JK Film sues director over copyright

By Claire Lee
  • Published : May 8, 2012 - 18:46
  • Updated : May 8, 2012 - 19:39

Director Lee Myeong-se (second from left) poses with actors and actresses starring in “Mister K,” including Moon So-ri (seated center) and Sol Kyung-gu (second from right), in February. (JK Film)
CEO-director Yoon Je-kyoon and filmmaker Lee Myeong-se battle over 10 billion won film

Production company JK Film on Monday filed a copyright lawsuit against director Lee Myeong-se, who dropped out of a big budget movie project last month.

The lawsuit is aimed at regaining the copyright of the 10 billion won ($8.8 million) movie, titled “Mister K,” from Lee, who “illegally and secretly registered” himself as its copyright holder in April, according to the production house.

The legal battle was sparked after JK Film ― which is run by celebrated director Yoon Je-kyoon ― had a series of conflicts with Lee over the concept of the upcoming blockbuster.

Lee dropped out of the project last month after 11 sessions of filming in Korea and Thailand, which started in March. According to JK Film, Lee secretly registered himself as the film’s copyright holder through the Korea Copyright Commission website after quitting the project.

“We have no idea what his intention is in doing this,” said Han Ji-seon of JK Film. “Everything was crystal clear in the contract that he signed. It specifically said the copyright of the movie belongs to the production house JK Film and the original screenwriter Park Su-jin.”

Director Yoon Je-kyoon, who is also the CEO of film production house JK Film. (JK Film)

“Mister K” gained attention when its production was announced by JK Film earlier this year. It was a 10 billion project involving investment by the movie industry behemoth CJ Entertainment.

The film was to feature big-name stars Moon So-ri, Sol Kyung-gu and Daniel Henney. Cineastes and critics were especially excited about the rare collaboration between Lee Myeong-se and Yoon Je-kyoon ― two heavyweight film figures who are very different from each other.

Yoon is known for his commercial blockbusters “Haeundae” (2009) and “Sector 7” (2011), while Lee is famous for his aesthetically conscious mise-en-scene and style shown in “Duelist” (2005) and “M” (2007).

The two, however, could not overcome their differences in approach. According to Han, Lee refused to follow the original script, and completely ignored every cinematic and stylistic request from the producer.

“The film was going to be an action comedy with realistic characters, something like the James Bond series,” said Han.

“But director Lee got rid of entire script lines and shot each scene in a rather serene and lyrical way. And the characters were very much like the ones you’d expect to see in a fantasy-cartoon movie. They weren’t what we initially had in mind as its producers.”

JK Film said Lee would receive the lawsuit document in the next two weeks.

“We have no plans to make this suit bigger,” said Han. “It won’t go to the criminal court as long as director Lee drops his name as the film’s copyright holder.”

Director Lee Myeong-se and his company, Production M, were unavailable for comment. Lee had planned to hold a press conference to tell his side of the story on Monday, but called it off at the last minute.

JK Film said the shooting of “Mister K” will restart in mid-May, regardless of the lawsuit. The leading actors and actresses are remaining for the same roles.

Rookie filmmaker Lee Seung-joon will be directing the film. Lee previously worked as the assistant director for two of JK Film’s blockbusters ― “Haeundae” and “Quick.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)