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Screen Australia backs Thornton, Ayres projects

Screen Australia is to invest in five new feature films, three of which are from the proven directors Warwick Thornton (Samson And Delilah), Tony Ayres (The Home Song Stories) and Kriv Stenders (Red Dog).

Thornton’s The Darkside is billed as a doco-drama hybrid that will give an indigenous Australian perspective on the afterlife through a series of real stories.

“When we originally did a call out to people to bring ghost stories to us, our only criteria was that they had to be something that people had experienced personally,” Thornton’s long-time producer Kath Shelper told Screendaily.

“Warwick thought the scarier the better, but what we mainly got were beautiful poignant family stories about connection … They’re not head-spinning made-up stories, they’re grounded in reality, but you’ll be spooked by some of them too.”

Cameras will roll shortly on Shari Sebbens, who featured in The Sapphires, and veteran Bryan Brown as each of the stories is being re-told for the film by actors – some of the ghost stories come from non-indigenous people but they are all indigenous themed. Last night Aaron Pedersen mentioned a gust of wind while telling a story on camera and a big wind blew up and shut down the set.

Transmission will distribute the film locally and Shelper intends to find a sales agent – she is in discussions with one – with the skills to sell both the film and a 4x30-minute television version. Only the best of the 16 stories are likely to be in the theatrical feature. Traditional dances and songs are also being filmed as part of the project.

Ayres’ gritty true crime-thriller Cut Snake is inspired by the 1973 firebombing of Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub. Ayres is a partner in Matchbox Pictures and has mainly been concentrating on television, including the highly acclaimed The Slap, since he made The Home Song Stories.

However, he is one of those directing The Turning, the anthology film based on the short stories of Australian author Tim Winton.

Kill Me Three Times will be Stenders’ sixth film and his follow-up to hit film Red Dog, which grossed more than $20m at Australian cinemas. His new project is a black comedic thriller set in a small seaside town and includes three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge.

The film will be the debut feature for former Screen NSW chief executive Tania Chambers, who is producing alongside Americans Laurence Malkin and Share Stallings. They were part of the producing team on another Australian film: Stephan Elliott’s A Few Best Men.

Both Cut Snake and Killing Me Three Times will be released locally by Hopscotch/eOne.

The two other films that have now moved into the starting blocks as a result of Screen Australia’s decision to invest are Fell, to be directed by Kasimir Burgess, who won a Crystal Bear at the Berlinale in 2011 with the short film Lily, and Now Add Honey, a Roadshow-supported contemporary comedy from Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler, who together created the television comedy The Librarians.

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