July 17th, 2018 Tue

A Road to Hollywood

in Category Culture

by Sonia Kil

출처 : Korean Cinema Today Vol.23 - BIFF Special Edition (Korean Film Council / www.koreanfilm.or.kr)

Interconnection Grows between Korea and US Film Industries

Ever since CJ Entertainment, Korea’s largest film financier and distributor, acquired an 11% equity stake in DreamWorks studio, interconnection between Korea and the US have been noticed sporadically over the past two decades. The two countries’ collaboration appeared in diverse forms spanning Hollywood remakes of Korean films-and the vice versa-, Korean actors in American films, major Hollywood studios producing Korean-language films and co-investment.

Intimate Enemies

Hollywood Remakes of Korean Originals 

Before full-fledged co-productions, some remake deals and right sales fired the first gun of the two countries’ collaboration. Then-rising star Gianna JUN and LEE Jungjae-starrer Il Mare was the first Korean movie reproduced by Hollywood. With A-list actors Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullack playing the leads, The Lake House stayed in the top 10 box office chart for six consecutive weeks and made USD 52.33 million from ticket sales. Subsequently, genre films such as KIM Sung-ho’s Into the Mirror, KIM Jee-woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters , and PARK Chan-wook’s Old Boy also received Hollywood remakes, though none of them made as much success as they made at home.

As the Korean film industry has gradually become more influential in the past 20 years, its intellectual properties are more frequently approached for remake deals and the creators of the originals are getting more chances to participate in the new production. One recent example is crime drama Hwayi: A Monster Boy. Now Film, the original film’s production house, opted to co-produce the new version with the US production team. According to reports made from last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where Now Film met Pan’s Labyrinth producer Frida Torresblanco and discussed the remake plans, LEE Joondong, head of Now Film said "We decided to participate in the production as a collaborator, in order to ensure the quality of the remake.”

More Korean hit titles such as crime noir New World, hardcore thriller I Saw the Devil, and comedy drama Hello Ghost have sold the rights and are waiting for remakes in Hollywood.

Small but Fruitful, Non-Hollywood Indie Co-productions Some indie collaborations preceded Hollywood studio coproductions.

Latest examples include Korean-American filmmaker Benson LEE’s diaspora comedy Seoul Searching.

A truly rare America-Korea-China co-production, the 80’s-set teenage comedy mostly shot in Korea, tapping the Korean Film Council’s 10% location incentive that guaranteed at least USD 270,000. Production was handled by LA-based Bowery Hills Entertainment and Mondo Paradiso Films, while the funding came from China’s Wonder Vision. It successfully debuted at Sundance Film Festival this year.

Gina KIM’s indie drama Never Forever, starring Vera Farmiga and Korean actor HA Jung-woo is an earlier example.

Produced by Korea’s top auteur LEE Chang-dong and his brother producer LEE Joon-dong, Never Forever was the first co-production between Korea and the US.

Hollywood Studios’ Increasing Interest in Korean-language Production

With the ever-growing importance of Korean film industry, represented by its filmmakers regularly winning festival awards, Hollywood has started giving greenlights to local productions.

The first major Hollywood studio to produce Korean titles was 20th Century Fox subsidiary Fox International Productions.

After tasting the water in Korea through helmer NA Hongjin’s The Yellow Sea, to which it also owns the North American remake rights, the Hollywood major signaled its full-scale entry into the Korean film market by financing Running Man in 2013. Fox continued its Korean production gig with Slow Video , KIM Young-tak’s high-concept comedy, which was far more commercial, compared to its slightly experimental previous release. The latest local production by Fox was The Housemaid director IM Sang-soo’s action comedy Intimate Enemies . Unfortunately, the three FIP financed titles did not make major success in box office. Going back to the very first partner, Fox may as well hope to mark a successful Korean production deed with NA’s comeback in five years, the mystery drama Gokseong (working title).

Following the Fox International Productions is another Hollywood biggie Warner Bros. Korea. It has recently greenlighted KIM Jee-woon’s period project, Secret Agent (working title), as its first Korean-language production. It is known to have locked down top actor SONG Kang-ho and The Suspect hero GONG Yoo.

Seoul Searching

What Comes Up Next?

Coming up next is 8comm Studio-produced Dead Again . A horror film about mental destruction of a man who uses an evil power to restore his dead lover to life, Dead Again is currently known to be produced by Korea’s 8comm Studio, while US director Dave Silberman will co-handle the directorial duty.

Starring K-pop idol band ZE:A’s KIM Dong-jun, actor-turneddirector RYU Deok-hwan, and young actress JOO Da-young, the film is currently set to hit cinemas in both Korea and the US in the second half of 2016.

Another tangible project is the second remake of The Blob the 1958 sci-fi classic. Directing the horror sci-fi movie is Simon West, while Richard Saperstein and Brian Witten are producing it. Korean companies Taewon Entertainment and A-List Corporation are known to co-finance the remake with US-based Goldcrest. It’s a thrill to introduce an enduring icon to a wider audience and a whole new era of fans,” said director West. Earlier this year, Goldcrest announced that it will be handling the remake’s international sales and distribution.

Goldcrest Post, under Managing Director Tim Spitzer, will be providing picture and sound post production services and visual effects under supervisor Chris Haney, who is famous for his works in James Cameron’s CG sensation, Avatar.

The remake’s Korean production company, Taewon Entertainment, is no stranger to international co-production as it made Chinese director Daniel LEE’s war action drama Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon with Hong Kongbased Visualizer Film Productions and China Film. “The Blob will signal Taewon’s entry to Hollywood,” said Taewon Entertainment’s spokesperson.

“Ko-production,” the Key to Hollywood

Though the most prominent collaborations that Korean cinema is involved are with China, the rapidly growing giant second mover, Korea has continuously knocked the Hollywood’s door for co-production. Much owing to the festival-winning filmmakers and K-pop syndrome that quickly brought the world’s attention to the Korean entertainment industry, it is expected that more significant Korea-Hollywood co-operations will be available in the future.

In order to increase reliable co-production opportunities, the Korean Film Council annually hosts biz matching event ‘Koproduction in LA.’ Launched in 2012, ‘Ko-production in LA’ brings Korean producers with competitive scenarios to LA and helps them translate the scenario and meet Hollywood industry professionals to consult with. Renowned Hollywood companies including production companies Plan B and Circle of Confusion, financier Cross Creek Pictures have participated in the event’s previous editions. It is already a big leap for Korea, which was a fledging territory twenty years ago, to be present as a potential, competitive partner of the all-time largest film market, Hollywood.

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