Interview with Valerie Veatch
How did you learn about this case?
I was in Rome in 2010 and the international newswire was running the report from Andrew Salmon, the journalist who appears in the film. The way he described the story just got stuck in my head. I got back to the States and followed the ruling; it seemed like a poignant moment in history where the virtual world very much becomes part of the real world. Telling the story seemed like an opportunity to explore a lot of things happening around technology and society.
In the documentary, we never see the faces of the parents. Is this deliberate?
Ultimately it was a creative choice not to feature the couple in film. One reason is that the news media in Korea never showed their faces. And the film really isn't about watching these two people come to grips with what happened to them; I'm not the kind of filmmaker to shove a camera in someone's face and watch them cry. It's about the telecom infrastructure that created the environment in which commercial online gaming exists; how our quest for development has an impact on our own fabric of humanity. Representing the parents through a few artistic devices allows the film to take a broader focus.
Did you get a sense that when all is said and done, the parents understood the magnitude of their crime?
I think that they just shut down to the reality of what happened so now all of their focus is on raising this new child and being good parents.
Logistically speaking, what was it like to make a documentary set in Korea?
I had a huge team that made the film with me. I worked with a team of Korean journalists and filmmakers over in Korea ? our whole team was quite international. In New York, a group Korean students from NYU helped with translations. It was a real collaborative process with my Korean counterparts because I needed the film to feel authentic to a Korean audience. When we premiered in Korea last month, the younger students were asking, "How do we build a better world through technology?" They really picked up on the themes of the film. And I was thrilled to work with executive producer [and T-Mobile CEO] John Legere who understood the vision we wanted to take with the film.
Given the subject matter, is it primarily a younger audience responding to the film?
We premiered in a city outside of Seoul at a film festival in a town called JeonJu. It's very traditional, and very Korean. It's not an international city, but there's a university nearby. At the festival, there were old people, parents, middle-aged people, college-age kids? it was a real mix of people who came out for the film. I was really curious and concerned about how it was read, but we made a project that came across as hopeful and constructive, despite its seemingly dark subject matter.
Besides the principals in the case, you also include interviews with a trio of gamers on the street who debate whether they're addicted. Were they really that unsure?
Part of what we unravel is wanting to be in this cerebral space. Is that addiction or is it an extension of reality? Someone called this film 'Her' on acid.
What is it you hope people take away from the film?
I think the degree to which we are all drifting into this virtual space, it's important to look at how we're using technology and what we are being asked to do as consumers and as a society. The film is really about creating a dialogue.