Like an overworked bee, Lee Eugene’s cell phone is constantly buzzing. One of a new generation of Korean producers now stepping out on their own, Lee is particularly well connected with the industry’s leading directors and stars.
“People sometimes ask me how I got to know these famous people, but in most cases it’s just that we worked together before they became well known,” she says.
It’s been 10 years since Lee turned her back on a rapidly accelerating career in advertising to take up film marketing, on director E J-yong’s surprise hit “An Affair.”
Joining B.O.M. Film Prod. just as the Korean industry was entering its boom period, she worked her way up from line producing on the $17.4 million hit “Untold Scandal,” to co-producing Cannes’ selection “A Bittersweet Life” and $18.3 million hit melodrama “You Are My Sunshine.”
This year, after launching her own company, Zip Cinema (a transliteration of the Korean word for “home”), Lee took $22.3 million with her first release “Voice of a Murderer.”
The industry has noticed, putting her at No. 33 in the annual list of Korean cinema’s 50 most powerful figures this year, her first entry.
“I’m always trying to bring something new to my productions, because it seems this is what audiences are really looking for,” she says. She cites Working Title and Focus Features as company role models.
These days, she is also training her eyes beyond the Korean market. After she signed with CAA this spring, an increasing portion of her time is spent reading English-language scripts.
“Many Korean directors are interested in working abroad, so if I get the chance to help to put them on the international stage, I’ll do what I can,” she says.
Meanwhile, her high-profile local lineup includes new projects by “Tazza” director Choi Dong-hoon, “Voice of a Murderer’s” Park Jin-pyo, “Memento Mori’s” Min Kyu-dong and independent filmmaker Noh Dong-seok.
Zip Cinema’s second film, Hur Jin-ho’s drama “Happiness,” premieres in Toronto’s Contemporary World Cinema section.
Inspired by: The films of Alfred Hitchcock, and his words, “The cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.”