Pusan festival brings actors into its Network

5:00 AM PST 10/06/2007 by Mark Russell, AP

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BUSAN, South Korea -- After 12 years of bringing together directors, producers and other filmmakers from all over Asia and the world, the Pusan International Film Festival grew significantly Friday when it added the faces of cinema, with the launch of the Asia Pacific Actors Network.

"From the first Pusan Film Festival I thought it would be nice to bring together Asian actors and build a strong network," said Kang Soo-yeon, a representative of APAN and one of Korea's most distinguished actors. "At last that plan is reality."

Attending the APAN opening was a diverse array of acting-related professionals from Asia and North America, including actors Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost"), Grace Park ("Battlestar Galactica") and Wong Fann ("Shanghai Knights") as well as Endeavor agent Daisy Wu, Korean agent Jeong Young-beom and casting agents Annie McCarthy and Poping Auyeung.

For the APAN launch, organizers held a conference about the international casting of Asian actors, a formal gala and red-carpet party, and an awards ceremony for the first Asian Film Advancement Fund, which provides about $280,000 in preproduction help for up-and-coming Asian filmmakers.

Malaysia's Ho Yu Hang received this year's inaugural prize.

"The fund is a small step, but slow and steady wins the race," Kang said.

In addition, the Korean talent management agency Namoo Actors signed a deal with China's Chengtian to create a special Korea-China actors network.

But more than ceremonies and awards, many attendees said the real value was in meeting other actors from around the region and building ties.

"I think conferences like this are a good idea," Kim said. "It is important not just to work together but to communicate and understand each other as our industry is becoming more global."

Going global also can help diversity and deepen an actor's talents, according to Jason Scott Lee, who recently wrapped shooting on the film "Dance of the Dragon" in Singapore. "Coming from the States, you bring a certain methodology," Lee said. "Working in Asia, though, with their different styles, it is very enriching."

"There are some very talented people in this part of the world, and we want to work with them," said Andrew Ooi, president of the Vancouver-based Echelon Talent Management. "With the world growing smaller, there are more opportunities for Asian actors to go to Hollywood. And for Hollywood actors to go to Asia."

But finding actors in Asia for Hollywood projects is often a complicated process, the agents and casting directors said.

"Reaching out to agents in Asia is quite tough," Poping Auyeong said. "It is hard to find out who represents whom. It can take months to track down someone and get an answer, but I just don't have a lot of time."

Language is another potential barrier. "Learning English can be a huge barrier," said actor Masaya Kato ("The Last Supper"). "Not just acting, but communicating clearly with the director is just as important."

Despite the difficulties in bringing together the East and West, all agreed that internationalism will only continue to rise, and the APAN could play a role in helping that happen.
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