many), it’s difficult to complain and stand your ground because there is a line of people waiting to take your spot, and you want to be hired again, for better or for worse. Business is business no matter where you go in the world, I guess.

    Unfortunately, the only thing that has really created any dialogue or reason for concern is tragedy. Back in the ’90s, there was an accident involving a camera person (Brent Hershman) who, after a 19-hour day on the set of “Pleasantville”, fell asleep at the wheel and was killed. This prompted many concerned news articles and even a documentary (“Who Needs Sleep?”, dir. Haskell Wexler) that called for stricter enforcement of the 12-hour work day on set. Having decent work hours and being able to get enough sleep/rest is still a source of concern in the film and TV industry.

    (Quick aside: I went to a screening of the documentary back in film school, and during the Q&A, there was a person in the audience who was in no way affiliated with the film industry, who seemed really confused by it all and asked, “Why are you trying to fight for a *12-HOUR* work day??? Why not 8?” … Why, indeed.)

    Most recently, the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones (who was killed after being struck by a train after neglectful producers had the crew set up on train tracks that were supposed to be permitted and closed off, but weren’t – oops!) has refueled the cause for safer working conditions on set in the US. Has it really changed things? Hard to say, but at least it’s still a part of the dialogue for now.

    I know I’m bringing up a lot of bummer stories, but this is the truth, and we are unfortunately still fighting for better working conditions. Is it better than South Korea? Probably. But is it the best? Hard to say.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked on many, many wonderful sets with wonderful, caring people. But I’ve also worked on some HORRIBLE sets with people who are still running HORRIBLE sets and indirectly teaching other people how to run equally HORRIBLE sets. They need to be stopped.

    I don’t know how many of you are working in some sort of media production, but I just want to tell you to treat your workers well. A happy, healthy crew member is a productive crew member. I’ve worked on sets where we were on our Nth day of going past the 12-hour mark and getting close to going into 17+ hours (on a non-union show, so none of us were compensated or particularly fed well), and people were getting careless and started making mistakes and getting injured. Don’t run your sets like that.

    No movie or show is ever good enough to have someone get severely injured on set, not even yours.

    1 year ago
    • I am in the Visual Effects industry, regularly working 12 hours or more. It’s an expectation at larger studios, especially closer to deadlines that work hours are very long and sometime overtime is not paid as such (some studios, not all).

      Sarah Jones was a classmate of mine at University and ours professors talked to us about the incident. Standard safety regulations had not been followed by the professional crew working with the student crew from my school and several people were injured.

      Most sets and productions I have worked on the management had no clue about the man-hours it would take to complete the project and as such scheduled production extremely tight. Since most projects are paid lump sum, not by time, the studios then working on the project have to stretch their crew and put pressure to get as much work as possible done as fast as possible.

      Again, not all studios are that bad, but when you first start out in the industry it seems like no one will respect you if you stand up for yourself. Having just quit a job due to excessive overtime, lack of sleep and poor pay, the people that understand what it’s like, will respect you for having the courage, some will even help you find a job at a studio with better management.

      If anyone is interested in the issues of Hollywood and Visual Effects industry, watch ‘Life after Pi’. Rhythm and Hues, the studio working on “life of Pi’ made this documentary about the industry and it’s dark side.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lcB9u-9mVE

      1 year ago
  21. One of the burning questions I have is…why all the bathroom scenes in kdramas? There are kissing scenes, crying scenes in the bathroom as well as people doing there business. There are also a lot of references to indigestion, wind, constipation, etc…Are Koreans more comfortable with themselves in this realm than us in the USA are?

    1 year ago
  22. I’m just finishing up on getting my degree in TV Production here in LA. There are some strict policies when it comes to shooting, where it is illegal to film more than 12 hours a day. When we were filming our Senior Thesis we had to abide those regulations as well 12 hours on set, 12 hour off. That doesn’t mean that shady things can occur, but I mean, isn’t that the same for any place? With all the unions however, they are certainly getting properly paid for overtime. Lastly, it would be completely unheard of for a script to be written in that fashion. While they can be written within the same week, actors will still be getting a decent amount of time and full script in order to properly act out their roles. Bummer, I was slightly interested into looking into working internationally for entertainment. Still looking into doing the English teaching program however…unless that’s a bad idea as well.

