Ploughed Field Productions started by PFTC ex-head James with Tony Gilby.

It is highly unusual for an Australian start-up production company to be able to self finance its own productions but that’s the case with Ploughed Field Productions, the new company involving former head of Queensland’s Pacific Film and Television Commission (PFTC), Robin James.

“We are looking to have control over the bulk of the equity,” James told ScreenDaily. “Projects will be structured to take advantage of the producer offset but that will be the limit of outside equity.”

James is in this lucky position because of the wealth and connections of his business partner, Tony Gilby, co-founder of Sunshine Gas, which was taken over by QGC/BG for more than $1bn in 2008. Gilby is currently director of Walcot Capital, Comet Ridge Ltd and Tlou Energy.

“There is a lot of commonalities between film and television and oil and gas,” James said, referring to his business partner’s background. “Both involve a certain amount of risk management.”

Gilby suggested launching what James calls “a marriage of commerce and art.” He also came up with the company name when the two friends were travelling in Europe looking at battle grounds where Australians had fought — most were under cultivation.

“There are two strands to the business,” said James. “We will develop and invest in our own projects, from documentaries through to features, and anything from children’s to drama. I think there are a lot of opportunities in children’s and family. We will also act as executive producers in projects where we cashflow the producer offset.”

He said they are currently in an exploratory phase but have already decided not to equity finance other people’s projects or provide gap financing.

One of the things James learned during his 17 years at the PFTC, he said, was that even the most talented producer could not be guaranteed success because of the way most production was structured.

James was the first non-American president of the US-based Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI).

The PFTC is now called Screen Queensland and is headed by Maureen Barron.