SUH Youngjoo, Founder of Finecut’s Writers Agency, WAF
Jan 02, 2018
- Writerby KIM Su-bin
“I’m greedy about trying new things others haven’t done”
Finecut Co., Ltd., which was founded in 2000, is a well-known international film distribution company. Poetry, A Tale of Two Sisters, Old Boy, The Host, Attorney, and THE WAILING are some of the domestic titles Finecut distributed abroad. In 2012, they stepped their foot into talent management, and in 2014, they founded WAF and became a multifunctional agency. Writers like MIN Ye-ji of Late Autumn and SEO Yoo-min of The Last Princess are among 23 writers that signed with WAF. Recently, they recruited SHIN Yeon-shick of DONGJU; The Portrait of A Poet and JU Won-gyu of Argon. We met with Finecut’s SUH Youngjoo to talk about WAF’s business plans and the company’s vision.
How did you come up with founding the agency for screenwriters?
Finecut started the film distribution in 2000. A Tale of Two Sisters, Old Boy, The Host, and New World are some of the films that were remade. While running the business, we thought it would be possible to expand on the sources we already have instead of waiting for more originals to finish. If we could develop global concepts and have a pool of writers, it would be helpful for us in the long run. I wondered what the writers would think, so I met with 30 writers in two weeks. From the conversations, I realized there were some problems with copyright issues and how they have been treated. There are many writers out there, but producers or directors do not know which genres they’re good at and what their schedules are like. It’s also difficult to get in touch with each other. Through the agency, writers can focus on their creative work. I thought it would be efficient if we could handle any business or legal affairs for them. We already had a pool of directors through our international sales work, so we had clients lined up. If we become the mediator, screenwriters would be able to work more conveniently. It would also bring about an improvement to how writers were treated.
Do you have a set of outlines when recruiting a screenwriter?
When we first made WAF, we reached out to new writers, aspiring writers, and even writers from abroad. From those that inquired, we took their filmography, and if they didn’t have one, we looked at their scripts. However, we mostly went with writers who had experience in the beginning. We did this because WAF is not an incubating program, it is an agency. We have to connect B to C right away. That’s why we focused on writers who were already ready.
How did it become an agency that covers diverse areas?
In the States, they have agencies that cover diverse fields, like writers, directors, athletes, and musicians. I wondered why there weren’t any agencies in Korea that could bring together talents from all fields. However, it is crucial for an agency to have a good network and to have many clients. It was 2014 when I considered trying it. At the time, the Chinese market was huge. There was a big demand for Korean directors and staffs. Each staff was considered an artist, and each of them had a client. This meant, we could have an agency for all kinds of talents. However, it’s not a good idea to expand in just one area. We have to go in steps, and if the result is positive, we would make a decision then. I’m also thinking of a directors’ agency and also a casting director agency where we can introduce Korean actors to companies overseas.
You were one of the first to sell the domestic films and the remake rights internationally. WAF is also a new field you ventured. Are you attracted to new challenges?
Finecut is a private company, so we’re less driven by performance. I think more about the company’s color, and what I want to do. If it’s a preexisting field, there are a lot of people who are already better at it than we are. That’s why I always think about what might be something new we can do. I got into international sales and copyright business for the same reason. (My Wife Is a Gangster was the first Korean film to sell the remake rights to Hollywood.) I’m greedy about trying new things others haven’t done. However, it can’t just end with being greedy. I tend to think a lot on a regular basis, and these ideas come together in time. When I feel that it’s ready, they’re introduced to the world.
This must be interconnected with your other businesses.
It would be impossible to cover all the different businesses if they weren’t connected. If I’m doing one thing, then it would naturally connect with something else. This would cause a synergy. Running WAF will help us produce films, and producing films will help our actors perform. It wasn’t intentional, but I try to make good use of those connections.
What do you have in store for WAF in 2018?
I want to go beyond being a matchmaker who supplies to the demands. I plan on being more aggressive with the business in 2018. Film screenwriters are paid much less than drama writers. These people are capable of writing original material, but due to commissioned work, they do not have time to work on it. They only have a thirst to write their own story. I want to establish a system where the writers can work on at least one original story a year. I want to be able to provide funding for them to start working on projects or work with a partner company who has intentions of funding. Completed works will be available for domestic and international production companies or cable television. It could be made into a film, or it could be sold overseas as original content.
The way they work will also change. Some writers are good at coming up with characters, while some are better at writing lines. They have different strengths. We will figure out these strengths and create concept notes so that writers will be matched to the best fitting projects. In addition, a film screenwriter could work on a drama, and a drama writer could work on a film. They could even work together through a collaboration. We want to be more than just an agency. Our dream is to coexist with the writers.