Filmmaker Jiyoung Lee wanted to make a comedy about a sociopath
January 23, 2015
"Female Pervert" is a provocative title for a film.
Filmmaker Jiyoung Lee came up with it after she made her first film, "Moral Sleaze," in 2013.
"For some reason, I have a thing for two-word titles, and I thought it would be funny if someone made a film called ‘Female Pervert,’" Lee said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from her home in Atlanta, Georgia. "It was a passing thought and didn’t think of it seriously."
A few months later, Lee was involved in a car accident.
"It’s a pretty convoluted story, but I had to get a new license plate and the DMV issued me one that had these letters and numbers – PRN 6969," Lee said. "I’m serious. It wasn’t a vanity plate. It was just a coincidence. So, that was when I looked at it as a sign from the gods to make the ‘Female Pervert’ and started writing."
"Female Pervert" will have its world premiere at Slamdance at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St., on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 10:15 p.m. An additional screening will be Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 4:20 p.m.
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The comedy is about a sexually awkward, Asian American woman named Phoebe, a computer-game programmer who has no concept of personal or sexual boundaries. Consequently, Phoebe alienates everyone around her.
The character is a figment of Lee’s imagination.
"I don’t make movies based on my personal life because it’s kind of boring," she said with a laugh. "This film isn’t as much culled from personal experience, as much as it was from what I thought a female sociopath would look like in an imaginary world.
"While Phoebe is a sociopath, I thought of her more like a kid," Lee explained. "That’s how kids are. If you’ve been around a 3-year-old, they don’t know what is acceptable and not. If there are any personal references in the film, it would be the scenes that involve phone calls from the NGO telemarketers who can be very aggressive at times."
Jennifer Kim portrays Phoebe.
"I first met her at Slamdance in 2011 and I thought she had good comedic timing," Lee said. "I didn’t think about her for a couple of years until I saw her on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show called ‘Your Hole.’"
The program featured comedian Michael Ian Black as a spiritual guru and Kim had a small, but significant role as one of the guru’s followers, according to Lee.
"She didn’t have any lines, but she left an impression," the filmmaker said. "I liked her facial expressions."
The more Lee wrote the script for ‘Female Pervert,’ the more she also wanted a petite actress such as Kim to be in the film.
"I didn’t want an actress that emoted a lot of sexuality," Lee said. "I also wanted someone who could pull off quirky comedy."
The jokes and visual gags that run throughout are in the film were inspired by events Lee has observed.
For example, "Female Pervert" features a couple of pivotal scenes involving a book club.
"I’ve never belonged to a book club, to be honest, but those scenes were inspired by a film I saw two years ago where these old guys in Denmark have a book club and they are very serious during their discussions. I have been part of book discussions in school, so that’s how the patterns of the discussions came about."
Still, as a filmmaker, Lee couldn’t help but add a little of her own philosophy in the film.
The main one deals with cultural differences between Asia and the United States.
She uses the example of a scene in Hayao Miyazaki’s family animated film "My Neighbor Totoro," where a father takes a bath with his two daughters, one of whom is 11 years old.
"That scene is marked in my mind and has never been controversial in Japan," Lee said. "I’m not sure why people here in the U.S. haven’t made an issue of it — maybe because it’s a foreign film. I don’t know. I tried to put my observations of how certain things are weird here and not over there and weird there and not over here."
"Female Pervert" is Lee’s first film accepted into Slamdance.
"It’s a great honor," she said. "I’ve been to Slamdance before as an actress and it’s the best festival that I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to many all around the country.
"It’s run by programmers who care about movies," Lee said. "It’s one of the festivals that accept slightly weird storylines and they have an open mind when considering all of their films. I’m honored to be in a group with other exceptional filmmakers."
Slamdance will premiere Jiyoung Lee’s "Female Pervert" at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St., on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 10:15 p.m. An additional screening will be Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 4:20 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.slamdance.com.
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