TIFF14: Interview with Director Albert Shin of IN HER PLACE

In Her Place is making its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Written and directed by Albert Shin, the film is about a wealthy city woman who arrives at a remote South Korean farmer where a pregnant teenaged girl and her mother have agreed to let her secretly adopt the girl’s unborn child. As the pregnancy progresses and the three women fall into a new rhythm of life together, their business arrangement becomes more than they bargained for.

I had a chance to chat with director Albert Shin about this film as he gets ready for its premiere during TIFF…

So, WOW! Where did the did the story idea come from?

The main location in the film was a family farm that belong to my extended family and had always intrigued me as a setting for a film. It used to be a bustling dairy farm back when I was a kid, but had sort of been abandoned at some point and wasting away. I spent years thinking about a story idea that I could set there, but wasn’t making any breakthroughs.  Finally, a few years ago I was at a restaurant in Korea when I overheard a large family in the midst of a heated debate regarding the legitimacy of an absent family member’s pregnancy.  Half the table thought she was pregnant and the other half thought she was faking it.  Their discussion brought back memories of my own family gossiping about how so-and-so not the real child of so-and-so.  I then started to do more research on secret adoptions in Korea, and found it was something that used to be extremely prevalent in their culture and still happens today.  I knew I had finally found the story idea to match my location.

The title of this film “In Her Place” has landed in so many different ways for me, personally, but what does it mean to you?

The title seemed to communicate the essence of the film so succinctly, that once I settled on it, it was a no-brainer; however, we actually didn’t have an official title until the film was all edited.  There are some obvious meanings suggested in the title, but the one that speaks strongest to me is how it alludes to the film’s emphasis on character point of view and perspective.

Photo courtesy of In Her PlaceCan you tell us about the cast, particularly the teen and the adopting mother, and why you had selected them?

I had an amazing cast of very experienced and highly regarded actors from both the screen and stage and I feel extremely lucky that they would agree to work with a young and unknown Korean-Canadian director.  Yoon Da Kyung, who played the city woman who comes to the farm, was somebody that read the script and immediately responded to it.  Right from our first meeting, we were on the same page.  However, for the teen, I was having trouble casting the part after auditioning potential actresses for months.  Then Ahn Ji Hye came to a casting call without much acting experience and completely blew me away.  She has the rare ability to communicate more by doing less and her take on the character was really different and fresh.

What’s the film industry like in Canada?

Just like any artistic industry, I think you have to look for ways to open doors for yourself and not wait for the industry to magically open doors for you.  In this day in age, making films on your own has gotten much easier to do with the access to better and cheaper equipment; literally anybody can make a film with a group of friends.  That’s how I started out and if you stick with it and can prove yourself, hopefully the industry takes notice and it gets easier to continue to do it.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you about the industry?

Chalk every road block and rejection as a form of character-building.

What do you love about TIFF?

Being a Torontonian, TIFF has always been a wonderful avenue to discover new and exciting films and artistic voices over the years.  it really does rejuvenate my love of cinema and filmmaking.

What causes the most stress for you about TIFF?

World premiering a new film in such a high profile venue can be quite frightening.  But deciding what to wear for events seems to stress me out much more than it should.

The audience participation at TIFF has always been a very cool feature, what was the strangest (or craziest, or best) question you’ve ever had to answer?

I once did a press line for a film I produced when I quickly realized the journalist asking me questions was confusing me with somebody else.  Not sure why I didn’t correct them, but I proceeded to do the interview anyway as this other person, vaguely answering questions about a film I knew nothing about.

What’s next for you?

I’m producing the feature film, “The Waiting Room” directed by Igor Drljaca through our production company, TimeLapse Pictures.

Okay…how about a few fun questions?

Do you listen to K-Pop? Any favourites?

Despite my Korean background, I couldn’t name you two K-Pop songs or artists.

Okay, this film was pretty intense, so what do you do to decompress?

I go for long aimless drives.

Your favourite movie of all time?

Schindler’s List

If you could work with any actor, who would that be?

Michael Shannon.

The most amazing location you’ve filmed?

The main farm location in “In Her Place”.  No doubt!

Your mantra?

Just go for it!

What do you have on repeat?

The Boss (Bruce Springsteen)

When I crave Korean food in Toronto, I go to _______________.

서울분식. A hole in the wall Korean restaurant on Bloor St. Koreatown.  I’m not even sure it has an English name.  It might just be called Seoul Restaurant.  Love this place.

Describe yourself in three words.

Nervous energy galore.

For screening schedule and tickets for IN HER PLACE, visit tiff.net

Here is the official trailer…



Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of AZNmodern.com. She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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