Busan attendees vote with their feet

It’s a hefty change to move Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film Market from the scattered hotel rooms of the South Korean beach resort of Haeundae to the plush Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (Bexco), but attendees are hailing it a success.

The new location for the five-day mart, which launched Monday, has won a lot of fans. The number of early-bird registrations showed a dramatic 30% increase in badge holders and 40% in the number of sales companies compared with 2010.

“The Asian Film Market started under a sense of crisis five years ago. Unfortunately, that meshed with a crisis in the Korean film industry, which resulted in a serious stagnancy of the market,” said fest director Lee Yong-kwan. “But we couldn’t give up the market. Now we have a clear vision.”

There are 75 sales booths at the five-day mart, up 67% on the previous year, while the other data also augurs well for the market: a 14% increase in booth participants and a 36% increase in market screenings, where 64 films will be shown.

“I’m getting meetings and it’s very impressive,” said Dominic Wright of Ripple Pictures, attending his first Busan with the Irish film “Parked,” featuring Colm Meaney.

While Hollywood’s presence is not so notable in terms of stars and directors, the number of participants in the market from North America has doubled.

First-time attendees include Lakeshore Entertainment, Voltage, Cinema Management Group, the Little Film Co. and Multivisionnaire.

What’s more interesting is the hike in Japanese participants. Twenty companies and organizations will host booths at the market, including major studios Toho, Toei and Shochiku.

Separately, the Korean Film Council opened a massive Umbrella Booth for sales and post-production companies for the first time at the market, which means closer collaboration beween the fest and the council.

“The increased number of participants proves the positive effect of the venue’s move. This year, it seems certain that the market is developing,” said mart’s general manager Nam Dong-chul.

To meet the expansion, the Asia Film Market has launched more events. Producers from 10 countries gathered to discuss co-operation and special exchanges at the Asia-Pacific Producers Network round table.

To promote Korean talent for international business, a newly opened management company, United Asia Management, hosts the first Talent Meeting in Busan, inviting directors, producers and management related bizzers.

There is also a special focus on film funding. The Korea Contents Fund Showcase will give information about the newly created fund for global project investment, in which four venture capital and investment companies have meetings with producers.

For independent films and art films, the world’s main film fund managers will explain about their funds and the application process. These include the World Cinema Fund and Busan’s Asian Cinema Fund among others.

The venue change also affects the Asian Project Market, Bifcom and the Asian Film Policy Forum. Bexco makes it easier for APM participants to have production and investment meetings.

The Busan fest closes Friday.

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