The Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC) last week announced its intention to throw its weight behind the directorial debut of a familiar name in the acting world.

Rachel Ward was a 1980s icon, starring in films such as Against All Odds, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and How To Get Ahead In Advertising. For much of the world, she is best known for the lead role in the 1980s TV mini-series The Thorn Birds.

After several years spent writing and directing a series of shorts, she is working on her feature debut as director, Beautiful Kate.

The project, which participated in the recent Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) co-production market in Hong Kong, is the tale of a family's attempt to reconcile their past. A son returns to the isolated home of his childhood, and the bedside of his dying father, after a long period away. He needs to exorcise the ghosts of his past, while his father wants to die in peace.

Running in parallel is a story that explains the son's lengthy absence.

"What I have done previously in my shorts is tread the line between realism and romanticism, and that's what I intend to do in this film," says Ward.

"A feature has to transcend television and take subjects outside the realm of normal. I also want to capture the romance and exoticism of the Australian landscape and its people."

According to Ward, the film's themes will also include the sensuality of youth, the anguish of impossible love and the need to find forgiveness and peace.

Ward wrote the script for Beautiful Kate from Newton Thornburg's novel of the same name. Ward's husband, Bryan Brown, who is producing alongside Leah Churchill-Brown, will also play the father; he describes the film as "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf' meets The Piano".

The film will be a joint venture between Ward and Brown's New Town Films and Churchill-Brown's Doll. Brown produced 2002's Dirty Deeds and Churchill-Brown's one feature credit is Suburban Mayhem.

Roadshow have signed on for the Australian rights.

Beautiful kate
Budget: $4.3m
Finance raised: None
Sales agent: TBA
Territories pre-sold: Australia (Roadshow)
Cast attached: Bryan Brown