The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) is an international film festival held every year in South Korea since 1997. The film festival is arguably one of the biggest and celebrated events in Asia. On 19 July 2012, the 16th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival held its opening ceremony at the Bucheon Gymnastium where numerous well-known Korean celebrities graced the red carpet reception. This year Pifan screened 230 films from 47 countries. I got a rare opportunity to be part of this festivities!
Using romance and fantasy as the themes for this year, the opening film of the festival was Horror Stories which was directed by 5 different directors, and later combined into a single story. The stories are weaved together by a story of a young girl who is kidnapped by an insomniac serial killer who promised not to kill her if her stories made him sleep.
Over the next next 6 days, 23 established and emerging filmmakers from Asia participated in the Fantastic Film School (FFS) and went through an intensive training programme at Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF). The lab is conducted at the Korea Manwha Contents Agency (KOMACON), Korea Manwha Museum. This year’s selection process was the most contested in the programme’s history as participants include filmmakers from South Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and UK. Conducted by film experts who specialize in various film genres, this year’s lab focuses on the core process of filmmaking, reflecting the rapid changes in current filmmaking trends.
John HEINSEN, CEO of Bunnygraph Entertainment, launched the class by focusing on transmedia and storytelling strategy through social media services. Shinho LEE, professor at NYU Tisch Singapore known as the co-screenwriter of Korean genre blockbuster film The Chaser (2008), conducted script analysis emphasizing on structure, character, and genre. Theron PATTERSON, professor at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul as well as the acclaimed director of an award-winning film Dark Cloud (2009), focused on directorial concepts on developing production value. Meanwhile, Tim Kwok, a prolific producer of Vampire (2011) and The King of Fighters (2010) among other films, gave a lecture on shaping of international co-production strategies. Last but not least, Mick GARRIS, an esteemed filmmaker known for his collaborations with Stephen King including Bag of Bones (2011) in addition to being the creator of SHOWTIME’S Masters of Horror series, shared his filmmaking experiences with his genre insights.
The lab concluded with a team pitching exercise on the last day, with John HEINSEN and Theron PATTERSON as the panelists. 6 teams were formed and each team pitched different ideas from transmedia marketing for a new film, online drama web episodes and 4 movie concepts.
Patrick FRATER, founder of trade publication Film Business Asia, was the moderator for NAFForum on the topic of funding content creation through crowding funding. The participants of the dialogue were Jaeseung, CEO of Tumblbug, Romeo NOH of Korea’s East Gate Media and New Content. John HEINSEN of USA’s Bunnygraph Entertainment and board member of the PGA’s New Media Council. Last but not least Joe CHIEN, director of Z108, Taiwan’s first low budget zombie film raised nearly USD $300,000 through crowdfunding alone.
Joe CHIEN shared his experience and presented his strategy in how he raised his funds through crowdfunding, and utilized social media platforms to create awareness to publicise his project. Through the donations from fans and film fanatics who participated in the filmmaking process without wanting monetary returns, Joe managed to fulfill his dream and see his vision come alive on screen.
NAFF 2012 concluded with the presentation of awards. The top Bucheon Award that comes with a $15 million Korean Won cash prize goes to Ted Chung’s project Safebreaker.
All in all, the experience of meeting notable and future filmmakers has been enriching. This has been such an invaluable meeting point where future collaborations can transpire and a hothouse for new ideas to emerge but more importantly, PiFan has allowed for new creative friendships to be born.
William Liew is a recent graduate of the BA (Hons) Film programme (Batch of 2012). He directed the graduating film, The Fountains. William has since returned to Apostrophe Films upon the completion of his studies.