    Side note: Heirs is one of the worst. I love me some Lee MinHo, but even his pretty face couldn’t get me to watch that sadness.

    1 year ago
  23. Lo

    I was in the audience of a show here in Korea and we were treated extremely well. We taped two episodes during the seven hours I was in the studio. We got food and drinks, breaks during commercials and between episodes, and were even given free skincare (full bottles, not just samples!) and cash to get a cab home on the way out. While I agree that some companies hold the sadly low standard that you described above, I don’t think it’s fair to say the ENTIRE Korean industry is like this…

    1 year ago
    • Except they didnt say that the entire industry is like this? Go back and watch the video starting at :25. :)

      1 year ago
    • Good thing that’s what they said in the beginning! :) :)

      1 year ago
  24. Dear Simon and Martina, so sorry to hear about your bad experiences. It is also heartbreaking to see and to know what many Korean entertainers have to go through. This issue falls in the spectrum of things I hate about Korea (there are things that I love,love,love as well), but it also happens to be connected to many aspects of Korean life (and the things I hate about it). I think that the reason this happens is cultural, first and foremost, the monopoly of the entertainment industry and the competitiveness of Korean society as a whole.
    The fact that individuality is straight up frowned upon, the concept that “you” as a being have to fulfill a larger purpose, that your individuality doesn’t matter, that you owe dues to your parents, ancestors, the company, the fans, the country, the school, the society…everyone else seems to be more important than the self. Recently I watched yet another documentary on Korean plastic surgery and they were trying to explain the phenomenon from a socio- and psychological perspective. I find it conclusive when a sociology professor from Yonsei explained that “In Korea, we don’t care what you think about yourself,you should care about what others think of you.” And explained the roots from Confucianism and its interpretation by old Korean ways that permeate to this day. I think that explains a lot about attitudes regarding: education, achievement, work ethics, gender roles, hierarchy, pressure to conform, plastic surgery, suicide rates. I’ve stayed in Korea for about half a year, I am also married to a Korean man and have many Korean (유학생) friends. I have friends who don’t want to go back to Korea because they know the pressures they will have to face-and they know it’s for no good reason. I have friends who went back to Korea and started working and they are facing the same attitudes as the entertainment industry; there is no sick-day, over-time pay, vacation, fair treatment and most of all fair promotions (even promotions are a matter of hierarchy-not talent and hard work). When I ask why they won’t quit and go elsewhere they say “If I quit they will just get someone else who will accept the terms, plus, at the new place they will ask both me and my former employer why I left and they will not hire me because it is everywhere the same.” It’s heartbreaking.
    I think a social change is in order. Sorry for the long post.

    1 year ago
    • I think you explained it so well. I really love Korea, I really do, but a lot of things have to change. I have a Korean friend and she is living in the emotional hell you described. She is working long hours, has almost no days off, doesn’t even have the right to rest at home when sick. This “overworking is best!” mentality is rooted deeply in many of Korean people, so much that when she was working for one of the giant brands’ other country branches, it was literally the same even though she was in another country. It’s really irritating. Things aren’t far better in my country but it isn’t that bad either. I think it’s time for Korea to change its collectivistic style and adopt a more indivualistic one.

      1 year ago
  25. Telling moment: When Snoop Dogg commented on shooting a video with Psy. He mentioned that it was one of the most grueling things he’d ever done, and was surprised that they were willing to shoot all night if necessary. He was begging for a break. When Snoop Dogg thinks you’ve gone overboard, you need to question your life choices.
    Having said that, I’m still watching those dramas like the crack they are. Figuring out when things have gone off the rails has started to become almost a sport. No preview? It’s off the rails. There is no preview because they have no idea what the next episode is going to be. Oh My Venus had its first preview-less episode yesterday. They’re only on episode 8. Eight more to go, should be an interesting ride! Whee!!!!
    The problem is that changing a storyline while writing it must have worked for a few shows. I’ve noticed that if something works for someone in Korea, everyone else will try it to see if it works for them too. No one seems to think that the thing that worked may have had special, unrepeatable circumstances, or it was just luck.
    I’m glad someone is finally going to try something else. Look at how successful Netflix has been by dropping an entire season in one shot. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

