Australian documentarymakers who were encouraged to pitch full-length features are now seeing their projectsmove into pre-production or production.

Films now underway thanks tothe initiative, introduced by the Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC) lastyear, include Rampage, about a youngupcoming rap star, which is now being shot in Miami by director/writer/producerGeorge Gittoes. Moviehouseis handling sales: Gittoes came to attention with Soundtrack To War,which charted the musical preferences of young US soldiers stationed in Iraq.

Director/writer LawrenceJohnston (Life and celebrated short Eternity) and producer Lizzette Atkins are preparing a January start for Night, which aims to explore theuniversal nature of night and how it affects everyone. Becker holds salesrights.

And while it is not yetfinanced, the FFC has also signalled that it will fund Empire Americana, an examination of the controversies and effectsof America's global dominance. Mike Piper is on board to produce, withBritish-born reporter Gilliam Norman writing and directing.

"We are dependent on what film-makers bring tous, so what is happening is circumstantial from our point of view," explainsMary Anne Reid, policy manager at the FFC.

"But last year we adopted anew attitude in relation to pure documentaries, which was to encourage peopleto bring us feature-length projects.

"These are being funded outof the feature film allocation, rather than the documentary allocation, whichis new for Australia. It is an exciting time for documentary at the cinemabecause of the way the format is attracting new audiences."

The FFC'snew attitude has proved a boon for a documentary community that is regularlyvexed by how to fund feature-length projects suitable for cinemas.

Those documentaries that doget made are usually determined by broadcasters who are reluctant to fundsomething that is 90 minutes long (and will run even longer once commercialbreaks are taken into account). Some will only commit at rough-cut stage whileothers disapprove of a theatrical release stealing their thunder ahead ofbroadcast.

And while they government'sdocumentary production house Film Australia does greenlightone or two documentaries each year, these are usuallyby auteur film-makers such as Denis O'Rourke.

As in other territories,audience appetite for documentaries has grown in recent years - Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) managed to takejust under $6m - but local fare has yet to enjoy a strong response. That whichis available is celebrated for cultural rather than commercial reasons.

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