I started teaching English as a Second Language in South Korea in 2008, and soon after, my life took a complete turn. Now, I find myself starring in my own movie alongside Korean celebrities. It’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Here’s how I became a teacher-turned-movie star.
The Early Years
Before my life changed, I was already a teacher for 14 years. I first started teaching back in the UK in 1993, and for some reason or another, I kept getting job offers from Korea. I started teaching in a secondary school in Busan in 2008, and in the following year, I moved to Incheon to continue my career. It was an incredible opportunity to live in Korea and see the culture, the food, and the beautiful beaches from my window!
I worked hard and managed to secure a good reputation among the students. I especially enjoyed the challenging pupils who sought me out for help. It made me realise that I could actually enjoy my job while still being passionate about teaching. It was around this time that my love for acting and writing developed and grew. I was inspired by the incredible work of Korean cinema and decided to try my hand at writing and producing my own work. It was during this time that I decided to pursue an MA in TESOL, the teaching of English as a Second Language, with the Open University. I combined this with my love for acting and decided to take a two-year break from teaching to focus on my studies.
After two years of pursuing my MA, I received a call from a drama department seeking teachers for the 2021 South Korean TV season. I was ecstatic, not only because I was offered the role of a lifetime but also because I could finally put my teaching career on hold for a while. I started working on my scenes and gathering my research, which at the time, was mostly limited to language learning apps and blogs. At the same time, I pursued my studies and passed my final exams with distinction. I had fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a teacher, and I was finally ready to take on the world. My plan was to return to Korea in the summer of 2021 and continue my teaching career.
The drama department’s head told me that they had seen my research and that my background in English caused them to reconsider their decision. It was at this point that I started to wonder if I had made the right choice in going for an MA. I was a little rusty with my English and had never fully immersed myself in the language. Would I be up to the challenges that awaited me in Korea or would the break give me the boost I needed to succeed?
I returned to Korea in the summer of 2021, determined to make the most of my experience and continue my teaching career. I started working on my scripts but quickly realised that I had nowhere to direct them. I didn’t have any connections in the industry, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have had enough money to rent a place that could accommodate a crew. I was stuck. The answer came from an unlikely place – a friend of a friend – who happened to be a movie director. He asked if I wanted to be in a movie, and without thinking, I said “yes, absolutely!” Before long, I was meeting with the director every week to develop the story with him. It was slow going at first but soon picked up, and before I knew it, we were filming. My friend, who I had never even spoken to before, invited me to watch the movie we were making – it was my first acting experience, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It was a crazy experience, and one that I will never forget. Even now, when I think about that experience, it is still difficult to put into words. I was completely overwhelmed, and it was all because of a simple “yes” that I had given an unknown person, which turned into a perfect opportunity. With that came the pressure to live up to my potential, and I worked hard to ensure that my friend saw something in me worth investing in. Despite my nerves, there was something exhilarating about being on set – it was a whole other world that I had discovered and wanted to belong to, and my friend was the person who could make it happen. He was looking for new talent, and I had just opened up a brand new world to him. He agreed to give me a chance, and I have not looked back since.
The Journey So Far
It’s been a crazy six months now, and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. My friend and I worked together to develop a story that I could perform in. It started out small but soon turned into a massive production that involved a lot of actors and a massive team. We filmed for eight hours a day, sometimes even longer, and had to work quickly to meet the tight deadlines. In the end, it was worth it – the final product was incredible. My family and friends couldn’t believe how much I had changed, and for the first time ever, I had a film where I didn’t just appear in front of the camera but also interacted with the audience through my acting. We had a premiere party for the movie a few weeks ago, and I can’t believe how much my life has changed.
It’s been a wild ride so far, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so grateful to my friend for helping me discover my talent and believing in me, and to everyone who supported me along the way. I look forward to continuing this journey and making more films with my friend. We already have ideas for more projects that we would like to make together, and I can’t wait to start working on them. Writing, directing, and acting – it’s all happened so quickly, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my life, and I wouldn’t change a thing.