IPTV Creating Co-Production Opportunities for Genre Films in China and Korea

Monster Hunt Still 1 - H 2015
Courtesy of Edko Films

Monster Hunt Still 1 - H 2015

Genre films such as horror can get around the Chinese censorship process if they are screened only online, said panelists at the Udine Far East Film Festival's industry section.

IPTV is opening up co-production opportunities in China and Korea, panelists said at the ongoing Udine Far East Film Festival industry section.

The advance in technology in IPTV is creating the so-called one-day rental films in South Korea that are released in theaters for one day and then distributed on IPTV platforms, said Jongsuk Thomas Nam, managing director at Network of Asian Fantastic Films. There is a similar case in China, where small-budget genre films are released through IPTV.  About two dozens horror films were released in China last year, but they were distributed only through online platforms.

Most importantly, genre films such as horror can get around the Chinese censorship process if they are screened only online. "In China, Chinese producers had told me that online platforms are actually independent from the China censorship board, only the online platforms perform self-censorship. However, they do get leeway to make films that are never thought possible before. The one condition is that they are made for online screening only, not theatrical. So I see the potential of genre films expanding in China," Nam told The Hollywood Reporter.

The rise of small-budget genre films in China also creates new possibilities for cross-border co-productions. "Before, co-productions with China had to be of a grand scale. But because of the online platforms, Chinese filmmakers can experiment with genre elements," said Nam. He cited the case of Death Trip, a 2014 Chinese film with a Korean villainess and shot in Malaysia. "Of course, in China, you have to have morals in the films — the bad guy must die, the good guy who committed crime has to serve time in prison — but at least the filmmakers can play around with genre elements. I believe that IPTV channels can open up co-productions between China and Korea. Korea has the skills for the extremely low micro-budget films; China has the revenue sources," Nam added.

Genre films have always been big in Asia, as in the Hong Kong martial art films in the 1970s, Japanese J-Horror films in the same era and the horror films of Thailand. "Asia can be considered a hot bed of genre films," said Nam. In the 2000s, the shift in audience flavors led to a decline of Asian genre films. In recent years, in Korea, China and Japan, genre films have revived. Japan has had genre successes such as Parasite and Attack of the Titans. China has seen enormous growth in epic genre films. And the top-grossing films of 2015 and 2016 in China — Monster Hunt and The Mermaid — were both genre films.

Whereas in Europe, it also was a cradle of fantastic cinema, from Melies to Lang to Franco and Argento, said Sten-Kristian Saluveer, director of Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival, the exclusive genre film festival in the Baltics. The 1970s and 1980s were the defining golden era of genre films. But the rise of civilized European art houses in the 1990s meant that genre cinema became marginalized. In the mid-2000s, there was a rebirth of the European genre films. Driven by ex-fanboys turned filmmakers, the Spanish, French, U.K. and Scandinavian film industries saw a new wave of terror. The successful recipe is local stories mixed with genre standards.