Mihai Fulger [KF]

The Korean Film Industry, A Small Scale Hollywood

Written by Mihai Fulger [KF]. Posted in English


Jay Jeon

Published on iulie 14, 2010 with 6 comentarii

Interview with Mr. Jay Jeon, director of the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF)

Mihai Fulger: Mr. Jeon, the Pusan International Film Festival was founded by you and five other people, including you and your president, Mr. Kim…

Jay Jeon: Yes, at that time Mr. Kim was the president of the KMPPT.

MF: The Korean Film Council?

JJ: No, the precedent institution: the Korean Motion Picture Production Company. At that time he was trying to found the first international film festival in Korea. Besides Mr. Kim, there were two other key figures: Mr. Park, a film director and important representative of the Korean New Wave, and a university professor specialized in film studies. We worked really hard together and we managed to create the Pusan International Film Festival, as a medium-size institution, a little bigger than the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF).

MF: While 14 years ago you had a selection of 169 films, last year you had 355 films in your program. How did the Festival develop during these years?

JJ: We worked really hard. We didn’t get paid for the first three years; actually, we had to pay for it ourselves. And of course the city of Pusan and its council supported the Festival. After some years our central government began to support the Festival as well. Now the city council and the central government provide around 6.5 million US dollars, and our current budget is approximately 9.5 million USD.

MF: It’s a lot bigger than TIFF’s!

JJ: I think that’s the key point for how we could transform the Festival in a national and international success in such a short period of time.

MF: The help from the local authorities?

JJ: Yes.

MF: You are also one of the four main programmers of the Festival. What were your responsibilities and what sections were you in charge of?

JJ: There have been three main programmers: one woman is in charge of France, Italy, Spain, South America and Africa, and the other guy is in charge of Germany and the Eastern countries. I’m in charge of international relations with film institutions, film commissions and also festivals.

MF: Is this your first time to the Transilvania International Film Festival?

JJ: Yes, this is my first time in Romania and at TIFF.

MF: What made you come to TIFF?

JJ: The main reason why I came here is to learn more about the Romanian film industry, especially about the ones that have been emerging in the last decade.

MF: You also had some Romanian films at your Festival…

JJ: Yes, we had 26 Romanian feature and short films, and we had also lectures on Romanian cinema in 2007.

MF: I think Titus Muntean came to your Festival with the “Kino Caravan”?

JJ: Yes, he did, he came last year. “Kino Caravan” was included in our newly-made competition section, called “Flash Forward”.

MF: In 1999, you also established the Pusan Promotion Plan to help new directors get founding for their films. Can you tell us more about the importance of this project?

JJ: More then ten years ago, we launched it on the market and named it PPT. Nowadays it’s one of the biggest market for film projects in the world. In the past we focused mainly on Asian projects, but right now we are inviting some international projects as well. Thankfully, we received awards for some projects and that helped support the initial stage for several filmmakers and their films. I think we’re being very helpful and also we are arranging co-productions between South Korea and other countries.

MF: You have also the Asian film market which is quite big, and the demand is also significant…

JJ: It is big and we have plans to make it even bigger.

MF: Do you cover the whole continent?

JJ: Yes, of course.

MF: How many projects do you have each year?

JJ: In the PPT?

MF: Yes, and in the Asian film market.

JJ: Well, for PPT we are inviting less then 30 projects from around the world, and for the Asian film market we are inviting a lot of sales agents and buyers active on the Asian market.

MF: How many exhibitors do you have and how many production companies?

JJ: Less then 100. And we have around 300 companies coming every year.

MF: So there are 300 participants and 100 exhibitors.

JJ: Yes.

MF: You’ve worked with Lee Chang-dong, the director who won this year’s Best Screenplay Award at Cannes. How did your collaboration start?

JJ: I just happen to meet him at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. He was there with his producer, Myung Gae-nam, because one of his screenplays was included in the competition. Lee Chang-dong was very optimistic when he came to Thessaloniki, but unfortunately at that time he didn’t receive any award. Before they left, his producer asked me to work with them on a project named “Peppermint Candy”. I agreed and became in charge of co-production, international relations and festivals. The film opened the first edition of the Pusan International Film Festival and also got many awards around the world. After that, we produced “Oasis”.

MF: What’s the secret of local success for Korean films? For example, when it comes to box-office, the two Korean films which were selected in Cannes competition performed strangely different: “The Housemaid” by Im Sang-soo was a hit, while Lee Chang-dong’s “Poetry” was somewhat of a disappointment…

JJ: Yes, “The Housemaid” was viewed by more than 2 million people and “Poetry” had a moderate success at the box-office.

MF: How would you explain the difference?

JJ: Partially, it could be explained by the fact that “Poetry” is too pessimistic for the Korean audience. But one needs to see the film, that’s the main point, whether it’s excellent or not.

MF: Do you think Korean spectators enjoy more optimistic films?

JJ: Maybe. I think they prefer them to the melancholic and pessimistic ones. Some people said that the film reminded them of the death of the former president, who committed suicide.

