“Goose Family” film lays golden eggs

FDU alum, Seung Yeob Lee (right), works behind the scenes on his award-winning senior thesis film “Goose Family.” The film focuses on a Korean family that lives on two separate continents for the sake of the children’s education.

By Dan Landau

Thirteen is an unlucky number for some, but right now for Seung Yeob Lee, thirteen is the number of film festivals that his film “Goose Family,” has been admitted to.  At these festivals, Lee has also — so far —won seven awards, including two “Best Director” awards. Maybe thirteen isn’t so unlucky after all.

A 2012 alum of FDU’s College at Florham, Lee wrote, produced, directed, and edited “Goose Family” as his senior thesis film. Loosely based on personal experience, Lee’s film is a thoughtful take on the Korean “goose family” trend.

“Goose families” are split up, with the children living overseas to get an education in an English-speaking country and the father living in Korea working to support himself at home and his family abroad. The mother typically travels between countries to care for her husband and her children. The term “goose family” is derived from the migratory habits of the goose. 

“Goose families are very common in South Korea,” says Lee. “The schools in South Korea are very competitive.” Having an English education gives students a competitive edge, so parents make tremendous sacrifices, including splitting up their families, to have their children educated in the U.S.

Lee’s “Goose Family,” follows Jinsoo, the father, who works in Seoul, South Korea, while Shinae, the mother, takes care of their two children in New York City. They have been living this way for two years and they struggle with their separation for financial, emotional and cultural reasons, gradually falling apart.

The film’s style is a blend of fake-documentary and drama. Lee says he chose the pseudo-documentary format “to make it more realistic for an American audience not familiar with Korean culture.” He worked hard to make the film as realistic as possible, writing the dialogue in Korean (with English subtitles) and using Korean actors in the lead roles. 

Most of “Goose Family” was filmed in New Jersey. “Since I was filming in New Jersey, I did most of the filming indoors,” says Lee, to make it appear that scenes were actually happening in Korea. The opening scene was filmed in Seoul, but the other external “Korean” scenes were filmed in Korea-town in Flushing, NY.

Lee wrote the screenplay for “Goose Family” in his Production II class with Professor Howard Libov. “Libov gave us an assignment to write a story based on our personal experience,” says Lee. Lee did not come from a goose family per se though. “My family was separated, not at a young age as in the film,” he clarifies, but rather later in life.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lee moved to Beijing, China when he was 18 and stayed there for two years. He moved to the US for a time, before returning to Korea to perform his mandatory military service. After he was discharged, he moved back to the US in 2008 to complete his college education.

While the film is mostly fiction, Lee says some of the scenes in the film did come from his life experience. In “Goose Family,” Jinsoo has difficulty maintaining two households on his salary, a situation Lee could easily relate to. “I remember my father struggling financially to send money and worrying about the exchange rates,” says Lee.

Lee initially wanted to use a different script that he had written, but Libov (who also acted as his advisor through the thesis process) convinced him to stick with “Goose Family.”

“As soon as I saw the script, I knew this was something special,” says Libov. “I think this is one of the best films we’ve ever made in the film department.”

Lee studied film and Japanese at FDU’s College at Florham and currently lives in Brooklyn.

Complete list of film festivals "Goose Family" has been screened at

- American International Film Festival, April 2012: Best Student Project, Best Director (Student Project), Best Movie Shot on Low Budget (under $10K), Best Director (Best Movie Shot on Low Budget)

- AFI World Cinema Festival (Cannes, France), May 2012

- Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (Philadelphia), June 2012: Prestige Film Award (California), July 2012: Silver Award for Short Film

- Best Shorts Competition (California), July 2012: Award of Merit

- Las Vegas Film Festival, (Las Vegas) July 2012: Golden Ace Award

- NewFilmmakers New York (NYC), July 2012

- Indie Fest USA International Film Festival (California), August 2012

- Art of Brooklyn Film Festival (Brooklyn, New York), August 2012

- AFI World Cinema Festival (Hampton, New York), August 2012

- New York City International Film Festival (NYC), August 2012

- NYC Filmmaker’s Festival (NYC), August 2012

- Rome International Film Festival (Rome, Georgia), September 2012

- LA Indie Film Festival (Los Angeles, California), September 2012

Editors note: "Goose Family" has been admitted to several more film festivals since this story was published:

- Long Island Film Festival (New York), September 2012

- Silent River Film Festival (Irvine, California), October 2012

- International Filmmaker Festiver of World Cinema, October 2012: nominated for Best Short Foreign and nominated for Best Director Short Film

- Urban Mediamakers Film Festival (Georgia), October 2012: 3rd place for Best International Short Film. 

- NYC Independent Film Festival (New York), October 2012

- Cape May Film Festival, (Cape May, NJ), October 2012

- Lucerne International Film Festival (Switzerland), October 2012

- Oaxaca FilmFest (Oaxaca, Mexico), November 2012

- Big Apple Film Festival (NYC), November 2012

- Columbus International Film and Video Festival (Columbus, Ohio), November 2012: Honorable Mention

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