Producers choose content over budget

A small budget is not necessarily a good thing, Sin says

More Pusan news

BUSAN, South Korea -- In spite of tight financial times, producers warned that budget is not the only measure for a film.

Korean producers tend to stress “low budget” as a film’s strength, as the pressures for funding due to an industry slowdown and the monopoly of local investors and distributors has gotten severe, said Sin Chul, the veteran producer and the head of the jury for Korean Producers in Focus.

“The primary concern for project development should be content, not the budget,” he said. “But I think many Korean producers are too worried about funding. It’s an indication that the industry is closed to diverse content. Basically, young producers have nowhere to turn to if they’ve been turned down by one or two companies, and the Korean producers have so much talent.”

Last year, Shin said most projects pitched to the jury didn’t exceed 1 billion won ($8.6 million). This year, the situation has gotten slightly better, though, he added.

Korean Producers in Focus, or KPIF, is an open-pitching program that was jointly started two years ago by the Producers Guild of Korea and Asian Film Market as a breakthrough for emerging Korean producers to find financiers and production partners during Pusan.

This year, five works were chosen out of 39 submissions. The producers of the selected works went through a rigorous mentoring program for the last three months, complete with training to prepare for successful presentation by professional speech instructors, which was new to most Korean producers who are used to pitching one on one mostly for companies they already know.

The main consideration of the jury was production feasibility, the producer’s ability to realize the project and the originality of the work. The selections were “Blue Moon” a mystery thriller about a UFO abduction; “Nothing to Lose,” a film noir about a corrupt detective; “The Good Friends” a psychological thriller about old friends in a love and hate relationship; “Tears of Father” a thriller about a father who learns of his daughter’s mysterious death, and “Goodbye Again,” a romance between a female South Korean tour guide and a North Korean military officer who meet in a joint North-South factory compound.

“It’s a useful way to invite partners given that you get to present an idea of your script for wide audiences,” said Kim Young-jin, the producer of “Goodbye Again” whose submission of the same script was dismissed last year. “I think it went well today. We got good requests for business meetings after the presentation.”

The story was also invited to this year’s co-production forum of the Moscow International Film Festival as it involves a scene of the couple parting and reuniting in St. Petersburg. 

KPIF has developed a number of notable projects out of last year's selected works. An animated pilot of “Fly June” by the producer Seon Kyoung-hee was just recently completed. “Youth Groove” by Lee Jin-eun and “Hyehwa-dong” by Shim Hyun-woo will start shooting soon.