The push to turn Australia'sfilm industry into a low-budget Mecca continues with the news that the giantoutdoor short film competition Tropfest and pay TV channel the Movie Networkwill fund a $770,000 (A$1m) feature for each of the next three years.

Tropfest attracts up to 700short film entries each year and several of its first prize-winners havesubsequently graduated to features including Gregor Jordan (BuffaloSoldiers, Ned Kelly) and Paul Fenech (Fat Pizza).

This initiative aims to developopportunities for talented participants - Tropfest finalists can submitprojects for consideration - and the first production will commence around July1, 2006, and be fully funded by the Movie Network. The films will be traileredat Tropfest, which attracts well over 100,000 Australians annually, and opentheatrically a short time later.

"Creatively, the most successfulAustralian films don't try to compete with -- or imitate -- Hollywood product,"says Tropfest founder John Polson, who directed Swimfan and Hide AndSeek. "Ironically, only when an Australian film achieves a unique voicedoes it stand a chance of being embraced universally. We believe that $770,000is enough to make a successful feature whose emphasis is on narrative anddramatic elements."

The Movie Network recentlyfunded the low-budget feature Solo, which wrapped last month. It will bethe final result of Australia's Project Greenlight, a replica of thecompetitive US reality series created by actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon andothers.

The Australian FilmCommission recently launched the IndiVision initiative to encourage innovativelow-budget filmmaking. The Screen Producers Association of Australia this yearestablished DigiSPAA, the first competitive event for films shot on digital,and low-budget filmmaking is the theme of this month's Australian ScreenDirectors Association annual conference.

Horror film Wolf Creek,which premiered in London this month and was shot on a budget of $1m, isregularly held up as an example of what can be achieved on little money.According to producer David Lightfoot, it is opening on about 2,000 screens inthe US in November.