Asian companies back youth films

Columbia, MySpace join China film initiative

Columbia TriStar and News Corp. added their weight to a group of major Asian film companies backing a youth filmmaking initiative in China.

Signatories to the plan unveiled Friday also included Korea’s CJ Entertainment, Hong Kong’s Media Asia and Emperor Motion Pictures and state-owned Chinese giant China Film Group.

A late entrant to the party was MySpace China, whose strategy officer Wendi Deng — who is married to News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch — was also a signatory.

Action plan aims to help a list of 40 helming talents identified by China Film accelerate their projects into production. But interpretation of the plan appears to vary considerably between the participating companies. One said the Friday announcement was little more than an agreement to agree “though the intention is absolutely there.” Another said they were surprised by how close to acceptability the first draft of contract from China Film had proved to be.

“We have signed up for five yet-to-be-named projects that we will co-develop, co-produce and co-distribute with China Film,” Emperor’s Albert Lee said.

Budgets are expected to stay under $1 million.

Unlike other young filmmaker assistance initiatives in China, such as the Yunnan Project, adhering to technical specifications is not a requirement of the new plan. Sony’s involvement is also separate from a deal between Columbia and Hong Kong funnyman Stephen Chow’s Star Overseas Group signed in May.

MySpace China, whose backers include film industry investors IDG and Accel, is expected to take an active role in promoting the slate of movies in China and overseas.

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