Rolf de Heer will be putting his directing boots back on and three directors, Tony Krawitz, Wayne Blair and Miro Bilbrough, will be making their debut features in 2011 thanks to investment decisions made this week by Screen Australia.

de Heer returns to cinemas with the dark comedy The King Is Dead! He stopped making films suddenly after an unprecedented level of activity for an Australian director: eight features in the 11 years up to 2006, including Ten Canoes, The Tracker and Dance Me To My Song.

Screen Australia is also supporting film adaptations of Dead Europe, a celebrated novel by Christos Tsiolkas about an Australian abroad, and The Sapphires, a popular stage play about a foursome of indigenous singers sent to Vietnam to entertain the troops.

It has taken the directors of both films five years to get their feature debuts financed after each made a short film highly celebrated on the world stage: Krawitz (Dead Europe) made Jewboy, which was in Cannes and Sundance; and Blair (The Sapphires) made The Djarn Djarns which won a Crystal Bear for best short film in Berlin. Both have made some significant television projects since and Blair is also much admired for his work on the stage.

The fourth film to go into production as a result of Screen Australia’s backing is Miro Bilbrough’s Venice, which is being produced by Karen Radzyner and Michael Wrenn. Wrenn’s distribution entity, Curious Films, will handle the film locally.

A fifth film, Summer Coda, has already been released in cinemas.

In what will be the agency’s last investment decisions for 2010, Screen Australia put A$18 million into 28 projects worth A$84.5 million. As well as the five features there were 17 documentaries and six television dramas, including a mini-series to be directed by Jane Campion.

The mystery thriller Top Of The Lake is about “finding happiness in a cool modern world littered with damaged histories”. Like Dead Europe, it is produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning of See Saw Films (The King’s Speech).

Screen Australia has also highlighted that it has invested in the development of 45 features since August including projects by Bryan Brown and Gregor Jordan, Leigh Whannell, Andrew Traucki, Peter Duncan, Adam Elliott, Tony Ayres and Michael McMahon, and the team behind the highly anticipated 2011 release Wasted On The Young.

Production investments:

See Saw Films
Producers Emile Sherman, Iain Canning
Writer Louise Fox
Director Tony Krawitz
Sales and distribution Cross City Sales, Wild Bunch International Sales, Transmission Films
Synopsis Isaac, a late 20s Greek Australian spirals out of control when he’s forced to confront his own family’s cursed legacy on his first trip to Europe – with the continent’s haunted past and troubled present pressing in on him.

Vertigo Productions
Producers Rolf de Heer, Nils Erik Nielsen
Writer/director Rolf de Heer
Sales and distribution Fandango Portobello, Pinnacle
Synopsis An unsuspecting couple buy a house in what appears to be a quiet street… a dark comedy about neighbours, ice and baseball bats.

Goalpost Pictures
Producers Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne
Executive producers Ben Grant, Tristan Whalley
Writers Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Director Wayne Blair
Sales and distribution Goalpost Film/Quickfire Film, Hopscotch Films
Synopsis Gail, Cynthia, Julie and Kay are sexy, black, young and talented – and they’ve never set foot outside Australia. Until, in the chaos of 1968, they’re plucked from the obscurity of a remote Aboriginal mission, branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, and – grasping the chance of a lifetime – dropped into the jungles of Vietnam to entertain the troops. Inspired by the hit stage-play of the same name.

Dragonet Films
Producers Karen Radzyner, Michael Wrenn
Writer/director Miro Bilbrough
Sales and distribution Wide Film Sales, Curious Distribution
Synopsis When Venice’s ex-hippy dad comes to stay in her tiny Sydney apartment primal
emotions are stirred. At 40, the pain of childhood rejection is rekindled. How old is too old to be
your father’s daughter? Until Venice asks the right person the right question, she is condemned to
ask it of all who cross her path.

Revival Film Company
Producers Richard Gray, Marc Goldenfein, John Finemore
Writer Richard Gray
Director Richard Gray
Sales and distribution Sharmill Films/Jump Street Films
Synopsis Having grown up with her mother in Nevada, Heidi hasn’t spoken to her father since
she was seven. Now a young woman, haunted by his memory, she returns to Australia seeking
closure. Traveling to her hometown, Heidi is forced to busk for cash and her melancholic violin
score catches the attention of handsome orange picker Michael, who offers Heidi a ride. Both are
initially guarded, but an unexpected connection soon blossoms.