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Hilton, Stephens and Van Mil heading for the UK’s PFM

Sydney-based Jamie Hilton was voted the Australian producer most worth watching at the close of the MIFF 37º South Market, the four-day financing event that wrapped last night during the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Hilton, Tainui Stephens from New Zealand and Stephen Van Mil from Perth each earned a spot at the upcoming Production and Finance Market in London but it was Hilton who got the bonus of $2,000 in travel assistance from completion bond company Film Finances.

Hilton pitched the supernatural thriller Backtrack at 37º South. It is about a clinical psychologist haunted by ghosts and is in the style of Sixth Sense and What Lies Beneath. It is written and will be directed by Michael Petroni, who wrote Possession and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and directed Till Human Voices Wake Us.

Hilton and Petroni are partners in See Pictures, and are also in development on an adaptation of Tim Winton’s book Breath, about two young boys in a small coastal town who form an unlikely friendship with an older big-wave surfer, who pushes them to take risks that will have a deep impact on their lives.

See Pictures is producing alongside US producer Mark Johnson and Simon Baker, the Australia actor in The Mentalist. Johnson’s long list of film credits includes Rain Man, Donnie Brasco and The Notebook and his production company Gran Via makes the TV series Breaking Bad.

A total of 49 guests with the capacity to finance films and 109 producers, including 17 from New Zealand, were at the 37º South Market and organisers say 2007 meetings took place, including between book publishers and producers. K5 International and Beta Cinema were the sales agents that had not been to the market previously.

“This is the sixth 37 South and it is quite clear to us that the sales agents believe the quality of the projects had moved up a notch,” 37 South head Mark Woods told Screendaily. “We want happy producers but we also want very happy sales agents or they won’t keep coming back.”

The finished films Sunday, Existence, Missing Pieces, Meeting Girls From A Distance, The Red House and John Doe, all of which are seeking sales and distribution partners, were screened as part of the market.

Anecdotally, at least 35 films have attracted distributors or sales agents as a result of six years of 37º South.

Woods has the capacity to provide small investments through the Premiere Fund and the recipients premiering at MIFF are the bromatic comedy Save Your Legs! from director Boyd Hicklin, horror film 100 Bloody Acres from brothers Cameron and Colin Cairnes, the drama Last Dance, directed by David Pulbrook, and the documentaries The First Fagin, from Alan Rosenthal and Helen Gaynor, and Make Hummus Not War from Trevor Graham.

The Premiere Fund’s most recent investments are in The Turning, Galore and Aim High in Creation.

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