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Interview with Park Tae-joon, Executive Producer of 25th JEONJU International Film Festival • 16th JEONJU Project

Apr 12, 2024
  • Source by KoBiz
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“Reviving the bed of cinematic creativity”




The 25th Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is to be held in Jeonju, Republic of Korea from May 1 to May 10, 2024. Jeonju Project, an industry program of JIFF, will also be greeting its 16th cohort this year. Jeonju Project offers a wide variety of support programs to independent and arthouse films, ranging from its flagship Jeonju Cinema Project (JCP), a 100 million KRW worth of production investment, to smaller programs for ideation and post-production support. Serving as a secure patron of Korean independent cinema since its launch, the offspring of JCP is also displaying global prominence: Samsara, the recipient of last year’s JCP, won the Encounters Special Jury Award in the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. KoBiz interviewed Park Tae-joon, the executive producer of Jeonju Project who joined the team last year. An acclaimed Korean film producer whose former projects include Snowpiercer and The Handmaiden, he shared his plans to devote the wisdom and international network he garnered through his career to the future of Jeonju Project.


-What are your plans ahead for the second year of your term?

=The team is excellent in their work in established sectors such as programming, hence I aim to explore areas not previously covered by the project more flexibly. Honestly, I am a rather slow-paced person. My work ethic is not of any magic, it’s more about sincerity and taking every step necessary. Likewise for Jeonju Project, a year flew by while crafting the blueprint but there are a few projects on track to launch next year.

One would be a more global approach. Amongst myriad film festivals across the globe there are key festivals that represent a country or a region. I think it’d be great if around four of them including JIFF could get together and create a track that is co-programmed by the four. For example, each festival would select a couple of films from their region, then the four would make a final list out of them to be screened in all four festivals. There are a couple of challenges to be faced, the obvious one being the identity of festivals. Ideally we would like to work with festivals with a similar ethos of celebrating independent, low-budget cinema and experimental film art, but there are surprisingly not many of them. Distribution of profit and expenses is another, and we are also seeking for a partner who can handle international distribution rights. It will be a long journey but I am doing my best to make it happen.


-JCP’s focus until now has been increasing its role as a player in the industry, making direct moves in film investment and distribution. In contrast, your current vision seems to pay more attention to forming global partnerships.

=The original approach is also valuable and I truly respect its achievement and dedication to the Korean film industry. However, after maintaining the same strategy for a few years we faced some limitations such as weak profitability. A single film festival cannot really divert the direction of the whole market: whilst we continue with the good momentum of existing practices, we should seek for a new promising market.


-The global excitement towards major K-content is evident. Could a similar approach be a savior for Korean independent and arthouse cinema as well?

=I rather enjoy viewing the industry as a whole as a pyramidal structure: there is Parasite at the top, virtually the only film that mastered both artistic value and commercial reception. The layer below is illusive, as the success of these publicly acclaimed content such as Squid Game or The Roundup makes it easy to forget that countless smaller-sized films serve as a fundamental layer that holds up the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic shrunk the market, demolishing screening opportunities for these smaller content. The foundation is fragile, hence the whole industry is at risk. JIFF is also experiencing the backlash of the recession. As film festivals are the only channel left for small-budget films, we are receiving more films than ever, but there are fewer films that we find charming. What the industry needs is a revival of the bed of cinematic creativity, and we wish to widen its outlet. My plans are designed to find a way to host these films to a broader audience outside Korea so that these content have their well-deserved chances to shine.


-‘Work In Progress’(WIP), the new program of Jeonju Project launched last year, showed extremely promising results. All three participants of WIP made their way into this year’s Korean Competition.

=WIP is a private premiere event in which we screen rough cut edits of Korean feature films to industry experts. Direct feedback from senior programmers of prestigious global film festivals and art directors is an invaluable asset, not to mention the networking opportunities with them. For instance, MIMANG, a participant in the 2023 WIP and also a contestant in this year’s Korean Competition, was screened at Toronto International Film Festival last year after its chief programmer Anita Lee found the film intriguing during the WIP session. As we heard great compliments about the program from both the industry experts and the filmmakers, we expanded the program this year to serve four films.


-Jeonju Project is highly recognized for encompassing all stages of production, including ‘JEONJU Lab’ for creative development aid, JCP for main body investment, and ‘K-DOC CLASS’ and WIP for post-production support. Are there any other parts of the production process that Jeonju Project is aiming to extend its reach to?

=For post-production stages we are currently offering support in sound mastering and digital color grading, and are planning to add a VFX support track as well. In terms of pre-production, we are looking into support in casting. The discussion has just started so I can’t say a lot about it, but it will be a definite benefit for both the actors in thirst for a good film and filmmakers in need of quality actors.


-Can you recommend one program out of this year’s JIFF?

=Tsai Ming-Liang’s Walker Series. He’s such a big name, I guess I don’t really need to add another push to the already popular program.


Written by Sooyong Park

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