Vincent Sheehan & Liz Watts

Oz team move into international arena

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Names: Vincent Sheehan, Liz Watts
Ages: 38
Breakthrough pics: “‘Mullet”‘ (2000), “‘Walking on Water”‘ (2002)
What they learned the hard way: “When you have good relationships with directors and writers and they are committed to the same vision, it’s enjoyable and works. Trying to do projects without that is hard,” says Sheehan. “We have to pursue finance in the same way as we pursue creativity: Patience and relationships are the key,” says Watts.

For a producing team that has just two low-budget features to its credit, Vincent Sheehan and Liz Watts’ Porchlight Films is taking a sizable step up the ladder in terms of budget, talent and international profile.

They’re prepping “Little Fish,” which will star Cate Blanchett as a strong-willed, working-class woman searching for happiness against the pull of her past. It’s the thesp’s first Aussie pic since 1997’s “‘Oscar and Lucinda.” Due to roll in October, it will be directed by Rowan Woods.

Sheehan has been developing the script with writer Jacquelin Perske for six years, Woods was attached in 2000 and Blanchett came aboard last year. It’s backed by the Film Finance Corp., Oz distrib Icon, the New South Wales Film & TV Office and international sales agent Myriad Pictures.

Myriad’s U.K.-based head of production, Aussie Marion Pilowsky, championed Porchlight’s “Mullet” and the Woods-helmed “The Boys” when she was head of acquisitions at Oz pay movie channel Showtime.

Sheehan went to art school and got his start as an editor, while Watts was a d.p. They formed Porchlight in 1997.

Apart from “Mullet” and “Walking on Water,” shingle’s credits include the 50-minute drama “Martha’s New Coat,” several shorts and docus and a two-hour TV drama.

Explaining her move into production, Watt says, “I wanted to be more involved in the script and creative process, rather than just being involved in the shoot.”

Sheehan says, “I was inspired by ideas about Australian stories and wanting to make them happen. We share the same vision about good cinema. And we share overheads and information: To survive as an independent producer in Australia you need to partner up.”

“As a producing team Liz and Vincent have a very good nose for new emerging talent in Australia,” says Wouter Barendrecht of Fortissimo Film Sales, which is backing several Porchlight projects. “Their approach is very international and professional.”

FFC chief exec Brian Rosen says, “Vincent and Liz are the new wave of Australian producers who have joined forces to maximize their potential. In an industry which has relied on an ad-hoc approach to filmmaking, Porchlight has created a financial model which supports a development and financing infrastructure which will be tremendously beneficial in creating a more sustainable industry.”

Porchlight’s upcoming projects include “Prime Mover,” described by Sheehan as a love triangle between a man, his wife and his truck, written and directed by “Mullet” helmer David Caesar. Also in the works is “The Home Song Stories,” writer-director Tony Ayers’ 1960s-set saga of a Shanghai night club singer who ends up in Perth, Western Australia, with her two kids; it’s a co-production with Michael McMahon’s Big & Little Films, with Fortissimo handling worldwide sales.

Also: “Candelo,” director Cate Shortland (whose “Somersault” is screening in Cannes’ Certain Regard) and writer Elizabeth Mars’ pic about a woman’s life of deceit and secrecy, based on the novel by Georgia Blain; and “The Hunter,” based on the Julia Leigh novel about a man’s search for the last Tasmanian tiger, penned by Wain Fimeri, directed by David Nettheim.

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