Film aid Down Under

Van Sant, Sayles pump scribe program

SYDNEY — Helmers Gus Van Sant and John Sayles and producer Geoff Stier will mentor Australian filmmakers in the Aurora script development program run by the New South Wales Film and Television Office.

The trio plus “Japanese Story” scripter Alison Tilson will start working later this month with four teams of producers, writers and directors. Aim is to develop projects to the point where they can attract finance.

Stier exec produced Michael Rohatyn’s “Forty Shades of Blue,” which nabbed the grand jury prize at Sundance this year.

“There is no shortage of great Australian stories, but the reality is our films will never have the massive budgets of American blockbusters,” NSW Premier and Arts Minister Bob Carr said Thursday. “That’s why we have to be smarter about how we make our films. The Aurora program is a great way of doing that.”

The first Aurora project in 2002 was “Somersault,” which won 13 Australia Film kudos and sold to 20 countries. Cate Blanchett recently wrapped “Little Fish,” another Aurora-nurtured pic.

The Aurora projects for 2005 are “Accidents Happen” (producer Anthony Anderson), “Leftovers” (Andrew McPhail), “Storage” (Dylan Blowen) and “Wake” (Martin Williams and Samantha Jennings).

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