Asian production and talent management companies should worktogether to create stars that have impact at a regional level beforeattempting to break into Hollywood, said panelists at aScreen-organised seminar here yesterday.

'In Korea, we have good producers but lack good networking opportunities outside the country,' said Teddy Hoon-tack Jung, CEO of Korean entertainment giant iHQ.

'We are trying to create some content for our actors to launch them into the US, but don't have enough connections. The pan-Asian market is huge, so if we can create stars that are big across Asia, it puts us in a stronger position to approach Hollywood.'

Zhuang Liqi, president of Beijing-based Chengtian Entertainment, explained the situation in China which has drama academies turning out scores of professionally trained actors. Since the China market has started to grow with an influx of private investment, many of these actors are now being groomed into stars.

'Ten years ago, Chinese talent agencies were just like assistants to the actors, but now their role is changing and they're getting bigger and bigger,' said Zhuang. 'Companies like ours are connecting with the local media and negotiating on behalf of our stars.'

The seminar outlined differences between talent agencies in Hollywood - which are not allowed to produce movies - and in Asia where talent stables are often part of larger entities that are also involved in production and distribution.

As a result, companies such as iHQ and Chengtian can create vehicles for their stars to appear in, as Chengtian has done by investing in John Woo's Red Cliff, which will star one of its talents, Hu Jun.

But while Asian stars can make a living at home due to the strength of local markets, the lure of Hollywood is still difficult to resist. Meanwhile, the US studios have started to look for global stars.

'The studios see the potential to generate dollars by finding talent that can work in both [US and international] markets,' said Andrew Ooi, president of Vancouver-based Echelon Talent Management, which handles stars such as Maggie Q, Cheng Pei Pei and Josie Ho.

'It's all about finding people you can pre-sell in Europe and Asia and you can't do that if you're only a face in America,' added Jack Heller, manager at LA-based The Schiff Company, which manages stars such as Justin Timberlake and Liv Tyler as well as Edison Chen and Shu Qi.

Heller, who helped Chen get a role in The Grudge 2 after spotting him in the Infernal Affairs trilogy, said it's important to co-operate with a star's home agency when they're breaking into Hollywood. 'It's not a case of stealing stars away - it's important to work closely with his home base which in his case is [Hong Kong's] Rich & Famous.'

Panelists also noted how non-US stars increasingly work between Hollywood and local markets. Case in point is Maggie Q who appears in upcoming US production Live Free And Die Hard but next month starts shooting Hong Kong-Korea co-production Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon in China.