September,from writer/director Peter Carstairs, will be the first project to emerge from Tropfestand the Movie Network's new feature programme, which each year gives $743,000(A$1m) to the creator of a short film to make a feature.

The debut feature is about afriendship between two teenage boys - one white Australian, the otherAboriginal - on a sheep station in Western Australia in 1968. It is due to go into production mid-year andwill be fully funded by pay-TV outfit the Movie Network.

Carstairs works as anintellectual property lawyer and is a graduate of the Australian Film, Television & Radio School. He has had considerable critical acclaim for his short films and was afinalist this year in the long-running short film event Tropfest with a filmtitled Pacific.

The organisers of Tropfestand the Movie Network dreamed up the Tropfest feature programme last year andput out a call for applications in September from anyone who has been aTropfest finalist over the years. Tropfest films must be no longer than sevenminutes.

"The inaugural recipient ofthe Tropfest feature programme, Peter Carstairs, is a filmmaker whose work I'mvery impressed by, and whose distinctive style has been carried through to hisvery own feature film script," said John Polson, who founded Tropfest beforeleaving his acting career behind him and moving into directing.

The Movie Network is obligedto spend money on local production as part of its pay-TV licence conditions andis also the lynchpin in Project Greenlight Australia.

Tropfest was rained out onSunday and the winners were announced yesterday instead. The top prize went to Carmichael And Shane by directors AlexWeinress and Rob Carlton. The judges included actors Rose Byrne, Simon Baker,Toni Collette and Guy Pearce and the directors Greg McLean and Phillip Noyce.