Kim Soo Hyun Sleeps Only 1 Hour? The Reality of Drama Filming Schedules

Kim Soo Hyun "Man from the Stars"

Actor Kim Soo Hyun is in the midst of filming for SBS drama “Man from the Stars.” A representative from his agency, Key East Entertainment, gave an update on his recent condition. Filming takes place Monday through Sunday, and Kim Soo Hyun gets very little sleep. The representative said, “He had a CF lined up as well, so he filmed the CF and then went right back to the drama set at night. It is practically impossible to leave the drama set. Kim Soo Hyun plays an alien who came to earth 400 years ago, so he has to film scenes from the Joseon dynasty as well, so he has a really tight schedule.”

And it’s not just Kim Soo Hyun. Cable network tvN drama “Emergency Man and Woman,” which premiered on January 24, has a punishing filming schedule. Pressed for time like most other dramas, the cast attended the production press conference on January 21 looking slightly disheveled. Director Kim Chul Kyu said, “Just coming out of filming one time means today becomes tomorrow. We don’t take breaks in the middle, just a trip to the sauna for a bit, and then it’s right back to filming.” Lee Pil Mo, who plays prickly emergency department chief Gook Cheon Soo, commented, “There’s no going home to sleep. A corner of the emergency room has become home, and after sitting on the sofa for a while, we go straight to filming. In typical dramas, usually I go to the salon before coming to the set, but our set is an emergency room, so there’s not really any need to look good. Instead of going to the salon, I just sleep.”

“Emergency Man and Woman” took over its Friday-Saturday timeslot from “Reply 1994,” which in its last two to three weeks was practically in live filming mode, the production putting the finishing touches to the drama. Go Ara commented after the drama ended, “My dark circles were down to my chin, and my eyes had lost focus. I was spaced out while filming.” Kim Sung Kyun said, “By the end of filming, everyone had become a zombie.” Yoo Yeon Seok revealed, “Beginning from the middle of December, I barely got an hour of sleep a day. The staff displayed superhuman powers.”

The term they use to refer to the sort of sleep actors are prone to get while on set is “jjok-jam,” which means catching a nap during breaks in filming, but a rather uncomfortable sort of sleep. Production costs are probably the biggest factor, as filming days equate to money flowing out. Top stars and writers put pressure on production costs, so production days need to be reduced in order to counter soaring production costs. One may recall “Man from the Stars” $940,000 luxury sets.

In the case of a 16 episode mini-series, usually a minimum of four episodes needs to be filmed before the drama goes to air, but that really depends on circumstances. The day that KBS 2TV drama “Age of Feeling” (or “Inspiring Generation”) premiered, the cast filmed scenes for part two that hadn’t been filmed beforehand due to their overseas filming schedule. When “Age of Feeling” held its production press conference, a cast member was quoted as saying, “I haven’t begun filming yet, so I am unable to comment about my acting.” Considering that a single 70-minute episode usually takes seven to eight days, filming two episodes in one week is almost a physically impossible task.

Cast members in leading roles have overlapping filming schedules, so they are on an even tighter schedule. Other cast members and staff have to be on standby for filming, and while the production might prefer a smaller cast, they are considered necessary for viewership ratings. Writers are also occasionally late with their scripts; it has become habit to continually edit the script to optimize ratings.

Despite the lack of sleep and last-minute script deliveries, the cast are able to keep going for the sake of ratings. Ratings bring along recognition, and recognition is directly associated with CF contracts. Actors Jung Woo, Yoo Yeon Seok and Kim Sung Kyun from “Reply 1994” scored roughly 10 CFs each after the drama ended. “Man from the Stars” Kim Soo Hyun had about 10 CFs, but thanks to ratings approaching nearly 30%, he has added on banking, pharmaceutical and automobile commercials to his growing resume. For some, this could be a sufficiently sweet reward for lost sleep.