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‘Snowpiercer,’ ‘Adoption,’ ‘Leafie,’ ‘Chair:’ Korea, France Build Co-Production Relations

Movies financing, countries’ varying work habits analyzed at Paris Images Cinema

Korea-French CoProduction Panel, Paris Images Cinema
Photo by Martin Dale

PARIS — Paris Images Cinema/Industrie du Reve featured a round table on animation co-production, which included a screening of Jesus Castro’s documentary “Snowpiercer: From the Blank Page to the Black Screen,” about the making of the $40 million South Korean/French science fiction pic “Snowpiercer,” directed by Bong Joon-ho and written by Bong and Kelly Masterson, based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette.

Jesus Castro explained how the film became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. The film clocked up 650,000 admissions — about  $4.6 million — in France and had a limited theatrical release in the U.S. after discussions about the final cut between Bong and the Weinstein Company, with the film finally released on VOD via TWC’s Radar channel, earning $2 million in the first week.

In South Korea, the film recorded over 10 million admissions. Castro said that the working rhythm on “Snowpiercer” was intense, with Bong taking only one day off during the three-month production period. Bong storyboarded every shot and had a very fast shooting style, often recording only one or two takes from each set-up and always using a single camera. Bong also had an editor working while they were shooting who would show the edited footage to cast and crew during production.

Laurent Boileau then talked about his animated documentary, co-directed with Jung, “Approved for Adoption,” based on Jung’s autobiographical graphic novel “Skin Color: Honey,” about his adoption as a child by Belgian parents. The film uses animation to recount Jung’s childhood and then switches to live action to show Jung returning to South Korea, which is both his homeland and yet an alien world.

The film was a Franco-Belgian co-production, with about 30% of the funding coming from Belgium. The remainder was provided by France 3 Cinema, France 3 Television and six French regions.

Boileau explained that signing the contract for the film in South Korea was an adventure, because in France all the contractual details are ironed out before signing, whereas in South Korea he was told that the contract is signed first and then the details are agreed to later. However, he said he ended up following this procedure and everything went smoothly.

South Korean producer Lee Eun — who has produced 36 films, including Park Chan Wook’s “Joint Security Area” — talked about the 2011 animation feature “Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild,” which clocked up over 2.2 million admissions in South Korea — a record for a local animation pic. Lee Eun explained that the film was financed through private investment and needed 1.3 million admissions in order to break even. He is now developing a second animation feature based on a story about a bear that escapes from a zoo, also aimed at a family audience.

At the other end of the production spectrum, Ron Dyens screened the 2014 animation short “Man on the Chair,” by South Korean director Dahee Jeong, who graduated with a master’s degree in animation from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Dyens explained that he gave €2,000 ($2,180) to Dahee in order to make the short, having applied the same model to 12 films from other new animation graduates. Under this deal the graduates produce a low-cost animation short but receive 50% of any distribution revenues. “Chair,” screened in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2014, won the Cristal Award for best short at Annecy. Canal Plus then bought the film and has pre-bought Dahee’s next animation project, which Dyens says has a more comfortable budget.

Paris Images Cinema/Industrie du Reve is the fourth event in the Paris Images Trade Show (Jan 28. – Feb. 6).