    1 year ago
  26. Oh hey, I work in the US tv industry! The company I’m contracted with atm does non-fiction so it’s a bit of a different set-up but we seem to have it way better (and I also work for a really good company). There are long days but for us that’s more on the production side, we don’t shoot as much for the shows but those are usually 10+ hour days (I think that I’m being paid pretty darn well for a just-above-entry-level job but producers are apparently the ones who make the most money anyway). And, like I’m seeing a lot of people saying, people will make sure you eat, I was going through some of our papers and found that on a recent shoot each crew member had $41 a day for food! That seems excessive to me and another coworker was explaining to me that sometimes the film crews get a bit snobby about it (“damn it we’re working so hard and so many hours that we had better be fed well”) which does make sense but I still have to marvel at that much money.

    1 year ago
  27. I remember watching “Strong Heart” with Park Shin Hye talking about being in an accident during the filming of “Heartstrings” which is down right heart breaking. She stated she told the press it wasn’t a big accident, but if you look at the pictures it’s horrifying. She was crushed on the passenger side and her seat belt almost took her ear off. She said her staff members were hospitalized for 4 months while she tried to go back to work the next day. The drama did delay an episode after her accident. These live-shoots are insane for anyone.

    I’m glad there are some dramas coming in the new year which will be pre-shot. It’s a step in the right direction for the industry. Breaking away from the live-shoot will bring better shooting conditions, but also better quality of dramas.

    1 year ago
  28. This was a really interesting video. Thank you for the information!
    The reason I got into korean subculture and looking at your videos is I started looking at dramas(by looking at j
    Japanese dramas at first). This is not shocking because of the stories about other media consumption like kpop. It’s really sad that this normal in a community and that this is my reaction. This is really devastating to see…
    During a long time I’ve wanted to start a campaign against this issues since I heard about the kpop industry and now this! I want to start an organization like amnesty international because this is really wrong and shouldn’t be normal. But I don’t know how to help and I’m sure you have tried to find ways for working against this issues.
    I’ve once been casted as a extras to a criminal swedish serie in Sweden(because that’s where I’m from and live). We got so many breaks and got “fika”(being social while taking a coffee break with sweets) every time and a lot of sandwiches and fruit and beverages. We also got lunch and I’m a vegetarian so I got worried if there would be any good nutritious vegetarian food. But the food was really good (it was tzay which I love<3).
    But I'm sure somewhere in the swedish industry people treat people badly but that's against the law to give bad working conditions so if they would be reported they would loose their job.
    I wonder if the extras(EVERYONE in the crew) are also treated badly or if they are treated well to hide the true issues behind the drama industry? I just wonder if I can help in some way? The working conditions suck in Korea meanwhile in Sweden we demonstrate to get better conditions. But the regular working hours during a week is 40 hours. An you can work over but then you have to maximum take 48-50 hours during four weeks not more. And if you don't get to rest it's against the law. Sweden has a long way ahead to develop even more but in South Korea should take care of people's health and well being. It's a human right to favourable and fair working conditions and same salary for the work according to UN. Everyone has a right to have a healthy and secure job.

    1 year ago
  29. It’s disgusting the amount of foreign fans you will see with the same kind of attitude too, though. Like all those people who hate on the former EXO members and other ex-idol members for leaving bad conditions, and say that all idols put up with bad conditions. Or when they say they should deal with it cause “they signed a contract”. It’s absurd how they think that people should just “put up with it” in order to entertain them. As someone from an Asian upbringing, I can understand the whole communal thing and doing what’s best for everyone, but only to an extent. No one should have to sacrifice their health for everyone else to be happy. When I hear of actors who get injured on set, and then come back a couple days later so as not to hold up filming, it makes me sick that people think it’s okay.

    1 year ago
  30. Sad TT

    1 year ago
  31. I was going to write to ask you guys to talk about this! I was thinking about it in the middle of the night last night. A lot of the child actors from my favorite childhood tv shows grew up to have some considerable issues. So much so, that I cringed everytime I tried to share one of my old fav. sitcoms with my kids now, until I gave up. And that got me thinking about even adult actors and my current favorite tv, kdramas. Is it all just about $$$? So much of Korean culture seems polite it is odd to picture this ridiculously inconsiderate behavior in the film industry. On the otherhand, the US has so many divas- it is my hope that Korea could embrace a middle ground where everyone is treated with respect.

