Icon Entertainment International has jumped aboard Jindabyne, the next film by director Ray Lawrence, who gave Australia its biggest commercial and critical hit of 2001 with Lantana.

It is the first time the company has grabbed all worldwide sales rights to an Australian film since its local distribution arm opened two years ago.

Lawrence will revisit the frailty and complexity of marriages and human relationships in Jindabyne, which takes its name from the small Australian ski-resort where it will be shot. Financing is not yet secured but a January 2004 start date is the aim.

"Ray's two films (Bliss and Lantana) show how tuned in he is to an adult audience and that is an audience that interests me and is growing," said Icon chief executive Mark Gooder.

"We know the film is going to be honest and real. He opened the door for those kinds of stories to be told in this country, rather than trying to push Australian stories into overseas formulas."

Jindabyne was inspired by a Raymond Carver short story that Lawrence read almost 20 years ago. It is to be produced by Lawrence and his long-time collaborator Cate Jarman from a script by playwright Beatrix Christian. The executive producers will be Australian-born Icon principal Bruce Davey and Barrie M Osborne.

Jindabyne is also a landmark in that it is the first project to be produced by RGM Films, as a joint venture with Lawrence's production company Nextdoor. RGM Films was created several months ago when high-end television producer Richard Keddie left Apollo Films to join agent Robyn Gardiner and financier Devesh Chetty. It is separate to Gardiner and Chetty's RGM Plus.