The Philippine entertainment industry has a market of more than 100 million people. South Korea only has a fraction of that sum, in terms of population. Yet, their entertainment industry seems to be more successful. Certainly, this success comes from more than just sheer luck.
From the 1960s to around 1990s, the Philippines was producing around 140 films in a year. During the last decade, though, there was a noticeable plunge to only 73 films a year. These figures were given by the National Statistical Coordination Board. The year 2011 showed the most dramatic decline of favor for locally-made films. Only 73 out of the 229 films shown in the country in that year were locally-made. Incidentally, the top-grossing movie of that year was “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”—a Hollywood film. It was just one of the many Hollywood films patronized by the Philippines, a former American colony.
Since 2010, the Philippines claim to have a sort of Renaissance in their film industry. To compare, while South Korea made 165 films in 2013, the Philippines managed to produce 177. In terms of quality, though, SK still seems to be in the lead. And while the Philippine cinema is showing signs of some improvement, the success of SK’s entertainment industry is still more dramatic. For certain, there are things the Philippine Entertainment Industry can learn from the SK Entertainment Industry.
#1- More focus on producing quality entertainment
South Korea’s entertainment industry has its eyes set on the prize.
A) Fantasy World - Producers, directors, talent managers and others involved in the production managed to create a world which not all South Koreans can be part of, but which all of them dream to be part of. A world of glamour, beauty, excitement and mystery.
B) Live Action Disney - Management companies train their actors, actresses and musical performers to handle the media well, project a glamorous persona, and be extraordinary. Celebrities are groomed to be flawless, objects of fantasies like those Disney characters.
C) To top it all off, they also focused on the most important thing, and that is entertainment - The image of their idols is important, but they also make sure that their pop stars are trained to give the public only the best entertainment possible. When they make musical performances, they really perform. When they make music videos, they go all out on the production. When they make movies, they spend for the best talents.
#2 - Rigorous training to hone craft of stars
A. Preparation - Whether it’s acting, singing, or dancing that the idol is specializing in, the SK entertainment company makes sure that the performance is far from mediocre. Idols are made to undergo extensive training to hone their craft even if they are already considered “made”. They are given the best teachers and choreographers on all aspects of being a celebrity.
B. Like Queens and Kings, they are treated like royalties and they act like royalties - A celebrity in South Korea is almost like royalty because s/he is also taught how to behave like a celebrity—with gratitude for the fans. A celebrity knows how to charm the media and how to talk without being arrogant. They are also taught to live completely in the image assigned to them. Even the littlest thing can be considered a “scandal” in South Korea, so they are careful with their behavior on and off the camera.
#3- Market-centric mindframe
The SK Entertainment Industry has researchers working to understand the market.
A) Developing loyalty - Today’s market knows that they can basically download everything for free. While they are also careful to produce good “content”, they’re more focused on creating stars that the public would want to support even if it means paying to buy their goods the can get for free. The public would want to support these stars enough that they would be willing to pay good money to ensure that the stars get the royalties they deserve to have.
B) The South Korean entertainment industry is also flexible - It recognizes that while SK has its own culture, this culture is always changing. There are strong influences of America and Japan in the preferences of people, so when they create images for their pop stars, they base it on the strong stars of Hollywood. However, it’s still unique, because they also blend it with the images of Japanese pop stars which happen to be very Asian. The fusion is, strangely enough, very South Korean. It seems like Hollywood, but with very bold fashion statements.
C) Innovators, not imitators - They also don’t settle with just copying ideals. They want to surpass it. For example, if the researcher finds out that South Koreans especially go for romantic Hollywood movies, they make movies that are even more romantic and dramatic. They cater to the fantasies of the masses.
#4 - Putting value on production and content
A) While the SK Entertainment Industry does put a lot of premium on their stars’ image and talent, they also do not forget how important the content is. They are not afraid to experiment with storylines. As a result, they were able to produce sterling shows like “You who came from the Star”, “Old Boy”, “Confessions of a Murder” and “Gentleman’s Dignity”. These shows received both local and international merit.
B) They also make sure that they incorporate traditions that are uniquely South Korean, and they make these traditions relevant to the current lifestyles of South Koreans. The Philippines also has a rich indigenous tradition, but this seems to be separate from today’s modern and urban life. If the media would just promote awareness of these traditions, they would help to pass on priceless values to today’s modern audience. In the process, they would also add more depth to the content of their stories.
C) New take on romance - Romance is also a favorite theme in SK dramas and movies. The industry embraces SK audiences’ penchant for romance, and they take it to the next level. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but if the Philippine movie industry would just take the time to explore new views of this theme (perhaps a more childlike outlook of love), they would find success too.
While the SK entertainment industry does acknowledge that their main rival is Hollywood, they don’t stop at copying Hollywood movies and stars. They strive to surpass this ideal, and put in something that’s uniquely South Korean in every movie, song, and show that they produce.
D) Capital - They are also never stringent with their budget when it comes to the production of the show itself. When you watch something made by SK entertainment firms, you are sure to enjoy extravagant costumes and sets. They make sure that their audiences are well-entertained.
E) Directors and Writers are just as important as the celebrities - Of course, all of these would not be possible without the guidance of good directors and the best writers. Directors and writers in South Korea are well-paid because they are expected to excel in their fields. Everything that has something to do with their entertainment business is considered an art form, and with that kind of audience, it’s a well-appreciated art form.
#5- Government support
The SK government recognizes the fact that their entertainment industry does much to set the international identity of South Korea as a nation. This is why the government takes care of this industry very well. Tax breaks are given to locally-made films, and when it comes to musicians, they always make it easier for local performers to earn money when performing in South Korea compared to foreign artists who come to the country to perform.
There was a time when the Philippine entertainment industry showed as much promise as the SK entertainment industry. This was during the time of Sampaguita Pictures and LVN. Even our celebrities were trained to behave well around the media. They were popular back then because they had talent, and not because they had controversial personal lives. The storylines of the movies back then embraces Filipino culture and traditions. Films had a specific mood to them, and a strong Filipino identity. Directors and writers were brave enough to explore new forms, and there was a lot of support coming from the government.
If the Philippines were to experience this again, the top media firms of ABSCBN, GMA, and TV5 need to step up. They have to go beyond simply copying Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese dramas. They have the financial and influential prowess to turn things around.
Right now, the Philippine film industry is showing a bit or improvement, but it’s still not as impressive as the progress of South Korea’s entertainment industry. If those who are in the entertainment business would just work together to produce substantial films, songs, and even dance numbers, there is hope for the Philippine entertainment business yet.