Korean-born, Canadian-raised Hollywood producer Lee Kim has loads of international filmmaking experience – and shares why Finland was the perfect place to shoot Dual, which screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
When talking with Lee Kim, two things soon become obvious: he’s a friendly, insightful guy, and also a solution-focused world-class professional. When asked to talk about why Finland was chosen to shoot the engagingly odd-ball sci-fi film Dual, which Kim co-produced, he explains that the original plan was to shoot Dual in Canada. “My home is Canada, though I spend most of my time in LA. Canada offers so much for filmmaking in terms of landscapes, filmmaking infrastructure – plus great tax incentives. And then the pandemic hit, which put us in a bit of a pickle. Canada had high case count, and shooting in the US, which also had high case counts, didn’t offer the same tax incentives. XYZ Films (the production company) had some connections in Finland who suggested we reach out to see what Finland might be able to offer, especially as Covid case counts were low there and Finland has a reputation as a safe and well-organized place to shoot.”
This initial suggestion led Kim and his team to some preliminary conversations with people at the Film Tampere office – Tampere being the heartland Finnish city Dual was ultimately shot in. “That led us to more discussions and further introductions, and we quickly understood that we were talking with people who really knew how to make a movie.”
Kim continues, “Based on our conversations, they put together a preliminary budget and schedule, and it became clear that financially, Finland might be a real option. We then asked for some additional things like location photos, and our director Riley Stearns got very excited, because of course Finland looks a bit unique, and we felt that would be a positive.”
After this first promising analysis, in August 2020 Kim and his team were introduced to the people at Film Service Finland. He remembers, “that’s when things took a serious turn, because it was clear that these guys really knew what they were doing. They put together for us what types of incentives were available, and the speed with which we could access them. To be really honest, it was a relief to talk with them, because any time you go to a new place to shoot and you’re working with new people you have to build the trust – and the Finns were very direct and consistently did exactly what they said they would deliver on.”
"I can easily say that this was the best filmmaking experience I’ve had, internationally, just in terms of the speed, and on delivering on the promises made."
Kim had specific praise for how efficient the incentive process was in Finland. “It really only took about six months, which is almost unheard of. In other countries, it sometimes can take up to two years, and this felt like this was pretty standard for Finland – though it also was clearly because of the expertise of the people we were working closely with at Film Service Finland. They were so efficient at ensuring that the proper documentation was filed, so there would be no question when it got to the people making the funding decisions at the Business Finland office, and the Business Tampere office. Once all the proper paperwork was submitted, there wasn’t any excessive bureaucracy or red tape.
Kim was also grateful that one of the partners at Film Service Finland took the time educate his team on Finnish professional culture – on how Finns do business. “I appreciated this personally. They did what they said they would do. They didn’t over-promise. They were very straight-up with us – 100% transparent. And this was true with every facet of the business. Everything we needed to make the film, we imposed on them, and they never let us down. I can easily say that this was the best filmmaking experience I’ve had, internationally, just in terms of the speed, and on delivering on the promises made. Our director Riley Stearns was also very happy – not just with the end product, but also the entire process.
Lee Kim's producing career began in 2006 with the feature film This Beautiful City, nominated for four Genies at the 29th Genie Awards (Canada’s Oscars) in 2009. Based in Los Angeles and Toronto, he has over a dozen producing credits to his name, and his films have sold internationally premiered at some of the most prestigious international film festivals including TIFF, Sundance and Berlin. His most recent credits include Flashback, starring Dylan O’Brien and Maika Monroe, released theatrically by Lionsgate in June 2021 and Riley Stearns’ sci-fi film Dual, starring Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul, premiering in competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.