Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • [INTERVIEW] KIMJHO Kwang-soo, CEO of Generation Blue Films
  • by KIM Su-yeon / 02.23.2015
  • “I want to create a unique filmography for Generation Blue Films”

    KIMJHO Gwang-soo is the president of Generation Blue Films, a producer, the chairman of the Seoul Pride Film Festival (formerly known as the LGBT Film Festival) and a film director. KIMJHO has been heading Generation Blue Films for 17 years. He is usually picked as a filmmaker who has produced films of the most diverse colors in Korea. We had a chance to interview KIMJHO about Generation Blue Films’ films and his life as a filmmaker. 

    Recently Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island was released. The film topped the box office at number one on the day of its release. Compared to its prequel, how well is the film performing?  
    The film is performing as well as its prequel. We originally aimed for Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island to ink a box office score similar to that of Detective K: Secret of Virtuous Widow. We are glad that the sequel has so far been as successful as the original. (Laughs) The coming Lunar New Year holiday is longer than usual. I hope the sequel will outdo the prequel (which drew 4.78 million viewers) by a little more.  
    When will the film reach its break-even point?
    The film will need to attract three million viewers for that to happen. The production budget increased from the previous film. We also had to give higher performance fees to actors who returned for the sequel. These factors pushed the point a little higher. The second installment tops the first installment in its action sequences which also contributed to an increase in the production cost. 
    Lead actor KIM Myung-min said, “The shooting of the sequel was a lot of fun, working with the same production crew from the first film.” How did you feel as its producer?
    When producing the first film I thought, “If this becomes a hit, it will be a good idea to make a series as a franchise.” This is why there are subtitles for Detective K films. Moreover, the film crew showed fantastic teamwork when shooting the first film. All of the main staff members except for the production designer had already worked with the actors through the first film. Therefore, the director and actors had no reason to turn down the second project. One day, director KIM Sok-yun told me that he wanted to write a screenplay for a sequel. It was about a female slave who looks for her missing sister. The final well-written script brought all crew back on set for the sequel. They created a good atmosphere starting from the first day. As the producer, I felt really good about the mood on set. The staff members who said that they will return for the sequel kept their promises and were a great help in the resulting film.
    If a film becomes a box-office hit, the producer usually looks for a rookie director for the sequel so that the producer have more control over the production. What made you decide to have director KIM Sok-yun helm the second project?      
    Even from the planning stage of the first installment, I made up my mind to have KIM as the director of the franchise. The prequel was a newcomer in the market, and with the low production budget, the director and I had a lot of restraints. I wanted to try many things but was not able to. Naturally, while working on the previous film, we talked much about adding new items to a sequel if the film turns out to be a success. This process made director KIM a natural choice for the sequel. If the film pans out to lead to a third installment, I will give the project to KIM again. But I don’t know what KIM will think. As a director, it is not easy to commit to a series of films one after another.
    If this sequel performs well at the box office and we decide to go for a third installment, will the actors return?
    They confirmed that they will return if the second film becomes a box-office hit and the screenplay for a third installment is interesting. But OH Dal-su said that he is almost in his 50s and will soon lose his stamina and asked to shoot the third installment as soon as possible if it will be made. The first and second films were four years apart. This pace might prevent him from acting in a third film, so OH is urging me to hurry up. (Laughs) 
    As a producer, what elements did you put in your utmost efforts during the planning and production stages? 
    I wanted to show extravagant adventurous visuals on Yongam Island in the sequel. The prequel has such elements too, but its budget prevented us from cinematizing it to our hearts’ content. In addition, we paid much attention to humanity.  
    At the end of the film, a vampire makes an appearance and watches the two lead actors as they investigate someone who seems to have been bitten by a vampire. If a third installment goes into production, will it be about detectives who go after the vampire?
    That’s not likely. The epilogue of the first film shows the two men going to Qing (China). But the sequel does not begin in China. That scene is simply a bonus track for the viewers. 

