October 23, 2006


Pusan Film Festival's Asian Film Market

I just came back from the Pusan Film Festival's Asian Film Market, a first-year event where everyone's favorite film festival tries to create the new, go-to film market for Asian film.

Held on the top floors of the Grand Hotel there was something submarine about the whole event. Trapped in a hermetically sealed, mammoth hotel that had seen better days, a sort of endtimes fever gripped everyone as the lines for the three elevators became truly epic and unshaded lamps were thrown into the stairwell to light up the murk as clusters of buyers marched from floor to floor in the throes of market fever.

Closed off from the outside world, with mealtimes slipping past unnoticed, you'd sit in meetings and trail off into silence as you looked over the shoulder of the person you were speaking with to see the ocean and beach spread out through the windows behind them.

The reason I was there was because the ImaginAsian folks have just signed a home video deal with video distributor, Genius, and they'd hired me to be a consultant for their acquisitions team. It's fun, but a probable conflict of interest to the max. Thank god this is only a blog and not some kind of serious journalism. Keep your eyes peeled for a large, red warning label we're developing so that you know when certain posts are coming to you compromised by my new-found corporate interests.

I'd never been to a film market as a buyer before, and it was an eye-opening experience. What did I learn?

- Horror sells. Almost every single horror movie at the market had a bid on it from an American distributor. Some of the movies were good, some were great, and some were just lousy. But they all have US-flavored love attached to them in the form of a check. The deals might not have been closed yet, but the money was there.

- Cluelessness is pandemic. People don't see what they don't want to see and some of the sellers had little to no idea about the American market. The price tags attached to some truly dodgy pictures were in the six digits, an amount that anyone who's not the Weinsteins would find prohibitively expensive since there's no way you can pay a six figure minimum guarantee, pay P&A on a theatrical release and hope to make your money back in this lifetime. Better to take your acquisitions money and head out to Vegas where the chance of a return is greater. But comments from sellers ranged from, "America is a big country" to "This is the best I can do" while showing off price tags from Mars.

Even after Asian films have flopped repeatedly in the States, sellers seem to only remember hits like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and HERO. But why should they know US box office figures? I met more than one seller who had no idea that their company's film was either already sold to the US or had already been released over here.

- High price tags aren't unreasonable for Asia. The Japanese tearjerker, NADA SOUSOU, is doing well at the Japanese box office and it just sold its Korean rights...for a price reportedly over a million dollars US.

- The news was slow. The general feeling at the market was that it was a good thing, in general, but that not a whole hell of a lot happened. Not a lot of major deals. Not a lot of news to report. Just generally quiet. A lot of deals will probably close at the upcoming AFM, but overall things in Pusan were quiet, like a main street in small town America on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

October 23, 2006 at 11:44 AM in News | Permalink


Video distributor Genius?

Aren't those the dudes The Weinsteins incorperated into their new company? Or am I completely mixed up. You're not helping the enemy find films that they can lock up forever and never show anybody, right?

It's fascinated me how very often the foreign films that get the most play around America are the ones that hardly anybody wants to see. Why has the amazingly awesome The Mission stayed away from America but I can find TWO Japanese werewolf samurai films at my local Blockbuster (not as much fun as it sounds).

How the hell did the weirdest Takashi Miike films get into Walmart, but the most (relatively) mainstream ones dont?

And why is it that the very largest market for everything gets less international film then most smaller European countries. If it can make a profit in the UK, why the heck not here?

Posted by: Max K. | Oct 23, 2006 1:07:51 PM

mmmmm, maybe it'll never happen. though we could use a whistle-blower, THE INSIDER type movie about the inner sanctum of a distribution company: how the staff delusions, lack of business decision based on real-world research, and neo-orientalist "asian extreme/horror/costume epic/china doll-tight body du jour"...all lead to the downfall of foreign film civilization in their guest countries.

or maybe not. just a small number of folks subsisting is enuff?

Posted by: ed | Oct 23, 2006 1:28:51 PM

yeah, grady, don't help the beast.

I will say that the US/UK market is a weird mix -- some things the Brits have before us and some they still don't have.

And supposedly there are nice UK dvds of stuff like Kwaidan that surpass the Criterion editions.

If you have an all region player, you can still get nicer versions from the UK for cheaper than Criterion even after currency conversion.

Posted by: glenn | Oct 23, 2006 2:05:00 PM

Yes, The Weinsteins have 70% stake of Genius.

However, Grady acquire movies for ImaginAsian, not Genius.

ImaginAsian's relationship with Genius is like Tartan's relationship with Genius. It means that ImaginAsian can control their release plan.

Therefore, you guys don't need to worry that those Grady's acquisitions will be locked up forever.

Of course, it also mean that the Weinsteins will get a cut of the money when you guys buy ImaginAsian DVD.

Posted by: no name | Oct 23, 2006 3:24:52 PM

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