Sundance 2015 Interview: Jacqueline Kim & Jennifer Phang on ‘Advantageous’

I reviewed the short film Advantageous at Fantastic Fest 2012 so I was excited when the feature length version played at Sundance. It’s got the short film in there, but it expands on many of the ideas and introduces a lot more. I got to sit down with writer/star Jacqueline Kim and writer/director writer/director Jennifer Phang in the Acura Lounge on Main Street. 

Kim plays Gwen, a marketing executive in a future where employment for women is at an all time low. Her company is selling a procedure that can transfer your brain into a younger body, and Gwen is pressured to use the procedure herself. We got to speak about the expansion of the short to a feature and the provocative questions the film asks.

Advantageous just won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

 

Related: Sundance Interview: Ken Jeong on ‘Advantageous’ & ‘Community’

 

CraveOnline: Was the short always planned to be a feature?

Jennifer Phang: No, it wasn’t always planned to be a feature. We realized we could make a feature of the short. I was realizing it during production because there was this amazing chemistry between Jacqueline and Samantha Kim, who are not related. They had this amazing mother/daughter chemistry. The moment I saw them interact it was already moving me to tears. Jacqueline was so excited about the material of the short and really curious about it and wanted to explore so much, so it just felt right. We worked together and dug deeper. 

There are all these moments when we were making the short that I knew were glorious but I wasn’t sure that they would be able to fit into the restrictions of the short film. Because I was making the short film for PBS and they really wanted me to keep it under 20 minutes. That meant that I would have to be throwing a lot of beauty on the cutting room floor, which makes sense for a short. But I felt that the world wanted to see Jacqueline Kim in her full glory. 

Jacqueline Kim: I would say that the main structure of the short is the structure of the feature. It’s one of the really strong skeletal structures of the feature. 

When you got the ability to expand Advantageous, did you think of all new themes and consequences that could add onto this idea of a future where we’re fighting aging and people are actually being pressed to stop aging?

Jacqueline Kim: I think I thought about supporting what existed in the short and going very deep, so understanding what was behind the corporate dictate on Gwen. Then understanding really in the flesh the people who would be deciding Jules’s future which is the mother of the kids where she would be going to school. And then understanding Jules’s small tight circle of friends, what would influence her? And then also understanding Gwen and Jules’s background, why they’re isolated? I really wanted to delve into the dysfunction of her family that was running through things that she was trying very much to break away from, but I think as we all know, you can’t really break away from certain things that are moving through you that you inherit from your family. So I think that the film tries to deal with that history. 

It certainly got me thinking. If you can get a new body when you’re sick or injured, when does that stop? Wouldn’t people live forever? When do they accept it’s time to let my life end naturally?

Jacqueline Kim: That’s a really amazing insight and I think that that’s at the center of the story. How much control do we as human beings want to have, and what does progress mean? Does progress mean that you can have a conversation with a fellow human being and be human? Or does it mean that you’re just going to be this ultra-human that just exists forever? Or is that natural to who we are? If you take soul and personality aside, do we have within us biologically just this drive to endlessly create where it might lead to our own destruction? I think that’s a deep philosophical seed in the story.