Hong Kong directors have long been drawn to Thailand, which is hardly surprising because it's cheaper to shoot there, the production facilities are good and there's much more space than at home. But the Land of Smiles is more than just a beautiful location. It also has a thriving and creative movie industry all of its own, and Hong Kong talent is increasingly becoming involved in making Thai films. The most recent example is Hong Kong director Daniel Lee Yan-kong who, fresh from working on action romance Star Runner - which opens in Hong Kong this weekend - has signed up to direct action movie Red Eagle for Thai film studio Sahamongkol. Based on a series of popular Thai movies that first appeared in the 1960s, the film is about a Thai superhero - the Red Eagle - who fights crime on the mean streets of Bangkok. 'It's going to be a huge film for Thailand. It's like the Thai version of Batman and Superman all rolled into one,' says Sahamongkol executive vice-president Gilbert Lim. The film is being produced by Thailand's Duangkamol Limcharoen and her partner in production company Cinemasia, director-producer Nonzee Nimibutr. Although not the most obvious choice for an action movie, Limcharoen - or Aom as she prefers to be called - is regarded as one of Thailand's leading producers, and last week became the first Thai to win the Producer of the Year award at the CineAsia cinema conference in Bangkok. She's played a pivotal role in the growing trend towards pan-Asian co-productions and has credits including black comedy Last Life In The Universe, which involves talent from Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan, and Nimibutr's erotic drama Jan Dara, which she co-produced with Hong Kong's Peter Ho-sun Chan. Aom says she was inspired to turn her hand to the action genre after seeing Thai kickboxing movie Ong-Bak - Muay Thai Warrior, which was a huge hit at the Thai box office earlier this year. 'After Last Life, I thought I wanted to do something like Ong-Bak, but I've never produced an action movie before,' Aom says. 'Then Somsak [Techaratanaprasert, chairman of Sahamongkol] approached me and Nonzee with this project and insisted we were the right people to take it on.' The next step was finding somebody to direct the film, because Thailand doesn't have many action directors and Aom's regular directing partners - Nimibutr and Last Life's Pen-ek Ratanaruang - have their own distinct style, which is a million miles from the mainstream action genre. This is when Aom turned to Lee, who she'd first met when she helped him shoot A Fighter's Blues, starring Andy Lau Tak-wah, in Thailand. 'Daniel really liked Thai people and working with a Thai crew,' she says. 'He was really keen to do this film.' Lee, whose credits include Black Mask, produced by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li, plans to start pre-production on the film as soon as he finishes promotional work on Star Runner. Shooting is scheduled to start in February and the cast is likely to feature a well-known Hong Kong actress. Meanwhile, Aom has two other films in the pipeline. Okay Baytong, directed by Nimibutr and scheduled for release in Thailand this Christmas, is a comedy drama about a Buddhist monk who is forced to leave his monastery and learns about the outside world from an eight-year-old girl. 'Nonzee wanted to make a film that touches on Buddhism,' says Aom. 'All Thai people say that they are Buddhist - but in reality most of us don't know that much about the religion.' Aom and Nimibutr are also producing a romantic drama, The Letter, directed by newcomer Pha-oon Chandharasiri, which is a remake of a Korean movie. Production started in the northern city of Chiang Mai at the beginning of this month. Although the Thai film industry is currently on a roll, with local films raking in millions of baht at the box office, it differs from the Hong Kong film industry in one important aspect: it's not star-driven, because Thailand doesn't really have any major stars. This is a blessing, according to Aom. 'It means we don't have to spend a lot on above-the-line costs but Thai films still do well at the box office,' she says. 'Thai film audiences are smart. In the US or Hong Kong, people spend huge amounts on stars and then throw money at the marketing campaign. But in Thailand, no-one goes to see a movie unless it's good. I respect the Thai audience because you can never fool them.' Aom, who started her career as a TV producer in Bangkok and studied film at UCLA in Los Angeles, says it was Hong Kong director, Wong Kar-wai, who inspired her to make pan-Asian movies four years ago. At the time she was helping him shoot In The Mood For Love and his latest film, 2046, in Bangkok. It was, therefore, appropriate that Wong presented her with the producer award at the CineAsia conference last week - before taking the red-eye flight back to Shanghai where 2046 is being filmed. Wong described her as one of Asia's brightest lights. 'It's remarkable people like you who inspire me to stay in this business'. Aom's response brought the house down. She said Wong encouraged her to set up a film company and that she's followed in his footsteps ever since. 'But I've finished four films since then. Why is he still shooting 2046?'