Soup-to-nuts operation for foreign prod'ns in demand

HONG KONG — With more than 40 years in the business, Hong Kong-based Salon Films, a company that provides on-site support services to moviemakers, thought it had been through just about everything — until the current filming of “Rush Hour 2″ was threatened by an anonymous caller who said he’d disrupt the production unless he was paid off.

It might sound like a scene from the Jackie Chan starrer, but Salon resorted to calling the real cops, the caller was arrested and the production is moving on amid the whirlwind that is Hong Kong production in the wake of Oscar-tinged “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

“Ever since ‘Crouching Tiger’ started, everyone has been wanting to work with us,” says Fred Wang, son of Salon’s 89-year-old founder T.C. Wang. “Everything is hot for Hong Kong and China now.”

Salon is the kind of soup-to-nuts operation that provides crew, equipment and logistical expertise for foreign productions. Wang won’t reveal the names of his latest suitors, but “Rush Hour 2″ is one of the company’s bigger projects this year. The sequel to the Jackie Chan hit reverses the formula of the first film: this time, Chris Tucker is the cop-out-of-water in Hong Kong.

The producers of “Rush Hour 2″ filled out the cast by securing the services of “Crouching Tiger” star Zhang Ziyi before that film exploded at the box office. Director Brett Ratner is back at the helm of the sequel. “It was a dream of mine to work with Jackie,” he says.

Salon doesn’t show any signs of becoming bored with Hollywood hype. Autographed posters of previous productions grace the company’s lobby walls, from 1960’s “The World of Suzie Wong” and “Mortal Kombat” to photographs of American stars who have filmed projects in Hong Kong. At a party to celebrate the start of shooting on “Rush Hour 2,” Fred Wang and his brothers and sisters, who all work for the family business, ushered guests over for photographs with their genial father.

Salon, which is also the sole Asian agent for Panavision cameras and lenses, has big hopes for Asia — both with foreign productions filming in the region and through the growth of the local film industries around the area. “Asia is becoming more important in the international market, subject-wise,” Wang says.

Sensing this potential, the company is edging toward fully producing its own projects, although Wang says servicing Hollywood projects will remain the company’s bread and butter.

Given the would-be drama that threatened its own set last week, Salon certainly seems more than ready to inspire material for potential scripts.

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