FilmEngine Asia/Orient, a joint venture between Los Angeles-based FilmEngine and Taiwan’s Hsu Po-yun (許博允), was officially launched in Taipei yesterday.
The collaborative enterprise aims to produce 12 films over the next six years, four of which will tell stories inspired by Chinese history and culture. The dozen films are to be in English and will be focused at the international market.
A guiding group with a string of credits, including Hsu — the 68-year-old cofounder of New Aspect Cultural Foundation — are to preside over the company, which will be based in Taipei. One of Hsu’s main goals is to introduce Hollywood’s well-developed, “scientific” production system to Taiwan’s film industry.
“It is tough to be a film director in Taiwan. The director must deal with everything. In Hollywood, it is all about teamwork,” Hsu said.
Anthony Scott Rhulen, founder and chief executive of FilmEngine, said Hollywood is no stranger to working with Taiwanese talent, such as Ang Lee (李安), Edward Yang (楊德昌) and Justin Lin (林詣彬), and his company is hoping it can maintain the good tradition and work with local directors, producers and other professionals.
“If Taiwan’s government can support us, we look forward to working here,” Rhulen said at the launch event.
Since its inception in 2001, FilmEngine has produced 14 films and TV products which have grossed US$1 billion, Rhulen said. The company’s most noticeable productions include The Rum Diary, starring Johnny Depp, and The Butterfly Effect.
The new Taipei-based company’s start-up capital of US$50 million will come from FilmEngine, according to FilmEngine’s chief operating officer Gregory Chou. The estimated budget for the slate of 12 movies is about US$250 million.
Hsu said investors from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong have expressed keen interest, but he hopes the core investors will be Taiwanese.
The first Chinese-related movie to be made by the joint venture is the historical drama Formosa Koxinga, which tells the story of Cheng Chen-kung (鄭成功), a Ming Dynasty loyalist who defeated the Dutch East India Company in Taiwan during the 17th century.
When asked if the relatively unknown history of the Chinese commander could appeal to an international audience, Hsu said the aim was not to make an action flick about one hero, but to create an epic that sheds light on world events and historical figures that played an important role in shaping the naval powers in the 17th century.
“How many people knew about the city of Troy before the movie Troy? How many of today’s youngsters came to know about Puyi because of The Last Emperor,” Hsu asked. “This is exactly the reason why I want to give myself over to filmmaking. Films can reach people’s hearts and have a great influence.”
Hsu also said he will seek to take up the position of producer for the project in order to take more control. Pre-production will take approximately one year, and the budget is estimated to be US$50 million, he said.
“Our agreement is that my involvement is essential for Chinese-related projects, and that they have to respect my decisions,” Hsu said.