Courtesy of Seville Pictures
During the Busan Intl. Film Festival last year, South Korean film companies got together and launched the Foreign Film Buyer-Distributors Assn. of Korea.
About 300 independent companies are registered in South Korea as buyers or distributors, or both, according to the Korean Film Council, but fewer than 10% are actually functioning as such.
The association initially started as a group of 21 companies aiming to improve their business environment. After seven months, however, only half the founding members remain active in the organization. That already shows how difficult it is for the small-sized companies to cooperate when there is little room for indie releases in local cinema and the business is all about competition.
“There are a certain number of films that buyers would all like to buy at film markets, meaning that we’re competitors. Of course it is quite difficult for companies in such condition to get together and promote common interests,” Kim Sang-yun of Cinelux, co-head of the association, told Variety. “However, there are also certain things that cannot be solved if we don’t unite.”
Some of the ongoing problems in the industry include over-competitive bids made at markets and fests, unfair business practice in contracts with sales agents and even in local distribution.
“Over-competitive bids sometimes make buyers believe that they have no choice but to pay more than the asking price, even if they know it is overpriced,” says Kim. “I thought maybe the association can come up with guidelines for those cases. Yes, we do compete in the market, but I believe we can prevent unnecessary disadvantages if we unite.”
At a press conference last year, Kim Nan-sook of Jinjin Pictures mentioned that Korean buyers sometimes end up with unfair or less-than-fair contract conditions. “For example,” she said, “if we already have the Korean rights to Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel…