Going global is practically a mandatory slogan for industry insiders in South Korea.
International co-prod and location incentives for foreign shoots are among the most frequently discussed issues in the biz, and various regional film commissions have tried to launch programs to lure outside filmmakers.
However, budgets are strapped and most of the local governments don’t have enough money to carry out such plans. Plus, due to its particular tax system, South Korea lacks support programs for foreign projects looking for tax deduction on their expenditures.
However this year, the national government has just taken unprecedented steps to improve the situation. The Korean Film Council (Kofic), the central governmental org to promote local industry, recently announced a location incentive program with a much bigger budget, which is drawn from the Tourism Promotion and Development Fund.
Titled Foreign Audio-Visual Works Production Grant, the program offers a 25% cash rebate for a foreign company producing film or drama series in the country, with a cap of $2.8 million.
“We have prepared the program for the purpose of tourism promotion, job creation and other economic benefits,” says Daniel D.H. Park, the director of the Intl. Promotion Center of Kofic.
Compared to South Korea’s previous incentives, the most distinguished feature of this program is the grant is almost exclusive to foreign production companies, not to the coprod projects of local shingles. Foreign capital’s participation in the production cost must exceed 80%, and eligible applicants must spend no less than $934,000 on production in South Korea.
Different from existing programs, mostly aimed at helping projects with extremely low budgets, the new one is more suitable for foreign producers preparing qualifying productions.
And for those instances where these producers are seeking professional partners in South Korea, Kofic also launched an inclusive online source dubbed Kobiz. The English-language website (koreanfilm.or.kr) provides a database of companies and people working in the Korean film industry. Guidelines on international co-production and sources on filming locations are also readily available. Kofic is planning to make the data available to smartphones and tablets.
The consensus in South Korea is that thanks to the introduction of open, transparent information, the country has become a more accessible place for foreign producers looking for partners.
The number of production facilities has been increasing. Along with the Namyangju Film Studio run by Kofic, major cities such as Busan, Pucheon and Jeonju have built up and operated shooting stages that can be rent at a low cost.
Although more than 85% of the industry is grouped in Seoul, regional film commissions such as Incheon, Gyeonggi-Do and Cheongpung have put efforts to extend their production facilities. They also offer a range of location search services and subsidies.
Post-production in the country is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable benefits that foreign producers can take advantage of. Displayed in such movies as “Tae Guk Gi” and “Haeundae,” the vfx skills and artistic sense of local professionals are competitive with those of other countries and relatively inexpensive to boot.
Among local companies, Blue Cap worked on visual effects for Chinese helmer Feng Xiaogang’sB.O. hit “Aftershock.” More recently, 2L Film worked with Hong Kong helmer Wilson Yip on vfx for “A Chinese Ghost Story.” Busan-based AZ Works received the visual effects award at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards for Hark Tsui’s “Detective Dee.”
South Korea’s biggest media conglom, CJ E&M Corp., recently become the largest shareholder of AZ Works in order to consolidate its global projects into the hands of a single provider. With the Busan government as a partial investor, the company could be the haringer of industry changes to come.
With its newly launched Plan and Development Fund the Busan Film Commission has started to support and revitalize Busan-based productions. Busan Film Studio, which contains two shooting lots, will be renovated for digital shooting, motion capture and high-end post-production.
“In the past, the Busan Film Commission was merely an organization for location services, but now I’ve set a new goal to expand the scope of our work,” says Oh Seok-gun, the commission’s new chairman. “Closely working with the Busan Film Festival, the commission will strengthen the network, connecting studios, equipment houses, technical staffs and other facilities that we own, to make films more effectively and to elevate the local film industry.”
Korean incentives boosted to lure outside biz | Debate rages over new film center | Shooting on the peninsula