John Woo’s Flying Tigers among big budget international co-productions to secure backing at first Beijing Film Market.

The first Beijing Film Market (BFM), part of the first Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), ended yesterday with at least seven big-budget projects securing production parternships and around 800 buyers and producers participating in the three-day event (Apr 24 - 26).

BJIFF organizers managed to gather seven large projects that had reached contract-signing stage during BFM, although some of the projects were previously known to the public.

Among the seven projects, three will be made as English-speaking, international co-productions - John Woo’s WWII fighter plane feature Flying Tigers, US comic adaptation The Way of Rats, and sci-fi action picture Aurora.

Despite BJIFF’s announcement that the financing of Flying Tigers reached $79m (RMB520m), director Woo told local reporters at the opening ceremony that production of the film would be postponed until 2012 due to prolonged development and pre-production work. 

The acclaimed director said he is likely to shoot long-prepared Chinese civil war drama 1949 in the meantime. Production outfit Lion Rock had developed 1949 in 2008 but canceled the production process in 2009 due to script rights disputes. Woo said he believed the dispute was being settled and the production could start in autumn. 

Lion Rock producer Terence Chang told Screendaily that Flying Tigers would be postponed to 2012 but declined to confirm details of 1949 before the contract was sealed.

The Way of Rats, to be produced by Beijing-based Fantawild Films, Beijing’s National Film Capital and The Heist (2000) producer Shimon Arama, is a $94m project currently in pre-production. According to Fantawild Films, producer of Dayyang Eng’s Kevin Spacey drama Inseparable, The Way of Rats is to be shot in 3D and will start at the end of 2011.

Aurora, a $25m project, will be co-produced by Beijing-based Da Han World Media, LA based Redwire Pictures and Oceanview Media. Dan Bush (The Signal) will direct the film which he co-wrote with Conal Byrne. About 75% of the film will be shot in China, according to Luke Daniels from Redwire. 

Shooting will start in autumn this year with a mid-2012 release schedule. According to Da Han World Media, the company will invest 30% of the budget and will handle distribution of all Asian territories.

The first BFM comprised a market area with 100 booths, daily project presentations and a film financing salon. Participants told Screendaily the first instalment of BFM was mixed with a sense of chaos and overall eagerness among Chinese film companies to do business with both local and foreign companies. 

Some international investors complained that the market handbook was not available until the second day of the market, and there was confusion arising from a lack of information between the exhibition and project promotion sections. 

However, other buyers said they were overwhelmed by the passion of Chinese producers for the fast-growing film business. All forums were packed, especially the Film Financing Salon on the last day of the market. 

Salon speakers such as Anni Browning of Film Finances Australia, Ivy Zhong of Beijing Galloping Horse and Zhao Xianglong of Beijing-based completion bond provider Credit Orienwise Group were embraced by a crowd of industry newbies, eager to exchange business cards.