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Puchon focuses on exports

Industry needs more o'seas exposure, producers say

PUCHON, South Korea — The Puchon Intl. Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) is abuzz with one subject: how to make Korean films popular abroad.

The answer — forget exports and hope for remakes, or make films with only U.S. tastes in mind.

Homemade fare secured a respectable 46% of the local market in the first half of this year and kept blockbusters such as “Lord of the Rings” at bay. But the fate of the still booming Korean film industry is far from certain, according to execs at the fest, which started on July 7 and wraps Saturday

“To keep up with rising costs and ever bigger productions, we need more export receipts,” explained one producer in Puchon, “but so far, overseas exposure of our films has mostly been disappointing.”

Korean films have barely been seen beyond festival and market screenings in the U.S. and Europe. In Japan, Korea’s most important overseas market, latest releases of Korean domestic successes have disappointed, making future distribution more difficult.

A similar trend can be observed in other Asian markets, such as Hong Kong.

“Very few people outside our country know our stars and directors,” admitted Susan Chae, an independent producer working with some of her country’s major companies.

Indeed, except for Cannes-favorite Im Kwon-taek whose films screen in art house releases, most moviegoers in the West, or in Japan for that matter, would be hard pressed to come up with the name of a Korean star or director.

“That’s why we bet on remakes as the best chance for our films, or at least their ideas, to make it overseas,” said production executive Oh Ka-won.

That’s why PiFan featured a special panel discussion with Roy Lee of Los Angeles-based Vertigo Entertainment and up-and-coming producer/director Chris Yoo, also from Los Angeles, who explained their perspective on the remake game. Lee has successfully packaged three Korean films for U.S. studios so far and attended PiFan to look for new projects.

Yoo is developing an English-lingo version of “The Quiet Family,” another big hit in Korea, together with a financial partner. “If direct exports don’t work, why not try different ways?’ said Yoo. “For now remakes seem a reasonable alternative.”

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