'Fist' punches up Motion 101 launch

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BUSAN, South Korea -- Leading Korean entertainment company Showbox is launching its new production house Motion 101 with a bang, thanks to the $13 million science fiction blockbuster "Fist."

"We want to create a new style that will surprise people, like '300,' " Motion 101 COO Jeong Tae-sung said. "We want a strong story, but also we want new ideas, new style, everything."

"Fist" -- the futuristic tale of a young man who becomes the defender of the poor in the slums of the futuristic Blue City -- is the brainchild of Park Kwang-hyun, whose debut film "Welcome to Dongmakgol" made about $53 million, the most successful Korean movie of 2005 and seventh biggest ever in Korea.

"Park has been talking about this project for a long time," said Jeong, "since before 'Dongmakgol.' Originally it was set in the present and was not science fiction. But when we talked about it, we added that element and decided to make it really fantastical."

To get the futuristic images of the film as extraordinary as possible, producers hired top Korean production designer Ryu Seong-hee ("The Host," "Oldboy") to come up with the conceptual designs.

"I think it is going to be a lot of fun, more than fun," Ryu said enthusiastically. "I think this is going to be a really exciting story that Korean young people will really enjoy."

Motion 101 also has hired a designer from Hyundai Automotive and another with a gaming background, and Jeong says they intent to hire a CGI expert from Hollywood for further advice.

"Fist" is set to begin filming early in 2008, with a release date tentatively set for Lunar New Year 2009.

The science fiction project is the first movie for the new production house Motion 101, which Jeong joined in July after five years as COO of Showbox, the distribution wing of the Mediaplex movie company (which is itself an affiliate of the huge Orion conglomerate).

Before Showbox, he was the head of the Pusan Promotion Plan premarket for its first six years, and before that he was a co-head of Dongsoong Cinematheque, the first art house distributor and movie theater in Korea.

Showbox has been responsible for three of the five biggest films in Korean history ("The Host," "Taegukgi" and "D-War"), but Jeong and the company were not content just investing and distributing others' movies. "We need our own content," Jeong said. "And it was important to keep production in production and leave distribution for our distributor."

The July sale of Mediaplex's multiplex franchise, Megabox, to a consortium led by Australian banking group Macquarie for 145.5 billion won ($158.2 million) provided, among other things, the financing needed to set up Motion 101.

Jeong says the plan is to make three to five films a year -- usually one big-budget blockbuster and two to four smaller films. Although it will take a couple of years to get up to speed.

For now, Jeong plans on making two more movies in 2008, a $3 million comedy about a woman in her 50s who has to go back to high school, and a Japanese-language remake of a Japanese comic book.

"I am happy that I can focus on particular projects again," he said. "At a distributor like Showbox, you are buying and distributing around 20 films at a time, so you can never really be happy with everything. But at Motion 101, I can concentrate on just a small number of movies that I really like."
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