Asian Films Work Together to Walk to the World
—Interview with Producer Jonathan Hyong-Joon Kim

Mr. Jonathan Kim

CCO, Signal Pictures/ CEO, Hanmac Culture Group

Veteran producer Jonathan Hyong-Joon Kim has served two terms as the Chairman of the Korean Film Producer’s Association. With the career in the Korean film industry that span around 30 years, Kim has produced over 20 motion picture films. He has recently concluded his appointment as an executive-level film consultancy role at South Korean entertainment conglomerate CJ E&M where he played an integral part in success of “Masquerade” and “A Wedding Invitation”. Currently, he is the Chief Creative Officer at multinational production company Signal Pictures.

His 2004 blockbuster “Silmido“, based on the true story of a team of South Korean commandos trained to assassinate the North Korean President, blew away with all records with 11 million box office tickets sold, representing one-quarter of the South Korean population. In 2004, Mr. Kim was awarded the Daejong Award for Best Executive Producer, the Korean equivalent of Oscar.

An Advisor to Korea-EU Committee on Cultural Cooperation, a member of Korea-Japan Culture Exchange Committee and an International Advisor to the Asian Film Awards (AFA), Kim has also been an advocate of intra-Asian co-productions.


CFM: It has been more than ten years for APN’s development, what’s the most remarkable achievement for APN until now? What’s the main emphasis for work in future?

A: Over the years, it has naturally become the only place for communication and collaboration among the producers from many different Asian countries; The place where we learn more about each other’s culture, industry, trends, and exchange ideas together instead of toiling with individual efforts.

Same will apply for the work in the future. By learning more about each other’s territory, more ideas and opportunities for collaboration will arise. Therefore, we can add more internationality in our works and broaden our markets.


CFM: Are there any important co-operation projects promoted by APN recently?

A: Currently, there are Korea/Japan project, Australia-New Zealand/China project, Japan/Taiwan project and though currently at a halt due to the political situation, there are several China/Korea co-production projects.

CFM: What are the similarities and differences in the way of filming for different Asian countries? What’s the best way for cooperation among the different countries and cultures?

A: The process of making a film is quite similar in every country. Some of the crew may have different titles but most of their function is the same. The differences will be the local rules in every country such as union rules, location permits, working hours, and etc. For example, China has no off days for the crew during the shooting which will seriously violate labor law in Korea and in few other countries in Asia.


CFM: What do you think the biggest challenge is for Asian films? How to fix the problems Asian films are facing?

A: The biggest challenge for the Asian films is competing with the Hollywood movies within their countries. Unless they gain popularity from their own people and gain more market shares first, they will not have a chance to go overseas. However, film distributions are controlled by Hollywood major companies in many countries and many local films have a hard time getting an opportunity to show their films in the cinema. That gives limits to the budgets and scale of the movie which are the basic weapons for a fight. Therefore, some government support is necessary.

In terms of cultural products, true fairness is even more important. Most countries in the world should protect or support the national film industry. For limiting US films and supporting the domestic film industry, the way that government supports domestic film and delivers some preferential policies are much more convenient. Government’s supporting, film practitioners producing good films and the audience loving the domestic films, all these three kinds of atmosphere must work with each other, and can’t not lack of any one of them.

South Korea’s film industry’s breakthrough is a gradual process. In 1980s, South Korea also needed to issue quotas on foreign films to protect their own film industry. In 1999, the Korean film “SHIRI” made a historic success. Its box office broke the myth created by Hollywood blockbuster “Titanic“. It makes the audience and the government of South Korea excited. They realized that Korean films can beat the US blockbuster, can also be applauded in the overseas. Affected by this, the South Korean government decided to support the film industry, and to raise 200 million US dollars as seed of money to establish 20 film funds. This has been proven to be effective. The advantage of Hollywood blockbuster lies in technology and scenes, while the Korean film’s story is better. It is much more touching, causing public resonance. At the same time, the quality of Korean films has also increased significantly.

When there is a huge domestic market, people tend to ignore overseas markets. But it must be recognized that films or cultural products are the best way to export culture. When people are interested in your culture, they will buy your product. Culture can be translated into the pride and prestige of a nation.


CFM: How could the Asian films to extend their influence in the international film markets?

A: Unfortunately, with the exception of Japan, no Asian country has won the Academy Foreign Language Film Awards until now. I do not think the Asian Films are inferior to the other side of the World. I believe they just do not understand our sentiment. There need to be more co-productions to let the international audiences get familiarized with our directors, actors, culture and understand our sentiment.


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