In the space of just 18 months Sydney-headquartered Beyond Films has become the largest film sales agent Australia has ever had. And it’s now emerging as a buyer, with plans to distribute 18-24 films a year locally starting in 1992.

Company is an arm of Beyond Intl., an intricately structured group that has been built up from tv sales and distribution. Over the next year, per joint m.d. Phil Gerlach, Beyond has in the order of 150 hours of tv production on the boards, including a sitcom, “Lipstick Dreams,” to be made in Oz, and “Vikings,” a 26-episode European-based family drama to be made in association with Studio Hamburg.

That’s in addition to renewals of current programming, including “Chances,” company’s first ongoing drama (for the Nine network here) and the highly successful science magazine show “Beyond 2000,” which has underpinned much of the company’s growth.

Funding five films

Its entry into film production was via “The Crossing,” which debuted at Cannes last year. Company had also acquired global rights to animated features “The Magic Riddle,” “Strangers” and “Struck By Lightning,” then picked up worldwide marketing rights to the Australian Film Finance Corp.’s 1990 film fund, which helped fund five films made over the last year. First of these, “Spotswood,” debuted at AFM and was snapped up by Miramax for the U.S. Another, “Deadly,” debuts at Cannes.

Beyond has now clinched rights to the FFC’s 1992 fund, which will start seeking public investment in May for another five films selected late last year.

Its move into domestic theatrical distribution came earlier this year with Paul Cox’ “The Golden Braid” and will now generally see Beyond release all its own product in Oz, in addition to foreign acquisitions.

“It’s my fundamental belief that if we apply the same tenets we have with selling Australian product overseas to selling them into Australia we can take a significant slice of the boxoffice for Australian films,” says Gerlach.

Plan is to position the company as a major theatrical distributor in Australia within five to seven years, although Gerlach stresses that doesn’t include video at this stage.

Beyond has just picked up its first non-Australian pic – the Oscar-winning “Journey Of Hope” from Miramax – for domestic release. Recent new Aussie pickups include “Blinky Bill” and Paul Cox’ latest, “A Woman’s Tale.” Beyond will also handle Cox’ next project, “The Homecoming,” and is readying its next feature, “Destructive Fires,” in association with French outfit Gaumont Robert, David Hannay producing, Henri Safran directing.

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