If the Christmas decorations at the APM mall in Kwun Tong are looking a bit livelier this year there's a reason - they have been created by one of the Hong Kong film industry's top art directors. Part of the exodus of talent from the once-thriving local film industry, Shum Kin-yip - a former assistant art director who worked under director Stanley Tong Gwai-lai on First Strike and Rumble in the Bronx, both starring Jackie Chan - is one of many film professionals scrabbling for work as contracts dry up and launches of new films falter. Intense competition is driving shopping malls to ever more ambitious Christmas displays. Canto-pop star Andy Lau Tak-wah and actors Jay Chau Kit-leong and Aaron Kwok Fu-shing attended the launch of Shum's HK$3.5 million angel dreamland display, pulling a record crowd of 430,000 through the mall doors and setting tills jingling. More than 1,000 angels greet shoppers at the mall. Seraphim hang 20 metres above the podium and hundreds of cherubim from 50cm to 1.8 metres high crowd around the entrance to a darkened chamber. Inside the chamber of angels, shoppers can be photographed behind a headless winged figure, wonder at angelic messages inscribed on a real diamond or marvel at re-workings of old masters accessorised with iPods and laptops. It seems Santa's grotto is definitely yesterday's theme. For Shum, the mall decorations are an opportunity to keep practising his craft. After First Strike and Rumble in the Bronx were released, family ties pulled him to Canada, where he had studied theatre design. He tried to relaunch his career in Vancouver but saw only limited success and at one point even resorted to selling pizzas to keep going. But when he got back four years later, he found the trail had gone cold on his old contacts in the film business and, within a few years, opportunities were falling off as the industry went into recession. 'In the film industry, when you get a call you work and when you don't you sit and wait,' he said. 'But after I went to Canada, I had no more phone calls. And if you are out of the industry for too long, you will be forgotten. It's thanks to my wife that I'm working in this business. She got me a job as a creative director for shopping mall decorations.' His first job at Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing involved turning a 9-metre Christmas display into an entirely different one for Lunar New Year in two days. 'Dealing with a big crew is not a big problem. I just couldn't do this job without the organisational skills that I learnt as a film set designer,' he said. 'I'm lucky to have a satisfying, creative job where I can practise the skills that I learnt as a set designer. 'But I live my life in shopping malls. If I had a real break I would go back to the film industry because I enjoy working with the top professionals in Hong Kong.'