Australian distributor Hopscotch has teamed up with London-based production, distribution and sales outfit Pathe to co-develop Australian films.
Those that get made are likely to be distributed by Hopscotch in Australia, and by Pathe in the UK and France. Pathe will also handle international sales.
"Everyone sits around and talks about what is wrong with the Australian film industry and what struck me was that it could be easily solved," says Hopscotch co-owner Troy Lum. "The gap has always been getting international input into scripts. I don't mean sales agents should tell us what to do, rather we have to know what the international market wants. It is the wrong way around to be doing six drafts before realising a script has no international potential."
Lum imagines he will channel about 10 projects a year through to Pathe and hopes one or two will go into development with a 50:50 sharing of costs.
Although it is not unheard of for Australian distributors to fund development, it is not common. Some may also succeed in getting additional "matched" development from the Australian Film Commission.
"We are not after films of a particular genre. Rather it is about strong story-telling. Pathe cannot believe, given the talent pool we have here, that there are not more successes. Interest in Australian film is becoming less and less, and that is not helped by not having had a hit since Shine. 1996 is a long time ago."
Lum hopes this new relationship will make Hopscotch more attractive to local directors and producers, and eventually lead to bigger-budget films and co-productions with name cast. His partner, Frank Cox, who formerly ran Newvision, gained his first producer credit only a couple of years ago on Better Than Sex.
"There is a lot of synergy in terms of Pathe's taste and ours and that is the most important thing," said Lum.