Korean opening tweaked EFM stand

New system described as 'self-expensing'

The Korean Film Council (Kofic) will operate an umbrella stand at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin after fears last week that it was set to end the practice.

But it will ask smaller sales companies, which have previously enjoyed a free ride, to contribute to the cost upfront. They may later be able to claim back some of what they have paid. The “pay now, reclaim later” system is being described as “self-expensing.”

Since 2000, Kofic has hired and paid for a joint sales booth at the EFM and Hong Kong’s FilMart and allocated space to companies equally, regardless of the size of each company’s lineup.

This year, Mirovision, Studio2.0, KM Culture, Activers Entertainment, Indiestory and IHQ shared Kofic’s EFM sales booth.

Leading distributors CJ Entertainment, Showbox and Cineclick (now replaced by Fine Cut) took their own market positions.

Kofic operated pavilions or stands at Cannes and the American Film Market to promote Korean films — though these were not strictly considered sales stands. Beginning in 2009, Kofic is planning to extend the self-expense system to Cannes and AFM as well.

With some of the small sales companies taking up space, but selling only one or two titles, Kofic concluded that its money could in some cases be better spent. The org admits that many of its previous film sales-support efforts have been ineffective. South Korea’s movie exports climbed sharply in the early years of the decade, but they plummeted by more than 60% in 2006.

It argued, too, that small companies had little negotiating power in the market and that they should make efforts to increase and expand their scale.

While the issue of the umbrella stands is in itself minor, the heat and noise it has caused indicates wider concerns generated by Kofic’s determination to allocate public funds to companies that dynamize the movie business. For instance, Kofic now says it will give coin to sales companies including CJ Entertainment and Showbox, which previously did not receive state support, as long as they join the self-expense system.

While supporting national champions and promoting professionalism, the org has to steer a tricky course.

It insists that it is not planning to help big companies more than smaller companies and says the overall budget for sales support could actually rise.

“The more professional sales agents will get a bit more incentive. But we will not support big companies in direct proportion to the size of their lineups. We’re considering setting an upper limit. Support for middle-ranged or small companies will not be cut,” said Kim Hyoun-soo, Europe manager of international promotion at Kofic. “If the companies have more than three films, Kofic’s support funds will be allocated at the same levels as previous years.”

(Patrick Frater in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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