    1 year ago
  32. I do think majority of drama all over the world is done like this. Based on what I read somewhere (or I heard from the news here), many dramas in Indonesia are shot back-to-back. The drama usually airs every single day in a week. An episode is around 1 hour with commercials, sometimes 90 minutes. People are practically leaving in the set. I wonder how they do the editing because there are times when the shooting is done an hour before it airs! The plot is also crazily twisted here and there. The length of the drama can’t be determined either. There are no fixed amount of episodes in a drama. It can has 30 episodes or stretches to 100 episodes, or continues with season after season for 6 years! I don’t really know about the pay but I think it pays a lot tho.

    1 year ago
  33. I remember one of my first jobs was working as a receptionist in a hotel, and I ended up working for 12 hours a day not counting the travel time and meetings you have to attend. I was completly exhausted listening to people throwing tantrums all day and not getting to sit or eat really. You only get one day off if no one suddenly quits on you. I can’t imagine not even getting a few hours to rest and cool down at home. I think I would have a nervous breakdown. I think being overworked and underpaid is a huge problem in a lot of industries, but this completly blows my mind. I hope for the sake of everyone that people wake up and realize that there needs to be a change.

    1 year ago
  34. I can’t imagine variety shows are much better. You see so many reports of idols and others injured doing variety shows. If a US band had a member injured by some crazy variety show stunt or competition the network better hope the lawsuit settlement didn’t kill their careers or show. Of course, the member wouldn’t be propped up in a chair onstage while injured either.

    1 year ago
  35. Joo Won recently confessed that he thought he was going to die during the filming of Yong Pal. It’s crazy! Seriously, health is more important than having 2 episode per weeks!
    http://www.allkpop.com/article/2015/10/joo-won-thought-he-was-going-to-die-during-filming

    1 year ago
  36. Is the variety side of filming just as bad as the drama side? Also, how do the film crews survive on $1000 a month? Working 23+ hours a day doesn’t allow for another job…

    1 year ago
  37. Yes, the conditions are bad but won’t watching the show help bring up the views so the actor or actress can get more money from being on the show. I am not sure about the tv industry in Korea. I am not trying to sound naive.

    1 year ago
    • Not naive at all! :)

      Actors and crew are paid a fee negotiated into their contracts (since the contract would just be for the duration of that 1 drama); the money they earn wouldn’t increase due to a ratings spike.

      1 year ago
    • Unfortunately, I’m not sure it works that way. (I’m not 100% certain about this so I could be very wrong) From the sound of it Actors/Actresses are paid based on a contract, already stating how much they’re going to make. Therefore, the shows ratings probably don’t figure back into the actor’s pay, just the broadcasting company’s. However, appearing in more dramas that get more viewers allows them to receive a celebrity status and appear more frequently in dramas and possibly a higher pay than an actor less known. Like I said I’m certainly not 100% on that, but that’s what it sounds like is happening

      1 year ago
  38. When I was part of an Idol show then we def had enough time to eat. We were actually put into a really nice hotel with the best breakfast buffet ever and got served dinner there as well. I have no memory of lunches tho… And even though it was a live show, we still had enough time to rest. I’m sure the finale time wasn’t as relaxed but we def had enough time up to that.

    1 year ago
  39. My dad used to work in a company that gave funding mostly to film and tv projects in Canada (you might know which one). He doesn’t know how the working conditions are for actors and production crews, but he has told me about those who direct and produce these projects. Often times, they’re stuck in a vision where they think they know everything and are jerks about it. He has said that sometimes the producer puts too much input into the screenwriting process and can make the product go against what others want. Same goes for the creators of a show.

    Dad mostly told me about the inner workings about companies that provide funding to make the projects become reality here in Canada. If it isn’t “Canadian” enough, there’s no support. He ended up quiting from this company due to disliking the amount of crappy projects that were being funded, and good ideas being turned down, and other reasons I never asked about.

    My dad was also an executive producer for a certain documentary on a certain marijuana activist from Vancouver. He assisted in ensuring the project would be finished and assisting in managing the budget. He told me he liked assisting in this documentary. He also told me how much of a jerk the activist is.

