With its surreal visual allure and fast-paced action, “Moving,” an adaptation from the eponymous webtoon, has garnered immense popularity. The storyline revolves around a group of innocent teenagers with superpowers, pitted head-to-head against some of the world’s most powerful governments. This makes viewers cling to the edge of their seats while experiencing a series brimming with fun, thrills, action, and mysteries. The maestro responsible for the captivating set design of the series, which exclusively airs on Disney+ Hotstar, is Chae Kyoung-sun.
An award-winning art director, she has astounded viewers with her enchanting creative visuals that translate the story’s vision through the meticulously designed sets, props, and graphics. Since her creative debut with “Come, Closer” (2010), she boasts extensive experience overseeing the production design of various Korean films and series, including Netflix’s hit “Squid Game” (2021), “Detective K: Secret of Virtuous Widow” (2011), “The Royal Tailor” (2014), and “EXIT” (2019). In this exclusive interview, we get up close and personal with Chae Kyoung-sun as she shares intricate details about the set design, props, and her overall creative vision.
Interview with Chae Kyoung-sun, the Art Director of ‘Moving’
What did you have in mind when you designed and built the set for Jungwon High School?
For episodes one through seven, the dominating colour tone I thought of was vibrant light green, followed by darker green and yellow. The school, in terms of the spatial structure, had to bear some resemblance to the NIS for their system of control, but school is still a place for children, so with that in mind, we decided to use brighter and vibrant colours for the school. Because the school is attended by people with superpowers it had to have elements that were slightly off compared to normal schools, so there were security cameras to constantly watch these kids. The kind of surveillance they are exposed to is a parallel to what you see from the NIS.
Did the characters’ superpowers influence the art and set design for the series?
I had a lot of conversations with the stunt team about this. Bongseok and Doosik would move predominantly in vertical directions, whereas Ganghoon would move more horizontally to use his strength and power. When we built the set for the school, we made sure that the hallway was long and wide enough for the scenes to be effectively shot. For the spaces where Bongseok would be flying, we ensured that the sets were built with enough height to convey a sense of scale and verticality. This was reflected in the height of the ceiling in the hallways and pillars. You will see that the horizontal and vertical structures of the space vary depending on the character.
Were there any challenges to executing the spaces envisioned in the script? Or did you like how the spaces were described in the script?
Writer Kangfull had such detailed requirements in the script, and director Park Inje was extremely meticulous on set as well. They were able to notice some of the production design elements that were missing on set, which reminded me that I should be extremely focused working with them. For instance, when designing Bongseok’s place, we checked everything, from deciding where he usually sits to having particular items in specific positions like having the sandbag on his right side and the backpack behind him. We also paid attention to the stairs he uses to come down from his room on the second floor and the space where he bickers with his mom.
We also planned around his movements as he preps to go to school, considering how he grabs his things before going to school. We developed a kind of code for when he leaves the house to make sure that Bongseok has his sandbag, backpack, and two water bottles. The director would even pay attention to every prop on set, so we could create spaces that were richer and more multi-dimensional than what was initially written in the script. Writer Kangfull and director Park Inje were very open to our ideas. We placed a soft toy bear in his room in the background as well as stickers of cartoon characters like the Lightning Man, which Bongseok would have applied on the wall when he was a kid. We paid attention to the smallest details to create a sense of lived-in space for Bongseok, and we did the same for other spaces as well.
Similar to the details that you listed about Bongseok, other characters must have had details that would show who they are. What about Huisoo?
Huisoo is someone who is on the sports track in school, and so, she does a variety of activities to train herself and keep strength up, like running or throwing balls, which had to look authentic. Our focus for this character was to create props that were safe to use on set. We took great care to prevent any injuries, while at the same time, having the actor kick or throw a ball very far and run fast. It must have been very demanding for the actor because she had to run around a lot when filming. Another element I remember was her raincoat, which had to be a pretty yellow hue. This was what would represent the character and was something that was part of the original webtoon. We went through multiple test shoots to produce the yellow raincoat because we had to ensure that the colour was reproduced in a slightly bright and clean hue. We also paid a great deal of attention to her costume, especially when it came to her training suit.
Apart from the supermarket, did you have any design devices you employed to represent Ganghoon?
The clock would be one example. In terms of the space, the supermarket is where his parents wait for Ganghoon, so I wanted it to reflect his parents’ love for him. We installed a flat wooden deck in front of the supermarket with chairs around it, where his dad waits for him. We also wanted the material to reflect age to show the years that Ganghoon spent waiting for his dad as well. As you know, Ganghoon later uses his supernatural strength. Initially, we didn’t have a lot of scenes shot in the school, but later in the story, we had to film a lot of action scenes there, which required us to build additional sets for the school. We focused on the special sets for these action scenes because Ganghoon’s use of his strength to save people was an important part of the story.
How do you think you will remember this project?
Throughout the entire process, from pre-production to production, working on Moving was a heart-warming experience even though it demanded a tremendous amount of physical energy and effort. I thought about why I felt that way and realised that this is not about some extraordinary superheroes that save the entire nation, but it’s actually about ordinary people and their everyday lives. The story reflects parents’ love for their children and love for family. It’s a story about protecting what matters. The project allowed me to witness these stories through the charming characters, so I think it will remain a project that warms my heart when I look back on the experience.