Honiton-based filmmaker Hyunju Lee has bagged a full year scholarship at MetFilm School.
MetFilm School in partnership with Viacom’s MTV Staying Alive Foundation awards a full scholarship for the professional advancement of female filmmakers. Every year they award one full scholarship, covering the full course fees on either the BA or one of the MA degree courses worth up to £54,000.
The Voices That Matter Scholarship – Women in the Screen Industries, was created to support the next generation of female filmmakers, recognising the importance of accessibility and equality within the screen industries, with two scholarships offered, one in London and one in Berlin.
The 2020 scholarship recipient is Honiton resident, Hyunju Lee, who has been awarded a full scholarship covering the full fees of the one-year MA Directing starting autumn 2020, at MetFilm School London.
Hyunju learnt that she had won the scholarship by telephone, she said: “It was an extremely surreal experience. At first, I was in so much shock, I couldn’t gather what was happening. I remember I kept saying ‘thank you’, over and over, like a scratched record. It was so shocking I think I screamed a little. I told my husband who was sitting next to me, he was just as shocked as I was!
“Even after the call, it took me some time to process everything. It was an intense day and I had to go for a walk to shake oﬀ some of the excitement.”
Hyunju applied for the scholarship as soon as she heard about it, she said: “I knew MetFilm School was one of the most well-respected in the UK. So, when I learnt that they awarded a full scholarship to a chosen student, there was no way I could walk away from it. I was aware the competition would be extremely fierce but I had to try because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, Hyunju started writing and directing while studying filmmaking at the Korea National University of Arts.
Hyunju was the first person in her family to go to university, she explained. “I grew up in an underdeveloped area of Seoul, Korea. My house did not have a bathroom or hot water and at night I was often scared to go to the public bathroom in the dark. I was very lucky to be able to go to university and study film in Korea and it was only possible because I had a government scholarship that covered my tuition fees.
Drawn to stories
“Ever since I was very little, I was drawn to stories and I grew up surrounded by them. One of my earliest memories was listening to audiobooks with my sister whilst my mum was cooking.
“Even today, I can vividly recall the stories and how they were told because I listened to them over and over again. As soon as I was able to read, reading became my favourite activity.
“Come to think of it, I was kind of a weird kid. At school, I would read all the stories in my Korean literature textbooks and I deliberately wore a big backpack to and from school just so that I could fill it with as many books from the library as I was allowed to borrow at once. It must have weighed over 7kg.
“I loved being able to submerge myself into fantastic universes and limitless adventures. They made me feel free and truly in control.
“I was around 15 years-old when I really discovered film and TV. I instantly fell in love and consumed them like a hungry whale eating millions and millions of plankton. I was so obsessed with the medium that I accidentally learnt English through all the shows and movies I watched.
From consuming to creating
“From there, my appetite for narrative grew and grew. In my early 20s I realised it wasn’t enough to just consume anymore. I had to start creating my own stories and I knew exactly which medium I wanted to use.”
Hyunju Lee added: “I had quite an unusual upbringing and some of my life experiences, I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for myself. But as a result, my mind is filled with stories that I am eager to tell. I think it is one of my greatest strengths as a writer and director.
A world to explore
“I became who I am now because I could take shelter in stories when reality was diﬃcult. Stories are the reason I exist today. We live in an imperfect world, and there are still people who are going through the same struggles I went through. I want to be able to oﬀer them a world in which they can explore when they feel trapped.
“I believe I have unique and fresh stories that can deeply connect with people who struggled as I did. I would consider myself successful if my stories were able to help others push through diﬃcult times, just as they did for me.”
Hyunju is currently participating in the BFI Network South West New Writers Lab for another short film ‘Frozen: The Peculiar Story of Camilla’. A story about a single mother trapped in frozen time. She has been living in the UK for nearly a year, and added: “I came to the UK last year and the thing I missed the most from Korea was being part of a group of friends who all wanted to become filmmakers.”
Hyunju had previously written and directed short films and had been professionally involved in a number of feature film productions. She has also worked as a digital imaging technician (DIT) on a Korean drama and as a script supervisor on three Korean feature films.
During the quarantine, Hyunju Lee made a short experimental film ‘The Road Made of Water’. It won an Audience Choice Award. Currently, Hyunju is working on her first British film under the New Creatives scheme with the support of BBC Arts and Arts Council England. She explained: “It’s a five-minute short, showing the trauma of growing up in a beautiful and grotesque setting.”
Hyunju will take-up her place at MetFilm School London in the autumn, she said: “I’m most excited about building my network and learning alongside others who are studying to become filmmakers.
“Being around creative and passionate individuals is going to keep me motivated and supported. I’m looking forward to gaining new knowledge and experience from the course, as well as mentoring sessions with Viacom. It will be an exciting new adventure in my film journey and I just can’t wait to dive into it.
“I’m sure my time at MetFilm School will act as a great foundation for me to grow and thrive in the UK film industry.”
The Voices That Matter Scholarship has focused on women as part of MetFilm School’s overall outreach to groups who are underserved or underrepresented in the screen industry.
More information on Hyunju Lee check out her work via imdb.