Despite being one of the world's most expensive cities, Hong Kong has attracted several international film-makers. With its VAT-free tax system, highly professional crews, world-class infrastructure and unique cityscape, the territory has bagged several large-scale shoots including Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life, Rush Hour 2 and Spy Game.
In 2004, Kurt Wimmer spent three months shooting 80% of his sci-fi Ultraviolet starring Milla Jovovich, in Hong Kong. Executive producer Tony Mark said Hong Kong was 'one of the few places in the world that makes a filming hub so free, smooth and convenient like home,' in his commendation to the Hong Kong Film Services Office (FSO), the government agency set up in 1998 to facilitate both local and overseas productions.
Last year, Hong Kong attracted more than 150 foreign productions, including five international features which alone contributed $39.7m (hk$310m) to the Hong Kong economy, according to the FSO. These foreign features included French director Olivier Assayas' Boarding Gate (60% filmed in Hong Kong) and Cho Jin-kyu's My Wife Is A Gangster 3 from South Korea (33%). Both productions were handled by local fixer October Pictures.
'Hong Kong's biggest draws are in providing expertise, technical know-how and innovative ideas, not as a low-cost production centre,' says October Pictures' co-founder Chu Chen On.
But despite priding itself on an efficient service for international producers, Hong Kong faces tough competition from China, which offers lower-cost locations. 'The Hong Kong government is heading in the right direction and things are improving all the time, but the industry still needs a lot more support,' says Salon Films Group managing director Charles Wang.
'(At the moment) Hong Kong offers no tax incentives at all. A tax write-off system would be useful in attracting more major international productions.' He also hopes the red tape surrounding the use of government facilities can be cut.
Still, Hong Kong took giant strides in the promotion of its infrastructure last year when the $200m Shaw Studios opened its soundstages.
Ang Lee's Second World War espionage thriller Lust, Caution was the first major production to make use of the facilities.
'The soundstages were built with the highest quality - full sound-proofing, vibration damping and climate control,' says Lloyd Chao, Shaw Studios' director for business development and marketing. 'The biggest of the five soundstages - 21,000sq ft in size and 70ft tall - is one of the largest in Asia and likely the tallest.'
While specific details cannot be disclosed at this stage, producers from the US, France and South Korea all completed recce work and are expected to shoot on location in Hong Kong this year.