China's leading independent producer, the American-born Peter Loehr is to quit Beijing-based Imar Films and establish an international label focused on bigger and more ambitious pictures.
His new outfit Ming Productions will also be located in Beijing, but starts life with a slate of four projects and a three-picture development deal with Japan's Amuse. "Before moving to China I'd worked in Japan and built up many contacts. I've long wanted to bring Japanese investors into the mix. It will allow us to widen the range of Asian films we do."
"Unlike western producers it is easy for me to shoot a movie in China. What we want to do now is continue to concentrate on Asian themed-pictures, and enlarge our horizons," said Loehr. Finance is likely to be arranged on a picture by picture basis.
Loehr, who has been based in Beijing for the last six years, also believes he has run up against the technical limits of the Chinese industry. "We created a model at IMAR based on using young Chinese directors. But we have encountered obstacles which cannot be overcome in China, issues such as special effects and post-production," said Loehr. "We need to be doing co-productions and working with international investors."
The first picture is likely to be Ghost At The Banquet, based on a script by Loehr himself. The project, which has already attracted Hollywood studio interest, is a 1930s-set epic with elements of suspense and political drama featuring an American male lead. The budget is currently envisaged in the region of $50m, which could make it the biggest ever film shot in China.
Also set to join the Ming dynasty is a $30m action picture with the working title of The Chain and locations that take in Hong Kong and Tokyo. "This should be comical, sexy and very violent," said Loehr, who maintains the relationship with the award-winning Zhang and will produce his forthcoming $4m family drama.
Imar, which was behind All The Way and Zhang Yang's Shower, Spicy Love Soup and most recently Quitting, was established with finance from Taiwan's Rock Record and benefited from the support of the Xi'an Film Studios, China's most prestigious production house. Loehr, who has pioneered new marketing techniques in China and personally taken Imar's contemporary, urban films on tours of the rural provinces, will effect a transition period and cut ties with Imar at the end of December.