Ed Pressman and John Schmidt's ContentFilm has put up a substantial advance against world rights for the first two low-budget digifeatures being developed by new filmmakers under producers Andrew Mason and Lizzie Bryant of Sydney-based City Productions.

Local support has come from the Ten Network via a television presale and, in what is a major break from tradition given that the projects will be shot on DVCpro and have no local theatrical distributor attached, the Film Finance Corporation.

Television director Stuart McDonald will make the psychological thriller Power Surge from a script by Dave Warner (Garage Days) about a couple who, with the police snapping at their heels, take a heartbroken agoraphobic hostage in an isolated house. Short filmmaker Daniel Krige wrote and will direct the drama West about a group of young men in desperate pursuit of a better life, with extra support from co-producers Matt Reeder and Anne Robinson.

The projects are two of what may end up being a dozen very low budget films. "The real excitement of it is that we end up with a bunch of first-time filmmakers," says Mason, who cites films such as Blood Simple, Bound and Pi as the sort of films that can be made on digital video and A$1m or less.

"You get not just writer/directors but people who haven't acted in a movie before, or photographed a movie before, but they have that in them. What you can be sure about is that any film made by people passionate to get their first film made is going to be worth watching. That energy is wildly exciting."

Mason, Pressman and Bryant all get producer credits on Power Surge but Bryant switches to executive producer on West. The New York-based ContentFilm has already highlighted its intention of supporting low-budget films using new non-film production processes. The FFC describes its "modest" equity investment as setting the City Productions initiative in motion, and cites a necessity to be flexible and responsive to the potential of new technologies.

Mason will have his name on the credits of five releases next year, which is unheard of for a producer working in Australia. They are Kangaroo Jack (formerly Down & Under), Swimming Upstream, Danny Deckchair, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions.

But he describes himself as "drifting out" of servicing offshore production and is now working to develop a slate of local pictures, including ones shot in the traditional way. His producing partners include Emily Bliss from UK company Brave Films and LA-based Ilene Staple, and his big slate includes writer/director Peter Duncan's Virgin's End.