Aussies fund 5 pix, TV works

SYDNEY – The good news for Australian producers was the announcement Thursday that an unprecedented five feature films, along with three telepics, a miniseries and six docus, will receive investment from the Film Finance Corp.

The bad news is that after this spending binge, the FFC’s film coffers are virtually empty until they’re refilled in six months. The government agency, which is the principal bankroller of feature films, acknowledged it’s fully committed the funds available for films in the current fiscal year, which ends next June.

The FFC has approved investment in 15 films, the total it usually reaches in 12 months. (The agency is obliged to put coin into films which meet its funding criteria until, of course, the money runs out.)

Future investment depends on the outcome of the federal government review of assistance to the film industry, and how much coin the FFC is allocated for the 1997-98 fiscal year.

Chief exec John Morris also announced the suspension next year of its Film Fund, which is dedicated to assisting up to three low-budget films from tyro directors. He said that’s due to the unprecedented number of films with first-time helmers being financed. The five projects just approved are:

* “Hurrah” – Director, Frank Shields; producers Julie Marlow and John Wolstenholme. Woman on the run from her husband and lover meets a man who’s mourning the death of his fiancee. Total Film & TV and Mayfair Entertainment are the distribs.

* “Head On” – Director, Anna Kokkinos; producer Jane Scott (“Shine”). A wild journey through the inner city world of gay pubs, clubs, cops and Turkish taxi drivers. Distribs: Southern Star Film Sales and Palace.

* “James” – Director, Lynda Heys; producers Mariel Beros, Sharon Kruger, Heys. Saga of a grammar school kid whose world falls apart when he’s caught between his girlfriend, his love of ballet and football. Distribs: REP and Overseas Filmgroup.

* “Justice” – Director, Ron Elliott; producers Bob Roget, Larry Hirsch. An alcoholic down-and-out is framed for a cop’s murder and conducts his own defense at his trial. Distribs: Trident Releasing and Newvision.

* “Roosters” – Director, David Swann; producer Chris Warner. Life looks hopeless for a troubled youth until his long-lost great grandfather turns up. Distribs: Beyond Films and Sharmill Films.

The three telepics are “Halifax f.p.” from producers Beyond Simpson LeMesurier for the Nine network, Telcast and Television New Zealand; the mini is “The Violent Earth,” a six-hour co-production between Crawfords and France’s Gaumont, to be helmed by Michael Offer.

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