“Minari,” from Plan B and A24, is writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical tale of a Korean-American family starting a new life in 1980s Arkansas. The characters, played by Steven Yeun, Yeri Han and Yuh-jung Youn, among others, live in a small mobile home on isolated patch of land; one of the challenges was to convey both the sense of home and the vast, green area. Praising his artisan team, Chung says, “This film wouldn’t have been possible without them. I think they know that, and I hope they get the recognition they deserve.”
Lachlan Milne, cinematographer
We talked about old Hollywood Westerns like “Giant” and “Big Country,” plus intimate family dramas, all the way from Ozu to “Force Majeure.” We were looking to bridge the gap between a big-land feeling, but contained in a small house. Lachie is from Australia and thought Arkansas would be dry; he didn’t anticipate how lush it was.
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With the home, the question was: How many ways can you shoot inside a small box? He was super at figuring out angles and different ways of lighting the set, including adding a few windows — anything to add dimensionality and a feeling of space for an area that really had no space.
Harry Yoon, editor
This was my first time working with an editor, and I didn’t know what to expect. We hit it off immediately. While we were shooting, he was in L.A. sending scenes to me, so I could review and edit dailies two or three days after I’d shot them. He would sometimes give me a list of shots to get — a closeup, insert or establishing shot. When I got back to L.A., a week after production wrapped, he had an editor’s cut. It was 2 hours and 40 minutes, and the goal was to hone it to under two hours. (The final film runs 1:55.) It was great starting point.
Yong Ok Lee, production designer
She only had four weeks of prep, and with the budget we had, it was not humanly possible for most people to do what she did. For the house, we wanted it realistic and within what this family can afford. She went to a place selling used trailers and she picked out all the things from the late ’70s to early ’80s, pulling things they would normally junk.
They thought she was out of her mind. I provided her with photos of my childhood home; she didn’t copy anything but found some details, and she looked at the color palette. The first time I saw what she had done, I was transported.
Emile Mosseri, composer
I told him to not do something Korean, and I think that was liberating. We both liked the idea of American Western films; we also talked about Ravel and Satie, that romantic, impressionistic tone. He sent me like five sketches before we started production. One was a “Minari Suite” that contained everything within the soundtrack.
Before filming some scenes, Lachie and I would listen to what he’d written and tried to find images that would fit the music. It was the first time for both Lachie and me to work this way and it was wonderful. Having this luxury feels like it’s now a necessity for me.
Kent Sparling, sound designer
He does some of the lower budget at Skywalker and we were so happy he wanted to take this on. Kent was incredible with ambiences; he even asked about sounds I grew up with. I told him about a specific frog from that region, and he recorded them — little details like that. He built a library of animal sounds, crickets, close to the region we were filming in. Kent would underlay those sounds and he would tune them; he’s a musician the way he does those sounds.
The scenes set in the factory were quite difficult because of how loud those chicks are. It was a challenge for him and dialog editor Dmitri Makarov. I wish more people would be able to hear their work in a movie theater. You feel like all those sounds of nature are with you.