The true story of a dog that roamed Australia making friends is to be made into a film after securing funding from a group of Australian investors and regional film bodies.

Red Dog will be directed by Kriv Stenders from a script adapted by Canadian-born Daniel Taplitz based on the book of the same name by British writer Louis de Bernieres.

Stenders convinced investors with a highly entertaining clip of himself in a screentest with a dog called Koko. It was cut to convince potential backers that a “normal” dog could be the star of a film despite the number of animated and talking canine stars in recent films. The clip is now on YouTube.

An as yet unnamed mining company is investing alongside ScreenWest, Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation. It also backed by Australian exhibitor Roadshow and the film’s US sales agent Essential Entertainment.

Producer Nelson Woss optioned the book in 2003 and is producing alongside Adelaide-based Julie Ryan. Woss said: “This is not a Lassie-like story or a story about a dog that does impossible things, but a fantastic story about a dog that really did exist. It will connect with people who connect with animals and there are a lot of those people and they speak in all languages.”

Cameras will roll in the first half of next year using locations in Adelaide, Perth and the Pilbara, a region of north-west Australia known for mining and dark red dirt.

De Bernieres wrote the book after stumbling upon a statue of a dog near Dampier, Western Australia. Woss added: “The book is made up of lots of short stories about how the dog affected the lives of ordinary working people, mining executive and indigenous communities.

“We have kept the soul of the book but not its structure. Our story is about how the dog brought a community together against the background of a small town becoming a major mining centre. “