A popular local actor recently half-joked that if he was forced to choose between shooting the head of state or film producer Wong Jing, he would shoot the former. The reason? 'Because Wong Jing is the only one giving us steady work.' The comment may have been in jest but there is more than a grain of truth in it. Wong is certainly the most prolific producer-director in town, even if he is not the most respected. In a year when all in the film industry have been bemoaning their lot, Wong is stronger than ever. 'There will always be one of my films on the circuit,' he says. At the moment, it is special effects martial arts fantasy The Stormriders, and coming up soon will be a low-budget slapstick Tricky King. This year's Hong Kong production figures are expected to dip well below 70 films and, of these, about 20 will be Wong Jing productions, almost twice his output last year. Wong has 10 films in pre-production which will join the list of more than 160 films he has either directed or produced in the past 23 years. Little wonder he has been called the Cantonese Roger Corman. The likelihood is he will surpass Corman, who has produced or directed more than 250 films - including The Little Shop of Horrors and Vampirella - in the past four decades. Wong, 43, has only been in the business for a little more than two decades and intends to stick around. 'The bottom line in this business is staying power,' says the producer-director and sometime-actor. And the secret to having staying power, he adds, is simple. 'Treat film-making like a business and not your personal hobby,' he says. 'To make it a business then you have to look at the laws of supply and demand. If you like a certain kind of movie but the market does not want it, then you won't be able to make it. If my movies can find a niche to survive in the market, then I can go on making them. 'A lot of people in the business are idealistic and want to make what they call 'good films' but to make these films they say they need 'x' amount of money. But if that investment cannot be supported by market demand, then they won't find the money to make it.' 'Good' films are never a consideration for Wong simply because he does not believe there is such a thing. His films have varied considerably from sexploitation bombs such as Raped By An Angel to the lauded God of Gamblers. 'In my books, there is no good movie. I only consider whether it is successful or not. The Stormriders is a success because in these slow times, it can still pull in [more than $30 million] box office takings. But is it good? That's a matter of individual taste. 'Everyone's opinion is different. The older audience may dismiss it because they don't know what's happening. There are kids who love it because they find it very close to the comic book,' he says. 'A True Mob Story may appeal to the older group, however, because the younger generation may not be able to relate to the tribulations of the triads.' We are speaking in Wong's offices in Jordan, which has a surprisingly expansive sea view considering it is tucked in the maze of lanes adjacent to Nathan Road. 'I don't care about the view,' he shrugs. That perhaps best sums up his attitude to the way most of his film-making colleagues view him, and also the way he handles his growing empire. The baby-faced Wong is often a surprise to those who meet him for the first time. His office bears yet more testimony to his nature; unlike other film-makers' offices, which are full of posters of their creations, Wong's space is curiously devoid of anything but a religious poster and a shelf crammed full of video tapes. Similarly, it is difficult to equate his cultured educated tones with his more tasteless movies - such as Naked Killer , in which an out-of-control helicopter starts chopping people in half, or Sex and Zen , which tells the story of a Casanova whose quest for more sexual adventures leads him to transplant the penis of a donkey on to himself. 'There is no room for sentimentality in this business. You supply what the market demands,' he says. He has no bottom line either, he admits, when it comes to sexy movies. 'I just see what the market wants,' he repeats. 'Even if it was full nudity I'd think it was all right, but it would have to be category III and only for mature audiences. If you are over 18 and you are clear about what you want to see, then you can choose for yourself.' Wong throws out words such as 'risk', 'supply' and 'demand' with disarming regularity. Change the interview venue to a company boardroom and one could almost be discussing an import-export transaction. It is this ability to remain cool and level-headed that Wong credits for his remaining in business. 'My strongest point is film business management. There is no management in Hong Kong; most of them are not very professional. As I see it now, there are less than five people who qualify,' says Wong, who is part of the conglomerate that has successfully tendered for the proposed Junk Bay film studio site. 