Launched last April, the Film Development Council (FDC) advises the Hong Kong government on policy for the promotion and development of the local film industry. It also oversees the $38m (hk$300m) Film Development Fund and related areas, such as training and promotion of film literacy.
Designed to support small to medium-sized productions, the fund backs films with budgets not exceeding $1.6m (hk$12m), which employ a certain proportion of Hong Kong talent. Funding support is in the form of equity investment and is capped at 30% of the production budget or a maximum of $460,000 (hk$3.6m) per film.
According to FDC secretary general Wellington Fung, projects can apply to the fund when they have 50%-70% of funding in place - which can be in the form of a memorandum of understanding or even just a verbal agreement. If approved, the fund will contribute up to 30% of the budget.
If the projects only have 50% in place, the fund can help the producers find the remaining 20%. 'We aim to support independent producers,' says Fung. 'Now only the big companies are calling the shots, so low to medium-budget films are not finding investment. Our purpose is to fill that gap.'
Fung adds that the fund is not necessarily backing arthouse films, as niche projects can apply for support from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Rather than judge on artistic or cultural merit, the fund's vetting committee looks at whether projects qualify as Hong Kong films, have the right commercial elements in place, and have budgets in line with potential performance.
Indeed, the director or producer of each project must have produced and released at least two films in the last 10 years. Also three of the five key creative elements (director, producer, writer, male and female lead) must be permanent Hong Kong residents.
The FDC approved funding for its first two projects last month - Bliss Pictures' $1.5m (hk$12m) animated feature McDull Wudang and $692,000 (hk$5.4m) rom-com Claustrophobia.
Fung admits the fund has not been inundated with applications in the early stages, but he expects this to change after a few success stories. 'Once indie producers start to feel comfortable with this, they will be encouraged to apply.'