Hong Kong's government is backing a HK4.8m ($0.6m) scheme which will enable local screenwriters to write scripts on spec.

The Hong Kong Screenwriters Guild has secured the funds from the government's Film Development Fund and hopes to launch the initiative, dubbed the "Assistance Scheme for Scriptwriters", on June 8.

The scheme is open to all professional and non-professional screenwriters. A committee, made up of three members of the Screenwriters Guild and one member of the Directors Guild, will select forty screenplays which are guaranteed HK$80,000 apiece if completed on schedule.

The Screenwriters Guild will also help sell the finished scripts. If they sell for more than HK$80,000, the screenwriter receives the difference in addition to the amount already paid.

"In the past, it was very hard for screenwriters to write their own ideas," said the scheme's director Lai Man-cheuk. "They had to write what the director ordered, or whatever genre was hot. The aim of this scheme is to give them the autonomy to sell their own ideas."

The scheme is directed at younger, less-established screenwriters, who usually earn between HK$10,000 - HK$50,000 for one screenplay. More established writers can earn up to ten times those figures.

Chan Man-keung, whose screenplays Queen Of Temple St (1990) and Summer Snow (1995) have both won Hong Kong Film Awards, said the scheme is a boon to new talent. "As a young screenwriter, you can waste a few months on a screenplay that doesn't pay much. The support from the financial assistance gives writers a lot more freedom."