    1 year ago
  40. OMG… The Heirs.. I really want to enjoy it but I cannot handle it, was way too *()$&. The only reason why I tried was because kim woo bin <3
    Other than the incident you mentioned in the blog and the food commercial (forced to have dramatic excitements), what are some other stores? We would love to hear more from you guys!!

    1 year ago
    • I stuck in ep13 (over 6 mont) :D can’t to watch anymore. I also watched because of Woobin, Jin-hyuk, Min-ho and others, but even they can’t make me to finish

      1 year ago
  41. I’ve been working in the animation industry in my country for about 3 years now. We are always given lunch breaks and food during overtime but… the wage vs. time thing is definitely an issue. They’re always trying to get more out of you for less. Thankfully my company is so stingy that they don’t “do” overtime unless you’re at the crunch end of production, but our contract has us for 50 hour work weeks. So we’re expected to work the full 50 hours. Not to mention how freaking difficult it is to find a job in my country because a vast majority of animation jobs get outsourced to other countries (like Korea) who are willing to work for crazy cheap or whose country gives better tax breaks than yours. It’s a nightmare. Almost everyone I know who has worked in the industry for a while has become nomadic because we’re all essentially working temp jobs – project to project, company to company. Did you hear about the Visual Effects protest in the US? I don’t know all of the details but they have the same problems with working crazy overtime to compete with outsourcing problems. If I could go back in time, I would have told myself to find another career – not because animation isn’t a passion of mine, but because I expected a more livable lifestyle. How can you expect to get married or settle down if you’re chasing jobs to other countries? It’s like being in the military without the benefits.

    I have heard stories from animation veterans who would work late into the night and sleep only a few hours under their desk before getting up and doing it again. I’m sure this is still the way at many studios. I think anime would be ruined for me if I knew what kind of working conditions they have, but I’m sure it’s pretty bad. I don’t know how they churn out some shows at the quality that they do unless they have a crazy large budget. Moral of the story: The film industry is BRUTAL. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    1 year ago
  42. This is so incredibly crazy to me! I was always under the impression that they got everything set up and ready before the started shooting anything, and that filming was the only aspect of production that continued on after the show started airing. This actually makes so much sense, though. It explains so much! There were so many things that never made sense to me; Why has the mythology suddenly changed? Why was this back story so important last episode but means nothing now? Why has the plot suddenly seemed to change? Why does the ending make absolutely no sense? Why did this show start off good but has suddenly become too painfully boring and illogical to continue on with?

    For me I think one of the more obvious examples would be You Who Came From the Stars. Honestly, I thought the show did really well, up until the last episode. I think the script writers stayed pretty true to what they had originally intended for the story until it started becoming obvious how they intended the ending to happen. They got an extra episode and it was like they were forced to completely go against all of their own rules and change everything in order to give the ending the fans wanted, even though the way it came about made absolutely no sense. It was a really big shame because the show up until that point had actually been really good…

    1 year ago
  43. Inspiring Generation wasn’t that awesome from the start, but it really went awry after Kim Jae Wook decided to quit (episode 8…. of 24!) and they change the writer team altogether (I’m not sure, but I think they change that team more than once). I still don’t understand how this drama won any award and got more than 10% ratings. I remember the preview, man the preview were great! It seemed like the next big thing and all, with a really good plot and drama and love triangle in this big gangster thing with treasons and stuff. But it really wasn’t, and after episode 8, it dragged its sorry ass all the way to the end. It was painful. And sadly, since I’m was too into the drama already, I had to finish it. At least it taught me a lesson : if it ain’t good after 4 to 6 ep, drop it now until your caught with something awful for 24 damn episodes…

    1 year ago
  44. OMG thank you!! I’m not the only one who saw like 10 minutes of Heirs and asked WTF is this s$%@#.

    I wonder if this is why web based dramas are becoming more popular, because there is already a base story line and a general idea of how it’s gonna go, like Orange Marmalade, or the Girl Who Can See Smells.

    I can think of a couple kdramas that fall victim to the whole lack of character development and sudden unexplainable changes. I’ve also noticed lately for some dramas that there were obviously several retakes of a specific scene, and while I think the average person wouldn’t be paying much attention to the scenes, I noticed things like the way a character is sitting in one camera shot will change when the camera angle changes and whenever they pan between camera viewpoints several times in a 5 minute time frame. Cheer Up had that happen in one of the later episodes where the female lead sat down at a table and in one frame her hands were in her lap, but in another frame (same scene), her arms were laying on top of the table.

