Leading Hong Kong comedy director Joe Ma has set up a new production label Singing Horse Productions to deliver a slate of youth-oriented pictures. The company is jointly owned with Thomas Leong's talent agency International Pacific Artists (IPA) and Ivy Kong, former managing director of Mei Ah's production arm B.I.G.

Singing Horse initially aims to deliver five to seven pictures a year, all either directed by Ma or produced by him. Details of a slate involving directors from Hong Kong, China and Singapore will be unveiled soon, following the imminent signing of an overall production deal with one of Hong Kong's oldest studio groups.

"Too often Hong Kong production companies dominate the young directors they sign. But my objective is to guide them with a light touch," said Ma, who will oversee development and production.

Ma's recent credits include the Shaw Brothers-financed Fighting For Love which starred Tony Leung Chiu Wei and Sammi Cheng and grossed HK$18m in Hong Kong, and the critically acclaimed Funeral March, which was bankrolled by Emperor Multimedia Group.

"Singing Horse is designed to give Joe's creative visions the nurturing they need in a non-oppressive financial environment," said Leong. "We are looking to make a range of user-friendly commercial films, especially comedies and romantic comedies."

The company is expected to lean on IPA's branch network, which covers Hong Kong, China, Korea and the US in a bid to match talent from across the Asian region with Hong Kong finance and efficiency. "Although we are signing a studio deal which gives us the comfort we need, Singing Horse is not studio controlled. We will have a non-exclusive arrangement and see our films distributed in Hong Kong and sold abroad by a number of different outfits," said Leong.