A forgotten fight in 3D

Epic to recount Korean War's 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir

American helmer Eric Brevig and producer Charlotte Huggins have signed on to tackle 3D Korean war epic “17 Days of Winter,” the story of the 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Pic would be the first war epic shot and released in digital 3D. Brevig and Huggins have ample experience in the format and worked together on New Line’s 3D sleeper hit “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

With South Korea readying 60th anniversary observances of the war, project will receive unprecedented support from the South Korean government, including the Ministry of National Defense (which will provide equipment, weapons, locations and military assistants) and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports.

Pic will shoot in Korea and New Zealand with a cast of American, Chinese and Korean actors.

Story will follow the 1st Marine Division over the brutal 17-day battle of Chosin Reservoir, where United Nations forces including 12,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers were encircled by a vastly superior Chinese force. In a brutal battle fought amid rugged mountains and sub-zero temperatures, U.N. forces escaped to safety, though American forces suffered more than 6,000 casualties.

Production company behind the film is new shingle Madmedia Entertainment, founded by Jayson Won in December. Won, who is exec producer on the pic, has been working on assembling the project for some four years. Madmedia has secured $80 million in financing for the movie; final budget may approach $100 million.

Producers are in discussions with screenwriters, aiming to start lensing next winter for a 2012 release.

For Brevig, “17 Days of Winter” marks a return to his roots in actioners. He was visual effects supervisor and second unit director on 2002 Michael Bay pic “Pearl Harbor” and won a visual effects Oscar for 1990’s “Total Recall.”

His tech background landed him in the director’s chair for two 3D kid pics, “Journey” and Warner’s upcoming “Yogi Bear.”

Brevig told Daily Variety that he isn’t aiming for an effects-driven spectacle but that 3D is critical to the pic.

“Telling a personal story against an epic background involves bringing the audience into the story with the characters,” he said. “The ability to create amazing immersive images that have never been seen before is what makes 3D an exciting and appropriate tool for the story.”

Pic reteams Brevig with “Journey” producer Huggins, who started producing 3D projects long before digital 3D took off. She is in production now on 3D pic “Blue Man Group: Mind Blast.”

“When I saw the battle sequences in ‘Avatar,’ I was inspired,” said Huggins. “Even without an ‘Avatar’ budget or their capture technology, the general framing and editing of those action sequences made me realize we can create a visually stunning epic war movie in 3D.”

Huggins cited Brevig’s background in vfx and 3D as the key to bringing the pic in under $100 million.

Brian Iglesias, a filmmaker and combat-decorated 14-year veteran of the Marine Corps, is on board as an executive producer and military advisor. He has made a docu about survivors of the battle under the title of “Forgotten War,” and is in talks with distributors for that pic.

The battle was almost forgotten in the U.S., but some survivors launched an organization named “The Chosin Few” in the 1980s. Iglesias has been made an honorary member of that org.

Since the enormous success of “Avatar” in the Korean market, with more than $12 million in ticket sales, the Korean government has rapidly put forward a wide range of policies and plans to boost the 3D-related media industry, including its major commitment to “17 Days of Winter.” Kang Min-ah, deputy director of the Film and Video Content Industry Division at the Ministry of Culture, said “We have decided to support the film as much as possible in order to boost location shooting in Korea, because this is the first time in recent times that a major Hollywood production firm has made a film about Korea.”

Some 3D post for the pic may be done in Korea as well. Madmedia is in talks with the Ministry of Culture to form a 3D production hub that would be used for the pic.