Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • Korean Directors Roaring in China
  • by PARK Hye-eun / 10.17.2014
  • Korean Directors Roaring in China
    JANG Tae-yoo

    The 2nd Korean wave in China is turning up a storm. The first K-wave was focused on Korean dramas and actors, but most recently, ‘K-wave of directors’ is coming into focus. As the Chinese film market is getting bigger, commercial genre film productions have become more active. The Chinese film industry started to look outside of local filmmakers to find new pairs of eyes that can create polished genre films. As a result, they started to make love calls to popular Korean genre filmmakers and outstanding results were made from such partnerships. First in line was director AN Byung-ki who had a homerun at the Chinese film market. In 2011, he was suggested by a Chinese film company to remake a Chinese version of Bunshinsaba (2004), which was released in 2012 with the same title. Just in China, the film made USD 10.8 million, which was a record high for a Chinese horror film. AN also made Bunshinsaba 2 , which followed the success of the first film and made USD 14 million, eclipsing the record of the original. AN also made Bunshinsaba 3 . However, it’s not just horror films that are doing well. Melodramas and romcoms are also receiving a lot of interest. In 2013, OH Ki-hwan’s A Wedding Invitation did well and reached a record as a Korea-China co-production, further igniting the ‘K-wave of directors’.

    China: falling in love with korean romantic comedy
    Lately, director KWAK Jae-yong has caught the eyes of the Chinese film industry. His new film Meet Miss Anxiety paints the story of a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend, catching an early menopause syndrome, but heals herself mentally and physically through a new love. Actors and actresses such as ZHOU Xun, one of the hottest Chinese actresses today, as well as TONG Dawei, CHUNG Hongleung and CHEUNG Chilam are cast in this romantic film. In China, the film is highly anticipated as a follow-up to KWAK’s series of films about girls - My Sassy Girl (2001), Windstruck (2004) and Cyborg She (2008). ZHOU Xun who will play the female lead for Meet Miss Anxiety is planning to play a perky girl, similar to KWAK’s previous films such as Gianna JUN in My Sassy Girl and Windstruck , and AYASE Haruka in Cyborg She . “She is a jaunty girl and at the same time, has an extraordinarily comical character. At first sight, I became quite sure that ZHOU is the right actress for the heroine in my film,” KWAK said, expressing his satisfaction about the casting. Also KWAK’s masterpiece My Sassy Girl is taking shape as a co-production between Korea and China, for a sequel. Titled My New Sassy Girl , the film will go into production later this month with director JOH Keun-shik. Korea’s Shincine will produce, marking their first production in ten years, along with the Chinese outfit Beijing Sky Wheel Media. The co-produced project, which has a budget of RMB 32 million (USD 5.2 million), is the first to go before cameras since the ratification of the China-Korea co-production treaty. Another remarkable director is JANG Tae-yoo, the director of the SBS TV drama My Love from Star who recently enjoyed huge popularity in China and decided to go to the country to work on a production of a romantic comedy film, catching public attention. He signed a 5-year exclusive contract with Yuehua which is a major entertainment company in China. JANG’s new project in china is a 3D romantic comedy. JANG said, “When I received the offer from China, I considered it carefully. I appreciate the potential of the Chinese market. I hope to show a distinctive story.” JANG Tae-yoo signed with Yuehua Entertainment, which started off as a music label in 2009 and has a history of bringing So Young to fame. With the success, they expanded their business to film. Yuehua Entertainment is looking into and planning the globalization of K-wave through their productions.

    Dreaming of a variety in genres

    Korean directors’ activities in China have been spelling remarkable achievements. Director CHANG Yoon-hyun is now shooting Pyung An Do, a Korean-Chinese joint production film. Director CHANG Yoon-hyun made films of various genres including melodrama The Contact (1997), crime thriller Tell Me Something (1999) and action blockbuster Some (2004). His latest film Pyung An Do is also a thriller, about a group of ocean researchers who end up at a deserted island and are faced by fear and danger while they struggle to escape the place. CJ Entertainment stated, “it’s a type of story that China hasn’t really dealt with before. It’s a well-made film that mixes horror, melodrama and suspense, and it will be sure to entertain.” Currently in China, there are many other works from Korean directors in line. They are HUH In-moo’s Wedding Day , PARK Chul-kwan’s Show Battle , KYE Yoon-shik’s Making Love Story , LEE Jae-han’s 3rd Love and HWANG Soo-ah’s I Want to Hold Your Hand to name a few. In addition, art director JEON Soo-ah, cinematographer KIM Hyeong-gu and screenwriter CHOI Sukhwan are also currently working as key crew members of Chinese productions.

    Will K-wave of directors continue?

    Recently, Korean directors make films in China by being associated with a Chinese production company or by a co-production between Korea and China. The most common genres Korean directors are making there are romantic comedies, thrillers and horror films. This is because the Chinese film industry is famous for martial arts and action films. They’re still not accustomed to making and watching films of other genres. In order for the Chinese film industry to develop, turning their focus on genre films is not a surprise. If the films Korean  directors are making in China continue to do well, we can expect more filmmakers to carry on the torch in the mainland. However, there are also predictions that the ‘K-wave of directors’ will not last very long. The Chinese film market is the 2nd biggest in the world after ollywood. Its sales size is about USD 3.6 billion, twice as big as the Korean market. The Chinese market is growing exponentially and although Korean directors are being called for now, China and Hollywood could potentially end up working together instead. Another trend is that the Chinese producers who absorbed the filmmaking know-how from Korean genre directors are also planning to train young Chinese directors. One industry professional said, “what Chinese film production companies need are not Korean directors, but their know-how. Currently, the young and bright Chinese filmmakers are making their way in training. There is a chance that the current demand for Korean filmmakers might be coming to an end soon.” Another professional added “working with Korea is a process and the middle step for the Chinese film industry before we move onto working with Hollywood directly. With China’s finances and Hollywood’s technical skills, the partnership between the two is very likely to happen soon.” In order to continue this demand and partnership between China and Korea, Korean filmmakers must be able to provide unique characteristics different from Hollywood, and focus on the Asian sensibility that the Chinese audiences can relate to.
  • Comment