Exclusive: Director So Yong Kim on Filming Wilderness, Now on Prime Video

WildernessIn the psychological thriller Wilderness, based on the B.E. Jones’ novel, Liv (Jenna Coleman) is happy in her seemingly perfect marriage to Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), until she learns he’s betrayed her and is having an affair. Her heartbreak quickly turns to fury. To make amends, Will takes her on an American roadtrip she’s been dreaming about since she was a little girl, from the Grand Canyon, through Yosemite, and eventually to Las Vegas. For Will, it’s a chance to start over, but for Liv, it’s a place where accidents happen all the time. 

SciFi Vision recently spoke with director So Yong Kim about her time working on the series.

Read the full transcript below, and be sure to check out Wilderness, now streaming on Prime Video. 

***The following contains slight spoilers***

WildernessSCIFI VISION:   What was it about this project that made you want to be part of it? 

Well, I think I first got first two episodes sent to me in the morning. I had a meeting with Marnie [Dickens] and Liz [Kilgarriff], because I just had this very personal connection to it. I felt like, that kind of rage against your partner is such a primal kind of emotion, and I felt very much connected to that, mostly, because I remember when I was pregnant with our first baby, like, around seven or eight months, I really had all these fantasies of running over my husband. [laughs] And I'm like, “Okay, this is just right up my alley.” 

We’re you familiar with the books at all, before doing this? 

No, not at all. I believe, after I read all six episodes, I wanted to read the book, and I kind of decided, probably not, because I needed to really focus on the script, and then the characters in the script and how I was going to shoot it in blocks, you know, six episodes and stuff. So, I didn't get a chance to. 

You haven't read it since then either? 

No, no. 

Have you read it? 

No, I have not. Well, since you didn't specifically adapt it in that way, what were some of the things that were difficult about creating it, even if you weren't necessarily, you know, making it specific to that? 

Oh, you mean shooting? 

Yeah, just just in general. Just, overall, what were some of the difficulties you had?

Well, I think shooting six episodes together, it's shooting about six hours of content. And it's a lot of shooting days. I think we shot for 75 days, and we blocked [and] shot all the episodes, meaning like, any given day, we would be shooting a scene from Episode Two or Four, Five. Then, those are the scenes from [those] episodes being covered that day. So, during the prep of that whole time, leading up to [when] they wanted to shoot, it was quite an intense time to prepare everything. Not only to go through all the rehearsals and fittings, but making sure we had all the locations scouted and locked. It was a tremendous amount of work. I think, like a friend of mine just recently shot a film, one and a half hour or two hours of film, in 75 days. So, we had so much more to shoot, and it was really fast. It was an intense, fast shooting. 

And I think, from what I've read and found, you shot this in more than one country, right? It was in the UK and in Canada and the United States. Is that correct? 

Yeah, it was mostly in Canada and the States. For all of our exterior locations of, you know, New York City, we tried to shoot in New York City. Of course, we shot the shot scenes in Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, and all the Yosemite stuff we shot in Whistler, combined with the Alberta/Banff area. So we basically had to - yeah, we were a traveling circus show, basically. 

Can you talk a bit about the cast? Were you involved in the casting process? Because this is not the kind of role, I guess, I'm used to seeing Jenna in, and I was surprised. I'm just kind of curious about the casting for this. 

Yeah, I think Elizabeth Kilgarriff, who's our executive producer and found the material, found the book originally, she thought of Jenna Coleman, and she recommended me to watch her work in The Cry, because Elizabeth worked with Jenna in The Cry. Then, after that, I watched The Serpent on Netflix, and I just fell in love with her. She is so talented and flexible and agile in her acting, and I was just amazed. So, I think the credit of casting Jenna really goes to Elizabeth. Then, once that was something that we knew, I think finding the perfect chemistry balance between her and Oliver was just kind of a no-brainer, really. I mean, we weren't sure they would get along, but from the moment I think they met, they were just amazing together on set, as well as offset. I think they’re best friends. 

Good. Without spoiling what happens, can you talk about filming, I guess, that important scene in the woods? [I know you are in a big area in the woods], but I would still think that that would still have its own problems, just shooting kind of in that kind of area. And also, I mean, I don't know, maybe it's not as high as it looks, but it looks like it's pretty high up…where the main action, let’s say, happens. 

That was so complicated for us to set up, and it's really patched together with several locations for us. An initial location that we found was in and around Banff, which is like the Rocky Mountains, more Midwest of Canada area, the mountain ranges and Banff. Then, we patched some of that together with locations in Whistler, and then [the] actual place, at nighttime, in the rain, when she pushes somebody in the red jacket off the cliff, that location is in Vancouver, in one of the state parks on the edge of one of the, you know, picturesque, fantastic landscapes. So, that was due to the logistics of us trying to build. Like, we had to set up all these rain towers for the thunder storms, as well as a tremendous amount of lighting surrounding that so you could see the lightning and the rain falling on her. Then, we have this extremely long tracking shot of her running through the rain in the mountains. Then, also, we had a crane shot of it. It was just very technically challenging. And most of the areas around Banff is national park, and they don't allow people bringing water tanks and water trucks into the parks, so we couldn't have rain towers placed in and around the park. Then, in Whistler, it was just impossible to schedule such a complicated setup within all the hiking scenes. So, then, it ended up we shot that pushing in the rain at night, the very last day we were shooting in Canada, actually. So, it was our day 62 of the shoot, and after that we wrapped out of Canada, or Vancouver, completely, and then we relocated to New York City. So, that was one of the most intense shooting days. 

Filming-wise, as in your experience filming it rather than watching the show, what was your favorite scene that you got to film? 

Oh, I think for me any and all scenes with Jenna and Oliver, especially when they're really going at it together, at each other. Like the first scene would be the Christmas Eve argument when she discovers he has been having an affair. I think that scene was so electrifying for us to shoot and work on together. We blocked it. We rehearsed it, choreographed it, and it's just really, really exciting and fun to shoot a scene like that and to watch two very masterful actors really deliver their craft, like the artistry of it. I mean, it was just magical to watch. So, there's that, and many other scenes where they're really intense and wonderful together. And I think, still, for me, like physically and technically the pushing off the cliff in the rain storm was, I think, very rigorous and fantastic to shoot with my DP Kat Westergaard, who was and is amazing. So, yeah, those two scenes, are great examples. 

Then, to wrap up, I was just curious, what what kind of message do you hope people get from this? Because I mean, there's kind of like, you know, the revenge side of it, that she can kind of do and say what maybe people normally don’t, but want to say, and she's kind of not so reserved, in a lot of ways. Just kind of, what do you want people to take out of it, overall? 

Yeah, I think, overall, it's such a roller coaster of a ride, emotionally, and also for the character to journey through. I think, at the end of it…it's thrilling, and it's exhausting, and it's exciting, but I hope that the audience comes away with a certain amount of empathy for Liv, as well as Will, you know, that their relationship was complicated, and it's complex. So, I hope there's a certain amount of empathy for both of them.

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