Writer-director Morgan O'Neill faced a barrage of mediainterviews today after it was revealed that his script had won $760,000 (A$1m)in production finance ahead of 1,200 others as part of Australia's ProjectGreenlight.
Reality TV show Project Greenlight originated in the USfive years ago and gives the winner prize money to bring their film script tothe big screen.
Four weeks of principal photography starts on Soloin seven weeks. O'Neill says the noir crime thriller has great local currencyand marketability: "Open any paper in Australia now and Solo is writlarge. We have airport baggage handlers involved in drug deals, phials of bloodfrom drunken judges involved in car accidents being lost, drive-by shootingsand people shot dead while watching their kids play soccer."
He also believes the low-budget picture has internationalappeal because it will be a genre understood throughout the world anddistinctively Australian.
Sue Seeary (associate producer on The Adventures OfPriscilla, Queen Of The Desert) is producing and Sue Milliken (ParadiseRoad, Black Robe) is executive producer.
O'Neill has directed, written or produced about nineshorts, acted in television series including Home & Away andproduced lifestyle programming for the Nine Network. His debut feature behindthe camera was written before Project Greenlight was announced.
Eight industry figures including Seeary and Millikeneventually settled on Solo after what O'Neill describes as"excruciatingly intense" interrogations throughout Wednesday. The film wasnamed among three finalists on Tuesday evening, immediately after aninvitation-only screening of scenes from 10 semi-finalists.
O'Neill hopes Solo will star actors Jacek Komanand ex-girlfriend Jessica Napier, who starred in his showcase scene, the secondto last of the film.
"We are identifying the talent that can't get through thedistributors doors, can't get past the statutory funding bodies, can't play thepolitics, but what they can do is write a script and this one is irresistible,"says Tony Forrest, chief executive of the Movie Network, the pay TV channelbehind the venture.
All drama channels must spend 10% of their programmingbudget on local content and Forrest is extremely critical of the expectation onhim to invest in films that have no hope of recovering their investment.
There have now been three US films and television seriesunder Project Greenlight, created by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore,and involving Miramax.
"The biggest challenge will be making a great feature inwhat is probably half the usual production time," said O'Neill. "But imagine ifI had raised the A$1m privately and did not have these two producers workingwith me that know a hell of a lot more than me."