A SECRET meeting of shadowy bosses results in beautiful women being blacklisted, their multi-million-dollar salaries being revealed and the threat of a boycott. In despair, they turn to a knight in shining armour. It could be the plot of one of the territory's box office thrillers, but those are the ingredients of a crisis which is gripping Hongkong's film industry, pitting its financial backers against many of its biggest stars. The reason? Money. Taiwan is the biggest market for Hongkong-made films and accounts for one third of the cash invested in film production here. Recently, however, Taiwanese backers - executive producers who put money into Hongkong productions, and exhibitors who buy them for distribution - have found their profits shrinking. Some claim they have been losing millions of dollars. Privately, they have complained about increasing production costs and tougher competition between film-makers who play big-name stars off a gainst each other, but the main complaint has been that some stars have been charging too much. The upshot: a move that scandalised the industry. The Taiwanese went public and revealed there was a ''blacklist'' of stars who would no longer be given roles. Although the list was never made public, careful leaks and industry gossip saw to it that those involved knew all about it. Stars whose names allegedly appeared on the list included Lin Ching-hsia, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Joey Wong and Carina Lau Kar-ling. Lin, it seems, was listed because her box office pulling power was such that she had been demanding $2.5 million a film. One report said she may even have received $3.5 million for one film. The others made it on to the list either because they had increased their salary demands or had committed other ''misdemeanours'' in the eyes of production companies. The response in Hongkong was one of outrage. Joey Wong and Carina Lau publicly attacked the investors for trying to dictate terms. Following press reports of their comments, the Taiwanese threatened to boycott any film involving the pair for the next three years. Hongkong film-maker Jimmy Heung Wah-sing, who owns the influential Win's Movie Production Co, was quick to get involved. His response to Wong and Lau's complaints: if an actor develops an ''unreasonable'' attitude, they would not find any more work. The two actresses, and others in a similar position, turned in desperation to Hongkong's on-screen hero, Jackie Chan, for help. They asked Chan - the single most powerful star in the territory - to set up an actors' union which would safeguard their interests. CHAN was non-com-mittal at first, but support came from another quarter: Hongkong's directors. After a string of outraged comments, during which the highly respected producer/director Tsui Hark described the boycott threat as oppressive and unacceptable, the Directors' Union issued an official statement. In it, the union said it would not overlook the boycott threat and that it would be contacting all the actors involved to try to resolve the dispute. But in the meantime, the bosses had been busily making plans. Taiwanese and Hongkong investors sat down to a two-day meeting and came up with a five-point ultimatum to be enforced by a ''supervisory body''. Interestingly, the body extended an invitation to Jackie Chan to work as a consultant. The Taiwanese said they would stop buying Hongkong films for three months, during which time negotiations on salaries could be held. All existing contracts would be met in the period. Significantly, the meeting resulted in demands that Hongkong and Taiwanese investors refuse to buy films if stars continued to ask for ''unreasonable'' salaries. In Hongkong, a self-help association has been set up and will be convened by Mr Heung. Its task is to come up with a pay scale for Hongkong. Mr Heung rather ambiguously announced that although he and his colleagues respected the freedom of actors, they also respected the right of moneymen to pick and choose cast and crews. The Hongkong and Taiwanese financiers have already arranged a second meeting, scheduled for Tuesday in Taiwan. The actors have become tight-lipped and appear to be searching for leadership. ''I cannot talk about this subject,'' was the terse comment from Carina Lau's assistant. ''There is still a little bit of a problem, but Carina is still shooting films - she has not been replaced. We are going to Shanghai to do a movie in July and then another one in Beijing.'' And it looks as if that knight in shining armour is going to appear after all. Jackie Chan has agreed to put into effect a plan he has long nurtured: to develop an organising committee aimed at safeguarding actors' interests. Pop queen Anita Mui is helping him set this up, and the pair have arranged for the actors' group to take its place on the supervisory committee. Despite this, many actors are angry the situation was allowed to develop in the first place. ''The guys who have been paying the actors these large sums are the same ones who are complaining that they earn too much,'' said one. ''They have been paying big stars this money simply to compete with one another. I do think actors have a responsibility, but when the exhibitors and producers who are complaining are also the ones who co-produce most of the films, they do seem to have brought all this upon themselves.'' Actress Ronnie Yip Yuk-hing had a different explanation. ''It's quite a sensitive matter - and I think it's better to leave it alone,'' she said before arguing that a decline in the standard of Hongkong movies, and a subsequent fall in attendances in Taiwan, had been largely responsible for the dissatisfaction of the Taiwanese. Whatever the reasons, the territory's spontaneous and free-wheeling industry is about to find itself working within a series of guidelines for the first time in its history. And whether or not that means a happy ending remains to be seen.