Interview Rewind: "Wedding Palace" Co-Screenwriter Robert Gardner

Originally posted on Moniqueblog.net in 2013. 

Wedding Palacedirected by Christine Yoo and written by Robert Gardner and Derek Draper and starring Brian Tee, Hye-jeong Kang, Bobby Lee, Jean Yoon and Margaret Cho, is a film that has charm, humor, and tons of sweet likability. The film is also unique–even though the film is one that’s about Korean culture, the writers, Gardner and Draper, are both African-American. So how did this film come to be, and what type of research was done to get the film’s voice just right? I was able to discuss this with Gardner in an email interview. Check out his insight into the writing process and what his favorite film from the scene is. Also look below for a behind-the-scenes video about the making of the film. Wedding Palace is now available to home audiences.

What was the genesis for Wedding Palace?

Robert Gardner: The genesis begins with Los Angeles and the multi-cultural interaction with the many groups trying to make art.  We have had countless conversations about a certain kind of character being depicted in Western cinema. The paradigm that we were seeing always had the white character at the center of the film.  Chris [Christine Yoo] and I always wanted to find a way to “flip” that script.  We talked about funk, K-Pop, salsa, punk…we constantly discussed Spanish cinema, Japanese cinema, Chinese cinema, anime, African-American cinema and…when Chris talked about doing Wedding Palace I wanted to help…but, I never thought she would invite me to help her with the writing.  So if the genesis begins with L.A., it is ends with Christine, her openness, her inclusive spirit, her determination to make you feel welcome.

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There is a cross-cultural mix taking place within the film since it’s a film about a Korean-American family, but you are both African-American. Sometimes in filmmaking, there’s often a danger of a writer creating an unauthentic world for characters outside of the writer’s race. How did you make sure the film was authentic to Korean and Korean-American audiences?

I was concerned about being authentic with the voices of the characters. For me, I turned to my Korean friends and friends of friends.  I did interviews to get a sense of the rhythm of the characters, but also to understand the culture.  I paid for a lot of Korean meals where we discussed Korean culture.  I was particularly concerned with the adult voices.  I spent a lot of time on the mother, father, uncles, aunts…really making sure the audience would “feel” these were authentic characters.  It always helped that Chris was there during the rewrites.  We didn’t do this in one sitting…writing is rewriting and then rewriting again and again and when you are sure it is working, you wind up rewriting
again and again.

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How much research of Korean culture did you undergo to write the film?

As I stated I used my Korean friends and their friends as research, they took me home to have meal with their family. So a lot of the scenes come out of the rhythm of the voices around the table.  They also allowed me to tape the conversations. One other thing really helped me.  The LA Times did an article about Korean-Americans and Koreans.  Very helpful.  When they saw the film, they were sure it was their Korean family being depicted on the screen.  My belief always is [to] respect the viewer.  If they feel you respect them they will go on the journey with you. They will invest in the characters…their hope and fear for the character will be engaged through out the film.

Out of the scenes you’ve written, which scene(s) is/are your favorite(s)?

My favorite scene…there is a small scene between the Jason’s mother and his bride to be, Na Young, in a bridal shop, one of the objects used in the scene is the “glove.”  I remember writing that scene.  Over time you forget the scenes you have written and it wasn’t until I saw the finished film that I remembered how much I loved writing that scene. Every time I see it…it touches me deeply.

So far, feedback from the film has shown that Wedding Palace has won fans thanks to its sweet and charming storytelling. How do you feel about the feedback Wedding Palace has received so far?

I love the feedback.  I think that tone is due to what was on the page, the direction (Chris, again) and [Brian Tee’s] performance [as Jason]. Sweet. Touching. Charming.  The tone is set at the beginning and Chris very carefully threads it all the way through.

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What do you think audiences like the most about Wedding Palace?

I think they like that it is humorous, sweet, touching…but most of all there is a HUGE SURPRISE hidden right in front of you the entire time…with that revelation, audiences scream with laughter.  Many people go back to see it a second time to figure out how it was done.

Credit: GOGOGO Entertainment

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