The girls of BLACKPINK are reliving back their earlier K-pop days with their upcoming documentary, “BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky”.
The Netflix original project, directed by Caroline Suh, chronicles the journey of the four female members of the sensational musical ensemble – Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa – from their pre-debut times all the way to their present days, breaking boundaries and records with their booming hits.
To get you all dosed up before the premier of “BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky”, our friends from Netflix managed to catch up with Caroline to dish her thoughts, as well as the process of creating the documentary. Check it out:
1. How did you come to direct this documentary? Were you a big K-pop fan before?
Well, I’m Korean American, so I tend to be supportive of all things Korean (laughs). My nephew knows everything you can possibly know about K-pop, so I knew a little about K-pop from him, and the team at Netflix had the vision to make a film about BLACKPINK. At some point in the process, they asked if I was interested, which I was, and brought me on board. After that we had a series of meetings with YG Entertainment, and luckily, it all came together.
2. Once you were signed on, what were your first impressions once you looked into BLACKPINK and took in more of their music?
Well, just in general about K-pop: I naively didn’t realize what a huge industry it is, and what a big business it is for Korea, so it was really interesting to learn about the larger context. Then, as I started watching BLACKPINK’s videos, I was blown away by how cutting edge they are in terms of their incredible production value, from the costumes to the set, and just how well produced all of the music is. Once you start watching, it’s hard to stop.
3. How long was the research period, and how long did you follow BLACKPINK to film this documentary?
It was a matter of a few months before we actually started filming, and then we took two trips to Korea. We flew once in the fall of 2019, and then we went back right before Covid-19 really took hold in early 2020. We’re so lucky that we were able to go before everything shut down. It was just before people knew what was to come, but as usual, Korea was totally on top of things—they were already doing bio readings in the hotels when you entered.
I had met Teddy (Park) before they agreed to make a film, and I had also gone to see BLACKPINK at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. That concert was my first real time seeing how devoted the fans were, how enthusiastic they were. It was a huge arena and it was packed with all sorts of different people, and it gave me a real sense of how broad their audience is.
4. BLACKPINK has to keep projects confidential all the time, and maintain a sense
of mystique with the public. How did it feel being in their inner circle? What kind
of precautions did you have to take to keep this film a secret?
Every documentary is always very secret, and we’re always very careful not to share things that you’re shooting with the outside world, so that was pretty much as usual. But then I came to understand how sought-after information is about whatever BLACKPINK does – from their personal lives, to what fashion choices they are making, to the music.
The members are constantly working on songs that aren’t released to the public. That was the interesting thing: It’s not the impression that they’re constantly in the studio, trying out new songs and deciding what works best.
5. What were they working on during filming?
When we were there, they were working on what’s being released now, so we got to film them listening to “Sour Candy”, their collaboration with Lady Gaga, before it got released. That was very cool and I love that song!
6. It was surprising to see that the members got so deep into talking about their trainee program – an incredibly intense “K-pop school” that most stars have to go through for many years before debuting – because K-pop idols often don’t share much about it.
They were very open about it, which I was very pleasantly surprised by. It was nice that they felt comfortable speaking openly about how intense that experience was. In a way, that’s really the heart of the film: They entered that process as teenagers and then, through sheer force of will, they made it through. By the time they debuted, they were totally prepared. They talked about how hard it was, but that’s something that each of them had in common in their interviews – they all said, “I’m not going to quit.”
7. Let’s talk about the individual members, one by one. First up, Jisoo, the eldest member and the only one to be raised in Korea for all of her childhood.
You know, as she says in the film, she’s the unnie of the group — the oldest — and she definitely takes on that role, looking out for everyone. But what I love is what Teddy said about her: People think she’s book smart, but she’s very street smart. She’s very, very composed. There’s something about her that is quietly strong. You might underestimate her strength because she’s so gentle, but she really is a powerhouse.
8. And then there’s Jennie: She’s so fierce as the main rapper in videos and on stage, but she’s really quite different offstage. What other side of Jennie do you think this film will show fans?
