The producers of some of Korea’s biggest ever blockbusters voiced concerns about vertical integration and monopolisation of the local cinema industry at a Busan seminar today.
The Asian Film Market session, ‘Producing Blockbusters in Korea’, brought together eight producers out of the ten who have made films that broke the 10 million admissions barrier over the past 12 years.
Won Dongyeon, producer of Lee Byung-hun starrer Masquerade, observed that Korea has 2,200 screens of which more than 1,000 are owned by just two conglomerates: CJ CGV and Lotte Entertainment. “We don’t have any system to control the monopoly. But even if we could control it, we wouldn’t see any benefit for independent movies,” Won said. “So we need more discussion about how to support independent films.”
The Host producer Choi Yong-bae warned that the monopoly situation is resulting in a lack of creativity: “Investment, distribution and screening are all operated by conglomerates. They are abusing their rights and position, so adventurous or experimental films cannot be made.” Choi called on the industry to work together and change the system, so fresh material and more creative projects could be produced.
Won also said that standard contracts need to be established to protect filmmakers and technicians. “Investors and producers need to see the importance of this system. If that is possible, we can protect the weaker parties so they can a stronger working environment,” Won said.
Haeundae director-producer Youn JK agreed with Won that creatives are not being protected, and added that revenues from big films are not being fairly distributed. “Everybody is having difficulties and we’re not a Communist country, but we all need to think about the other side,” Youn said. “I just saw an example of a Hollywood standard contract…if we had that kind of structure, we would have better talents in the industry in future.”
Even Kim Hanmin, director and producer of current box office smash Roaring Currents, said he was worried about the future: “In a way I’m seeing signs that make me wonder what is going to happen to my next film. We have quite a few issues, and may face difficult times in the future, so I have mixed feelings.”
The producers also touched on the issue of Korean talent heading to Hollywood and China to work, and whether that was healthy or damaging for the local industry. “The China market is expanding and requires talent from outside, in the same way that Hollywood needed European filmmakers in its early days,” said Choi. “Korean directors can take the lead and work with China to make movies that can target the whole world.”
Also speaking on the panel were Silmido director-producer Kang Woosuk, TaeGukGi director-producer Kang Je-kyu, Miracle In Cell No. 7 producer Kim Minki and The Attorney producer Choi Jaewon. Two producers, Lee Joon-ik (The King And The Clown) and Ahn Soo-hyun (The Thieves) were busy with their next projects.