Projects starring Donnie Yen and Zhang Ziyi are among the independently produced TV series to be launched on the sidelines of this week’s Busan International Film Festival. The company responsible is Changin’ Pictures, a would-be studio being hatched by Hong Kong-based film director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun.
Propelled by the growing recognition of Asian talent and the worldwide distribution potential of multinational SVOD platforms, Changin’ Pictures aims to be a powerhouse production hub suppling premium drama content to streaming players.
The company has raised very substantial finance from Asian sources and aims to develop and produce series which it will pitch and license to the platforms, without recourse to the OTT companies’ production funding, greenlighting and editorial constraints.
The company expects to sign up a mix of Asia’s top-billing established filmmakers and fresh talents “to create innovative drama series for Pan-Asian netizens, with an eye to cross-cultural global assimilation.” Its COO is Esther Yeung, a seasoned executive with ten years at Bill Kong’s Edko Films and prior experience at Fortissimo Films.
Changin’ Pictures will unveil its first five series in Busan, representing a quarter of the projects it already has in active development, and expects to deliver in its first four years. The figure excludes follow-on seasons and spinoffs.
The first shows hail from Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan. Subsequently, the firm will cast its net wider and expand to Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia.
“We aspire to be Asia’s most effective one-stop-shop for international production partners and streaming platforms,” said Chan. “It is only filmmaker-backed and filmmaker-driven so that we could raise our level of productivity and efficiency.”
Giving Changin’ Pictures an immediate calling card for K-content-starved streamers, the firm’s first two projects into production are both Korean. Although stylistically different, both are adapted from popular webtoons, giving them an already established fan-base.
“ONE: High School Heroes” is an action-packed series about a picked-on high school kid who transforms himself into a bully-bashing hero. Production is by Covenant Pictures (“Desperate Mr. X”). “Heesu in Class 2” is a bittersweet romance between two high school boys played by K-Pop idols. Production is by Film K (“Exit,” “Escape from Mogadishu”).
Yen is committed to star in “Outright Loser, Hidden Master,” an action fantasy drama about an Asian American who discovers that martial artists in Hong Kong are mysteriously extending their lineage by imprinting their memories, martial art skills and techniques onto the bodies of strangers. Yen, who previously starred in Chan’s “Wu Xia” (aka “Dragon”), will also serve as showrunner and action choreographer. He is in negotiations to also direct some of the series episodes.
“Infinite possibilities can be found when filmmakers share the same vision,” said Yen. “I am excited to be partnering with Peter Chan and am confident that together we can elevate materials to the very next level.”
Chan himself will direct Zhang in “The Murderer,” a suspense thriller set in 1944 Shanghai. Based on real events, the story focuses on a woman who is accused of murdering and dismembering her abusive husband. “By depicting the vagaries of her various trials, this series exposes the vicissitudes of leadership change in China from Japanese Occupation to the Nationalist government to the birth of new China,” Changin’ Pictures said.
A trio of Thailand’s most successful directors — Banjong Pisanthanakun (“Pee Mak,” “The Medium”), Nattawut ‘Baz’ Poonpiriya (“Bad Genius,” Netflix’ “Thai Cave Rescue”) and Parkpoom Wongpoom (“Shutter”) — as well as Chan and South Korean helmers Kim Jee-Woon (“I Saw the Devil”) and Hur Jin-Ho (“Christmas in August”) will all work on “The Eye” (aka “No Jump Scares”). The series is anthology of genre-bending chillers that represents a series expansion of Thailand’s “The Eye” horror film franchise, which Chan previously oversaw from 2002.
In addition to his own works as director (“Perhaps Love,” “Comrades, Almost A Love Story,” “The Warlords”), Chan has further credits as producer or executive producer of “Twelve Nights,” “Bodyguards & Assassins,” “Golden Chickensss” and Oscar-nominated “Better Days.”
At the beginning of the millennium, Chan pioneered the pan-Asian co-production movement with the launch of Applause Pictures, working with Kim Jee-Woon, Park Chan-Wook, Miike Takashi, Hur Jin-Ho, Nonzee Nimibutr, the Pang Brothers and Fruit Chan on films ranging from Thai erotica (“Jan Dara”) to Korean romance (“One Fine Spring Day”) and Hong Kong animation (“McDull: The Alumni”). Over much of the past decade, Chan has straddled Hong Kong and mainland China through his We Pictures company, enjoying hits with aspirational drama “American Dreams in China” and Gong Li-starring sports biopic “Leap.”
While both Applause, now chiefly a distributor, and We Pictures are expected to endure, Chan has built a team of development and production executives in Hong Kong, Korea and elsewhere in the region and expects Changin’ Pictures to be his main preoccupation going forward.