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Distribs find strategies for funding pix locally

Roadshow funding 'Bad Eggs,' Palace places money on De Heer pic

SYDNEY — Two Australian distribbers recently trumpeted that they had made their “largest financial contribution ever” to a feature film on their slate — and in the process they have taken greater control of the deal and rights.

Roadshow matched Macquarie Film Corp’s investment in low budget comedy “Bad Eggs” and Palace Films went toe-to-toe with Italy’s Fandango on Rolf De Heer’s low budget relationship drama “Alexandra’s Project.”

In the current coin-scarce environment, they buck the trend wherein only features with international backing, such as Working Title’s “Ned Kelly” are getting greenlit.

Government funder the Film Finance Corporation spent most of its annual (July to June) allocation for feature films by December, the two Film Licence Investment Companies (of which Macquarie is the most significant) are winding down, and feevee platforms and terrestrial networks historically invest only a small fraction, if at all (in the case of the terrestrials).

Roadshow and Palace have effectively side-stepped the stasis but reps from both companies deny their actions are part of a new trend.

Film topper at leading arthouse distribber Palace, Tait Brady, said the decision to co-fund the latest pic by indie darling De Heer (“Dance Me To My Song”), was straightforward — albeit unprecedented for Palace, De Heer’s long-time distribber.

“It’s Rolf’s most commercial script ever,” he said. The two-hander, currently being shot cheaply in South Australia is set mostly in one room. “We know he can do it, Fandango we get on well with and you can actually take a significant slice of the film.”

Starring Gary Sweet and Helen Buday, “Alexandra’s Project” will likely also get some coin from state funding body the South Australian Film Corporation.

Roadshow also invested in a creative with whom they have a long-standing relationship — Tony Martin, one half of the former Martin-Molloy radio comedy duo which garnered huge national auds for their affiliated Austereo radio network.

The tyro will write, direct, co-produce and co-star in the two-hander “Bad Eggs,” one of five Oz pics on Roadshow’s slate. Another is lawn bowling comedy “Crackerjack” by Martin’s comic other half — Mick Molloy. On that project Roadshow will distrib for investors Macquarie and the FFC, other partners are feevee Showtime and terrestrial TV Network Ten.

Roadshow’s Joel Pearlman said “one of the advantages of being an equity investor is that we can secure all rights.” So unlike “Crackerjack,” feevee rights for “Bad Eggs” will flow to Roadshow affiliate the Movie Network, terrestrial TV rights will go to Network Nine, with whom they have an output deal.

Acquisition topper for Showtime, Mark Woods, said “imitation is the best form of flattery. I’m thrilled to see that Roadshow’s so impressed with the creative team behind “Crackerjack” that they’re so substantially backing their next effort.”

Pearlman added that Roadshow’s decision to make its biggest commitment to a non in-house production ever was also about “a desire to play a role in (Martin’s) emerging career.” Roadshow has not signed Martin to an ongoing deal.