Tag Archives: Studio Dragon

Six of the Best: Jinnie Choi

Jinnie Choi, CEO of Korean production company Studio Dragon, selects a host of homegrown series alongside a couple of breakout US dramas as her top six shows.

Memories of the Alhambra
This is a genre-bending Korean series that unfolds in parallel real and fictional augmented-reality (AR) worlds. Set in Spain and South Korea, Memories of the Alhambra (also pictured top) tells a love story between a successful gaming company CEO and a hostel owner that transcends from reality into the world of AR. The story tackles the potential of AR, which may become a big part of our lives in the future. With a mixture of melodrama, romance and action/sci-fi, the drama’s twists and turns keep you guessing at what is real right up to the conclusion. A remake is being developed in the US.

In Stranger, another Korean show, a passionate cop and an emotionless prosecutor forge an unlikely partnership to bring an evasive serial killer to justice. All the characters become suspects with a motive for murder in this thriller. Throughout the series, the suspense never ceases as the characters become increasingly entangled with one another in an effort to find the culprit. Stranger was listed as one of the New York Times’ Top 10 International Shows by and season two will be produced in 2020. Although it’s a Korean series, our international audience marvelled at its ‘US series’ feel.

This Is Us
This family drama follows a married couple and their triplets. The story is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time and grips the audience with a fluent and well-thought-out structure. The show’s strong emotional component, strong narrative, and relatable characters appealed to the Korean sentiment, which explains why many Koreans chose this show as their all-time favourite US TV series. A refreshing, unique and global show without violence, sex or excessive VFX.

If Prison Break introduced serialised US TV to Koreans, 24 made Koreans go crazy for them. Korean viewers are used to serialised local shows but, as most of the shows imported from the US follow a procedural system, our audience has not been engaged by them. Prison Break and especially 24 made US series more familiar to the Korean audience. Its storytelling novelty and almost flawless execution is a case study for production companies and storytellers.

Misaeng: Incomplete Life
In this Korean drama, new employees face infinite obstacles in the workplace, including competitive colleagues, a hierarchical atmosphere and discrimination. But among the executives emerges a warm-hearted mentor who will defend those without a voice. This is a slice-of-life story about the hardships of office work in Korea and the unlikely alliances forged to bring hope of a better life. The series became a cultural phenomenon and recorded one of the highest ratings for a cable network programme in Korea at the time.

Guardian: The Lonely & Great God
This is another Korean drama, in which a fabled demi-god wants to end his immortality by finding and marrying the ‘goblin bride.’ But things get complicated when he falls in love with her after finding her. This fantastic, sad and beautiful story of a creature cursed with immortality will make you laugh and cry. Penned by one of Korea’s most successful writers and with a star-studded cast, the series achieved the second-highest ratings in cable history when it first aired, reaching an 18.7% audience share. It’s one of Korea’s most emblematic global dramas.

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West spies Korea opportunities

The Idolm@ster is based on a game franchise
The Idolm@ster is based on a game franchise

Netflix has made Korea a priority in its quest for global SVoD domination – and now arch-rival Amazon Prime Video is following suit.

Last week, it was revealed that Amazon had boarded The Idolm@ster, a Korean TV series for 2017 that is based on a popular Japanese game franchise from Bandai Namco.

First mooted in spring 2016, the live-action series is about a group of aspiring female singers trying to establish their music careers. As such, it sits at the crossroads of two Asian obsessions – K-Pop and television drama. The TV drama is a no-brainer given the success of the franchise across various platforms. Since launching in 2005 as an arcade game, The Idolm@ster has inspired animation and manga versions, as well as live concerts and hit singles. It has also been adapted for digital platforms including smartphones.

The series will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video from early 2017 and will be localised into several languages, including Japanese and English.

James Farrell, head of content at Amazon’s Asia Pacific Prime Video, called Idolm@aster “the perfect combination of Japanese idol culture and Korean drama power. The idols include K-Pop sirens, as well as Japanese and other international singers, and we’re confident fans and viewers alike all over the world will become addicted to watching their careers bloom.”

