Nadia Tass, director of the popular comedies Malcolm and The Big Steal, John Curran of cult hit Praise fame, and Tony Ayres, whose recent debut feature Walking On Water drew wide critical acclaim, are at the helm of three of the 23 films to be presented at this year's inaugural SpaaMART, the film financing market to be held in Melbourne next month.
SpaaMART takes its name from the Screen Producers Association of Australia and is being held from November 18 - 21as a sidebar event to the annual conference.
Tass is working with producer Heather Ogilvie on a thriller set in 1900 by Canadian writer James W Nichol, titled The Murder Of Maggie Sykes. The UK/Canadian/Australian co-production is about two young girls who must convince the adult world that their mother and her boyfriend has murdered their cousin.
The focus of Curran's Nowhere, which has the overtones of a western, is a young man and the test of courage he must face while living on an outback cattle station. It is written by Bernard Hallam and the producers are Bryan Brown and Liz Watts.
Watts is one of only two producers with two films in the list. She has also re-teamed with Ayres on The Home Song Stories, for which Ayres has trawled his own past. The cross-cultural past-and-present story shot is to be shot in Macaw and Perth, where his nightclub singer mother moved in the 1970s from Shanghai. Producers Watts and Michael McMahon are seeking out key cast and possibly funding from the Asian region.
The other twice-named producer is Rosemary Blight. She is working with permanent business partner Kylie du Fresne on Clubland, written by Keith Thompson and to be directed by Cherie Nolan, whose debut film Thank God He Met Lizzie starred Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Frances O'Connor. This new girl-meets-boy story - in this case the boy is a roadie to his stand-up comedian mother - is being planned as a co-production with Dublin-based Subotica Entertainment.
Blight's other film, Closed For Winter, is an adaptation of Georgia Blain's acclaimed first novel by director/writer James Bogle. Blight and Bogle last paired up for In The Winter Dark.
Producers John Brousek, whose credits include the 2000 commercial hit The Wogboy, and Michelle Harrison are in the list with director/writer Jonathan Ogilvie's The Tender Hook, a "noirish" love triangle set in the 1920s in the world of boxing. So too is Moulin Rouge producer Martin Brown with Brothers In Arms, an account of the real-life clash in suburban Sydney that left six bikers and a teenage girl dead. Michael Jenkins is directing.
Market director Duncan Thompson says all the scripts are fresh and distinctive stories told in an unusual and distinctive manner: "Although some of the names are familiar, what they are doing is most unexpected. These projects represent an unusual amount of narrative daring, and a welcome degree of emotional warmth. The resulting films will take their audiences to some dramatically unexpected places."
Yet to be announced are the five New Zealand projects that will be showcased alongside the 18 Australian ones and the names of those sales agents, distributors and potential investors who are going to be pitched at.
The 18 Australian projects are as follows:
The Tender Hook pr. John Brousek/Michelle Harrison, dir/wr. Jonathan Ogilvie
The Home Song Stories pr. Liz Watts/Michael McMahon, dir/wr. Tony Ayres
Only A Heart pr. Melissa Hasluck, dir/wr. Melanie Rodriga
Pokerface pr. Anastasia Sideris, dir/wr. Josh Reed
Clubland pr. Rosemary Blight/Kylie du Fresne, dir. Cherie Nowlan, wr. Keith Thompson
Ice pr. Matt Carroll, dir/wr. Sofya Gollan
Woomera pr. Alex Cross, dir. Evan Clarry, wr.Robert Rabiah
Puppy pr. Karel Segers, dir/wr. Kieran Galvin
Martian Nights pr. Jane Ballantyne, dir. Alex Frayne, wr. Alex Frayne/Everett De Roche
Closed For Winter pr. Rosemary Blight, dir/wr. James Bogle
A Cold Summer pr. GraceYee/ Paul Middleditch, dir. Paul Middleditch, wr. Teo Gebert/Paul Middleditch/Olivia Pigeot/Susan Prior
Footy Legends pr. Megan McMurchy, dir. Khoa Do, wr. Khoa Do/Anh Do/Suzanne Do
Brothers In Arms pr. Martin Brown, dir. Michael Jenkins, wr. Jason Kent/Hud Saunders
Googie pr. Miriam Stein, dir. Francine McDougall, wr. Boaz Stark
The Murder Of Maggie Sykes pr. Heather Ogilvie, dir. Nadia Tass, wr. James W. Nichol
Babylon pr. Ian Iveson, dir. Martin Murphy, wr. Stephen Sewell
Gary's House pr. Amanda Higgs, dir. Marion Potts, wr. Debra Oswald
Nowhere pr. Bryan Brown/Liz Watts, dir. John Curran, wr. Bernard Hallam