Busan: South Korean VFX Firms Target China

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Tsui Hark

Chinese studios and filmmakers, such as Tsui Hark, are increasingly turning to Korea for CG/VFX services as the two territories forge closer ties.

The Asian Film Market, held in conjunction with the Busan International Film Festival, wrapped Thursday with an increased number of participants — and adding to the growth was the presence of an array of South Korean CG/VFX firms angling for collaboration with the booming Chinese film industry.

The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a state organization for governing cultural content, invited 10 local firms for a conference dubbed "The Future of Cooperative CG/VFX and S3D Technology Between Korea and China." The event comes in time for the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two Asian countries.

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Tsui Hark, one of the most prominent filmmakers in Chinese language cinema, said Korean collaboration and technology was crucial to his hit epic Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, currently on release. "It would not have been possible to create the quality visuals and special effects in ‘Detective Dee 2’ without Korea’s help," the filmmaker said during a keynote speech on Wednesday.

Tsui emphasized the importance of cooperation among Asian industries amid rapid technological advances and fast growing markets.

"Three out of 10 Chinese films are 3D while, the number of theaters dedicated to the genre have multiplied in recent years to about 9,500 across the country, so China has become a huge 3D market," he said. "We don’t know what is going to happen and how things are going to change, but technological problems remain the same in Asia. There needs to be more serious debates on this matter."

Korea’s Dexter Studios was behind the making of Tsui’s film. It is also known for rendering the lead character, a CG gorilla, in the Korea-China co-production Mr. Go that was released this summer.

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"There are a lot of VFX companies around the world, but not that many that can make creature films like we do. Mr. Go for example featured 900 cuts compared to most creature movies that show about 150,' said Hailey Soyoung Park, planning & marketing producer of Dexter. "This is our first time taking part in the market and it’s a great chance to promote the company because international collaborations with China and other countries are very important to us."

Red Rover, which will soon see the release of animation feature The Nut Job via the Weinstein Company in English-speaking territories, also feels the growing interdependence between the two countries. "The Chinese market is growing bigger and we see an increasing number of Korean companies being sought out for projects for it," said the company’s marketing manager Hyunjee Heather Lim.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Film Commission took part in the market for the first time and plans to return with a larger pavilion next year.

"It’s our first time coming here to promote collaborations and discussions between filmmakers. But there aren’t enough Chinese booths here to reflect the vast amount of joint ventures that are taking place between China and Korea, both at a corporate and governmental level," said Zhang Hongyuan, manager of the commission’s project department.