Shooting is drawing to a close on Fred Schepisi’s $13m (A$15m) family drama, which stars Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush.

Synopsis: A family drama set in 1970s Sydney in which a dying matriarch has difficulty relinquishing control.
Director: Fred Schepisi
Writer: Based on Patrick White’s novel, adapted by Judy Morris
Producers: Gregory Read for Paperback Films, Antony Waddington, Fred Schepisi
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush, Robin Nevin, Colin Friels, Helen Morse, Alexandra Schepisi
Budget: $13m (A$15m)
Financing: nine private investors, 40% producer offset, grant from State Government agency Film Victoria
International Sales: The Little Film Company
Distributors: Transmission (Australia and New Zealand)
Language: English
Countries of Production: Australia
Status: Shooting principally in Melbourne April 19-June 19
Release date: 2011

Shooting is drawing to a close on Fred Schepisi’s $13m (A$15) million family drama, which stars Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush and is the Australian director’s first project filmed on home soil since Evil Angels in 1988.

Davis and Rush play siblings at the bedside of their dying mother, a powerful matriarch (Rampling) in the film, which is based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Patrick White.

“It is a bourgeois tale, an Australia we do not see on film, and Patrick White wrote about it with scalpel-like precision,” says Anthony Waddington, who optioned the novel in 1999 and is producing the film along with Schepisi and Gregory Read, principal of Sydney based Paperback films.

“The response to the draft scripts of an early writing team made me quickly realise that I needed a team commensurate with Patrick White’s talent or the film was not going to happen,” said Waddington, who had started pursuing veteran Australian director Schepisi, but the pair didn’t meet until 2005 after Schepisi had finished making the series Empire Falls.

Schepisi, who directed The Devil’s Playground and Six Degrees Of Separation, agreed to come on board on the understanding that Judy Morris, who co directed and co-wrote Happy Feet, would adapt.

The film’s financing structure doesn’t fit the usual structure of an Australian film, with a third of the budget being put up by private investors.

“Patrick White and his great literary achievements was the chief motivating factor for our investors,” says Read.

“They are also interested in character-driven drama they can relate to and cinema experiences that move them emotionally and challenge their thinking,” explains Waddington. “The investors are successful baby boomers who see this sort of work coming from the US and Germany but not Australia. They see fine music, ballet and theatre here, but not that kind of quality cinema. We have unashamedly tapped into that,” he adds.

The 40% producer offset has also been crucial to the film. James Vernon’s MFM, and Ingenious Media, which Vernon represents in Australia and New Zealand, plus some of the nine non-film investors, have provided cash flow for the offset, and gap and bridging finance.

Robin Nevin, Colin Friels and Helen Morse are also in the cast, as well as the veteran director’s daughter Alexandra Schepisi, who has just written, directed and produced One Night, a hard hitting 25-minute short film about young women out on the town.

While the film is set in Sydney, filming is taking place principally in Schepisi’s hometown of Melbourne, in part because of a grant from State Government agency Film Victoria. It wraps on June 19.

“It has been a while since I’ve filmed in Australia, but it’s been a matter of waiting for the right story to tell, with the right people,” said Schepisi. “The script for The Eye of The Storm and the cast and crew are absolutely world class, so this is an incredibly exciting project to be making in this country and well worth the wait to work at home again,” says Schepisi.