Ned Kelly producer Nelson Woss has joined forces with live entertainment specialists Sports & Entertainment Limited (SEL) to form a new Sydney based film outfit.
Called Woss Group Films/SEL, the company is looking to produce Australian projects with international ambitions as well as other international projects.
Woss is one of the producers of Gregor Jordan's Ned Kelly, which stars Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush, and that has its world premiere in Melbourne this weekend.
SEL is owned by James Erskine, David Coe, Tony Cochrane and Basi Scaffidi and came first in Australian business magazine BRW's 2002 list of top 50 entertainers. Its gross earnings for the previous year were reported as US$22m, much of which derived from the London staging of The King And I. SEL's current Broadway production is Hairspray and it is also heavily involved in car racing. It has wanted to enter the film business for some time.
"We would be really interested in doing a film that was either set in the world of motor racing, or had something to do with that world," said Woss, "because we have access to 14 major races a year, it is an exciting sport and it draws huge crowds of the right demographic. But there are many synergies under this deal."
A script already delivered by Bill Bennett is more likely to be the first project financed. The idea for the thriller set in the remote tourist haven of Broome on Western Australia's north coast came from Woss and Nick Giannopoulos, of The Wogboy fame. A director is yet to be attached.
Other projects in development include Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, an adaptation of the US stage show, and Kenyan Runners, based on the true story of Brother Colm O'Connell, the Irish missionary who trains Kenya's Olympic athletes. Also optioned is Red Dog, a novel by Captain Corelli's Mandolin author Louis de Bernières which follows the exploits of a nomadic dog in Western Australia.
Woss was born in Australia but has spent most of the last 10 years in LA, where he worked for Village Roadshow Pictures, then Universal and director Ivan Reitman. He subsequently launched his own company, Endymion Films, and executive produced Venus & Mars, which is being released in the US soon.
He will continue to divide his time between Australia and the US but will also appoint a full-time person to replace Melissa Hasluck, who has represented him in Australia since Ned Kelly got the green light.