Korean maestro ImKwon-taek's 100th film has started production with backing from start-up studioPrime Entertainment which is contributing 40% of the $3.8m budget and willdistribute the film.

In addition, producer Kino2officially announced Cho Jae-hyun, whose credits include Kim Ki-duk's Bad Guy, as the male lead.

Im's Cheon-nyun-hak, which translates literally as One Thousand Year Crane, is a story based on three wanderingmusicians, featuring the same characters from his 1993 classic Sopyonje. Actress Oh Jung-hae continuesin her role from the previous film as a blind pansori singer.

Lack of star casting hadpreviously led to a near-shutdown of the film late last year when main investorLotte Entertainment pulled out. Start-up Kino2 stepped in with new investorsCenturion Technology Investment and the Korean Film Council in Jan 2006.

Im remarked that it had beenfrustrating to have investors pull out because of the lack of stars, butironically this had turned out to be a good thing: "I'd always wanted to workwith Cho Jae-hyun and the temporary snag made it possible."

Prime Entertainment isbulking up on its local film distribution slate with productions from LJ Film -the production house acquired by Prime in January - such as Song Hae-sung's Our Happy Time and Joh Ui-seok's The World Of Silence, both of which itsecured through a partnership with Centurion.

Prime's head of productionand LJ Film chief, Lee Seung-jae, told screendaily.com that the new major plans to start distribution inJune with thriller Goota Yoobaljadeul.The film, which stars Han Suk-kyu (Shiri),was originally slated for distribution by CJ Entertainment. Prime and Centurion"are retro-funding $2m for development and picking up distribution rights,"according to Lee.