Gov’t-backed pix leverage more coin

Money to be culled from higher license fees, more co-prod'ns

SYDNEY — Brian Rosen is determined to wean the Oz film industry off its unhealthy reliance on government funding. And just shy of four months into his tenure as chief exec of Film Finance Corp. Australia, he’s having a fair measure of success.

His strategy is to leverage the FFC’s investment far more than in previous years by securing coin from a variety of sources, including bumping up the number of co-prods with other countries, extracting “soft” money from investors in Australia, the U.K. and Germany and securing higher license fees for telepics from Oz networks.

The first fruits of his labors were revealed July 23 when the FFC board agreed to fund A$70 million ($45.5 million) worth of production: four features (including two co-prods), seven telepics, one children’s TV drama series and nine docus.

“Screen drama is becoming increasingly expensive to produce, particularly for projects trying to attract the kind of cast and directors that can deliver international sales,” Rosen says. “We need to attract more international finance to our projects and to create partnerships with private-sector investors if we are to sustain a healthy critical mass in the local industry.” He notes 53% of the slate’s total production budget comes from non-FFC sources. One co-prod is “Irresistible,” a thriller about a woman who’s convinced she’s being stalked, from writer-director Ann Turner and exec producer Sue Maslin (“Japanese Story”). It’s backed by the U.K.’s Spice Factory, U.K. distrib Momentum and Australia’s Palace, with Arclight Films handling international sales.

The other is “The Queen and I,” a comedy written by and starring Gerry Connolly. Nik Powell is the co-producer, with Michael Pattinson directing, Becker as the local distrib and Winchester fielding foreign rights.

Rolf de Heer will co-helm “Ten Canoes” with Australian actor David Gulpilil. The historical saga will be performed in the language of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land, with English subtitles. Wild Bunch, Palace, Fandango and pubcaster SBSI are aboard.

Paul Cox will direct “The Human Touch,” an erotic drama that will location in South Australia and France. It’s backed by Dendy Films, feevee channel PMP/Showtime and sales agent Cinemavault Releasing.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, the FFC invested $18.4 million in 11 films with total budgets of $41.1 million, meaning non-FFC sources contributed 55.2%.

The FFC board has approved Rosen’s scheme to provide distribution guarantees of up to 60% of production budgets, which is designed to enable producers to tap funds from Oz investors or from film funds in the U.K. and Germany.

The first films expected to seek guarantees are “Little Fish,” from helmer Rowan Woods (“The Boys”), starring Cate Blanchett, for which Myriad Pictures will have international sales rights; and “Jindabyne,” director Ray Lawrence’s followup to “Lantana,” which is backed by Icon.

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