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Interview

Director KIM Yong-hwa of Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

Jan 09, 2018
  • Writerby SONG Soon-jin
  • View1962
“The potential of Korean fantasy films”



Director KIM Yong-hwa who made a name for himself with 200 Pounds Beauty (2006), Take Off  (2009), and Mr. Go (2013) has introduced Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds. Based on the best-selling web comic of the same title by author JOO Ho-min and supported by the VFX technology from Dexter Studios, a company he founded, Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds was able to sell 10 million tickets in just 16 days after its release. Dexter Studios won the Best VFX award at the 2017 Hong Kong Film Awards, and took over leading sound company, LIVETONE CO., to become a one-stop studio system. On top of that, KIM Yong-hwa is busy challenging himself, next taking on a superhero film through Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. We met with KIM Yong-hwa to talk about the film industry among various other subjects.


Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds is the first film of yours that sold over 10 million tickets. How do you feel?

I was bewildered when it came to this. You must assume that I’m excited about the success, but all I can think about is moving forward. Having success is only a part of the process. I hope this film doesn’t end up just being a 10-million-seller title. This film proved that the fantasy genre can be loved in Korea too, and I’m happy about proving this possibility. It gives me more motivation.


There hasn’t been a Korean blockbuster in a fantasy setting since The Restless (2006). On top of that, most films these days are political thrillers based on social criticism. That’s why Along With the Gods come off as more refreshing. 

The reason why we keep seeing political thrillers is because they’ve done well in the past. However, I wanted to take the road less traveled. We’re in a very small market. I wanted to challenge myself and stand on top of the challenge I conquered. I thought it would be the only way to repay all the love I received from my audiences. Also, I was sure I could succeed with a fantasy film. Interstellar had explosive sales in Korea. Sci-Fi and fantasy have the potential to do well in the Korean market. Also, my previous drama films did well. My strength is in drama, so I thought combining drama and fantasy would give me a chance in the Asian market.


Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds is currently the number one film at the box office in Taiwan. I heard you will release the film in China as well.

We were the number one film at Taiwan’s box office for two weeks in a row. However, the success in Taiwan is thanks to the foundation previously set by TRAIN TO BUSAN. They know that Korean films can be fun and that they’re well-made. If they continue to see our films in such a way, we’ll become more competitive. Also, every film that did well in Taiwan also did well in China. Alpha Animation bought the Chinese rights, and we’re currently in touch with three major distributors. The State Administration of Radio Film and Television will be reviewing it soon. We’re aiming for a March release. I believe Chinese audiences will be able to enjoy it as well.


Through Dexter Studios, you’ve created a strong partnership with the Chinese film industry. How were you able to do well despite the ban in China?

This is a misunderstanding. For two years, Korean directors could not work in China. I was asked to direct a few Chinese films, but we could not proceed. Dexter Studios also struggled. We didn’t have any clients for 10 months, and our profit plummeted. When the ban was introduced, the company had to issue new stocks to increase capital, and focused on research and development. When our research and development was coming into fruition, which took about a year and a half, we started to get more orders. One request was to provide a 7 to 8 minute 6 to 8K high resolution video for a popular theme park. We started with Wanda Group’s Wanda Outdoor Theme Parks, which invested in Dexter Studios. Then, Evergrande Group, China’s second biggest real estate company, asked for a video for their theme parks as well. Up until now, Hollywood was the only place theme parks went to for videos, but we were able to get our foot in the door. That’s how we avoided the typhoon. I believe things will get better this year.


Dexter Studios took over LIVETONE last year. What is your future plan as a studio?

With the takeover of LIVETONE, Dexter Studios was able to gain control of all of the key parts in the production line, just like major studios in Hollywood. Currently, the company plans, develops, produces, does post-production, and also invests. This year, we’ll start making dramas. We’ll be doing a Korean remake of an American drama. We’re currently adjusting the details. Also, we’re thinking of investing in IP (intellectual property). 


You held a few writing contests and you bought the rights to author CHANG Kang-myoung’s Our Aspiration Is War”. Didn’t you already start investing in IP?

Writing contests are something one must do when you’re in the content business. It would be a dereliction of duty if we didn’t do them. However, it’s hard to even get one or two films made out of 10 scripts from pre-existing directors. That’s why we’re not expecting much from a new writer. An alternative is to buy IP rights. I’m planning to discuss an aggressive business plan to purchase IP rights with our investors. It takes a long time to cinematize something, so you need a lot of seed money to secure an IP. Many are keeping their eyes on the success of Korean IP and Along With the Gods became a positive example. That fact makes me happy. 


How is the Hollywood superhero film Prodigal coming along?

Currently, Hollywood writers are in the editing process. I’m studying the contract and discussing the conditions. If the packaging and the editing works out well, we’ll be able to start shooting later this year or early next year. The film is about a father and son, and their love is highlighted through the superhero genre. The film touches on Asian sentiments, so they were looking for a director who has a good understanding of VFX in Korea with experience with dramas. Touching on sentimentality, especially in familial love, is something our country is good at. The current film market’s hegemony is moving towards Asia, and the Chinese market has become Hollywood’s ferocious battlefield. Any Korean director with an Asian sentiment has a chance, not just me.
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