    1 year ago
  45. I knew the Korean drama/film industry was bad, but I really had no idea it was this horrid! Being a former media and film student in Norway, I have many friends that are working in the industry today. Providing food and comfort to your cast and staff are main priority, and there really are no way to avoid paying overtime and working inhumane hours are a huge no-no! Of course there are times when things get rushed and a bit complicated, but that really is no reason to refuse your cast and staff proper treatment. My experiences in Tv productions, both small and very big are all very positive.
    In Norway there really isnt that much of an hierarchy (besides the obvious fact that some people are in a position where they are better informed) when it comes to these kinds of things either, so that might be a big reason as to why there are few conflicts.

    1 year ago
  46. Ah, that make a sense ;D that’s why last few episodes of “King of high school” was real shit. I really like that drama, Seo Inguk was really amazing, but few last episodes was so bad, so bad… looks like they planed to make longer drama, but have shortened in the middle..
    And There is movie “Twenty” and even it is a movie not a drama, the end is so wtf O.o looks like all writers died and they have quickly to end movie somehow…

    1 year ago
  47. I teach theatre in the US. For every role out there in television or film or on stage there are hundreds of people capable and willing to do the work. I’m not kidding. Hundreds. I once auditioned over 100 kids for a show in three hours. And I live in a small Midwestern city.
    Because of the numbers, there is sometimes a feeling among executives that anyone can be replaced. They are right. If this person doesn’t work out, there are six more ready and willing to take the role.
    Those conditions set people up for exploitation, as does our society’s attitude toward art. It is common to expect artists, musicians, dancers and other performers to accept smaller wages and difficult working conditions because they love what they do.
    There are unions in the US set up to protect workers in the industry, but getting into the union isn’t easy.
    I did my graduate work at a school that was training students to go to Broadway. We followed the union rules during the rehearsal process and tech week. During tech week student actors were called from 10am-12am on Saturday and Sunday with two one hour breaks for meals. They where called from 6pm-12pm Mon-Fri. Student crew members were called for the same start time but were expected to stay one or two hours later. These were students who also maintained a full time class schedule in addition to the shows they did. It doesn’t take a lot of math to figure that these kids were over worked.
    It’s a brutal business.

    Shows that derailed? “Secret Hotel”, “Mary Stayed Out All Night”, “Level 7 Civil Servant”, “King of Dramas” was freaking awesome up until episode 18 then boom splat. “Blade Man”, “Boys Over Flowers” I’m sorry Martina, I can’t take anything with Lee Min Ho in it, he’s just so bland.

    Not to plug another site but girlfriday and javabeans from Dramabeans wrote a book about K-Dramas and the chapter on why K-Dramas do things the way they do was pretty interesting.

    1 year ago
    • “For every role out there in television or film or on stage there are hundreds of people capable and willing to do the work. … Because of the numbers, there is sometimes a feeling among executives that anyone can be replaced. They are right. If this person doesn’t work out, there are six more ready and willing to take the role.”

      THIS! SO! MUCH! I recently was employed in media, and this is the attitude in the entertainment industry overall.

      That coupled with the consolidation/shrinkage of the industry (due to HUGE corporations buying out the smaller companies and wanting maximum profit with minimal payout, 1 person is now easily doing the jobs of 3 people), you end up with stressed out, burnt out, overworked people that are not performing at 100%. All in the name of ‘profits’ (which are never enough, btw) In Canada last month, a large multi-platform media company posted a $700M profit for their Q3, only to let go 400 people nationwide the next week). But complain, and you’re frozen out; because a 1000 people would take your job in a heartbeat.

      The irony in this is that the PTB who only see the profits dont realize that the people that they’re overworking are the ones responsible for creating the content that makes them money! They are cutting off their noses to spite their face.

      Completely OT: I see your RatM shirt Martina. I see it. :D

      1 year ago
  48. I think the worst/best example of a drama that got royaly screwed by re-writes was Marry Me Mary/Mary Stayed Out All Night. Started as a promising witty light hearted modern rom-com and quickly spiralled into a complete cluster FC.UK . The fact that they went through like five scriptwriters and directors is so obvious as you watch it veer from funny to bad the WTAF. If Jang Keun Suk hadn’t just gone “screw it, I’m taking over” and rewritten and directed the last episode it would have gone down as the worst drama ever written. Anywhere. Ever.

