Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) has signed an agreement with award-winning local producer Bill Kong toprovide financing for the production of Zhang Yimou's Curse Of The Golden Flower.

Currently shooting at China's Hengdian World Studios, the $45m film is producedby Kong and Beijing New Picture Film Co with Focus Features handling salesoutside Asia, English-speaking territories and Latin America. Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li head the cast.

"This is a significantmilestone for Hong Kong, China and the whole of Asia's entertainment industry," said Kong, speaking at the signing ceremony."For an Asian filmmaker, local bank financing provides an alternate means tofunding movies that have historically been financed by private investors only."

Kong has used bank financingfor his previous martial arts epics, Heroand House Of Flying Daggers, butworked with banks in the US and Europe such as France's Natexis Banques Populaires.

SCB set up its HongKong-based Creative Industries department, headed by Susan Ho, at the end oflast year in a move that could revolutionise film financing in the territorywhich has traditionally relied on private investment. Former RBS executive LeeBeasley joined the department as head of media and entertainment a few monthsago.

One of the department'sfirst big moves was to enter into a unique banking relationship with Dutch/HK-basedsales agent Fortissimo Films. The arrangement involves a revolving line of creditbased on the bank discounting Fortissimo's contracts portfolio, resulting in aline of credit which the sales agent can invest in producing and acquiringsmaller projects.