    How are overseas sales of Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island going?
    The final report has yet to come. But I heard that the sequel landed more deals than the prequel at the film market during the Berlin International Film Festival. The sequel dwarfed the prequel in both the number of buying countries as well as in prices. This is credited to the fact that the Korean cultural wave and the popularity of the actors expanded over the past four years. 
    Among the countries who imported the first film, which country did the film record the highest score?
    I was told that Asian nations showed good responses to the film, in particular, Thailand.  
    Detective K is the top grossing film among films produced by Generation Blue Films. As a producer, what does Detective K mean to you?
    Before the production of Detective K, the management of Generation Blue Films including me focused on films that we liked. We produced films that could be categorized as art films or auteur films. This made it hard to reach box-office success, jeopardizing the operation of our company. In the face of such tough times, the management discussed making films that audiences would love rather than what we love and decided to try it. After making such a decision, we produced a commercially planned film, which was Detective K. Fortunately, the first film made it big. The work woke us to the fact that our studio is able to make films that can communicate with viewers. We are planning to steadily make commercial films while producing independent films by young new directors and low-budget films with good messages at the same time.   
    Generation Blue Films has the most colorful filmography in Korea from independent films to commercial films. Is this a reflection of your taste?
    When founding Generation Blue Films, we aimed to make unique good-quality films. Generation Blue Films is a company where the board of directors consists of four producers and me. The five of us have different cinematic tastes, but we shared one single goal. The goal is to make quality films. Under such basic conditions, each member of the management made films according to their individual tastes, driving a colorful filmography. Watching Generation Blue Films make works of various colors, I came to think that the colors of our company’s filmography are like those of a rainbow. 
    You revealed your sexuality with the release of No Regret (2006). This led you to begin working as a director who makes films about sexual minorities. It seems that your life as a filmmaker has come to fruition.
    You can say that again. Production of No Regret became a turning point in my life. Before No Regret, I was not able to reveal the fact that I am gay. So, I was unable to talk about sexual minorities even though I wanted to. No Regret was well received by the general public. The film industry duly recognized it as well. That encouraged me to come out of the closet. The film reinforced my confidence and made a change in my life. This led to the production of Milky Way Liberation Front (2007) and Two Weddings and a Funeral (2012) among others. If No Regret wasn’t able to perform well, I wouldn’t be able to live like I am living today. Of course, I would not have attempted to direct a film either. As you said, while making films at Generation Blue Films, I changed and could change my life according to my will.  
    Ever since you came out, you have been passionately taking part in a movement to advocate the human rights of sexual minorities. As a part of your activities, you are serving as the chairperson of the LGBT Film Festival. What will this year’s festival focus on?
    Starting with this year, we’ve changed the dates and the title of the festival. We are now called the ‘Seoul Pride Film Festival’. We thought that the word LGBT expresses sexual minorities too explicitly and the festival comes across as somewhat strange to the general public. We made the decision to make the festival friendlier to everyone. Equally important, we changed the name to encourage sexual minorities to take pride in their identities. We also changed the time of the festival to October so that it overlaps Halloween. Although Halloween is not a Korean holiday, I think the day is a fun event among youths now. Under the pretext of a fun event, some people enjoy wearing interesting costumes. The sight of them made me think that it would be nice to mix our festival with such an element. I felt that looking at the stories of people with different sexual identities is similar to the feelings of looking at Halloween costumes. I hope that everyone will be able to enjoy the event. Thus, we are paying more attention to programs in the festival. We also plan to invite a foreign guest who film fans will love to see. We will make a festival where people will want to attend just by looking at our guest retrospective programs. 
    It seems that the film you want to make as a producer is different from the one as a director.
    The two are totally different. As a producer, I would like to make a wide variety of films with various directors. I want to make the filmography of Generation Blue Films more colorful. On the contrary, as a director, I am in search of things I can do well. I think that it is important to judge what stories or genres I am excellent at even though I have many stories to tell. I want to hear that KIMJHO Kwang-soo’s films are improving over time.
    We would like to know your next project as a director.
    I will make a non-queer film for the first time. The film is about vampires in the Joseon period. Director KIM heard about it from me and inserted the episode into Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island as its epilogue. The film is a buddy movie where two male characters will butt heads. The film focuses on a secret royal inspector who looks into a series of murders committed not by humans but by a vampire, while another vampire watches the chase between them. However, the overlooking vampire loses his memories, and watches the chase in search for his root and ends up helping the inspector. The two characters are a little queer since the inspector should hide his job and the vampire should hide his identity. This element will make the film sexier. Its genre is a mystery thriller which is usually heavy and serious, but I hope to make it lighter. The last film I directed which was Two Weddings and a Funeral cost 300 million won to produce. The budget for the new film is estimated at six billion won, 20 times the budget for Two Weddings and a Funeral. At the moment, its screenplay is finished and casting is underway .

    photographed by Hwang Sang-joon.
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