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There are just four films in production in Australia for the next three months, The Human Touch, some of which has already been shot in France, The Oyster Farmer, Ten Canoes and the Kennedy Miller animation Happy Feet. There may be an unknown cheapie shooting in an alley somewhere, funded by cash advances from the credit cards of the key creatives, but it is unlikely that it will break out onto the world stage.
While Australia's film output is always limited, the current squeeze on available funds, plus the approaching convergence of the Christmas and summer holiday seasons, have exacerbated this. Come March, however, cameras will be whirring on almost 20 projects - although Mozart Maulers has been delayed due to John Polson deciding to first direct Hide And Seek, starring Robert De Niro.
The list of 19 films has nearly as many sales agents attached. One of the few sellers whose name appears twice is Arclight and with executive Gary Hamilton relocating from Sydney to London shortly, the industry is hoping he does not lose interest in his home market. The list also features the first local commitment by Becker Films International since Reiko Bradley took the reins, it being Three Dollars, and Beyond Films' first local commitment since Hilary Davis took the reins, it being The Oyster Farmer.
All or nearly all the Australian films definitely going into production in the closing months of this year and early next have Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC) to thank for at least some of their finance.
But it is two films that are not in the Australian production listings, despite also having a commitment from the FFC, that are the most significant. Little Fish, the second film by director Rowan Woods (The Boys) and starring Cate Blanchett, and Jindabyne, to be directed by Lantana's Ray Lawrence, both signal a new direction for Australian film financing.
The FFC's central role in the existence of Australian film over 15 years has, for better or worse, given the industry considerable orderliness: a producer finds other private financiers, attaches a foreign sales agent and a local distributor, meets a few other rules, and is able to trigger FFC investment providing the deal fits the criteria.
For Little Fish and Jindabyne, however, the FFC is trialing a new model in which its money is first in, rather than last, the aim being to encourage other partners to get on board and thereby gear up the limited subsidy dollars. Little Fish has Myriad Pictures handling world sales, and Jindabyne has Icon.