‘Midnight Asia’ director sheds light on Asian nightlife with personal stories

“Midnight Asia: Eat. To dance. Dreaming.” director Joe Evans in Seoul with James Lee McQuown (Netflix via The Korea Herald/Asia News Network)

SEOUL — For Joe Evans, 34, creator and director of Netflix’s travel documentary series “Midnight Asia: Eat. To dance. Dream. anyone with an inspiring story was welcome in his six-part series showcasing the bustling nightlife of Asian metropolises.

“We were able to tell stories through the show from different social strata, from the ages of 18 to the late 80s. It was a very inclusive cast and we were open to everyone as long as they had a nice story,” Evans said in a Zoom interview with The Korea Herald on Friday.

“With the tall tales and stories, we were able to present culture, food and identity with a new lens and deliver the multidimensional and visually exciting energy in Asia,” Evans added.

With the aim of finding out what the idea of ​​home means to people and how their environment influences their passion and sense of belonging, the Welsh director and his production team explored the intimate stories of night owls, who live a different life than night owls. – five schedules.

Deciding on the six Asian cities – Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Bangkok, Taipei and Manila – for the series was a lengthy process, according to the director.

Midnight Asia: Eat.  To dance.  Dream.

“Midnight Asia: Eat. To dance. Dreaming.” director Joe Evans in Manila in January 2020. (Netflix via The Korea Herald/Asia News Network)

“It was similar to how a band, which has a lot of songs to put on an album, chooses the music that will work well on the next album. I wanted the six choices to be a breakdown of iconic cities and less obvious choices,” Evans said.

He also hoped for the spread of cities geographically, without focusing on a specific region such as Northeast Asia.

In addition to the research of the director and the production team, specific sites and actors were also found by local producers. The intention was to introduce new characters who weren’t too exposed in the local scene, which would surprise even domestic viewers.

“The basic premise was to find someone with an inspiring story, contributing to the nightlife cultures of their cities. We needed people whose stories can also reveal elements of local culture,” Evans said.

Although the Seoul episode was shot in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the director was sure that the message and theme of the series remained strong.

“I think the scale of some stories may have been affected. There are no massive nightclubs or parties, but the message we wanted to convey to viewers was the characters, who contributed to the nightlife cities. Because we wanted something timeless, we didn’t address or focus on the COVID-19 situation,” the director said.

Midnight Asia: Eat.  To dance.  Dream.

From top left, clockwise: Co-founder of Hangang Brewery Koh Sung-yong; owners of Ungteori Tongdak Han Eui-soo (left) and Park Soon-hee; Private Road Running Club co-founder James Lee McQuown and traditional Korean music-inspired band Leenalchi stars in “Midnight Asia: Eat. Dance. Dream.” (Netflix via The Korea Herald/Asia News Network)

Although all six episodes were special, Evans felt that Seoul epitomizes the tagline – “Eat. Dance. Dream.” – from the Serie.

“We explored the incredible music of the Leenalchi band and discovered the incredible makgeolli, a centuries-old traditional Korean rice wine from Hangang Brewery. The conversation with the owners of a fried chicken restaurant Ungteori Tongdak and the sharing of experiences with the late night runners of the Private Road Running Club were amazing,” Evans told the Korea Herald.

The director thought the idea of ​​inclusivity, bringing together different passions into one community, making everyone feel invited, was something Evans and his team discovered in Seoul.

“As a modern metropolis, people (in Seoul) can be a bit cold and distant. But I felt the inviting atmosphere and the warmth, because of the local culture,” the director said, quoting James Lee McQuown, cast member of the Seoul episode.

A night view of Seoul in “Midnight Asia: Eat.  To dance.  Dream.

A night view of Seoul in “Midnight Asia: Eat. To dance. Dream.” (Netflix via The Korea Herald/Asia News Network)

The major aspect of the Korean wave being more focused on the modern look. Evans believed that his series presented a new slice of Korea, which featured the dance of tradition and modernity with “newtro”, a trending keyword in Korea which is a combination of “new” and “retro”.

“I personally found the newtro interesting, as it wasn’t about doing the old in a modern setting, but more about fusing tradition with modern instruments and ingredients. It certainly provided a way to do bring out the local culture through an interesting subject,” said Evans.

Towards the end of the interview, the director was excited to think about a new way to tell stories and share different sides of Asia and more.

“We have already received beautiful messages from people enjoying the series. We could do more “Midnight” episodes, featuring other unique cities in Asia. But we can also explore different continents like Africa and Europe. Every city has a nightlife culture,” Evans said.

“We could even expand the series to show the morning life of Asia. More emblematic cities, or less known.


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