HONG KONG — Production is now underway on “Old Boys: The Way of the Dragon,” a Chinese feature film that is a product of the country’s booming micro-film trend.

The film is the first feature to be produced by Youku Originals, a production subsidiary of New York Stock Exchange-listed Chinese Internet video giant Youku-Tudou.

Directed by Xiao Yang, the film is set to hit theaters by May this year.

Xiao and partner Wang Taili, co-wrote, act and scored “Old Boys,” a 43 minute micro-film which became a hit with over 80 million views on the Chinese internet in 2010. The picture involved the pair (nicknamed the Chopstick Brothers) building up to take part in a talent show, but being rejected by a big music producer and having to make to with menial jobs.

The feature film picks up themes from the 2010 original and sends them to New York where they are chased by North Korean assassins, again played by Xiao and Wang.

The pair previously made their own music videos, which they posted online, and were subsequently sponsored to make “Old Boys” by the 11 Degrees New Media Film Project, an online video competition backed by Youku, China Film Group and General Motors.

“The Way of the Dragon” is produced by Youku in partnership with LeVision Pictures and Ruyi Films. Ruyi last year produced “So Young” a feature adaptation of an aspirational Internet novel that was directed by actress turned director Vicki Zhao Wei and grossed over $114 million (RMB700 million). LeVision previously distributed last year’s hit “Tiny Times,” a phenomenon derived from a comic book series, also by a first time director (Guo Jingming) and with a story-line building up to a fashion show.

“’Old Boys, The Way of the Dragon’ illustrates Youku Tudou’s strength in producing quality content that appeals to young Chinese,” said Frank Ming Wei, Youku president. “Youku Tudou will leverage its influence online, particularly with younger generations who consume entertainment on the web, and interact to provide powerful upstream and downstream marketing support for the film, creating a dynamic multi-channel ecosystem that engages viewers and creates new promotional opportunities for China’s film industry.”

In 2012, Youku Tudou linked up with the Hong Kong International Film Festival to invite leading Asian directors to produce 25-minute long micro films under the Youku Masters’ Project banner. Winning films are screened at the HKIFF before being released exclusively on Youku’s online platform. 
The company also co-produced “Firestorm,” a recent hit starring Andy Lau, and “Love is Not Blind,” directed by Teng Huatao.

 Youku Original has previously been involved in producing made-for-Internet video content in China including hits “Hip Hop Quartet,” “Miss Puff” and “Surprise.” 

Micro-films, watched on mobile devices or online via China’s booming online video sites, have become commercially viable and able to attract sponsorship and other kinds of finance. They also allow the emergence of new talent.

“If people like me wanted to make a movie 10 years ago, we had to get approval from government agencies and officials first,” said Xiao. “But now, with the Internet, we can show our works to an audience directly and we get feedback from the audience directly. When my work gains a large number of viewers, it starts to influence investors.”