Film is billed as being the first entirely financed out of China and shot by a Hollywood director.

Bill Guttentag [pictured] is preparing to direct The French Concession in Shanghai next year, a film billed as being the first entirely financed out of China and shot by a Hollywood director.

Executive producer Leo Shi Young said the contemporary story has strong themes of food and love, in the same vein as Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, and will star leading Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.

The title refers to the district in Shanghai where the film is set. Filming is expected to begin there from March or April. The story is set within the expatriate community and two days of filming will also occur in Paris to accommodate scenes involving a character who is a French architect.

“In Hollywood, if 40% or more of the dialogue is in a foreign language it is a foreign film; we are going to make sure that 60% of the film is in English,” Young told Screendaily this week at the Balinale Film Festival. “The original idea is we want to make a film that will get released in the US.”

Young’s Shanghai-based company, Mandarin Entertainment, will put up 20% of the US$5-6m budget and the rest will come from China’s Kylin Film Productions.

“Kylin made Painted Skin 2, which was released in China a few months ago and grossed more than $100m,” he said.

Young was executive producer of Zhang Yimou’s 2011 historical drama The Flowers of War, which Guttentag was originally attached to. When that feature didn’t pan out for Guttentag he made a documentary that covered the same theme - the 1937 Rape of Nanking - during which the Japanese massacred thousands of Chinese people. It earned him a Humanitarian Award for documentary at the 2007 Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Guttentag has won Oscars for Twin Towers and You Don’t Have To Die, in the category for documentary, short subjects. He teaches a class in film at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University in the US.

Young said the Chinese production industry will continue to strengthen because of the growth in screens: numbers will reach 20,000 in 2013.