Accomplished theatre director Gale Edwards, winner of an International Emmy for her filmed version of the Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, is to direct her first feature film.

The film, A Heartbeat Away, was one of four financed by Screen Australia. The others are: Being Dead, Lantana director Ray Lawrence's fourth film; the 'poetic thriller' Luv Sux, which features a 500-year-old vampire; Lou, about a young girl playing a dangerous game with a grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer's disease; and the romantic comedy I Love You Too.

Romantic comedies are not often attempted by Australian filmmakers. I Love You Too stars comedian Peter Helliar and will be directed by Daina Reid, who was nominated in this month's Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards for best direction in television.

Screen Australia also announced its intention to fund two low-budget debut features by writer/directors: Griff The Invisible is from Leon Ford (Katoomba), who Screen International recently named as a writer/director to watch; The Place Between is from Beck Cole (Plains Empty), who is regarded as a rising talent in Australia's indigenous filmmaking scene.

A Heartbeat Away is about an aspiring rock guitarist who takes over his father's brass band. It will feature several musical numbers making it the perfect first vehicle for Edwards.

The script, by writer Julie Kincade, was one of six chosen from about 120 in a script initiative run by Chris Brown and Chris Fitchett more than five years ago with backing of the Pacific Film and Television Commission.

It is the third of the six that has gone into production. Brown (The Proposition), who is better known for horror pictures and co-productions, is the producer.

The December board meeting of Screen Australia also gave its stamp of approval to three documentary series, 17 one-off documentaries, and one adult and two children's television series. These are the first approvals under the watch of the new agency's inaugural chief executive, Ruth Harley.

Full details of the features are as follows:


A Heartbeat Away -- Production company Pictures in Paradise. Producer Chris Brown. Writer Julie Kincade. Director Gale Edwards. Sales and distribution Hoyts (Aus/NZ), Lightning Entertainment (rest of world).

Being Dead -- Production company See-Saw Films, Greenpoint Films. Executive producer Iain Canning. Producers Emile Sherman, Patrick Cassavetti. Director Ray Lawrence. Writer Beatrix Christian from a book by Jim Crace.

I Love You Too -- Production company I Love You Too. Executive producer Greg Sitch. Producers Yael Bergman, Laura Waters. Writer Peter Helliar. Director Daina Reid. Sales and distribution Roadshow Films.

Lou -- Production company Big and Little Films. Executive producer Liz Watts. Producers Michael McMahon, Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden, Belinda Chayko. Writer/director Belinda Chayko. Sales and distribution Kojo (Aust/NZ), Bankside (ROW).

Luv Sux -- Production company Vitascope International. Producers David Hannay, Richard Turner, John Bickford. Writer Michael Gillett. Director Richard Turner. Sales and distribution Arkles (Aust/NZ), Odin's Eye (ROW).

Letters of offer

Griff The Invisible -- Production company Everyday Pictures. Producer Nicole O'Donohue. Writer/Director Leon Ford.

The Place Between -- Production company Scarlett Pictures. Producer Kath Shelper. Writer/Director Beck Cole.