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PiFan’s NAFF Forums exploring intersections of content and genre

Jul 27, 2012
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At this year’s 16th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) is holding a variety of forums exploring content strategies such as “one source multi use,” alternative project financing via crowdfunding, and how both apply to genre filmmaking.
In its fifth year, NAFF is an umbrella organization that functions as PiFan’s industry arm, hosting a project market for Asian genre films, promoting co-production and financing, and running filmmaker education and development programs. Aside from NAFF’s It Project, Project Spotlight and the Asian Film Academy, it also ran a three-session NAFForum this year, bring in global industry experts and Asian film specialists to tackle some of today’s hottest issues regarding cutting-edge content, development and financing in the world of genre film.
The first of these sessions was dedicated to what has become an industry buzzword as of late: “once source multi use” or OSMU. OSMU often goes hand-in-hand with terms such as “transmedia,” both indicating that a variety of works can be created for multiple formats from one single piece of source material. A classic example of this might be a superhero comic book, which then becomes a feature film, a children’s television series and video game. In Korea, manhwa (serial comics) or webtoons are often the focal point of OSMU discussions.
Fittingly, NAFF invited panelists PARK Jungseo of internet portal Daum’s webtoon division, HONG Jongmin of Nulook Media and Stu LEVY, chair of the Producers Guild of America’s (PGA) International Committee and CEO of Tokyopop, an international distributor of Japanese anime and manga. Their discussion was moderated by Liz SHACKLETON, Asia-Pacific Editor of film industry magazine Screen International. Recurring themes throughout the discussion were questions of intellectual property across formats, how marketing is complicated by dealing with niche audiences in the international market, and how fans of genre-type content -- science fiction, fantasy, etc -- are more eager than most audiences to devour similar content across a variety of media.
The second session took a step back from looking at content in finished productions and examined a new and increasingly popular way to fund content creation -- via “crowdfunding.” Similar to Korea’s experiment with “netizen funding” in the early 2000’s, crowdfunding is the financing of film through many smaller donations from networked individuals who are not investors seeking profit, but fans seeking active participation in the filmmaking process. This is generally done over websites that feature a variety of projects -- film and non-film -- through which visitors can browse and donate to. More popular platforms include Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
NAFForum’s largest panel, this discussion featured YUM Jaeseung, CEO of Tumblbug, one of Korea’s up and coming Kickstarter-like crowdfund platforms, Romeo NOH of Korea’s East Gate Media and New Content, John HEINSEN of USA’s Bunnygraph Entertainment and also board member of the PGA’s New Media Council, and finally Joe CHIEN, director of <Zombie 108>, Taiwan’s first low budget zombie film, which raised nearly USD $300,000 through crowdfunding alone. The group was moderated by Patrick FRATER, founder of trade publication Film Business Asia. While HEINSEN offered strategies for crowdsourcing used in the American context with a focus on social media platforms such as Twitter, YUM explained the current Korean scene with statistics from Tumblbug and NOH offered a brief history of Korea’s short-lived early experiment with netizen funding. Joe CHIEN was then able to offer a case study of how YouTube, Facebook and Chinese portal Weibo were all integral to his grassroots approach to film financing.
Importantly, the panelists all seemed to agree that such alternative financing was particularly important for genre filmmakers, as their productions often cater to niche audiences only, which can scare away many potential investors.
The final session was the “Fantastic SF Forum,” co-hosted with the Producers Guild of Korea’s International Collaboration Committee and yearly dedicated to an exploration of ways that the field of science fiction can be diversified. This year invited RHEE Myunghyun, Professor of Astronomy at Korea’s Yonsei University, and YOON Taeho, the cartoonist behind <Moss>, which was made into a successful 2010 film. The two are collaborating on <SETI> (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), a currently running webtoon drama. They discussed the science-sci fi link and the connection between science and storyteller with moderator PARK Sangjun, noted sci fi critic and director of the Seoul SF Archive. The two discussed how their arrangement is mutually beneficial and the ways in which their individual work -- as storytelling cartoonist and research professor, respectively -- is influenced by their collaboration. It became apparent that with a good storyteller to act as translator and interpreter, scientists and their research can be a rich source of original sci fi content.
NAFForum ran July 23-25 at Bucheon’s Koryo Hotel, which hosted all of NAFF’s major events July 22-25. The 16th PiFan held its closing ceremonies on Friday July 27th and will run throughout the weekend, concluding on Sunday July 29th.
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