After more than 20 years as the Australian Government's key film investor, the Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC) board yesterday agreed to invest in 10 new Australian features worth $56.7m (A$62m), the last batch of films before it closes its doors on June 30.
'The FFC was cognizant that the new agency, Screen Australia, would be opening for business on July 1 but would take some time to bed down,' said FFC chief executive Brian Rosen. 'We wanted to approve as many projects as possible to create work for actors and technicians and others during this time.'
One last board meeting is scheduled for June 18 but no investment will be handed out at that time.
The films that now have a green light include Bran Nue Dae, Rachel Perkins' third major film and Australia's first black musical, The Last Man, the first film director Fred Schepisi (Russia House) has made back in his native country for 20 years, and new features from directors who have won awards at Cannes, Shirley Barrett (Camera D'Or for Love Serenade) and Glendyn Ivin (Palme D'Or for Crackerbag).
Barrett's South Solitary is a dramatic, windswept romance to be filmed in a remote lighthouse off the coast of the Australian island state of Tasmania. It will star Maggie Gyllenhaal as a disgraced young woman and Paul Bettany as a shellshocked soldier.
A theatrical sequel to Cane Toads, the tongue-in-cheek documentary that was Australia's most popular homegrown documentary for more than 20 years until overtaken in 2006 by Bra Boys, also scored investment from the FFC. So too did Blessed, the third feature from Ana Kokkinos (Head On), who has again chosen scriptwriter Andrew Bovell (Lantana) as one of her collaborators.
Schepisi's The Last Man is based on Graham Brammer's 10-year-old novel Uncertain Fate, based on the author's experience in the Vietnam War and the emotional fall-out suffered by veterans and their loved ones. Guy Pearce and David Wenham are in the cast.
Schepisi has not always had a comfortable relationship with Australia's government film agencies but he praised the FFC's part in The Last Man: 'It has become increasingly difficult to finance independent films, not only in Australia but, everywhere in the world. Money has to be cobbled together from many sources, not always as reliable as they seem and almost always conditional on securing one of the ten top international stars of the moment, a difficulty that has been exacerbated by the recent worldwide tightening of credit and the threat of recession. So much so that, even allowing for the new and very generous rebate, we would have still had a shortfall in our finance plan (without the FFC).'
Schepisi's last film in Australia was Evil Angels, starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain, a woman jailed for the murder of her own baby, which is now believed to have been taken by a dingo
Financed through marketplace door
Production co: Ultrafilms Pty Ltd. Producers: Ayisha Davies, David Lightfoot. Director/writer: Rupert Glasson. Sales and distribution: All Interactive Distribution, Bankside Films, International Film Collective, Mars Productions, Shooting Stars LLC. Synopsis: An intimate thriller that honestly explores the dark consequences of choices made to satisfy a basic human desire... having a family.
THE LAST MAN
Prod co: Prairie Dog Films. Executive producers: Jamie Carmichael, Graham Begg, Heather Ogilvie. Producers: Martin Brown, Warwick Young, George Mannix, Fred Schepisi. Director: Fred Schepisi. Writers: Graham Brammer, Chris Wheeler, Ian Barry, Fred Schepisi. Sales and distribution: Hoyts with Abacus, Content. Synopsis: Aussie SAS soldiers trapped on their final Vietnam mission, do whatever it takes to survive. Twelve years later, they, and their wives, still suffer the emotional consequences.
Production co: International Production Services Australia Pty Ltd. Producer: Veronica Sive. Consultant producer: Jane Ballantyne. Director/writer: Sarah Lambert. Sales and distribution: Rialto, Lightning Entertainment, Ster-Kinekor, Monolith. Synopsis: Desperate to dance and escape the realities of home, Ellie changes her age to 16, dons a pair of fishnets and heads off on tour. Careful what you wish for!
Financed through evaluation door
Production co: Wildheart Zizani. Executive producer: Marian Macgowan. Producer: Al Clark. Director: Ana Kokkinos. Writers: Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas. Sales and distribution: Icon, Bankside. Synopsis: About mothers and children, love and beauty, and being lost and finding your way home.
BRAN NUE DAE
Production co: Robyn Kershaw Productions Pty Ltd, Mayfan Pty Ltd. Executive producers: Christopher Mapp, Matthew Street, Jason Moody, David Whealy. Producers: Robyn Kershaw, Graeme Isaac. Director: Rachel Perkins. Writers: Reg Cribb, Rachel Perkins, adapted from the stage play of the same name by Jimmi Chi and Kuckles. Sales and distribution: Omnilab/Transmission Films, ABC, Omnilab/Bankside Films. Synopsis: a road movie and a coming of age comedy musical which celebrates the adventure of finding home.
CANE TOADS (feature documentary)
Production co: Radio Pictures. Producer/director/writer: Mark Lewis. Sales and distribution: Madman Entertainment, Participant Media. Synopsis: a recap of the history of the ecological disaster that is the cane toad and an update this creature's ongoing conquest of mainland Australia. For Lewis it is a return to a subject he filmed 20 years ago.
THE LAST RIDE
Production co: Talk Films. Producers: Nicholas Cole, Antonia Barnard. Director: Glendyn Ivin. Writer: Mac Gudgeon. Sales and distribution: Madman Entertainment, ContentFilm International. Synopsis: a contemporary road movie about a young boy and his father, on the run from the law, and the price that survival demands of love.
THE LOVED ONES
Production co: Producers Mark Lazarus, Jason Moody. Director/writer Sean Byrne: Sales and distribution: Madman, Arclight. Synopsis: The story of a young man digging himself out of his own grave.
MY AMERICA (feature documentary)
Production co: Soul Vision Films. Executive producer: Trish Lake. Producer: Jane Jeffes. Producer/director Peter Hegedus. Writers: Peter Hegedus, Mark O'Toole. Sales and distribution: Rialto, Horizon Motion Pictures. Synopsis: Peter Hegedus travels to the US to find out what has happened to the country he fell in love with as a boy growing up in socialist Hungary. From Brisbane to Budapest, from South Central LA to Freedom, Pennsylvania, Peter tries to discover what lies at the core of the American heart, and why America has become the country we all love to hate.
Production co: Macgowan Films/Sarah Radclyffe Productions Ltd. Executive producer: Emile Sherman. Producers: Marian Macgowan, Sarah Radclyffe. Director/writer: Shirley Barrett. Sales and distribution Icon, Maximum. Synopsis: A dramatic, windswept romance about the great need for companionship and hope.
Letter of intent through evaluation
Production company: Porchlight Films. Producer: Liz Watts. Director/writer: David Michôd. Synopsis: A 17-year-old, J, navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and a cop who thinks he can save him.