    1 year ago
  49. I’ve worked freelance as a crew in a couple of TV shows myself, and I can guarantee you we have shitty working conditions too (I’m from Singapore!). The shoots can easily go up to 17-18 hours a day, with lots of last minute changes that you have to accommodate for, meaning very little sleep because you end up working while you’re not on shoot, and even on your off days as well.

    And yeah, we get paid roughly USD1000 for entry level production assistants. There’s very little we can do about it, because our unions are still small and like you said, our positions are very replaceable. It’s take it or leave it.

    We only have it better than Korea in a few areas. Meals are DEFINITELY accounted for in every shoot. That includes supper when it goes late into the night, and we always have a pantry stocked with snacks/drinks. We NEVER let our cast/crew starve or forsake their health. We’ve had to push filming before because one of our cast was down with food poisoning.

    But other than that, what you’ve said is pretty much standard in the film industry everywhere, unfortunately.

    1 year ago
  50. I truly agree on this one! I work for a production company in manila and we had a project with a korean film company to shoot their drama here, it was a top rating drama with top stars in it, i was really excited to work with them, but when the shooting started we had a hard time adjusting because the korean team hardly eat while working! Production companies here in manila it is a priority that the cast and staff are properly taken care of with proper breaks and good food! We will prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for the staff but once they’ve eaten breakfast (they eat super fast!) work starts immediately,some of the filipino crew havent finish eating yet but they want to start asap. Throughout the filming they only eat once then theyll just buy burgers for snack but filming doesnt stop. so we eat while we’re working. There is also an incident where their script for the next day will be finalize the day before and we have to find costume/talents and prop requirements within less than 24hrs before filming the next day! Everytime i think about it makes my head hurt. I was really super tired when we’re filming and we have to shoot for 7 days. It didnt help that they’re lead star is super arogant and their director is such a tyrant it was really inhuman..

    1 year ago
  51. I feel like this applies to a lot of other industries in Korea, not just the film industry. Like the problem of being overworked and not being paid overtime is huuuuge for korean office-goers. I think it’s because nobody wants to challenge their superiors or the system (the big machine that pays them). You probably got away from that small five-day shoot just looking like privileged foreigners. But imagine a Korean person speaking up about these things in an environment where nobody else is saying anything and everyone just accepts that this is how it goes…. They’ll get fired. They wont have an income. They’ll be shat on by their bosses. They wont be liked or listened to.

    It’s terribleee. And there have been tons of articles published by the CNN and such about koreas working culture and the fact that people in these conditions ARENT VERY PRODUCTIVE… But it seems the news only falls on dead foreign ears.

    1 year ago
    • Oh but if I may also add.. There are production companies that do film the entire series or most of it before hand and this produces GREAT productions. They’re usually the cable channels like tvn or jtbc.

      1 year ago
  52. Martina, there are so many korean dramas that I start watching and can’t finish, I have lost count…. Even the recent drama, She was Pretty, I ended 3 episodes before it finished… Maybe I noticed the plot line, where it hit the climax and then I realize the ending and how the rest of the drama is going to drag. I have watched Korean dramas for as long as I have watched your youtube videos since 2012… hahaha… at least with your videos the longer I watch the more interested I am… Also I finally was able to visit “You are Here” cafe, I love coffee shops in general, as a former barista, and I was so excited to see it :)… I will have to come by again :)

    1 year ago
  53. Before anyone says EYK is being ‘entitled’ or any nonsense like that, they are definitely not. As a film student, or rather ex-film student, meal times have to be included into our budget and schedules even on low-budget student films, because your crew and cast are the utmost priority. Honestly I was a little taken aback at how things were during your shooting experience. Thanks for sharing!

    1 year ago
  54. i don’t watch dramas but sometimes i read about how an actor/actress fainted or got sick and still worked on the drama and i’m like?!?!?!?! do you not have contracts that protect you? sure it sucks if someone is sick and can’t work but surely they can film something else until that person is feeling better?
    i read about a drama before where they literally shot the new episode like 2 days before it’s supposed to air and i just don’t understand how they think that’s a smart plan

    1 year ago