When London-based acquisitions executive Iain Canning and Sydney producer Emile Sherman vie for the best projects under their new See-Saw production banner, the ace up their sleeve will be a first-look deal with Paramount Pictures International (PPI) to invest equity.
They also hope their pooled skills and experience will be a draw. Canning has sales, distribution and acquisitions skills gained at Becker International and the now defunct Renaissance Films, while Sherman's expertise is in physical production and complex financing deals that will particularly attract inexperienced producers.
Sherman's credits include Rabbit-Proof Fence, Opal Dream, Candy and the upcoming Disgrace and $9.99. As executive producer on Control, Canning got a taste for production. Together they intend to produce projects from scratch, board well-developed projects as executive producers - they intend to be "producer-friendly" - and do everything in between.
Canning and Sherman are also minority shareholders in Transmission, Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten's new Australian/New Zealand distribution entity that has a joint venture with Paramount's Australian office - Canning is part of the acquisition team. Decisions on equity investments in See-Saw projects will come out of Los Angeles.
The two met in 2004 when Renaissance signed on as the original sales agent on Candy, starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish.
"Since then we have always discussed film ideas and projects and how we could make our working relationship closer," says Canning.
One minute the principals are talking about how the company will allow them to again work with favoured film-makers, the next about the importance of having emotional connections to the projects they select.
Sherman and Canning expect to work on at least three films annually; they use phrases such as "bigger films that are truly global" and "quality arthouse films with real breakout potential".
"It is a time to really concentrate on quality. That is going to be a very high priority for See-Saw," says Canning.
Expect to see UK-Australian co-productions emerging and projects taking advantage of the new 40% rebate for Australian films.
Among the first will be writer-director Guillem Morales' English-language remake of his 2004 mystery thriller The Uncertain Guest (El Habitante Incierto) and a feature version of Paul Catling's Sundance-winning sci-fi short Tomo. The projects will shoot in Barcelona and the UK, respectively, later this year. Tomo is also looking to shoot some scenes in Iceland or Norway.
See-Saw is also working on South Solitary with Shirley Barrett, who won the Camera d'Or in 1996 for Love Serenade. The company is also in talks about new projects from Australian directors Ray Lawrence and John Polson.