Hong Kong's Film Development Council, established by the government earlier this year to support the ailing local film industry, has unveiled details of its Film Development Fund (FDF), which aims to provide financial support for small-to-medium budget film productions.

The $38m (HK$300m) fund, which is now inviting applications, will fund films with budgets not exceeding $1.55m (HK$12m) and employing a certain proportion of Hong Kong talent. Funding support will be capped at 30% of the production budget or a maximum of $0.46m (HK$3.6m) per film.

The funding will be in the form of equity investment, rather than grants or subsidies, although the FDC didn't reveal details of profit participation or how revenues would be redeployed.

In keeping with the Hong Kong government's business-minded and risk-averse nature, the fund will have an emphasis on commercial productions, steered by established directors, or by newcomer directors with experienced producers.

Either the director or producer of each project must have produced and released at least two films in the last ten years to qualify for funding.

The FDC will evaluate factors such as the theatrical release potential of each project, whether it's intended for 'mass appeal rather than only a niche market', and the feasibility of the proposed budget and marketing strategy.

Allaying fears that the FDC would bow to mainland pressure on censorship requirements, the council said it would not vet the content of scripts.

Applications will be considered by a Fund Vetting Committee comprising FDC members and drawing on the advice of film industry professionals in the fields of production, distribution and marketing.

'We are now inviting relevant individuals to join the Panel of Examiners for a two-year tenure,' said FDC chairman Jack So. 'We will also arrange briefing sessions for the industry to explain the application details of the FDF and related arrangements.'

Hong Kong's falling production levels, combined with an emphasis on big-budget productions aimed at mainland audiences, has resulted in low output of the small-to-medium budget films that are necessary to keep Hong Kong crews working and to nurture new talent.