Investors wary of the rising costs of filmmaking are less willing to back first-time directors. And while some Hong Kong filmmakers are prepared to adapt their movies to suit targeted markets, often at the request of investors, others baulk at what they see as a compromise and choose to give up the chance of a wider audience. Young and first-time directors spoke of the problems facing them at a trade event yesterday that matches film projects with financiers from around the world. They urged the government to set aside part of its film funding to support new talent, saying that such a move would ensure new directors are not unfairly pitted against their more established colleagues in their application for funds. Koan Hui is helming one of the 25 projects being pitched at this year's Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), a three-day event at the annual Entertainment Expo, which opened yesterday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Hui has years of experience behind the camera, but still finds it difficult to convince investors to back his directorial debut, the 3D psychological thriller Written in Red. High production costs have made investors cautious, he says. 'They are getting more calculative,' says Hui, 38, a former assistant director in many of Tsui Hark's classics. 'They need to see a track record, such as whether similar films were successful.' In the past investors were more involved in the production and not as calculative, he said. Funding opportunities also became harder to come by in the bad economy, especially for mid-budget films of between HK$10 million and HK$30 million. Actor turned director Chui Tien-you, 26, says Hong Kong's film investment culture is too conservative. In comparison, funding for films in Malaysia comes from a variety of sources, not only traditional film companies. 'The country has telecoms and internet companies investing in films. It even set up a department to take care of that and give promising projects a chance,' says Chui, who is raising funds for his HK$4 million directorial debut Private Party of the Dead at the HAF. 'But in Hong Kong, investors are extremely calculative.' While many companies can afford to back film projects, they are afraid of making a bad choice that can hurt their reputation, Chui says. Government funding is also an option. The Film Development Council offers financial support for projects with a budget of up to HK$12 million, with a cap on government contribution of 30 per cent. The government has said it will raise the respective amounts to HK$15 million and 35 per cent. Filmmaker Kit Hung wants the government to set aside part of the Film Development Fund for less experienced directors. The 33-year-old Hung, whose debut feature Soundless Wind Chime was nominated for the Berlinale's Teddy Award, is back in the fund-raising circuit for his second project. This time, he is considering applying for government support for his HK$8 million film, Mama Eva, a light-hearted musical about a woman's tussle with changing social values. His new movie has great potential, Hung says, 'but if you talk about commercial value, how can I compete with someone established like Mabel Cheung [Yuen-ting]?' Cheung was the producer of Crystal Bear-winning Echoes of the Rainbow, which was partly funding by the government. 'The government should dedicate a section of the Fund to new directors. Many directors who have made one or two films are still struggling to find financing for their projects,' he said. But some directors do not want funding from the government, which by August last year has given out HK$35.89 million. Chui, for one, prefers to go it alone. 'It takes too long,' he says. 'I'm planning to start filming in September and I want to get everything done as quickly as possible.' In this tough investment climate, filmmakers are likely to have to work harder to win over potential financiers. This may mean acceding to a backer's demand to make changes to the work. Some filmmakers acknowledge the pressures of the market and say such compromises are acceptable. Hung says it is important to ensure investors receive returns on their investment, as it is the only way to keep the industry alive. If he manages to win over an investor from, say, Europe for his project, he would be happy to change the film's story to boost its international appeal, as along as those changes are sensible, he says. Hui makes a similar point. A filmmaker has to understand his market. 'At the end of the day, filmmaking is a business and a cultural project,' he says, as he prepares himself for three days of meetings with about 20 potential investors to try to secure at least a third of his film's US$2.5 million budget. He adds: 'But of course there is a bottom line [for the changes].' For Chui, the price is too high. He says he will stick to his vision for his thriller, some parts of which he expects won't get past mainland censors. Rather than cut out those parts, he will give the potentially lucrative mainland market a miss. This means he has to look for investment outside greater China. 'We just have to work extra hard to prepare for our presentation in English,' he says.