When the international sales and marketing team at KangJeGyu Films set up booths at the American Film Market in Los Angeles last month, it hoped to attract buyers for its film “Over the Rainbow” and some investment for new project, “Tae Kuk Gi.”
Instead it returned home with five foreign scripts. “Movie producers from countries like Thailand and Hong Kong heard about the current ‘Korean film boom’ and approached us asking for investments instead,” explained Kim Jin-gyu, assistant manager for international marketing at KangJeGyu Films.
While the production house, made famous by “Shiri” in 1997, is not yet interested in putting funds into foreign projects, the influx of requests illustrates Korea’s growing reputation abroad as one of the major powers in film production.
Other evidence includes a great number of deals made for the rights to remake local movies, robust film festival invites and a widening distribution network across the European and American markets.
Hollywood’s Miramax, for one, snatched up both the remake and distribution license for “Teacher Kim Bong-du,” produced by Fun & Happiness, which is not even due to open in Seoul theaters until March 28. A “remake license” refers to a purchase of the script and special technologies as opposed to import of the finished movie. The two parties usually share profits made from global release of the new production.
“Given that major foreign studios usually prefer buying films that have already proven successful at the box office in their local market, the early purchase of ‘Teacher’ shows Hollywood has great confidence in Korean cinematic projects,” said Lee Yong-shin, senior manager of International Business at Cinema Service, the film’s distributor.
CJ Entertainment said it is in the process of negotiations for remake sales of “My Tutor Friend,” the biggest hit of the year so far, and “Phone,” last summer’s surprise hit, with major studios like Paramount, Miramax and Universal Studio. KangJeGyu is also in the final stages of talks for “Over the Rainbow.”
The trend is a rapid development, indeed. Though Korea sold remake rights for “Contact” to Germany in 1998 and “Quiet Family” to Japan in 2000, it was not until late 2001 that Hollywood came knocking on Korea’s door, thanks to the phenomenal success of comedy “My Wife Is a Gangster.”
The widely publicized film attracted an offer from Miramax, and soon other remake sales followed: “My Sassy Girl” was sold to Dreamworks, “Marrying the Mafia” and “Il Mare” to Warner Brothers, “Hi Dharma” to MGM and “Jail Breakers” to Miramax. None are in production yet. Industry experts say the trend was spurred by both internal and external factors. “While it is true the quality of Korean films has improved tremendously over the past few years, even more decisive may have been the depressed state of Hollywood,” explained Lee Young-jun, International Sales & Acquisition director at CJ Entertainment.
Source: Korean Herald