CANNES – A growing number of western players have steadily and cautiously been responding to the clarion call for international business ringing from the Asian marketplace for the last number of years.
But the diversity and fragmentation of Asian markets have brought forth a unique set of challenges, needs and approaches.
So how do western producers navigate these choppy but fruitful waters across the territories of China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia?
Enter Amanda Groom (pictured), MD of The Bridge.
“I’m a bridge, quite literally, to the producers, broadcasters, prodcos big and small in the U.S. and UK with all Asian nations,” she told MIPDoc delegates at the “Primer for the Asian Content Market” session yesterday (April 2).
The London-headquartered innovative indie – with satellite offices in Seoul and Bangkok –acts as an incubator and facilitator television, film and animation coproduction opportunities between Asia and the English-speaking production community.
Her company looks to aid production outfits across both regions, like South Korea’s fledgling CJ E&M, to overcome the myriad challenges, whether they’re differences in culture or storytelling.
“Korea is a very interesting market, it’s not as big as China but it’s a very tough market – Netflix only has 5,000 subscribers in Korea,” said Jae-Hyuk Lee, SVP at CJ E&M. “But if you’re successful in the Korean market, you can easily enter other markets as well.
“We are evolving, we’re more open minded and willing to work with western producers and broadcasters.”
Though in-house productions tend to generally be low across the Asian nations, Lee stressed that these costs typically exclude overhead costs such as employee salaries.
“There’s always this miscommunication between the two worlds when we talk about budget, but don’t be mislead by these low prices,” he advised.
The Korean government, however, has been acting as a catalyst by investing seed money into an ever-expanding Asian and English-speaking coproduction market. Multiple series currently on-air across the globe, Groom said, began with Korean funding.
“It’s actually been such a successful model that now the Asian nations, some of them like Malaysia and Thailand, are starting to copy that same model,” she explained. “They’re beginning to understand the value of investing in content. This is where a number of these great opportunities come from.”
One of those successful series is the Welsh/Korean coproduction Tears of Blood, which was produced on about £30,000 for a one-hour in the UK and was match funded for by an equivalent £30,000 out of Korea. The series shares the story of a former Welsh soldier whose life was forever altered by the Korean War.
“It defies all the concerns about big budget programs,” said Groom. “The point is made that it’s not a lot of money that went into this project but it got on at the circuit in terms of awards and recognition for the production company.
“It’s creative storytelling rather than money but that gives you the idea of the programs that can be made that started with a conversation and ended with a big ceremony in London.
“Everything that is happening with these connections is only going to get bigger.”