The Chinese-Australian co-production The Last Dragon is to be the first feature for AMPCO Films, the company set up last year by Adelaide producer/director Mario Andreacchio with the aim of making quality family films for the international marketplace.
Working with independent production company Beijing Rosat Film & TV Production, the 4K Red digital cameras will roll from May 5 in film studios in and around Beijing.
Post-production will be undertaken in Adelaide; Andreacchio (Napoleon, Young Blades, Elephant Tales) said it would be the first time that film-makers have created a traditional Chinese dragon in the computer for use in a live-action film.
The Last Dragon is the story of Josh, who travels to China from Australia to visit his archaeologist father.
Andreacchio is producing John Armstrong's script alongside Ron Saunders, who has had plenty of experience making family and children's television in China, and John Wild, AMPCO's new chief executive.
The film is being financed via Andreacchio's AMPCO business partners, Geoffrey Rischbieth, who founded a chain of chemist shops, and accountants Graeme Hodge and John Hood.
No distributor or sales agent is involved and, unusually for an Australian independent film with a decent-sized budget, there is no government investment. The South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), however, this week agreed to provide a loan.
At the same board meeting the SAFC also agreed, with conditions, to invest in Home, an Australian Western to be directed by Kriv Stenders, and The Last Ride, a contemporary road movie and the first feature by director Glendyn Ivin, who won thePalme D'Orat Cannes in 2003 for his short film Crackerbag.
The Last Ride is about a young boy and his father on the run from the law and is adapted from a novel by Denise Young. Home tells what happens when three soldiers arrive at the home of an impoverished and isolated farming family. Told through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, it is set in 1902.
The Adelaide Film Festival investment fund has promised financing to both films, providing they can complete their financing and production arrangements in time to screen at the next festival in February 2009. The producers, Kristian Moliere (Home) and Nick Cole and Antonia Barnard (The Last Ride), are in discussions with sales agents.
Madman is distributing The Last Ride, about a father and son on the run from the law. Madman released Kenny, which grossed more than any other Australian independent film in 2006.
Robert Connolly and John Maynard, the producers of the 2007 AFI Award best film winner Romulus, My Father, are Home's executive producers and will release the thriller in Australia through their distribution company Footprint Films.
They took Andy Cox's script to Stenders and Moliere after seeing the pair's most recent film, Boxing Day. The plan is to shoot Home using similar techniques: Boxing Day was shot on digital on a 360-degree set, had few cuts. Its acclaim far outweighed its tiny $154,000 (A$170,000) budget.