Action film maestro Jung Byung-gil goes back to his artistic roots with NFTs

Director Jung Byung-gil [PARK SANG-MOON]

Action film maestro Jung Byung-gil is tapping into his artistic side as he becomes the first Korean filmmaker to design and sell his own non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The 42-year-old is best known for his action-thriller films “Confession of Murder” (2012), “The Villainess” (2017), and most recently, the Netflix original film “Carter” which was released on Aug. 5. Since Aug. 10, the film is No. 1 on the platform’s non-English films chart. Jung is also set to make his directorial debut in Hollywood with the action-adventure film "Afterburn" starring actor Gerard Butler.

NFTs in the local movie industry aren't new but they have mostly been used as a means of promotion. They are sold in the form of digitalized versions of the films’ posters and their characters and their buyers also receive VIP premiere tickets or the movies’ merchandise.

Jung’s NFTs, which began minting on Tuesday, are unique in that he designed them himself. The NFTs are characters and Jung also wrote descriptions about them and original stories to go with them.

A scene in "The Villainess" (2017) featuring the main female assassin portrayed by actor Kim Ok-vin [NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD]

His NFT project is inspired by his Cannes-premiering film “The Villainess,” which is about a trained female assassin who follows orders to kill from a government organization that promises her a normal life after completing her missions. The NFT characters take the form of seven different female alien species that unleash their killers in order to inhabit a planet that they call Another Earth.

Working with local NFT studio Arkpia, Jung drew the underlying sketches of the alien assassins. Arkpia was launched by J&John, a company specializing in representing artists and artworks and holding exhibitions.

NFT characters inspired by the film "The Villainess" (2017) designed by Jung Byung-gil [ARKPIA]

“The process of making the NFTs was very similar to that of a movie so it didn’t feel too foreign,” Jung told the Korea JoongAng Daily during an interview in Songpa District, southern Seoul, on Aug. 11. “I see NFTs as another great new creative platform for directors to interact with audiences and share their work with people around the world.”

Jung’s NFTs are sold in the form of PFPs (picture for proof), which is a type of NFT designed to be used as a profile picture.

A scene in the Netflix movie "Carter" (2022) featuring actor Joo Won and his tattoos which were designed by Jung Byung-gil [NETFLIX]

Having been an aspiring artist and studying oriental art until high school, Jung is a director who is strongly driven by visuals. For instance, “Carter” was inspired by ink brush paintings of East Asia. He is also known to incorporate his art skills into filmmaking, often presenting actors with self-drawn storyboards to share his visions for scenes. He also designed the tattoos on the body of the lead actor Joo Won in "Carter."

Jung gave up his dream of being an artist and decided to become a filmmaker because he wanted a bigger audience for his creations.

“I felt that drawing wasn’t a very accessible form of expression and that it would be incredibly difficult to actually get people other than my family to see my works,” Jung said. “I ultimately wanted to communicate with people through my pieces, which is why I shifted to moviemaking.”

Similarly, Jung was drawn to the idea of making his own NFTs because it was a way that he could share his artwork with people all around the world.

“Although I’ve completed writing the character descriptions and a backstory for how all the characters are connected, I don’t have a set protagonist or antagonist,” Jung said. “I purposely left many things open. I want to communicate with people and engage them in building the narrative together.”

Jung’s story behind his NFTs will be released in three parts on Arkpia’s website throughout 2023.

Jung also hinted at possible adaptations of the story on other platforms.

“It could turn into a sci-fi action film or, I’ve received calls from game companies so it could also become a game,” he said, adding that he is open to new challenges and opportunities.

Director Jung Byung-gil [PARK SANG-MOON]

Jung’s draw to unconventionality is what makes him stand out in the cinema world.

He recently showcased a one-scene, one-cut film style in “Carter” and designed nail-biting action scenes such as mid-air body combat with minimal special effects.

“The Villainess” also became the talk of the town for using a female protagonist at a time when female leads were extremely rare locally, particularly in action movies.

“It doesn’t feel right to do something that has already been done before,” said Jung. “Also, there is the thrill of putting something new out in the world and seeing people’s reactions.”

Jung’s NFTs are available on the NFT platform OpeanSea. More details about the NFT release are available via Arkpia’s website, Discord and Twitter accounts.