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Pusan co-production program launches

First-time event to host 50 projects

PIFF’s Co-Production PRO program launched on Monday in the Grand Hotel with a joint presentation from S.M. Entertainment and Avex Group Holdings — two music biz giants now moving aggressively into film and other visual content.

The three-day, first-time event will host a total of 50 co-production projects, ranging from big-budget pics to indie titles, while offering up opportunities to network in a members-only environment.

In addition to the corporate project presentations, Co-Production PRO will feature the J-Pitch projects of UniJapan and the Filmmakers Development Lab of KOFIC, as well as special presentations by helmer Hou Hsiao Hsien, for his martial arts film “The Assassin,” and Zhang Yuan, for “Kim Koo in Exile.”

Leading off the event, S.M. Entertainment rep Kim Young-min gave a thorough presentation of the Korean giant’s current strategic vision. Kim said that S.M.’s way is to first find “the perfect diamond in South Africa, polish it and only then open a store to sell it.”

The company scouts and trains it own talent, then nurtures their careers. One example of the approach is Ara, a Korean thesp who starred in the Haruki Kadokawa epic “Ghenghis Khan” and now is trying to solidify her position in the Japanese market.

The same philosophy applies to visual media production, Kim emphasized: “We make contents for specific markets,” while striving to secure all rights. That is, Asian contents tailored for Asian auds.”

Avex Group Holding senior executive director Takashi Araki explained the company’s move, three years ago, into film production, with the goal of becoming a comprehensive “entertainment company.”

Since then Avex has participated in 30 pics that have earned a total of $78 million, including “Heavenly Forest,” “Initial D the Movie” and the new toon “Vexille.”

Since April, the company also has entered the talent management biz, signing Shido Nakamura (“Letters From Iwo Jima”), Koyuki (“The Last Samurai”) and Ara. Meanwhile, Avex has expanded its presence in Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong with the help of local partners, including S.M.

Both companies belong to the pan-Asian consortium making “Red Cliff,” the John Woo period epic. They also are partnering on “Subaru,” a pic based on a popular Japanese comic.

Avex, together with Hong Kong-based Bill Kong, is producing; S.M, is supplying the soundtrack. Lee Chi-ngai has signed to direct and pen the screenplay with Masato Soda. The cast has yet to be announced.

The aim, said Araki, is to make “Asian-level co-productions” that can play strongly in the entire Asian market. “To do that we have to assemble an Asian Dream Team,” added Araki.

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