Kyu C. Lee is a movie producer, entrepreneur and CEO. With 10 years experience at Sony Pictures Entertainment he’s overseen movies including Spider-Man, 007, and Hitch, to name a few. We caught up with the talented film producer to talk about his career, experiences, and the future of Korean film…
Kyu C. Lee interview by Jenny Medlicott
Hey Kyu, thank you so much for taking the time out (of what I’m sure is a very busy schedule) to chat with me today. To kick things off, how are you, what have you been up to lately?
I’ve just really been focusing on developing, maintaining momentum and managing our companies, Artist Company and Artist Studio, the past several months. It’s definitely been a magic carpet ride with Squid Game, The Silent Sea and All of Us Are Dead – an absolute thrill to have our talent, Lee Jung-jae, Jung Woo-sung and Cho Yi-hyun receive their well deserved recognition!
So how did your career start in the film industry, what were the early days like?
I started as an assistant in the creative advertising department, specifically trailer editorial, supporting the VP of marketing services and our team of editors. It was the very beginning of my adulthood and professional career, so everything was exciting. I was super naive and just really inspired, motivated and blessed to work for a legendary company – often running into personalities you could only see on TV! It was surreal..
Obviously you spent a long time at Sony Pictures Entertainment, your IMDB profile describes you as a veteran – how did it feel to leave after so many years at Sony?
Yes, 10 years in fact. Leaving Sony was like leaving home for the first time or graduating from college – bittersweet? It was also quite scary because I was leaving such an awesome job. But I also wanted to challenge myself and test my limits.
You’ve overseen some pretty huge titles throughout your career, what was it like to work on so many huge names? Any favourite moments?
I’ve definitely had the honor to participate in many titles Sony has produced, marketed and distributed over the years. We had an amazing run with the Spider-Man franchise, 007 and a handful of romantic comedies, which is my favorite genre of them all – The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, Hitch, 50 First Dates to name just a few. Attending filming locations, premieres and meeting so many incredible people from all around the world was an experience of a lifetime.
The highlight of my career at Sony would have to be having the opportunity to be the assistant to the Vice-Chairman for 5 years. I had the privilege of experiencing first-hand how a Hollywood studio is operated from top to bottom. The information, strategies, network, politics and unbelievable opportunities and experiences were second to none. I can’t reveal too much though…
Do you ever find this line of work overwhelming?
Absolutely. There is always the pressure to create the best project possible, given the expectations that need to be met to extend your lifetime in this business. You never want to let your investors, supporters, distributers and, most importantly, the fans down. We are also in the popularity contest, you know, it comes with the territory! So we’ve got to be on our game at all times. It’s a highly demanding business.
Korean filmography has begun to establish a pretty impressive global reputation for itself lately, what’s it been like to see it finally receive global recognition?
To receive recognition is always an honor, no matter how big or small the award. For me personally, it’s been a long time coming, having been in this business for the past 24 years.
Throughout the years and from my own experiences, I have seen and been apart of flashes of recognition and success. But to now see Asian content maintain momentum and appear on the regular – especially Korean dramas – I am ecstatic and extremely proud of all the hard work everyone has put in, refusing to give up and continuing to grind.
In this kind of industry, growing success usually comes with growing pressure to keep improving. Is this something you personally feel?
Of course. Uncle Ben once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Thanks to the global streaming platforms – Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon etc. – our content is now available around the world from one click of your remote, whenever you please.
We’ve built a strong fanbase from all walks of life and now all eyes are on us. It is our responsibility to continue to create more content. But now that there are expectations we need to maintain, it is imperative that we produce even higher quality content that our viewers are going to enjoy now and even 50 years in the future.
How do you want to see the Korean film and TV industry progress moving forward?
As I said earlier, I want Korean content to be continous and always sought after. I want it to be a constant craving that’s a routine and standard part of everyone’s lives, in the same way we grew up watching Hollywood films.
And what are some of your goals for the future, in your career or even your personal life?
My dreams and goals change constantly. At the beginning of my career, the dream was to build enough experience, influence and power to create opportunities for my friends and family that deserve the chance to succeed on the main stage. Promoting Asian talent (ie: directors, actors, producers, hair, makeup, stylists, etc) is a mission I have always been on and still am today. But as OTT has turned the tables of opportunity around the world, my present goals are to bring the world to us and show everyone how much excitement and value Korea has to offer. Join us!