The 10 Year Struggle to Make ‘Squid Game’ and the Story Behind It

Filmmaking has always been about money. As someone with a degree in film, I can testify to how expensive a movie or show can be to make. Between the talent, the equipment, the legal fees, and even small things like lunch for all the extras, it expenses add up quickly. Since studios are only in it for the profit, you need to have an extremely strong passion to create anything in this industry. Luckily for viewers, Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk has this passion and was able to see the project come to life after a long battle.

Who is Hwang Dong-hyuk (Squid Game creator)?

Hwang Dong-hyuk has made several films before, though with much smaller viewership than Squid Game. The Fortress, a historic film, is over 3 hours long and was released in 2017. Silenced, a drama that came out in 2011, also got him some views. While both these films were good, they stayed in South Korea for the most part and didn’t ever make international news. Both of these films were also made from adaptions of novels and stories.

So, what inspired the director of these two films to pursue something different and original? Dong-hyuk discusses this in a very authentic and honest interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

I read some stories about these indebted people entering into these life-and-death games, and that became really immersive for me because I was struggling financially myself. I was even thinking that I would love to join a game like that, if it existed, to make a bunch of cash and get out of this terrible situation.

THe Hollywood Reporter – interview with Hwang Dong-hyuk

The Numbers Game even reports that at one point, Dong-hyuk had to sell his laptop and stop writing his script because of the serious money shortage he was facing. He was so passionate about his ideas that he was willing to lose almost everything of value for it. This director was willing to go far to fight for his idea. While he did direct and work on some film sets between 2009 and now, it just wasn’t the same.

The Making of Squid Game

In 2008 Dong-hyuk decided on the idea for this survival game film. Mixing a blend of Battle Royal styles with survival, the idea of Squid Game was created. In 2009 he started writing the script. The idea was going to fit into a movie script as this is what he was familiar with. With no experience in TV and small screen format, they weren’t even considered.

When trying to market his idea, Dong-hyuk ran into a problem. The violence and themes in the movie were a bit much for 2009 production companies. If you think about it, movies and games back then were not as brutal, and the ones that were quickly got stamped with an “R” rating. This would greatly limit the audience and impact the success of the film.

Back then, potential investors and actors bristled at the brutal killings and implausibility of individuals competing to the death for money. But two years ago, Netflix thought the class struggles outlined in “Squid Game” spoke to reality.

The Wall street journal – interview with Hwang Dong-hyuk

Everyone said this idea was simply unrealistic. But this didn’t stop Dong-hyuk. He knew his idea had something special and he kept fighting for it. Fast forward several years and we see the fame of The Hunger Games take off. Brutal fighting for survival with one left standing. However, that fighting was for a purpose and not just money. Producers for Squid Game still thought the idea was a bit far fetched. But the possibility for success was getting closer.

A few years later we start to see more films about the working classes and struggling groups of people. Knives Out hit home with classes of people fighting for something. Parasite won awards and blew up overnight for its view on people and struggles in other countries. Joker made a huge hit with its nod at the struggle the lower class must face. We started seeing films that all delt with class issues in one way or another.

At this point Netflix saw the potential.

After about 12 years, the world has changed into a place where such peculiar, violent survival stories are actually welcomed. The series’ games that participants go crazy over align with people’s desires to hit the jackpot with things like cryptocurrency, real estate and stocks. So many people have been able to empathize with the story.

The Korea Times – interview with Hwang Dong-hyuk

Netflix agreed to take on the project, but required that it be changed from a movie to a series of episodes. I honestly think this fits the format better than a movie would have. I never read the original film script but the episodes allow for it to be broken up between the games to let it breathe. You are able to learn more about the players and their stories than you would if all the games were crammed into one long movie.

Final Thoughts

I think the movie hit screens at just the right time. With the economic struggles and job losses of the pandemic there are many that can relate to the feeling of money shortages. There is also a big love for this style of movies and games right now that attracts another audience. Plus with more people being home there are more eyes on the screen. All these factors combined made the release of Squid Game hit at just the right time.

It is very inspiring for everyone to see the struggle it took to get this series made. The crew has been very open and honest about this rough journey. I think there is something to learn from this. You don’t always have to get things done right away. The things you really want can take a long time to achieve, but they will be worth the wait.

Joshua Myers
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Joshua Myers

Writer for Petition Play and lover of all things gaming

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