'I am a businessman first and foremost. This is a very brutal society which does not allow dreams. A lot of people don't agree with me [but] in my world there are no ideals, no dreams and no hopes.' Wong denies his cynicism is a product of years in the business. He entered the industry with eyes wide open. His father was well-known director Wong Tin-lam who directed highbrow dramas for the film studios before moving over to TVB to produce television soaps. The younger Wong followed his father into the business at 19, working part-time at TVB's scriptwriting department to support himself through Chinese Literature undergraduate studies at Chinese University. By 25, Wong was a senior executive at the television station, before branching out as a director with Shaw Studios. Through the years the lesson he has learnt is that any movie can only rely on the vote of the majority. 'There will always be a minority who won't like it. So maybe what qualifies as 'good' will be something that is successful in the box office and which more people like. It should not be judged by a few critics or highbrow people. The public should be the judge.' Wong knows he has his share of critics. His films have been panned as exploitative and tasteless, and other film-makers have been outspoken in condemning his super fast factory-line methods. In the book Hong Kong Babylon, director Ann Hui On-wah described Wong as an 'object lesson in how to make bad movies'. Wong makes no excuse for his films; he repeats that he is just supplying what the market wants . He produces the 'big films', such as the current box office champion The Stormriders, for the festive seasons but keeps up a continuous supply of smaller films for the rest of the year. 'The different media around Asia such as cable television and video shops need supply. Under such circumstances, they cannot afford to pay much, so I make smaller films for them,' Wong shrugs. 'If there are Armani suits for sale, then there also have to be $30 T-shirts on the market because there will always be people who still want to wear $30 T-shirts. 'If there is such a demand, then I will supply. Having small, medium and big films is balanced behaviour. A lot of my colleagues don't understand and criticise me for it but all my films cannot be [on the scale of] The Stormriders. 'The question is, would you expect to wear a $30 T-shirt for two years. You might junk it at the end of summer. There are some films you can't use classic standards to judge . . . a film should not be judged on the merit of its budget,' he says. One of the films he has liked recently has been Fruit Chan's award-winning Made In Hong Kong, made on a frugal budget. 'He used very little money, but it was an entertaining film which people liked.' Although the general criticism has not bothered him, Wong's ire is raised by accusations he rushed his films through in 10 days or less. 'I think these charges are libellous. There is a lot of envy in the business. It is impossible to make a film in 10 days. Usually it takes between 15 and 20 working days but that does not include the pre-production. The fact is what I can afford and what market demands allow for is only that many days,' he says. 'The Stormriders [which took more than a year] was a big gamble. It could have lost tens of millions. Any of the investors would agree with that. But the question is who will take this risk in these dangerous times?' The answer is Wong. Despite his pessimistic outlook, he has taken plenty of risks - and he has had more than a few movies bomb on him in his career. 'But they are calculated risks. My principle is never to cheat [my investors] by making false promises. No one can guarantee box office success. My two main considerations on making a movie are: what is the maximum I can afford to lose and how much do I have to risk? If I can afford that, then I go ahead and make the film. You cannot just go ahead and make a film which you think is great irrespective of these calculations,' he says. Wong says his confidence in his 'calculations' lie in the fact he does frequent market research, not only in Hong Kong, but in every market his films are distributed. 'Other than us, I don't think any other Hong Kong film companies do market research that frequently. That's why I can catch on to trends so quickly. The Hong Kong audience, for example, is very simple. They want the most up-to-date entertainment. If you supply what they feel is worth seeing, then they will go see it,' he adds. 'You just can't leave it to the imagination. For example, the property market is very bad now so you can't just sit there and tell yourself, I will only sell my flat if I can get $10,000 a square foot. That's impossible. It's a waste of time.' Despite all the brickbats, Wong is having the last laugh on his critics and is not averse to gloating a little. So what if some of his less critically acclaimed movies eclipsed the better ones? 'In the 70s, Sir Run Run Shaw was criticised for putting out bad movies which were probably double [the number of] mine. I'm now at my sixth generation of critics, and the first five have already disappeared from the business,' he says. 'If [the critics] say my way of doing things is wrong, why am I the only one who is succeeding? Why am I the only one producing movies? It proves my viewpoint was right and others may not have been that accurate. 'It doesn't make sense. Because if I was wrong then I should be the one failing. 'So it doesn't matter what they say. Let's just see who is the last man standing.'