Growing focus on talent lures firms to Pusan fest

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PUSAN -- With the Asian Film Market featuring a large series of events showcasing Asian actors for the first time this year, talent management has suddenly taken on new prominence at the Pusan International Film Festival.

"It's because the Asian market is growing bigger, and so top talent is more valuable than ever," said Catherine Park, head of international business at iHQ, a wide-ranging content company that also is one of Korea's biggest management companies. "Western agents know their market better than anyone. We know our market better. We can all work together to grow and develop talented actors."

Facilitating inter-Asian connections has been the primary focus of PIFF since its founding, and the talent promotions started this year are just the latest layer the festival has added to an already busy slate.

"For co-producers, not much information is easily available about rising talent from neighboring countries or their different talent management systems," said Asian Film Market chief Park Kwang-su. "These events will help introduce Asian stars to Asian producers."

iHQ also now represents two Korean-American actors, Karl Yune and William Lee, for the entire Asian region. "Asian-Americans need the Asian market," Park said. "The roles for Asians in the U.S. are still limited, so there is a lot of competition for each role. And who gets those roles? Often the actor with the highest market value back in Asia."

The growing power of Asian and Korean cinema had CAA on hand, with the largest presence they have ever brought to PIFF. "We saw a few Korean films and loved them," CAA's Ken Stovitz said. "Korean directors are so talented, and we are always interested in talent."

Having a presence in the film market is helping managers promote their actors in the pan-Asian projects that have grown popular in recent years.

"Before we joined this market, it was hard to promote our stars," said Jeong Young-beom, president of Star J Entertainment. "Now if anyone in the Asian market wants my contact, it's so easy to give him my card."

Star J this year has teamed up with several other management companies, including JYP Entertainment, Dream East On and the Men Management, to present their management services in a united office.

"Success outside of Korea is definitely important," said Kim Jong-do, CEO of Namoo Actors Co. "Especially for our young actors. They have the potential to do well around Asia or in America. This is just the first time Pusan has featured actors, so we are just beginning to know what the international market is interested in."

Bringing in management companies also is helping PIFF boost its celebrity count. Most years, the opening night brings in 20 to 30 local celebrities, according to Star J's Jeong, but this year, more than 100 actors were on hand. "Celebrities create interest, in media and with the public," Jeong said.

Star Summit Asia is the name given to a series of events, seminars and networking sessions at the AFM dedicated to promoting Asian and Asian-American actors to producers around the region.
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