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Oz gov’t finance group spends big bucks on pix

Film Finance Corp. spends A$87 million on hot slate

SYDNEY — Earnings for Aussie films might be at a low ebb, but expenditure during the financial year, which wrapped Thursday, scaled new heights.

Australia’s government agency the Film Finance Corp. spent A$87 million ($66 million) on a film, television and documentary slate worth a record $175 million.

Some of the high-profile movies in the pipeline are the Geoffrey Rush and Heath Ledger drug-addict drama “Candy”; “Little Fish,” Cate Blanchett’s first Oz movie since she came to international attention in Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth”; and “Jindabyne,” Ray Lawrence’s $11 million follow-up to “Lantana.”

The FFC boosted its slate with $109 million from other government agencies and, due to changes in the way it now structures some investments, bigger commitments from the private sector.

Subordinate position

FFC hitherto insisted on equal recoupment rights, but as a sweetener for the investment community, it agreed to subordinate its position to private investors on some titles.

Eight of the total 13 films were financed through the FFC’s evaluation process, introduced last financial year to give the org more control over how it spends its annual $46 million allocation (upped this year to $53 million).

The effectiveness of that system, which skeptics fear allows the agency to behave like a Hollywood studio, will become clear only upon release of the titles from later this year.

The final movie rubber-stamped by the FFC this year is “Middle of Nowhere,” penned by James Watkins (“My Little Eye”) and Andrew Upton, best-known as Blanchett’s husband and for his adaptation of “Cyrano De Bergerac” for the Sydney Theater Company. Outback thriller about a young British couple charmed by a charismatic but dangerous American is backed by Working Title, produced by Deborah Balderstone and Nira Park, and will be directed by Brit Ringan Ledwidge.

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