EXCLUSIVE: Chinese film producers Chun-Yi Yueh and Changyu Li and UK writer-producers Robert and Ashley Sidaway together with the UK’s Iain Brown and Brown Films have launched the $5m funded SZ Wonder Pictures.

The new outfit will produce five feature films over three years based out of Shenzen, China and Auckland, New Zealand. 

The first title is $18m family fantasy adventure The Wonder 3D, directed by BAFTA Award-winner Peter Hewitt (Garfield, The Borrowers) which will start principal photography in October 2013 in Auckland and Shenzhen. The Chinese and Western cast will be announced shortly but Karl Urban and Willow Shields were previously understood to be attached to the project.

US-based Hyde Park International will handle sales and distribution on the film outside mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Production partners include venture capital company RuHing Partners in China, New Zealand Film Commission and Film Auckland. Bonding the film in both China and New Zealand is European Film Bonds.

The crew includes cinematographer Richard Bluck (Avatar), production designer David L. Snyder (Blade Runner), visual effects consultant Chris Woods (Spring Breakers) and stunt director Andy Cheng (Twilight). 

China-New Zealand agreement

The setting up of SZ Wonder Pictures follows on from the signature of the Memorandum of Co-Operation between government representatives from the cities of Shenzen and Auckland, and the public and media announcements supported by the respective mayors in both cities.  The joint production and development company will operate out of Shenzhen International Low-Carbon City.   

Wonder Pictures’ subsidiary, The Film Institute, will tap New Zealand and international film-making talent to work on the ongoing genre co-productions with budgets from $15m to $40m for global release. One key goal of the new venture is to develop further the infrastructure of film production in Shenzhen.

“Wonder Pictures will produce official Chinese co-productions, absolutely for international sales and distribution, and we are honoured to be working with government support and encouragement of the Deputy-Mayor’s office in Shenzhen,” said Robert Sidaway.

“With our trusted and talented producer friends, there is a huge amount of work to be done to fulfill the intentions of this joint venture, which starts with The Wonder 3D as the cornerstone of the operation - a modern day adventure story that was fully developed to entertain viewers in both the East and West.

“This is a major opportunity for film makers and together we are about to do something very special.” 

The Wonder 3D

Family fantasy adventure,  The Wonder 3D follows three teenagers, led by defiant outsider Rachel, who after a bruising encounter with school bullies, experiences something incredible and seemingly impossible… a rainbow reaching up to the sky from a pool of golden energy. 

With the help of friends Grace (a Chinese girl) and Tane (a Maori boy), the teenage trio adopt high-tech methods to find another, and learning of ancient rainbow legends they each make a special wish. 

Finally they actually track down a rainbow and go on an incredible but terrifying ride.  What the teenagers don’t realize is that on entering the rainbow, they’ve alerted the powerful covert meteorological agency, Climate Anomalies Corporation, and Dr Helen Armstrong and her agents are soon in pursuit of them. 

As they crashland in the midst of a Dragon Boat Festival in China, the trio is saved by teenage allies. Desperate to find a rainbow to take them home, their new friends and young scientist Ichee find the means, but their journey back to New Zealand is amidst violent skies across the Pacific and their mission becomes a global race against time to restore the whole balance of nature.