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Focus outfits helmers for HD pix

Plans to invest HK$25 million this year

HONG KONG — Every industry needs new talent to survive.

Movie and Cantonese pop star Andy Lau’s Focus Films hopes to nurture some of that talent with its new Focus project First Cuts, which bowed Wednesday at Hong Kong’s film and TV mart Filmart.

“We see the need to produce Chinese-language films” with rising Asian stars, said Elliot Tong, veep of film production and acquisition for Focus Films.

Project will sponsor six young directors to helm high-definition features within the year.

Focus Films plans to invest HK$25 million ($3.2 million) this year but is willing to give more if a script is particularly exciting.

“I’m not going to get back what I invest,” said Lau, who added that he wanted to create training projects without financial pressure and a focus on the creative side of filmmaking.

Focus has partnered with Star Chinese Movies Network to premiere the films. The network airs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines to 6 million viewers.

Star will own the cable rights for Asia except Japan, South Korea and Thailand; Focus will retain the film rights and the copyright.

“I believe it is essential to support such a project,” said Steve Askew, chief operating officer for the Star Group, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. He declined to disclose the amount Star invested in the project.

The movies will have a TV premiere and try to jump to the international film festival circuit, Tong said. “These films will see the light of day.”

High definition was chosen because it’s cutting edge and flexible. The format is “more suitable for new directors to practice,” said Daniel Yu, Focus Films chief operating officer, because it’s high quality at a lower price than film.

Five of the six directors have been chosen: Wong Ching Po (“Jiang Hu”), from Hong Kong; Lam Tze Chung (“Kung Fu Hustle”), Hong Kong; Malaysia’s Ho Yuhang (“Sanctuary”); Singapore’s Kelvin Tong (“Eating Air”); and Taiwan’s Robin Lee (“The Magical Wash Machine”).

A selection from China is still being considered.

Focus Films also is developing a way to do its own video distribution.

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