Lady White Snake: According to The Dominion Post, the $40 million ($NZ60 million) epic Lady White Snake will be a New Zealand and Taiwan co-production and one of the most expensive films to be made here after King Kong and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The legend of a white snake fairy that married a mortal is known throughout Asia. But the film will be an English-language version aimed at Western audiences. New Zealand and overseas actors will feature, and a Kiwi may direct it. Shooting could begin late next year. It should be released in 2008 before the Beijing Olympics.

Silverscreen Productions and visual effects company Oktobor, both based in Wellington, are forming a company with Taiwan-based Equinox Film to develop the project. In July, Equinox signed an agreement in Taiwan with Silverscreen to split the US$40 million between the countries.

The budget will make the film eligible for the Government's Large Budget Screen Production Grant.

Oktobor head Dean Lyon, who worked on several big Hollywood films before moving to New Zealand four years ago, said it would be a mix of live action and computer animation. Computer-animated movies were one of the easiest projects to get financing for, because of recent films like Shrek II.

Eva Hu, Equinox's representative in New Zealand, said Taiwan's government was committed to covering 55 per cent of the US$20 million her company would need. Equinox was founded by Hou Dejian, well known in Asia for composing a popular folk song Heir to the Dragon. Ms Hu said Mr Hou, who for the past five years has studied computer animation, visited Wellington during the world premiere of Peter Jackson's The Return of the King in December. He met New Zealand film industry personnel and visited Jackson's state-of-the-art post-production facility Park Road Post in Miramar.

He had previously visited Star Wars director George Lucas' studios in California and Australian studios, but decided he liked Wellington best.

Ms Hu, also a journalist, said Jackson's Lord of the Rings series was popular in Taiwan. She reported for Taiwan news media about the New Zealand film industry for several years, including the making of the Rings series.

Brian B.