Funds forum sees ready Asian cash flow

Availability of funding counters current credit crisis

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BUSAN, South Korea -- The recent credit crisis has raised concerns over how filmmkers will acquire financing for their next projects, but panelists at the Asian Film Funds Forum on Friday said that the explosion of regional film funds may overload the production pipeline.

"In Korea, people say when (morning) is coming, the darkness is the most dark," said Kim Hyun-Woo, CEO of Boston Investment. "It means that although now it's very dark, we will soon see some brightness."

Established five years ago, Boston Investment manages two funds amounting to 40 billion Korean won (US$32.6 million) and has invested in 40 different Korean animation and film titles.

The number of film funds being set up might create a problem once the current credit crisis abates. The recent growth of China and other emerging markets has led to a flood of "film funds to capture the growth in the asset class, but the problem is, by the time the money is raised and the movies are made, you'll end up with too many movies," said Benjamin Waisbren, president and CEO of Continental Entertainment Group.

"But in the end, great films will be seen. Rupert Murdoch was right; content is king," Waisbren said. "And if you can align yourself with the owner of the content rather than be a distributor, that's a better long term plan."

Content is the main driving force of Irresistible Films, the $16.75 million fund established by Hong Kong-based Bill Kong, Hugh Simon and Japan's Avex Entertainment.

The fund founders' background in filmmaking comes into play for Irresistible Films, said managing director Nansun Shi. The fund is dedicated to financing new filmmakers, and she believed that the fact that the managers of the fund speak the same language as the new talents will set the fund apart.

"In terms of the next round of co-financing, Hollywood will go to Asia or the Middle East, but the question is whether they will demand an improved infrastructure," Waisbren said.