How I gained 20 lbs and Found my Next Movie: “Hungry For Love”

Hungry for Love. Soojin Chung.
"Hungry for Love" is a new film by CAAM Fellow Soojin Chung's -- "a heart-warming love story where food brings people together."

Growing up in Korea, I was never interested in food. I was an unusual kid who never asked for candy or hamburgers like the other children. In fact, food was last on my list of things to obsess over. But after I moved to America things changed. I found another side of myself that I never knew existed. I became…a FOODIE!

You see, I’ve worked on eight major feature films in South Korea including Park Chan-wook’s Venice winner Lady Vengeance. But I got injured on the set and decided to head to the U.S. to restart my career. I had my fair share of ups and downs like everybody else. I began attending the American Film Institute and that’s where I met my current director, Justin Ambrosino. We found we had similar tastes in movies but different tastes in food. He cared too much about it and I too little. But Justin wasn’t the only one with a passion for food. Slowly, I became a part of this movement known as “foodies.” Only my pants didn’t fit exactly they way they used to anymore. I wasn’t bothered by it, until…

Two years ago, I went back to South Korea for the post-production of my previous film Escape From Tomorrow and reconnected with my old friends and colleagues. Shortly after our happy reunion,over Korean BBQ, everyone started recommending diets, blind dates and dying my gray hair. Korean people were genuinely concerned about my weight, age and my single status. I became an un-ideal woman, and that’s when I realized how I am categorized in Korean society.

When I went to the Korean shopping mall to buy some clothes, people gave me a quick, cold stare and yelled “WE DON’T CARRY YOUR SIZE!” I am size “medium” in America! I knew Korean people were obsessed about their appearance, and tend to make only “one size fits all,”—which would be a “small” or even “extra small” here—but I never knew what it felt like to be discriminated against like that. As time passed, I couldn’t wait to come back to America where I believed differences are more widely accepted.

When I came back, I told Justin, my current director, about how miserable I was feeling. Quickly, he related stories of his childhood, in particular his mother. Justin remembered a time when he was walking with his mother, holding her hand and some older kids made fun of her—calling her a derogatory name because of her weight. She didn’t say anything, only held his hand tighter, as they quickly walked away. Then, as he grew older, he began to feel her feelings, especially when they’d watch movies together, and when the issue of weight would come up in a scene, the tension became thick in the room. When it was handled in a comedic way, he’d feel uncomfortable, but when it was done in a more empathetic way, his mother might laugh and so would he! Justin told me he thought nothing of his mother’s weight. He saw her as beautiful because he knows her heart is in the right place and that’s true beauty.

That’s when we came up with the idea for Hungry For Love—a heart-warming love story where food brings people together and starring a couple of non-traditional romantic leads. I think we need something to combat the overwhelming amount of beauty and fitness advertisements that preach only skinny is beautiful. There is no “smoking hot babe” or “chiseled hunk” in Hungry for Love. Instead, it is just regular, good people—who also deserve a happy ending. Almost everybody I know feels like they are struggling to get to where they want to be. Our characters are no different. We all have our fair share of ups and downs and sometimes we just needed to let it all go, to restore our strength. And that is when these two strangers meet in their lives. After having a bad day, they just want to enjoy themselves instead of feeling depressed, and food is what really makes them happy. They decide to embark on a five borough dining adventure together! Who knows? Maybe they can find hope and confidence along the way or even their soul mate—you know, someone who doesn’t judge them! And it’s all set in New York City, the microcosm of the world, where you can find every kind of cuisine just around the corner.

Currently, we are running a Kickstarter campaign in order to reach out to our potential audience, so if you connect in any way with this story, whether you’re a foodie, chef, restaurateur, food film lover, or all of the above, please come and join our campaign to make Hungry for Love. We can not make this movie with out you!

Soojin Chung

Soojin Chung and Justin Ambrosino.
Soojin Chung and Justin Ambrosino.

Soojin Chung (Producer) produced Escape from Tomorrow, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. The LA Times called it “one of the most provocative movies ever seen.” Hungry for Love is her first feature film follow-up. Previously, Chung worked on eight major feature films including Park Chan-Wook’s Venice winner Lady Vengeance. In 2013, Chung was awarded one of the Best New American Filmmakers by the Vilchek Foundation. Chung is a current CAAM Fellow.

Click here to see Hungry for Love‘s Kickstarter Campaign. Follow Hungry for Love on Facebook and Twitter! A version of this essay was published at Filmmaker Magazine.