Wong Kar Wai to Direct Chinese Online Drama Series

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Wong Kar Wai

The show is part of a slew of development deals signed by emerging Chinese production powerhouse Huanxi Media Group.

Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai is bringing his slow-burn brand of art house cinema into the internet video era.

The 57-year-old filmmaker, renowned for his artful kung fu flicks (The Grandmaster) and moody dramas (In the Mood for Love), has signed a deal with Huanxi Media Group to produce and co-direct an 18-episode original drama series for digital distribution in China and around the world.

Huanxi has agreed to spend 20 million-25 million RMB ($3.10 million-$3.85 million) per episode, a lavish production budget by Chinese internet drama standards. The show will have two seasons — one with 12 episodes, the other with six — with the first season expected to complete production in 2017. Casting and story details were not disclosed.

Wong is just one piece of an impressive stable of Greater Chinese filmmakers Huanxi announced signing on Thursday. Influential Hong Kong producer and director Peter Chan also has partnered with the company. Huanxi acquired the right to take a 60 percent stake in two to four feature films produced and directed by Chan over the coming six years.

As part of the cooperation agreements, both Wong and Chan, or their personal production outfits, have been given minority shares in Huanxi. They also will serve as artistic advisors at the company. 

Huanxi was founded by Hong Kong producer and financier Dong Ping in 2015. In addition to film and television, the company engages in advertising, securities trading and real estate services. Dong launched Huanxi shortly after selling his prior media company, ChinaVision, to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group for $800 million in 2014. Dong's credits as a producer include Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Stephen Chow's Journey to the West and last-year's blockbuster comedy Lost in Hong Kong.

In 2015, Huanxi signed in-demand Chinese directors Ning Hao (Breakup Buddies) and Xu Zheng (Lost in Hong Kong, Lost in Thailand). Both filmmakers reached similar equity agreements with Huanxi and are now developing projects for the company.

Further additions to Huanxi's talent roster include exclusive three-picture deals with Li Yang (Blind Mountain) and Liu Xingang (The Wind Blows, The Skies Part), as well as a deal with best-selling Chinese science-fiction writer and Hugo Award-winner Liu Cixin to write five sci-fi pics. The company says it also plans to invest in five movies produced by Ning Hao and directed by emerging Chinese filmmakers.

"The directors we signed today include both experienced internationally-renowned directors and new directors with great potential," said Huanxi CEO Xiang Shaokun. "These partnerships with directors demonstrate our determination to create films of high commercial value and artistic quality, and major steps towards creating a content powerhouse in the Chinese film market."