Japanese film distributor Klockworx is entering the international film production business with the unveiling of its first project, Meher Grougian's Citizen Zero, due to start shooting in Los Angeles in December.

Budgeted at $1m, the SciFi thriller about a man who has lost his identity, will be the director's first feature, shot in a combination of animation and live action.

Klockworx spotted Grougian's short film Plug, also a SciFi thriller, about a man who falls in love with a computer, which was screened at the Slamdance festival in 2000.

Plug was shot in a combination of animation and live action. It had a freshness and uniqueness of style with a touch of Japanese animation and had the sparkle of the director's talent in its story. We are convinced that his feature film will be great entertainment,
said Kanako Koido, one of the Klockworx producers on Citizen Zero.

At the same time, Klockworx has lined up two international co-productions, as part of its move into international film production.
In the past few years, the price of independent films has soared to around $1m,
commented Koido.
Those films which we used to distribute are now handled by the major independent film distributors like Gaga. We cannot possibly compete with those big distributors. Also, the number of video sales has declined, which has always been our major business until very recently. Therefore, we are moving into production to secure all Japanese rights at a relatively reasonable price.

The company is co-producing Karim Hussain's Ascension with Canadian production company Zuno Films, a SciFi thriller about three women who go in search of God's killer. Currently in production in Montreal until September, the $1m project will be released in Spring 2003. Klockworx has all Japanese rights and also handles international sales.

Another project is director Vincenzo Natali's (Cube) Nothing, co-produced with Senator International and Canada's 49th Parallel.

With a budget of about $10m, the film is scheduled to go into production in Toronto from June 17 until July 26 and is to be released in Spring 2003. Klockworx has all Japan rights while Senator International is handling international sales. The film has already sold French and Polish distribution rights.

Already wrapped, and ready for a summer release in Japan is Alive, which Klockworx co-produced with Japan's Skyworx Films. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura of Versus, the film is a SciFi thriller about a man involved in human experimentation.

Launched in 1997, Klockworx is engaged in film distribution and video and DVD sales, releasing such smash hits as The Blair Witch Project, a co-release with Asmik Ace and Shochiku that grossed $13m in Japan, Korean thriller Tell Me Something that earned $2m and Yongyoot Thongkongtoon's The Iron Ladies, a Thai comedy about a gay volleyball team that earned $1.2m at the Japanese box office.

Klockworx's upcoming release schedule includes Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer.