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Money Matters

Para sa Pelikula: How the PH Film Industry can be like Korea’s

What is Korea doing right, and how can we emulate this in the PH Film Industry?

The PH Film Industry has seen better days. Right now, it’s nothing compared to our former “Golden Era”, where we saw the likes of ‘Himala’ and ‘Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag’.

Moreover, it’s laughable compared to Korea’s current reign at the pinnacle of global content creation. But did you know that Korea’s “rise to stardom” isn’t about talent but government funding?

Can you imagine what it would be like for the PH Film Industry to receive such support from the government?

Rise to Stardom

Korea wasn’t always fantastic with its creative output.

In fact, just a short while ago, Korea’s entertainment industry was similar to the PH Film Industry right now. They had a kind of celebrity culture, and only started to improve during the 1990s, when the Korean Government decided to go all-in and supported it with funding.

You know, one can do a lot of things with the proper funding. Korea proved that to us all.

The sudden rise of Korean pop culture in the world was driven and funded by their government. They supported their creative industries since the end of the 1990s through subsidies and funding for start-ups. This was a form of accruing soft power, with the goal of becoming a leading global exporter of culture. One can say that they’re already successful.

How so? Two words: Gangnam Style.

Gangnam Style was the gateway drug to the world of Korea. The song was hip and weird, but very unique in the sense that people were so enamored by it. It goes without saying that without Gangnam Style, there’s no Korean wave.

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The Korean Wave

The Korean Wave has literally waved and beckoned us to go along with its ebb and flow.

It’s become an influential global phenomenon since the start of the 21st century. This sudden rush of content heavily impacted global cultures and entertainment industries, and South Korea did it with one simple thing: government support.

Industry people know this: the main culprit of low domestic film sales is foreign movies. Korea barred that by imposing a screen quota. They have to screen Korean films for a total of 146 days a year. Whereas in the PH Film Industry, if your movie doesn’t reach the quota by Friday – it’s removed from the reels.

Additionally, they encouraged creativity. It shows in their approach to censorship. Kim Ki Duk’s ‘The Isle’ features sadomasochistic themes, while Park Chul-Soo’s ‘The Green Chair’ features explicit sex scenes. And who could forget Park Chan Wook’s ‘Oldboy’, which featured incest themes and the lead actor eating a live octopus on camera?

These films would have been banned or heavily censored in some countries, but not in South Korea. In their country, ratings were not law, they were guidelines. It was up to the producers if they were going for a certain rating.

We already saw their current peak at the Oscars last 2020 with Bong Joon-Ho’s ‘Parasite. For the first time, a foreign-born film made Best Picture. The industry never looked back.

Can we say the same with the PH Film Industry?

One Korea

Now, for the good part. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for the PH Film Industry has always been funding. We all know that a full-length feature eats up a LOT of money. So logically, investors will be more inclined to be MORE cautious. 

With Korea’s mandates, logic is the least of their worries. Their government alleviated this problem by investing a total of 380 BILLION Korean won as seed money for its film industries. The seed money is also being invested smartly. It’s merit-based. Because aside from providing support to new studios, it’s also used to grant subsidies to established ones based on their projects’ performance. 

The government support does not come free, though, because it’s taxed. But the main difference is that there is no favoritism. The laws are enforced strictly regardless of how popular the celebrity is, or how powerful their agency can be.

Moreover, if you look at the K-dramas and movies that became popular overseas, you will see that many of them are period dramas such as Empress Ki.

These dramas do a great deal in promoting Korean history and culture to the outside world. The PH Film Industry tried to do it with ‘Heneral Luna’ and ‘Goyo’, but those failed to get traction outside the country.

Additionally, even their contemporary dramas do their part in promoting Korean culture and tradition. You’ll see that many of them highlight South Korean products, cuisine, social scenes, and even businesses. This approach helps in instilling nationalism among the audience, at least when it comes to entertainment.

But how about the PH Film Industry?

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Doing What The Best Does

Now that everything’s laid out, it’s time to talk about if we can also do this with the PH Film Industry. Of course, with enough people talking, it’s going to be possible. But it’s going to take the most important thing that Korea has that we don’t.

Hope.

Korea started out with a lackluster entertainment industry that reeked of celebrity culture. Now, they’re at the peak of global content creation. Yes, it was possible due to the support of the government, but it was never going to work without the support of the Korean people. So why is it being discussed?

Because it seems as if the Filipino people gave up on their own entertainment industry. A lot of Filipinos have appeared to set aside this important part of a country’s culture for being unnecessary and incompetent. But the real take is, that it’s never going to happen if we keep up that kind of mentality.

Korea’s mandates impose its culture and local scene upon its industry, and upon the world. This is because Korea is proud of being Korea.

How can the PH Film Industry strive to achieve Korea’s position now if it isn’t beloved by its people? Now, that’s something to think about.

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