Jennie is super honest and real. She calls things like she sees them, which I was very impressed by. She describes herself as being painfully shy, which a lot of people would be surprised by. And she’s really a perfectionist. All during filming she was very communicative about what we would shoot with them to make sure it was real. And she’s very expressive. I love watching her interviews because there’s no artifice.
9. And Rosé, the Korean-Australian member, really goes through an arc in this film.
Rosé is very driven. She’s really trying to grow as an artist, which is intimidating for her, and it’s really fascinating how she pushes herself to do things that are putting herself on the line creatively. One of my favourite parts of the film is when she’s in the recording studio trying to write a song. She kind of forgot that we were there as she was working – it wasn’t for show.
Then there’s a moment later when she says she misses being in training surrounded by music all the time, and now she has to stay up all night to find time to experiment. That shows how committed and passionate she is.
10. Last but very far from least, tell us about Lisa, the youngest member and the true spark plug of the group.
She just has a great disposition. All of the members have a real appreciation for Lisa — all of them always spoke incredibly glowingly about her. I think she picks up every one’s spirits, and also they said that during training, she was the best in everything and just born to do it. But that said, she still doesn’t take herself too seriously. She seems very comfortable with herself.
11. A huge star of this documentary is Teddy Park (whom the girls refer to as the 5th member), YG Entertainment’s top producer and a main mastermind behind most of BLACKPINK’s biggest hits. We don’t normally hear much from him, because he’s such a legend in K-pop — tell us about talking with him.
There’s a lot of mystery around Teddy, definitely. When I met him at first I found him to be extremely nice and thoughtful but intimidating. He really didn’t want to be in the film; he hates being on camera. At the beginning, he only would agree to do an audio interview.
But as time went on, and we kind of got to know each other better, he agreed to do an interview on camera. You know, sometimes what happens with people who really don’t want to participate — they end up having a lot to say.
He is incredibly well spoken, and all the girls talk about him fondly, but also as a revered figure, and over time I could understand why. He does have this kind of very old soul. He really is a great friend to them.
12. When you were filming BLACKPINK, they were laying down the groundwork to really explode in 2020. Did you get a sense that they felt like this period was a big turning point in their careers?
You know, I kept on posing questions that started with, “Well, now that you’ve made it…”, and all of them said, very sincerely, that they don’t feel that way. They feel like they’re in the middle of it, still. They just want more and more experiences.
As Jennie said, she feels like they have more to show everyone. I think a lot of people would feel pressure — like, “we were so successful, we have to top ourselves” — but I really feel like they’re enjoying the ride.
13. Were there any moments where you really got a visceral feel for how popular they are, or how intensely loyal their fans are?
They were doing an event at a mall where the first hundred people could get their autograph, and it was amazing. All these fans had gifts for them, and the members had to sign 100 autographs. It just seemed exhausting, but they were so kind to every single fan and all the fans wanted an emotional connection with them. I thought, “Wow, they really have a lot of endurance.” They’re super professional.
14. What sense did you get about the bond between the members, their whole sisterhood?
In a way, they seem like sisters – they’re a family, basically. They all talked about the balance of the group. It’s almost like a selfless thing, how they manage their own feelings and emotions and life so that it works with the group.
They’re all very conscious about the little ecosystem that they live in. They all want it to be happy and healthy and they all want positive things for each other, and realised that once they joined the band, they were now responsible to other people.
15. What do you hope viewers of this documentary come away with after watching it?
It’s kind of a simple story – it’s about young people realising their dreams through a lot of toil and some heartache, and I think that kind of story is always inspiring, to see people who are totally devoted and pushed through. There’s a lot expected of them as idols, so I hope the film helps humanise them, so people can see them as actual people.
For those interested, feel free to check out the girls’ groundbreaking career timeline below:
Mark your calendar, BLINKs! “BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky” is now available on Netflix. In conjunction with the premiere in your area, these music icons will also become Netflix profile icons!