MF: “Poetry”?

JJ: Yes, the main actress.

MF: But she doesn’t commit suicide.

JJ: No, they were talking about our former president of South Korea, Roh Moo-huyn, who jumped off a cliff.

MF: It’s strange that “Poetry” reminded them of this incident.

JJ: The reason isn’t important, but what’s important is that the audience made this connection and the people didn’t want to see the film.

MF: So an award in Cannes didn’t mean too much for the Korean audience when they put it in balance with the melancholic tone of the film?

JJ: Yes, it was too melancholic and unfortunately it was awarded a small prize.

MF: It’s not that small…

JJ: True, but for me “Poetry” was one of the best films shown at Cannes.

MF: Yes, I agree, it was indeed one of the best. So how can film auteurs or art films directors finance their projects in South Korea, if they haven’t been successful on the local market? For example, Kim Ki-duk is undoubtedly an important auteur, but his films never really won the appreciation of the Korean public…

JJ: It’s difficult to answer this question. Generally Korean films are very industrialized, so you can think of the film industry as s small scale Hollywood. But there are some investors who are not interested more in festival success than profit. They want to produce films form Cannes or Venice.

MF: Kim Ki-duk is also one of the Korean directors which are more successful on an international level, then in their own country.

JJ: Exactly. When it comes to directors like Kim Ki-duk, Lee Chang-dong and also an old master like Im Kwon-teak, the actors are eager to appear in their films and they often do it, free of charge.

MF: But isn’t it an union which establishes the income an actor should get?

JJ: Korea doesn’t have this type of organization for actors.

MF: How about the directors?

JJ: With the exceptions of actors, the majority of people involved in the process of filmmaking are part of a guild.

MF: In Romania, Korean films are rarely seen in cinemas. With some exceptions, you can see them exclusively in festivals.

JJ: But there are several films, yes?

MF: Actually this year there are 10 films at TIFF (including one documentary film, “Old Partner”). Normally, in the cinema circuit there are very few, but we did get to see films like Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy” and “Thirst”; “The Host” by Bong Joon-ho and “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” by Kim Ji-woon. What are your main international markets? I understand the Japanese market is very important for Korean films.

JJ: It’s almost half collapsed and unfortunately the situation is deteriorating.

MF: Why is that?

JJ: I think it’s because of the economic situation and the film business isn’t doing so well there.

MF: What about Korea?

JJ: The economic situation affected the Korean film industry as well. And it has been doing so for the last three years. Since 2005 the industry has been seriously going down. Now it’s time to recover, but we are doing so very slowly.

MF: Yes but this year you had a very good presence in Cannes. In competition you’ve won the “Un Certain Regard” section and the award for Best Screenplay. Do you think this will help reconsolidate the industry?

JJ: Yes, but the recovery will be slow.

MF: Has your Festival been affected by the evolution of the economic crisis?

JJ: Not much.

MF: What are this year’s prospects for the industry?

JJ: We will continue to promote our movies abroad, including in Romania. That is on of our goals. And I think that approximately 80 films will be released on the market this year.

MF: How many did you produce last years?

JJ: Somewhere around 80. It was over 100 in 2006, but every year the number would go down a little bit.

MF: In what way do you think that the Pusan International Film Festival changed Korean film industry?

JJ: The foreign experts were not interested in our films. It wasn’t until 1996 that they began to notice us. From its beginning, the PIFF tried to invite as much foreign critics as it could manage, so they could sharpen our industry’s international visibility.

MF: The next edition will take place in October. Are you trying to bring something new to the Festival?

JJ: We’ll present around 300 movies and we’ll have a special program on Spanish and Czech cinemas, and also a retrospective on Kurdish cinema. We’re going to have about 100 world premiers and over 1000 foreign guests.

MF: I understand that last year you sold around 173.000 tickets?

JJ: No, that was a miscalculation. Last year we sold a little over 190.000 tickets.

MF: Thank you for the interview and good luck!

JJ: Thank you.

Despre Mihai Fulger [KF]

Mihai Fulger [KF]

Mihai Fulger este jurnalist şi critic de film din 2002. A semnat sute de cronici, articole de opinie, studii, eseuri şi interviuri pe teme cinematografice în diverse publicaţii. În 2007, a colaborat la numărul despre cinematografia românească al revistei online KinoKultura.com şi la „Romanian Online Film Week” de pe European-films.net. Articolele sale despre Noul Cinema Românesc au fost traduse şi publicate în limbile maghiară şi germană.

Browse Archived Articles by Mihai Fulger [KF]

6 comentarii

There are currently 6 comentarii on The Korean Film Industry, A Small Scale Hollywood. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. Da am inteles tot. :)) =))

  2. ce, ca nu-i greu de inteles. XDXD

  3. Nu le prea am as bn cu engleza. :)) Adica stiu ceva ceva da nu la perfectie.

  4. aha, inteleg.

  5. multumim koreafilm pt interviu!interesant, doar acum l-am observat. Kansahamnida:)

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