LOGLINE: A Korean-American restarts his life in Seoul, and discovers he’s old Korean royalty with an unlikely shot at national leadership but must resist corruption and social upheaval to save himself and his friends.
FORMAT: Live action feature film
GENRE: Speculative fiction
PRODUCTION BUDGET: Est. US$3-5mn
SCHEDULE: Q2, 2020
COMPANIES: Cilium Film, CJ Entertainment (targeted)
DIRECTOR: Bong Joon-ho (targeted), Lee Chang-dong (targeted), Lee Byeong-heon (targeted)
PRODUCERS: Phillip Alan Epps, Steve Chicorel
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Pearry Teo
SCREENWRITERS: Janet Duignan, Phillip Alan Epps
CAST: Steven Yeung, Jeon Jong-seo, Yoo Ah-in (targeted)
MATERIALS AVAILABLE: Completed English script, Korean translation mid 2021
PRODUCER’S NOTE: Set in LA’s Koreatown and in Seoul, the capital of a future unified Korea, ALGORITHM OF THE SOUL is paced like an action film but is much more — streetwise, funny, relevant — a thoroughly K-pop generation drama. All Asian cast. In Korean and English. For global audiences.
SYNOPSIS: In 2031, a unified Korea is in crisis – among other things, the nation’s youth is obsessed with avoiding responsibilities and chasing fame on social media instead of working hard, birth rates are tragically down and the elderly — uncharacteristic for a Confucian society — are wholly neglected. Tradition is dead, say the young. The most innovative nation on earth has to face modernity’s insidious side.
Desperate for solutions, Korean president KYUNG meets with mega-star YEO, the last individual considered to have royal blood in Korea, to devise a fix. The aging president’s desperate plan – get Yeo to run and win the next national election in the hopes that his outsized popularity will not only get the attention of the young but instill some spirit of national sacrifice. Appropos his generation, Yeo rudely declines.
Meanwhile, Korean-American nobody mechanic JOHNNIE heads to Seoul after the death of his kickboxing mentor to pursue a new life and a possible job at the Mars-destined Korean Aerospace Company (KAC). Along for the ride is STEVE, his sketchy best friend who’s hiding a double life of crime.
Johnnie reluctantly intervenes in a brawl between local nightclub owner MI-OK and a gang of unruly patrons. After subduing the thugs with his superior fighting skills, Johnnie and Mi-Ok click and have a romantic night out, exploring a city full of tradition but enthusiastically focused on the future. Meanwhile, a video of the fight explodes online.
Johnnie and Mi-Ok live the next few days as awkward minor celebrities – total strangers and young people recognize them on the street. More than a distraction. Then after doing interviews and physical exams at KAC, Johnnie is blindsided by an invitation to meet the president himself at Blue House, Korea’s version of the White House. He’s forced to comply.
At the meeting, Kyung drops the biggest bombshell of Johnnie’s life – bloodwork from the company’s hiring process indicates that he’s a descendant of former Korean king CHEOLJONG. He’s royalty. Kyung implores Johnnie to run for president in a special election – he will have the full backing of Kyung’s party and his royal status will boost his popularity to a level never before seen. People will listen to him. He will save the country! And he has no choice.
Every aspect of Johnnie’s life is soon hijacked by this grand misadventure. His overnight celebrity attracts the ire of Yeo, while he, Steve and Mi-Ok all try to resist the dark consequences of being internet famous. To make matters worse, Johnnie realizes that Kyung is uninterested in actually preparing him for the task of being a leader and seems to be setting him up for failure.
Caught up in this swirling nightmare, Johnnie tries his best to make it out unscathed – while the people closest to him get sucked under.
Momentarily escaping the escalating political and social charade forced on him, Johnnie is inspired by a family of average, working-poor Koreans. It’s only then that he starts making sense of his strange new life and decides maybe he can use his unearned notoriety for some sort of good. Kyung’s ill-fated, Machiavellian strategy has worked: Yeo wins the election in a landslide but Johnnie and his friends are convinced that there always seems to be more to the picture, and they aren’t disappointed.