Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC) has approved investment in four new features. They are Mozart Maulers, the third film by director John Polson (Swimfan), Three Dollars, Robert Connolly's second film as a director after The Bank, debut writer/director Anna Reeves' The Oyster Farmer, and You And Your Stupid Mate, which is principally financed through the Macquarie Nine Film & Television Fund.
While this is excellent news for the creative teams involved, a spokesperson has confirmed that, three months into the 2003/04 year, only about one-quarter of the FFC's feature film money remains. Several additional projects went up to yesterday's meeting but failed to secure finance and feature producers fear that the pot will be dry within a month.
The Oyster Farmer is the first acquisition of worldwide rights to an Australian film by Beyond since the Australian company moved the core of its sales agency to London with the appointment of Hilary Davis a year ago.
The UK/Australian co-production is a joint venture between producers Anthony Buckley and UK-based Piers Tempest. Billed as a modern romantic comedy, the film is set "in Australian-style frontier country with eighth generation oyster farmers, Vietnam veterans with shotguns and 220 horsepower outboards, and other eccentrics". The cast includes the unknown Alex O'Lachlan, David Kelly, Kerry Armstrong and Jack Thompson. Australian and New Zealand rights - director Reeves is a London-based Kiwi -- are shared between Ocean and Dendy. Tempest holds UK rights.
GreeneStreet Films International, which was involved in Swimfan and like its director is based in New York, has put up half of the estimated A$10 million budget for Mozart Maulers and has all world rights outside Australia/New Zealand, which will be handled by Roadshow.
The feature is the first to be financed from producer Martin Brown's slate since he and Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann parted ways. Dorian Mode, Richard Sutherlin and Louis Nowra have written the romantic comedy inspired by the true story of a Sydney Conservatorium of Music student who starts a rugby league team. Pre-production is due to start in January.
One of Connolly's regular collaborators, David Wenham, plays the lead in a film based on Elliot Perlman's novel Three Dollars, about a man who finds himself, aged 38, with a wife, a child and three dollars. Shooting is scheduled for February 2004. Footprint Films, the sister company to Connolly and producer John Maynard's Arenafilm, has Australian rights, Fandango has Italian rights and Maze is handling sales to all other territories.
Meanwhile Lightning Entertainment is selling You And Your Stupid Mate, which is being produced by Marc Gracie and David Redman, and directed by Gracie from a script by Dave O'Neil and Mark O'Toole. This is exactly the same team behind Take Away.