Busan: Asian Film Market Kicks off With Record Attendance

Busan International Film Festival

U.S., European and Chinese sales agents and buyers want a piece of the Asian action

Sales agents and buyers from the U.S., Europe and China have hit the biggest-ever Asian Film Market in Busan, highlighting the growing importance of region as a content producer and as a source of funding.

A total of 195 companies in 223 booths from 24 countries have set up shop in Busan's hulking Bexco building for the South Korean event, which runs Oct. 5-8 and is a major platform for Asian film projects, in particular international co-productions.

The market notched up a record 3,740 admissions on the first day, according to organizers. Among the U.S. companies here for the first time are Arclight Films, Fortitude International, Lakeshore Entertainment and XYZ Films.

"Asian film sales have become very robust in recent years and are vital to the global market of any film," said Elliot Tong, Arclight's head of Asian sales and acquisitions. "Asian audiences are open to all kinds of films from the West and you will find that films that don't easily get a theatrical release in their home country could sometimes be seen in the big screen somewhere in Asia."

He added: "So, a film market focusing on the Korean and Asian market in the second half of the year, with Hong Kong Filmart being in the first half, is good."

Arclight is giving a global market debut to The Queens, a romantic comedy starring Song Hye Kyo and produced by Desen Media's Ann An, under its Easternlight specialty Asian arm.

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio, Film and Television, along with nine film production companies and distributors, such as Beijing Galloping Horse, have also set up booths.

Agents talk of competition for space in the Bexco building, even though organizers added 30 percent capacity to prepare for increased demand. A total 86 films from 15 countries will receive market screenings, including 69 market premieres.

Andreas Struck, project director of the European Film Promotion (EFP), said the interest from Europe is immense. "There are more and more sales agents coming with us – it is four or five times bigger than two years ago," said Struck. "People are presenting catalogs, it's more like they do network deals, selling packages. It's not as strong as Hong Kong Filmart for sales, but for the second half of the year it's big."

European companies are also coming to Busan to try and secure financing. "You see people with some financing who are trying to close the gap in Asia," said Struck.

With an increasing number of South Korean films proactively casting K-pop singers in lead roles — such as JYJ frontman Park Yu-chun in Korea's Oscar submission Sea Fog (a.k.a. Haemoo) — local giants, including SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, will take part in the Asian Film Market for the first time this year.

"Beginning next year, each management company and talent agency that attends the Asian Film Market will be able to make individual bookings, according to their desired time slot. This session is expected to produce positive results for international casting," said a spokesperson for Asian Film Market. China's Easy Entertainment will also take part in the inaugural Star Casting Market.