Eaglevs Sharkfrom Academy Award nominated writer/director Taika Waititi is to be the firstfeature for Whenua Films, set up in 2004 by producer Ainsley Gardiner and CliffCurtis, one of New Zealand's best-known actors.

Thefilm has been fully financed by the New Zealand Film Commission. The fundingoutfit's sales division is handling international sales.

Waititi'sshort Two Cars, One Night was nominated for an Oscar in the live action short film category this year andhis follow-up, Tama Tu, which Curtisand Gardiner produced, won best short at the Melbourne International FilmFestival last month.

Eagle vs Shark is billed as a "sweet, poignant and funny tale" about"two socially awkward misfits and the strange ways they try to find love".Loren Horsley, who collaborated on the script, and comedian and musicianJemaine Clement have been cast as the leads.

Eagle vs Shark was work shopped earlier this year at the Sundancedirector and writer labs and is one of three features on the Whenua Films slateby Waititi, who is also a comedian and actor. Another is a longer version of TwoCars, One Night and it too has been to the Sundance writers' lab.

Gardiner told ScreenDaily.comthat Whenua Films was an attempt to build a model for Maori feature filmmaking,underpinned by such cultural values as respect for family and caring, and thebelief that getting the process right results in quality product. It aims tomake strong, diverse uniquely New Zealand stories and is in discussion withthree other writers. Whenua is one of three companies funded by the NZFCto develop and manage short film production.

Principal photography on Eaglevs Shark commences on November 1 in and around Wellington. It will also beunder the Defender Films banner, Gardiner's company with Waititi.