Despair and hope characterised 2004. Local production levelsfell, only a few films found audiences, and everyone had a moan about the rest.

But hopes are high that the relatively new and still freshFilm Finance Corporation Australia chief executive Brian Rosen - helpedby his new sidekicks - really will prove to be a white knight in shiningarmour.

He has pushed the organisation towards making its owninvestment decisions, for example, rather than letting the market decide. Thishas already helped several films secure financing, with Australianinternational stars attached.

Overheard this year

'Australian feature production has dropped from anaverage of 28 per year in the second half of the 1990s to just 15 in 2003/04.It is also a matter of concern that investment from the local film andtelevision industry and private sources has fallen by more than 50% over thepast three years.' MaureenBarron, chair, Australian Film Commission.

'There isreason to feel great hope about the Australian film industry with films soon tobe made by Ray Lawrence, Rowan Woods and Ana Kokkinos.' Patricia Lovell,director.

Breakthrough talent

Abbie Cornish, the 22-year-old who won the Australian FilmInstitute's best actress prize for her troubled lead in CateShortland's Somersault, is due toappear with Heath Ledger as two heroin-addicted lovers in Australian drama Candy. Eric Bana, who confirmed his credentials with Troyand is now reportedly in the frame forJames Bond (along with 973 others), has been cast in Steven Spielberg'sstalled Vengeance project and isdue to the play the lead in Curtis Hanson's next film for Warner Bros, LuckyYou.

The year ahead

'I hopewe are at the beginning of a philosophical shift that started with newinitiatives and changes in attitudes to development. These will nurture andgenerate fresh, bold stories and voices, which can reinvigorate investmentmodels and strategies, and put our national cinema back on the world map. Toomuch to ask maybe' My worst fear is that the Free Trade Agreement with the USor other bigger economic forces will suffocate us.' Vincent Sheehan,producer.

Box office snapshot

Highest-grossing film: Shrek 2 (UIP) $38.1m

Highest-grossing local film: Strange Bedfellows (Becker) $3.7m

Highest-grossing arthouse film: 21 Grams (Roadshow) $2.9m