Atsushi Ogata, feature and comedy web series director of “Yukata Cowboy” and “Trick or Treat: I LOVE America!”, based out of Tokyo/Los Angeles, attended this year’s launch of K Web Fest in Seoul Korea this past July and has reported back with a four-part series review of this exciting new festival.
Attending the K Web Fest in Seoul, Korea (July 30-31, 2015) was truly an inspiring experience. I came away from two days of nonstop meetings and panels with great awareness of Korea’s centrality in the Asian entertainment market and their fervent appreciation for the new world of digital entertainment. Given the scale of the festival, the level of support and the quality of the panel discussions, it was hard to believe that this was a first-time festival and the only one of its kind in Asia. I’m a Japanese-American writer-director-comedian, with years of experience participating in film and video festivals in Europe, US and Asia, including New Directors/New Films (MoMA & Lincoln Center, New York), but my two days at K Web Fest ranks as the most intensive nonstop event I’ve ever had the honor of participating in.
Young Man Kang, the K Web Festival Director, and his highly resourceful, multi-talented staff, brought the local Korean industry and creators together with the international web series community from the US, France, Australia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, Brazil, etc. Festival directors, industry experts and web series creators from Korea and other regions all converged at the K Hotel in Seoul, a beautiful state-of -the-art hotel with massive halls, huge glass elevators and a roof-top terrace.
This intensive 2-day event was created by Young Man Kang, who worked in Hollywood for 10 years as a feature film director. In 2014, his own web series “Kimchi Warrior” was presented at the LA Web Fest. Noticing the lack of Korean web series screened at the LA Web Fest, Young Man decided to start his own festival with the support of LA Web Fest director Michael Ajakwe. Garnering support from Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, JS Entertainment, GB Boston Investment, Samsung Medico and numerous other sponsors, Young Man and his staff organized K Web Fest, with screenings of nearly 100 Korean and international web series, panel discussions with creators and industry experts, workshops, networking party, red carpet event and award ceremony.
WEB SERIES SCREENINGS
For the festival screenings and competition, Korean series were subtitled in English, and the international web series were subtitled in Korean. All works were judged by two Korean film critics, two producers and one jury member from an investment company: Kang Youjeong, Yoo Jaehyuk, Park Chayoung, Eun Sunghee and Kang Tagkyoung.
Due to the tight schedule, I only had time to watch a handful of web series, including several Korean series: “Dream Knight”, “Dreaming CEO”, “Longing for Spring”, “Prince’s Prince”, “Strange Dog Café”, “Ryuhan Villa 402,” and “Never.”
The Korean series I watched were all of high production value, created by production companies. The cinematography and pacing were quite similar to Korean TV dramas and films. Each episode was 10 to 15 minutes long, and felt slower and longer than their Western counter-parts, but I also enjoyed some “slice of life” moments. In “Dreaming CEO”, the entrepreneurial and absent-minded protagonist is criticized by his girlfriend for following his dreams — “Can’t you just get a job?,” she asks him, which made me chuckle. In “Ryuhan Villa 402,” a romantic comedy, we see the couple trying to communicate, through a glass door separating the terrace from inside. I found this to be quite an effective visual reflection of their failing relationship.
The main awards were given to “Gifted Corporation” (Best Action), highly original sci-fi action series by Rose of Dolls and Oliver Mend (Spain), “Love Hurts” (Best Comedy) by Chris Hembury (UK), an autobiographical comedy about the difficulty of dating, “Low Life” (Best Drama) by Luke Eve (Australia), black comedy about depression, “Horla” (Best Horror) by Gabriel Garland (France), “Milano Underground” by Giovanni Esposito (Best Web Series), “Dream Knight” (Best Director, Best Drama) by Park Byunghwan (Korea).
In addition to these overall awards, each of the international festival directors/founders selected at least one Korean web series to be invited to their festival. LAWebFest invited 7 productions; Jean Michel Albert (Marseille Web Fest director), Steinar Ellingsen (Melbourne Web Fest), Janet De Nardis (Roma Web Fest) all chose “Witness”, a Korean psychological drama. Meredith Burkholder (Webfest Berlin), Rose of Dolls (Bilbao Web Fest), Simon Cote (Montreal Web Fest), Leandro Silva (Rio Web Fest) and Riccardo Cannella (Sicily Web Fest) all chose different Korean series. True to the egalitarian aspect of web series, both on the creative and distribution sides, K Web Fest and its international partners will now be promoting diverse Korean voices internationally.