Sydney-based Screen Corporation Ltd (ScreenCorp) is partnering with Michael Cerenzie's LA-based company Unity Productions for its first project, titled Batavia.

The bloodthirsty epic adventure is based on the real events that occurred after the sinking of the Dutch United East India Company ship of the same name off the coast of Western Australia in 1629.

ScreenCorp CEO James Michael Vernon is confident that the project will go into production in 2001 and has signed CAA to package it with key cast and a director. It will use the 59-metre replica of Batavia, currently on loan from Holland and moored at the Sydney Maritime Museum.

ScreenCorp raised money through a listing on the Australian Stock Exchange late last year which it has used to develop a handful of projects. "We were generally satisfied with the results but it was a tough haul against the clamour for internet product," said Vernon, who is well known for raising Australian money for US films but says he is pleased to be going back to his creative roots. He wrote Batavia with Drew Lees.

The prospectus made much of a first-look deal with Universal Pictures, which Vernon said is now "informal rather than formal". Batavia's $31m (A$60m) budget is likely to be financed elsewhere.