Bigscreen dream starts on tube

I-Cable kickstarting Hong Kong's movie biz with new film arm to feed TV channels

HONG KONG — A new model is needed for the film industry here to pull itself out of a depression — and that model is based on TV exposure.

I-Cable Communications is bowing a film arm, Sundream Motion Pictures, to feed the three movie channels on its Hong Kong Cable TV.

Sundream is headed by vet director and producer Tsui Siuming.

Industry hard hitters, including Jackie Chan and Eric Tsang (“Infernal Affairs”), turned out at the official launch, held March 23 as part of film and TV showcase, Filmart.

Instead of acquiring rights, I-Cable is investing HK$300 million ($38.5 million) allowing Sundream to produce 15 to 20 movies in the first two years.

In the process, it will create projects in an industry that doesn’t expect to see more than 50 locally produced films this year.

“The relationship between film and TV will create more opportunities for the industry,” Tsui says, while emphasizing the film division is an independent and separate operation.

Sundream has a creative team of six scriptwriters who vet submissions. So far they have received between 40 and 50 scripts, a lot of which “need polish,” Tsui says.

In the following two years, Tsui is planning one or two international scale movies with a budget of $15 million to $18 million, two to three local blockbusters at $3.8 million to $6.4 million and the rest will be low-budget films.

Tsui considers the latter an “important part of production, like the base of a pyramid.”

With the TV synergy, there will be basic revenue built in, which will take away some of the pressure on the directors, he says. “The script is first priority,” Tsui says.

For now, Sundream will focus on Chinese-lingo pics, but will consider other regional options. The international blockbusters will be in Mandarin while the local pics will be in Cantonese, the dialect of Hong Kong.

In addition, Tsui will take a look at the 28 projects presented as part of the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum at the Entertainment Expo.

While Sundream films have a secured platform on pay TV, they will also pursue the traditional distribution routes: theatrical and video. This will help secure the cost, allowing TV revenues to be the bonus, Tsui says.

Bill Kong’s Edko Films will handle local and international distribution.

The first project is a $2 million police thriller directed by Yau Nai-hoi (“PTU”) and produced by Johnnie To. The script is ready, Tsui says, but To is casting.

Shooting is expected to start in September with a January release date.

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