Here is a star producer (PD) who is as famous as the cast of his shows. He has infused laughter to our nation with consecutive successes from “One Night, Two Days (2007-2012)”, to the “Youth over Flowers” series and the “Three Meals a Day” series. This entertainment PD, as Kingos may have guessed, is Na Young-seok. Producer Na, whom the Sungkyun Times (SKT) met on a sunny day of July, was no different from how he appears on his shows, wearing a simple gray T-shirt and jeans. The SKT presents an exclusive interview with the famous yet friendly producer, Na Young-seok.
Na, before Becoming a Star Producer
Q1. You attended Yonsei University majoring in public admission. Could you tell us about your life on campus?
My campus life was just ordinary. The people who know me today would not be able to imagine it. I was far from being talkative or enthusiastic. It is a bit embarrassing to say, but I was not very good at studying either. I chose my major simply because I could apply for it with my given test scores. Originally, I did have some interest in public admission, but as I actually started studying in the field of my major, I felt as though it did not suit me very well. Nevertheless, I did think about taking the Civil Service Examination related to my major, and my parents expected likewise. My parents actually believed that I was studying for that examination up until my graduation. In fact, I told them that I was preparing to be a KBS PD after I passed the first PD examination in my senior year. Although I could tell that they could not really grasp the sole identity of a PD, they encouraged me to pass the test to the end.
Q2. Why did you decide to become a producer?
Having troubles with settling my mind and studying in my major, I decided to join a club. It led me to join a theater club and the activities were just amazing. I did acting, directing, and promoting. I thought having this sort of occupation for my life would be very fun. It is best for people to do what they enjoy in their life, isn’t it? After finishing my junior year, I served in the military. There, I spent a lot of time thinking about my career and decided to prepare for it after finishing my military service.
Why Na Cannot But Be Successful
Q3. The story that you conceived of a program much like JTBC’s popular cooking show, “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator” at the entering exam for KBS is well-known. What do you think is the fertile ground on which your extraordinary ideas grow?
I have never thought that I had better ideas than others. I think it is a matter of practice and consideration. The essence of being a PD is shaping ideas and applying them onto a project. When I watch programs on TV, I wonder how I would have made it and think of similar programs. These activities were very fun. Every job and occupation has the essential work or activities, which we sometimes neglect. I think I just practice this notion more often than others.
Q4. In your recent shows such as “Youth over Flowers” and “Three Meals a Day,” even boring chores or animal interactions become good sources of laughter. How did you come to focus on those ordinary and trivial things?
Taking “Three Meals a Day” as an example, I intended to focus on little things. As viewers may agree, the program itself is a program without a specific “something.” The only fixed direction for the cast is to cook three meals a day. The cast can act with autonomy for the rest of the program. We call it “sparting room.” In those rooms, they sit, do chores, or interact with animals. Actually, if we do not catch those trivial and little moments, we have nothing to put on the show. (Haha) We believed that those little moments would catch some viewers’ attention and interest. It turned out that more people than we expected liked the program’s style.
Kingo’s Selection of Keywords of Na
Q5. Is there a reason you stick to traveling shows?
When people ask if I like traveling, I give them a concrete “no.” I do not like hauling my baggage through certain continents or being away from home for a long time at all; I am definitely not a travel maniac. Instead, I like breaking away from daily routine. Everyone has a dull routine; students have to study, workers have to commute to work. I believe entertainment shows should give them a rest and experiences that make them feel out of the groove. Then, my duty is to make a program in which ordinary people can dream of a small deviation away from their daily life. In short, I do not like traveling in itself, but I do like traveling as a short escape from reality, and I would like to give that chance to others through my programs.
Q6. Originally, TV producers stood behind cameras and gave silent directions. You were the first to appear and interact with cast in front of cameras. How come?
In the past, there was a presence of “MC (master of ceremonies)” being at a higher position than others. Today, we rarely differentiate who is the main MC and who is not. Instead, they are together as “members.” I came to appear on the show amid this change. When there were MCs, they knew everything such as the program’s rules and what would happen, like a god. The others would follow what an MC would say. When I first started “One Night Two Days,” I had Kang Ho Dong as the main MC. He is definitely a funny person, but the position inevitably hid his personal aspects; he had to act out a certain reaction although he knew what was to come. Thus, from a certain point, I started not telling anyone about that day’s location, including Kang. When I told the members, “today we will ride a ferry for 12 hours and reach an island” as the cast got together, their purely shocked reactions were indeed a laughing point. I initially appeared on the show as just a voice, and then it expanded to all of me.
Q7. Many students nowadays are interested in your occupation. Would you give some advice to those who dream of becoming a TV producer?
The most important thing is to have a specific dream. There are many young people who come and ask me how to become a PD. They do say that they want to become a PD, but they sometimes do not give me an answer if I ask them why, or what kind of PD they want to be. Two out of ten say they want to be an entertainment PD, or a documentary PD who explores Africa. I actually saw them working as a PD after some years. Giving deep thought on why I dream of a PD and if this occupation would truly be satisfying for me would be essential. To add one more point, the people who regard earning money from a job and spending it for themselves as most important will be disappointed when they become a PD. There is scarcely any free time and chance to leave the office.
Q8. Do you have last words for Kingos?
If it were 20 years ago, I would say “Enjoy your campus life, have fun!” But unfortunately, this would be inappropriate for today’s undergraduates. I could say that after university, students have to get a job and step into society. Amid worries about the future, it is easy to lose oneself; that is you. I would like to advise Kingos to look into who you are and find out what activity makes you most happy because campus life is perhaps the last time for one to think about these questions. Good Luck!
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