Park had chosen just about the only non-criminal career in which a Rhodes scholarship doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Why? “I've never seen anyone change a person's beliefs through argument. But films can change the way people see the world. In a way filmmaking is politics by other means.”
Now 35, Pak has made 14 films. His latest, meatiest work is Robot Stories, a collection of four short dramas set in a future when robots mingle with humans. Its cast includes, among others, Tamlyn Tomita, Sab Shimono, James Saito and Greg Pak himself. It treats the meaning of being human adroitly enough to have won 15 awards, including the prestigious 2002 Hamptons International Film Festival prize for best screenplay.
Pak's preferred method of social criticism is transposing the human condition onto an inverted social terrain, thereby showing the absurdity of commonplace assumptions. This technique is crystalized in his earlier Asian Pride Porn, a short satire about sexual stereotyping which elevates Pak's deft satiric touch by casting M Butterfly playwright and director David Henry Hwang as a macho porn director.
At the moment Pak's pet project is every bit as eyebrow-raising -- a western featuring a Chinese gunslinger and his Mexican ladylove. Unlike the shorter works, Rio Chino isn't a social satire but “a straight-up western.” The screenplay won the Pipedream Screenwriting Award at the 2002 IFP Market and a 2003 Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship. Pak and producer Karin Chien have yet to find financial backing. It isn't as though they are holding out for a major studio to ride to the rescue. Pak has resolved to make it with next to nothing, if necessary, and let the story's virtues carry the film.
Greg Pak was born August 23, 1968 in a middle-class suburb of Dallas, Texas to a Corean American father and a caucasian mother. He was a Boy Scout and an honor student. He majored in political science at Yale, and was committed enough to political action to work as a volunteer for Ann Richards's 1990 gubernatorial campaign. Upon winning the Rhodes Scholarship, Pak left with the aim of studying modern history. At Oxford he fell in with a group of filmmakers and discovered that the medium allowed the fullest expression of his wideranging skills and interests.
The film that put Pak on the map as a promising filmmaker was Fighting Grandpa, a documentary that examines the 70-year emotional journey of his Corean grandmother. It won awards and bestowed on Pak's work the credibility of a PBS broadcast in May 2001.
Pak is more than a screenwriter and filmmaker. He's an enterprising guerilla fighting for the indie cause. He operates two intelligent, well-crafted websites. Gregpak.com engage in a combination of tasteful self-promotion and a bit of unabashed commercialism. Filmhelp.com bestows on the independent filmmaking community the benefits of his considerable experience.
Greg Pak discusses his career and ambitions with the open, optimistic energy of a man brimming with the conviction that his cause is best served by giving robust voice to his intentions. His tone suggests a passion for full-on social and cultural discourse, but he seems to have settled on the wisdom of restraining himself to addressing concrete realities. Like many independent filmmakers, Pak evidences the heart of a cowboy who has only lately come to terms with his ambivalence about packaging the open range of his conscience and creative impulses into commercially viable footage.
GS: Your Robot Stories won the 2002 Hamptons International Film Festival prize for Best Screenplay. What impact did that have on your life