A BATTLE FOR people's attention is going on at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. On stage, some of the Asian film industry's most up-and-coming talent are parading before the Filmart faithful - a gathering of the film world's producers, distributors and general interested parties in town for the Trade Development Council-sponsored (TDC) film market. But while the filmmakers are doing their best to hold people's attention, workers are busy dismantling stalls on the fringes of the scene. On one hand, you have people leaning towards the stage as, say, a young director builds himself up, earnest in his attempts to tell the gathered crowd his 'vision'. On the other hand, you have a group of men in singlets packing palm trees on a trolley, dodging the crowd as they set about tearing the stage down. Luckily for the TDC, the faithful don't seem concerned, and when the introductions on stage are over, the independent filmmakers who are the stars of the show head into the crowd to do what they're here to do: press the flesh. Casting an eye over proceedings is TDC director of service promotion, Rachel Chan Ka-yee, and she's happy with what she sees. This year's Filmart has been important, she says, because the TDC wants to help push the cause of Asia's independent film talent, giving them a local avenue through which their talent can be exposed. And it seems as if the plan is working. 'If you look around the world, particularly in Asia,' she says, 'there's been no film market specialised in promoting independent filmmakers. So, we think there's room for Filmart to develop this area. Through screening independent movies, we hope we can facilitate and promote a new generation of movie makers in the region. 'This year, there's been a bit of interest generated by the screening and we've been encouraged by the positive feedback,' she says. With the help of the organisers of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the TDC invited 15 independent filmmakers from all over Asia to attend this year's Filmart, arranged for screenings of their films, and arranged for meetings between them and delegates from all over the world. It culminated with Friday's en masse gathering and presentation of the talent. It's a new move for Filmart, which began eight years ago primarily as a buying and selling platform for film and TV programmes. This year, the market has moved closer to what the TDC calls a 'one-stop shop' for the film industry, covering everything from animation to music. Two of the people hoping to benefit most from Filmart's independent push are mainland-based writer-director Dayyan Eng Sze-hsien, and local lad Adam Wong Sau-ping. Taiwan-born Eng, 29, first studied film art at the University of Washington before heading to the Beijing Film Academy in his third year - becoming the first American-Chinese to study there. He entered the entertainment world through commercials and music videos before putting together his own films, and is considered a bright light in Asian film. His short, Bus 44 (released in 2001), boasts the likes of mainland star Gong Beibi and followed the trials of a bus driver and her passengers as they face the hardships life throws at them while skirting the streets of a small town. It took the film festival circuit by storm, winning awards in Venice and at Sundance, and was invited to screen during Director's Fortnight at Cannes - the first time a Chinese short had traversed all three festivals. He's in town to promote his latest offering, Waiting Alone - a 'comment on life, love and relationships' set in Beijing. 'We're still in post-production [with Waiting Alone], so this gives us a chance to meet some buyers earlier in the game, so it's good for us,' he says. The success of Bus 44 has boosted Eng's cause, with distributers keen to seek him out. 'When you get screened at somewhere like Sundance people think, 'OK, he's legit - we can talk to him',' he says. But he jumped at the chance to come to Hong Kong, because it gave him a chance no other market has. 'Definitely, it's worth coming here to meet all the people in the one place,' he says. 'It takes a lot of the work out of things for people like me and gives me some feedback - something I wouldn't normally get at this stage.' Eng says the independent scene on the mainland is going through an exciting time - with new talent being unearthed and, more importantly, being encouraged. 'When making independent film, you wonder what the audiences will think,' he says. 'But when your work is screened to different audiences and you see their reactions are the same, you realise there are common things in human nature, and that's encouraging.' Leading the local push, Wong presents a different filmmaking beast. In true Hong Kong tradition, he's worked his way up the industry ladder. He shot a few 'making of' documentaries, and then his name was presented to veteran actor Eric Tsang Chi-wai, who was actively looking to encourage, fund and promote Hong Kong's latest crop of young filmmakers. The 28-year-old started out his artistic life as a graduate of fine arts from Chinese University, before throwing himself into the film world. His work has become a staple showing at the IFVA, with Glowing (2000) - a satire on the local entertainment industry - picking up a slew of awards, including the Grand Prize. With Tsang's backing, the result, which Wong is pushing at Filmart, is the topically named When Beckham Met Owen - an exploration, the filmmaker says, of the nature of male relationships. 'A friend in the film industry told me Eric Tsang was looking for new talent and said why don't you just give him a call. And I did, it was that easy,' he says. 'We have only had one screening here, but the response has been quite positive. And we can meet people. Through this event, my film has the chance to go to more film festivals - and that's a good thing.' For his part, the ever-effervescent Tsang is happy to share the Filmart stage with the young filmmakers - and, in his role as a producer, to encourage them. 'What the TDC is doing is the right thing,' he says. 'But there should be more noise made about what they're doing. The government should be helping these people. I'm doing it because I want to see our industry survive and I hope that other people will start doing the same. A lot of guys, like Andy Lau and Jackie Chan, should be helping these guys because then it makes a lot of noise. 'It makes good business sense, too. But there's a lot of talent out there, and I can give them certain things - commercial things - but I can't give them technique, and that's what they have. 'If people see the TDC is supporting these guys, people like me are supporting these guys, then more people will come in and want to work with them, and more people will come in and want to be like them.'