Shaw Bros. returns with trio of films

Aptly named 'Turning Point' to lead new slate, August release

HONG KONG -- Former Asian film giant Shaw Brothers is returning to filmmaking business with a new slate, co-produced with partly-owned subsidiary Television Broadcasts Limited. Distribution of the slate will be mainly handled by Shaw Brothers while TVB focuses on the production operations.

Under a joint venture named Concept Legend established with equal equity shareholding between Shaw Brothers and TVB -- of which Shaw Brothers owns a 26% -- the former powerhouse will re-enter the fray with “Turning Point,” a HK$13 million (US$1.68 million) spin-off film of the television miniseries “E.U.,” which made a splash in Hong Kong last spring. 

Directed by “The Untold Story” helmer Herman Yau and starring award-winning actors Anthony Wong (“Infernal Affairs”), Francis Ng (“The Mission”) and Michael Tse, who reprised his popular role “Laughing Sir” in the original show. The cops-and-robbers drama is scheduled for release August 13 in Hong Kong, and August 20 in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

 The Shaw Brothers/TVB slate is based on a three-pronged strategy to utilize Hong Kong human resources, to showcase the facilities of the Shaw Brothers-owned Shaw Studios in Hong Kong, and to target local audiences, TVB production resources division controller Virginia Lok told The Hollywood Reporter.  “We hope to help the local film industry as much as we can. Although a lot of Hong Kong filmmakers are now working in China, a considerable number of crews remain in Hong Kong; there weren’t enough jobs. Our priority is to hire Hong Kong crew and Hong Kong actors in our films,” Lok said. “But depending on the subject matter and genre, we’ll consider co-producing with Chinese partners,” she added.

“Turning Point” was shot in location around the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, but the upcoming slate will be partly filmed at the US$180 million Shaw Studios soundstages in Hong Kong's Clearwater Bay, and all post-production will be done at the studios’ new visual and audio post-production facilities.

In addition to “Turning Point," the studio is now developing three films, two of which will begin production this year. The first is the US$5 million ensemble comedy “House of 73 Tenants," a sequel-of-sorts to a 1973 Shaw Brother blockbuster, executive produced by Hong Kong multi-hyphenate Eric Tsang and co-directed by Tsang and Riley Yip (“Elixir of Love”). "House" will also enlist Oscar-nominated costume designer Yee Chung-man (“Curse of the Golden Flower”) overseeing art direction.

The story revolves around the lessees of a Hong Kong market-styled shopping mall made up of tiny stores. Filming will commence in September at the Shaw Studios for a 2010 Chinese New Year release date. The studio is now in negotiation with an unnamed Chinese partner for a co-production release in the country.

Next in the works is a young adult urban romantic comedy tentatively titled “Love Expert," to be executive produced by Paco Wong and directed by Patrick Kong (a.k.a Yip Lim-sum), the hit-making team of “L for Love, L for Lies” and “Marriage with a Fool." A script has been developed, filming will take place later this year.  The studio is now developing a period drama to be produced in 2010.

There is no set number of films slated to restart the Shaw Brothers/TVB engine, but diversity is the key. “The upcoming slate consists of different genres and different scales, and it’s the direction we’re going. There’s no directive to make only blockbusters,” Lok said.