EXCLUSIVE: MakerVille, the recently launched entertainment subsidiary of Hong Kong media group PCCW, is set to make a splash at Filmart, unveiling an ambitious slate of movies and premium series, following its debut feature Mad Fate, which had its world premiere at Berlin film festival.
Lofai Lo, MakerVille’s CEO and former General Manager of PCCW’s free-to-air channel ViuTV, sat down with Deadline to talk through the slate and outline the company’s production strategy. In addition to movies with international appeal, which Hong Kong has long been known for, he aims to put local creators on the map with a slate of high-end Cantonese and Mandarin-language TV series that can travel beyond Hong Kong.
“We produce around 2,000 hours of programming a year for ViuTV, and while most is targeted at the local market, it’s allowed us to create an incubator structure where we can experiment with new ideas, directors and scripts,” Lo explains.
“Through that process we’ve been able to select some high-potential talent and create a pipeline of premium content. But we’re also an open platform in the sense that we work with some experienced filmmakers like [Mad Fate director] Soi Cheang, and some that are fresh out of university. That’s why we’re called MakerVille – it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, we want to be the place where filmmakers can gather and create together.”
On the series side, MakerVille is reteaming with its Mad Fate co-producer, Johnnie To’s Milkyway Image, on fantasy drama Three Destinies (working title), which tentatively has ten episodes. Scripted by Ho Ching Yi (Time), the series begins with a teenager facing key decisions in life, then maps out three different scenarios for his future, based on the different choices he could have made.
Three up-and-coming Hong Kong filmmakers – Jeff Cheung (Agent Mr Chan), Vicky Wong (Trivisa) and Jonathan Li (The Brink) – are on board to direct the series, with cast including Ernesto de Sousa, Chan Kwok Pong and Chrissie Chau. Johnnie To and his long-time producing partners, Yau Nai-hoi and Elaine Chu, will produce.
MakerVille is also producing a 20-episode series, A Perfect Gentleman (working title), about a gangster released from jail after 30 years, who struggles to adjust to modern life with its new technology and changes to triad culture. “There’ll be some humour, but more like black comedy, because underneath it’s still a gangster story,” says Lo.
The ensemble cast includes Philip Keung (Shock Wave), Jessica Hsuan (G Storm), Angie Cheong and members of Hong Kong boy band Error, which MakerVille manages. Chan Kiu-ying and Patrick Leung are on board as producers.
MakerVille is also the talent management agency for Hong Kong’s biggest boy band, Mirror, and is prepping a movie, We Twelve, that stars all 12 members of the Cantopop sensation, some of whom have already made their acting debuts in hit movies.
“It’s not easy to write a story that has 12 strong roles, not just a few lead characters and lots of supporting cast, so we’re working with a writer who has already worked with the boys for five years,” Lo says. Scripted by Cheung Lai Sze, the film is directed by Berry Ho, who has also worked with the band on music videos, and produced by George King.
Also on the film side, MakerVille is teaming with Singapore-based MM2 Entertainment on Sen-I Yu’s New York-set drama, My Heavenly City, set to star Vivian Sung and Mirror member Keung To.
Meanwhile, MakerVille’s first production, Soi Cheang’s Mad Fate, has been selected as one of two opening films at this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival (March 30-April 10), following its premiere in Berlinale Special. The noir thriller stars Lam Ka Tung and Mirror member Lokman Yeung, making his acting debut. “We had a good response to Lokman’s performance in Berlin, so that’s given us confidence to keep developing stories for other idols,” says Lo.
MakerVille and Hong Kong free-to-air service ViuTV are both subsidiaries of PCCW Media Group, along with pan-regional streaming platform Viu, but Lo says these relationships don’t limit who the company can work with. While MakerVille will produce some premium content for Viu, the company is also free to work with other regional and global streamers. MakerVille is also setting up an international distribution division to licence its content internationally, under Head of International Sales and Marketing, Regent Lai.
“The plan is to produce around five films and ten series each year which are aimed at the regional or international level,” Lo explains. “We have no set guidelines regarding genre or demographics, as we’re more focused on stories and filmmakers. We do have data we can refer to but feel it’s more important to identify content that is fresh and unique, because the audience is constantly evolving.”
Viu has its own separate pipeline of production, including local-language dramas produced out of Korea and Southeast Asia, which along with the MakerVille slate, will be presented in a showcase at Filmart on Wednesday (March 15).