Fox International Announces Chinese Film Development Award (Cannes)

Recipients will receive a cash grant and a first-look deal with the studio.

CANNES -- Fox International Productions and the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) have announced the creation of the annual Fox Chinese Film Development Award, which is accompanied by a first-look deal with the studio and a cash grant of HK$100,000.

“We believe that there is a wealth of unrealized filmmakers in China,” FIP president Sanford Panitch said during a press conference in Cannes. “One of the goals of FIP is about finding this talent and introducing them to the rest of the world.”

The award is part of FIP’s latest effort to break into the local-language film business in the worlds’ fastest growing movie market.

Submissions are open to any Chinese-language project, or a project with the potential to be adapted into a Chinese-language film. They can be submitted by the copywriter of the project, whether a director, producer, writer or other talent.

The call for entries is open from now through Oct. 30. Projects will be judged based on their creativity, originality and Asian cultural content, as well as their potential for being made into a full-length feature.

Five projects will be shortlisted. The first winner will be announced at the HAF awards ceremony in March 2012.

“We are most grateful to Fox for their award,” said Roger Garcia, executive director of the Hong International Film Festival society, which oversees HAF. “Fox’s decision to make their award at HAF shows that Hong Kong continues to be the hub our our region’s cinema.”

Now in its 10th year, HAF supports cinema culture in the Asian region by selection projects from various countries to take part in the three-day event. HAF funding and awards have contributed to more than 50 film projects, many of which have have gone on to play at major film festivals and secure distribution.

The Fox Chinese Film Award comes as Hollywood studios amp up their efforts to make Chinese co-productions, and take part in the moviegoing boom in China.

FIP’s first mandarin-language co-production, Hot Summer Days, made in 2009 with Beijing-based partners Huayi Brothers, was shot for $2.4 million and grossed $22 million.  A sequel is in the works and FIP hopes soon to be able to announce its 2011 release in China.

FIP’s second China foray, The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman, also with Huayi, cost less to make (under $1 million) and made less back (about $3 million), but exceeded the studio’s expectations by launching an unknown director with great potential, Panitch says.

Director Wuershan, an ethnic minority from China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, moved from his feature debut with FIP to direct the sequel to the 2008 hit Painted Skin, from Hong Kong director Gordon Chan, that grossed about $33 million at China’s box office.

“With the directors we’re finding, it’s not about the future, it’s about now,” Panitch said in an earlier interview, noting that Wuershan’s debut film The Butcher would help form the first slate of films launching the recently announced Fox World Cinema label.

Jonathan Landreth reported from Beijing.