Kofic set to close mart umbrellas

Co. mulling alternative support systems

SEOUL — The Korean Film Council (Kofic) is unlikely to provide umbrella stands for small sales companies at marts such as the European Film Market in Berlin and Hong Kong’s FilMart next year.

“With the formation of the new government under President Lee Myung-bak, Kofic has been urged by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to change the existing support policies for international promotion,” Kofic sources told Variety on condition of anonymity.

In past years, Kofic has hired and operated a joint sales booth at events including Cannes and the American Film Market. Kofic is mulling alternative support systems for sellers.

“We’re still planning the new support systems, but it has been decided that Kofic will not take the unconditional umbrella stand for all the sales companies by purchasing booth spaces using Kofic’s budget,” Kofic said.

“Instead, we’re going to introduce an incentive system for the companies. It is still under consideration what they will be and how the incentives should be applied to the different companies with different scales,” the source added.

A Kofic umbrella stand will still be unfurled at November’s AFM as commitments have already been made. But the extent of Kofic’s commitment to the early 2009 markets is less clear.

“We have every reason to believe Kofic is coming in February. They were asking for more space only a few weeks ago,” European Film Market chief Beki Probst said. “I’d hope they have the decency to tell us if that’s changed.”

“Our representatives had a meeting in Korea last week and were told that Kofic will continue to support individual sales companies. (Kofic) may book the space then leave it to the individual companies to deal directly with the fair organizers,” a FilMart spokesman said. “They presented it to us as a means of cutting down on administration.”

Smaller Korean sales companies are nevertheless worried by Kofic’s stance.

Some interpret Kofic’s yet-to-be-decided incentives as supporting only major distributors with large slates. Kofic’s recently appointed chairman Kang Han-sup already has suggestedconcentrating the org’s finance on pictures with the best chances of success.

“Smaller sales companies that don’t have much capital have benefited a lot from Kofic’s current support policies,” said a sales agent at a distributor. “The new strategies seem to encourage competition among Korean sales companies, in step with the overall social and economic policies of the Lee government. However, it is still debatable that Kofic’s new policies will be helpful to promote the export of Korean films.”

Korean film exports last year were 68% below their 2005 high.