The news continues a growing trend for global companies to exploit the Korean drama phenomenon. Recently we reported on the fact that NBC Universal participated in the financing of Moon Lovers. And this week South Korean media group CJ E&M has formed a partnership with Warner Bros-owned streamer DramaFever to coproduce local dramas for the international market. Under the terms of the alliance, called Studio Dragon, the partners will produce two original series over next three years.

“Studio Dragon is determined to become Asia’s number-one drama studio. To achieve that goal, we plan to work with industry leaders to provide unrivalled content for audiences,” said Jinnie Choi, president of Studio Dragon.

Killjoys focuses on a trio of bounty hunters
Killjoys focuses on a trio of bounty hunters

Away from Korea, US channel Syfy has announced that sci-fi series Killjoys and Dark Matter will both be returning for third seasons. Killjoys, which follows a trio of interplanetary bounty hunters, is produced by Temple Street Productions, the Toronto-based firm behind Orphan Black. The show also airs on the Space channel in Canada. In line with the Syfy announcement, Space revealed that it too would be on board the third season of the show.

In terms of audience ratings on Syfy, Killjoys attracts around 650,000 viewers per episode, which makes it a mid-ranking performer on the network. It’s a similar story for Dark Matter, which comes in at around 690,000 per episode. Interestingly, this positioning and ratings differential is broadly reflected by IMDb rankings, which come in at 7.1 and 7.4 respectively for the two shows.

Syfy has struggled to secure a bona fide hit series in recent times and is shifting towards series with built-in brand recognition. This week, it debuted Van Helsing, a reimaging of vampire mythology in which the central character has been switched from male to female (similar to Wynnona Earp).

There was also news this week about Syfy’s planned Superman prequel. Called Krypton, it is set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s home planet. The show is based on a pilot by David S Goyer and will feature British actress Georgina Campbell.

Winona Ryder in Stranger Things
Winona Ryder in Stranger Things

Last week, we discussed the success of 1980s-set thriller Stranger Things on Netflix and suggested it would only be a matter of time before a second series was greenlit.

In fact, a second season was announced the next day. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer and starring Winona Ryder, season two will debut in 2017 and will consist of nine episodes, one more than season one’s eight episodes.

We’ve also looked at Marvel’s expansion recently. The latest news on this front is that Marvel and ABC Studios are plotting a new series called New Warriors. Although a cable/SVoD home is yet to be found for the show, the plan is for it to be a comedy about a superhero squad made up of teenagers. This will follow a recent trend in the superhero genre towards irreverent franchises including Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool and Suicide Squad.

In terms of shows that won’t see a greenlight, the big news of the week is that AMC won’t be bringing back its restaurant drama Feed the Beast. Despite having a cast headed by David Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess, the show attracted pretty modest ratings.

In a statement, AMC said: “We have great respect and admiration for the entire team associated with Feed the Beast and our studio partner, Lionsgate. Unfortunately, the show simply didn’t achieve the results needed to move forward with a second season.”

Jim Sturgess (left) and David Schwimmer in Feed the Beast
Jim Sturgess (left) and David Schwimmer in Feed the Beast

In number terms, season one of the show averaged around 447,000, making it the second lowest-rating scripted show on the network. Interestingly, the show it beat, Halt and Catch Fire, has been renewed through to season three.

However, AMC clearly decided it couldn’t carry two scripted series on such low ratings. This presents a slight conundrum for AMC, which is that it is heavily reliant on dystopian fantasy/horror series (The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Into the Badlands, Preacher) and could do with establishing a different editorial beachhead to appeal to a new audience subset.

Finally, DQ’s sister publication C21 is reporting that Spanish producer Boomerang TV has opened a new scripted production division in Chile. The arm will produce dramas for Chilean broadcasters and follows the arrival of Boomerang in the country in 2014. Veteran Latino producer and former Chilevisión drama chief Vicente David Sabatini becomes fiction director, while Cecilia Stoltze, formerly at TVN, has been named general producer.

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