Fox International Productions to Expand Slate of South Korean Projects

'Wailing' still - H 2016
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Korea

As 'The Wailing' readies to bow at the Cannes film festival, the studio plans to roll out two to three films per year, in line with its strategy for China.

21st Century Fox's Fox International Productions plans to boost its number of local productions in South Korea from about one per year at present to up to four beginning in 2017.

Tomas Jegeus, president of FIP, said he believes Korean films will help support Hollywood releases rather than compete with them in a country where local films outperform imported titles.

"Going forward in our strategy, we're increasing production in every market we're in. Next year onwards to maybe two films a year, to maybe even three to four films a year, [similar to what we're doing] in China," said Jegeus in Seoul on Tuesday following the press screening of Na Hong-jin's The Wailing (Gokseong), FIP Korea's third local project, which will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival's out-of-competition section this month.

Adding that this was "just the beginning," he said: "Six months from now we will have more films in development. The history of Korea is incredibly rich.… You can measure the modern Korean filmmaking from 1999, and it's changed, and it's growing every year. It's not stagnant; it develops creatively and develops commercially. People keep going back to cinemas. Korean films do not compete with Hollywood films that we also distribute, but they complement each other."

The executive also stressed it was "a dream come true to work with a filmmaker like Na," and that it was important for FIP to give local artists complete creative control. "[The Wailing is] a perfect example of what types of films we want to premiere," Jegeus said. "[The director] is a man with a unique vision with three very different films. I saw The Chaser when I wasn't even on the production side and immediately knew we had to work with him."

The Wailing is about a strange string of deaths that occur in a tiny rural village following the arrival of a stranger. Both of Na's two previous films have screened on the Croisette: The Chaser received a Midnight Screening in 2008, while The Murderer (aka The Yellow Sea) was screened in Cannes' Un Certain Regard section in 2011.

Previously, Na told Korean reporters that working with FIP was slow due to language barriers but he was guaranteed full creative control.

"Yes, we gave him creative freedom, and you can see why, it's not just phenomenally tense drama and it's scary and everything," said Jegeus. "He's the type of filmmaker we want to work with not just in Korea but globally."

FIP Korea's two local productions, 2013's Running Man and 2014's Slow Video, reached 1.4 million and 1.17 million admissions, respectively — both fairly successful box-office scores for mid-budget projects that were close to breaking even, according to a spokesperson for FIP Korea. The studio will also be releasing My Intimate Enemies by Im Sang-soo, who previously directed The Housemaid and The Taste of Money, which both vied for the Palme d'Or in Cannes.