George Miller (Happy Feet) has confirmed that he hopes to get Australian film status for his next project, a comic book adaptation for Warner Bros starring Batman, Superman and a host of other comic book superheroes.

If he is successful, he will be able to claim back 40% of a large proportion of the Australian expenditure under a new tax offset for Australian films. The incentive is in effect now, but the rules that will be used to judge what constitutes an Australian film are not being released for another week or so.

Miller's film is commonly referred to as Justice League Of America but its new name and the cast are going to be announced shortly. It is understood that another big-budget high-profile film, Twentieth Century Fox's Wolverine, which is being prepared as a star vehicle for Australia's Hugh Jackman, is also aiming to get Australian film status.

While being careful to say he will not comment directly on either film, Film Finance Corporation (FFC) chief executive Brian Rosen said the FFC would be examining films in a very holistic fashion.

Not having an Australian story or an Australian director - Wolverine is to be directed by South African Gavin Hood - does not necessarily prevent a film from being classified as Australian, but it probably means everything else about it has to be Australian, especially the producers.

It also does not matter where the finance has come from or who holds the copyright, although the extent to which profits flow into Australia will be an important consideration.

'We've been doing this (filmmaking) for quarter of a century and, to be honest, the offset is the only chance we have got to have a sustainable industry,' said Miller. He noted that some of Australia's biggest grossing films, including Moulin Rouge and Babe, are non-Australian stories.

'I don't think it is the content that is driving it but the personnel and the intention to have continuous production here,' said Miller, noting that when Happy Feet finished all the skilled personnel had to leave the industry or move abroad.

'I look to New Zealand: The Lord Of The Rings and King Kong are not New Zealand but they have driven film production in Wellington. It is now drawing the world's best filmmakers: James Cameron on Avatar, Peter Jackson and Stephen Spielberg on Tintin, let alone Andrew Adamson and all the Narnia stories. Every time I go there I come away very inspired and very humbled because that small country is doing what we could do.'

Every Australian producer seems to already have a story about being contacted for help to dress up a foreign film to look Australian, despite the government announcing the introduction of the incentive only six months ago.

Concerns are surfacing about the precedent that Wolverine and Justice League might set. These hinge on the extent to which the studios will profit from films like this and whether the system might quickly overheat, leading to it being rolled back by the government. There is a 15% offset in place for non-Australian films shooting in Australia.