Sky High

APRIL 2019: HB Entertainment founder and chief executive, Bomi Moon, has a soft spot for blockbuster romances that put My Love from the Star on must-watch lists around the world along with an eye for the kinds of stories that drove Sky Castle to the highest ratings ever for a cable show in South Korea. She’s also optimistic about a production environment that is more open, even if it’s tougher than ever for producers to turn a profit. ContentAsia speaks to her about trends, challenges and what’s next, and looks at all the dramas she has produced since she set up shop in Seoul in October 2006. 

What trend/event (in Korea or elsewhere) is having the biggest impact on your drama production business at the moment? “Drama production is all about planning. What is happening now does not have much effect on this process. However, realistic stories always affect the production of a show.”

What was it about Sky Castle that appealed to you most? “We all go through an entrance examination once in our lifetime. Even if the time changes and whether in the position of a child or parent. I especially liked the point that the entrance examination is not a finish point but merely a running process when viewed as a marathon.”

 Which of the 26 dramas HB has produced since 2006 is your favourite? And why? “It is hard to pick just one work. However, I am a lover of romantic comedy, I liked the character combination and story settings of My Love from the Star.”

 On one hand, Korea has more drama slots than ever, and on the other, ratings are spread so thin that it’s tough for mini-series to go above 10%. Do you think this situation of “abundance” is good or bad for producers in Korea? “I’m on the positive side. Thanks to the new environment, now we can produce content of various genres to various platforms, which means that we don’t have to be tied to the audience ratings of certain organisations anymore.”

 How does Netflix coming in and spending (a rumoured) US$4m per episode on the Asadal Chronicles change the game for everyone else? Will other broadcasters/producers have to increase production budgets in order to compete? “That’s for a specific writer or actor, (first graded package) so it is hard to raise the overall production budget. We should make shows not just for the Korean market but also for the global market; it is hard to expect an increase in production budgets [for just] the domestic market.”

Which of your 26 TV series was the most difficult to produce? “I think Cinderella and Four Knights [about a group of young people sharing a house]. First of all, it was written by a newbie writer, and I also felt that it was not easy to visualise a text-based original work. Personally, it took a great deal of care.”

You’ve been producing TV drama since 2006. What’s the biggest change you have seen over the past decade or so? “A lot of things have changed. The biggest change is that domestic dramas are now seen overseas simultaneously. In the past, they would be seen at least six months after they were broadcast in Korea.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge for Korean producers in 2019? “Labour laws regarding overtime work. Korean dramas usually were broadcast on the same day of shooting. But now we can’t keep doing that because we are absolutely running out of time. In other words, the production period has increased but the production budgets are the same. It is true that many production companies cannot make a profit. It’s a challenge to overcome this transition and to settle into more advanced systems.”

What are you working on at the moment? “Now Big Issue [a paparazzi story that reveals some uncomfortable truths] is airing on SBS and Partners for Justice 2 [about a forensic doctor and a prosecutor] for MBC is shooting. We are also working on the scenario of a new work which will be broadcast on KBS at the end of September this year.”

What’s next for HB Entertainment? “The goal is to be the best production company by developing many good original shows. Of course we won’t be able to take care of all the producing, so we want to collaborate with various platforms around the world by doing a lot of good projects.”

Published in April 2019 in ContentAsia print+online magazine for APOS 2019