The creation of a Hong Kong Film Commission - centralising all of the territory's film support mechanisms - was one of the key proposals to emerge from a crisis conference held by the Hong Kong film industry yesterday (September 18).

Conference delegates also suggested that the Hong Kong government underwrite bank loans for film production.

"We're not asking for subsidies or hand-outs," said John Sham, standing adviser to the Hong Kong Federation of Film Workers which organised the event. "But there are other ways the government can help."

The one-day "Revitalising Hong Kong Film Industry Forum" was called in response to a sharp downturn in production levels and box office receipts in 2002. Box office for Hong Kong-produced films plummeted by 38% between January and August 2002. Only 53 films were produced during the period compared to 126 in 2001.

Details of who should run the proposed film commission and how it should be funded have yet to be thrashed out. But delegates agreed that the current system of government support for the film industry is far too decentralised. A representative of the Korean Film Commission, Lee Kwang-jin, was called on to outline how the body had contributed to the current boom in Korean cinema.

Delegates also proposed that a portion of Hong Kong's $100m Film Development Fund should be used to guarantee bank loans for film production. Hong Kong's deputy secretary for IT and Broadcasting, Alan Siu - one of several government representatives at the event - revealed that his department is considering the proposal.

Access to the mainland Chinese market was also a hot topic at the forum. Delegates discussed the concept of establishing a special "cultural zone" in neighbouring Guangdong Province. However calls to lobby the Chinese government to allow Hong Kong films to bypass import quotas were widely regarded as impractical.

The forum was strongly supported with about 400 film industry figures in attendance. Guest speakers included producer Bill Kong, Media Asia head Nansun Shi, director Derek Yee and Applause Pictures co-founder Allan Fung. The federation expects to present the government with a paper outlining its proposals at the end of October.