Busan: Asian Film Market Sets Stage for Cross Pollination of Regional Stars

"My Way"
Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

The Korean film features an all-star Asian cast. The globe-trotting plot follows two childhood friends -- one Korean, one Japanese -- whose fate sees them travel from the Pacific Rim to shores of Normandy.

Top Chinese, South Korean and Japanese talent agencies discussed swapping actors at the inaugural Star Casting Forum

The Busan International Film Festival's Asian Film Market (AFM) for the first time saw the gathering of East Asia's top talent agencies and management companies, as the region has seen an increasing number of cross-border films with multinational casts.

"We are fully prepared to work with Asian partners," said Jessica Chen, CEO of China's Easy Entertainment, during the Star Casting Market forum on Tuesday. She said she modeled her talent agency after CAA in the U.S. rather than examples in neighboring countries in order to create a better fit for the local market. "The Chinese entertainment business is in its nascent stage, and we have many possibilities. China has become a leading player in co-productions and so we have a competitive edge," she said.

Amuse Korea, the local division of the Japanese management/production company, has long been engaged in international film collaborations and investment deals.

"We are co-producing films with China  and Korea, like CJ Entertainment, with whom we have built a film fund. We also staged a Korean musical, featuring Korean cast and crew, in Japan, for example. In terms of stars, we are seeking to sign talented Koreans that can act and sing at the same, which is quite rare in Japan," said CEO Chiaki Harada. "

South Korea's JYP Entertainment is best known for producing top K-pop acts and has led the new local trend of encouraging singers to cross over to acting, in Korea and beyond.

"Even at the time we made Dream High [a TV drama from 2011] there weren't many Korean celebrities that acted and sang at the same time. But when you look at Asia as a whole, this has been common in Japan or China. We are trying to cater to the bigger picture," said JYP's vice president Dylan J. R. Pyo .

"Of the 40 trainees at JYP training to become singers and actors, half are non-Korean," said Pyo. JYP reps such Asian superstars as Nickhun, the Thai member of K-pop band 2AM who also stars in Chinese TV soaps. "Asia is becoming one, and we are trying our best to recruit talented individuals who can shine in this environment," he said.

Star power has also been reflected in the sales side of this year's market, which opened with a record attendance rate.

"The presence of Chinese buyers and sellers has been noticeably strong this year. We have been receiving a lot of attention from Chinese buyers for films such as The Con Artists, because it stars Kim Woo-bin, an actor who has become extremely popular in China through the TV series The Heirs," said Ryan Minyung Han, director of international investment and distribution at Lotte Entertainment.

Read more Asian Film School to Open in Busan