Venture draws pair

U.S. bank, Oz shingle tap pix for alliance

SYDNEY — “Jindabyne,” a psychological mystery from “Lantana” helmer Ray Lawrence, and teen pic “Bikini Racers” are the first films to be backed by a new alliance between U.S. investment bank Babcock & Brown and Australia’s April Films.

The producing co-venture, which is the Stateside firm’s first involvement in Aussie films, intends to make two pics a year over five years.

The aim is to draw on Babcock & Brown’s pool of wealthy Oz investors who will fully fund the budgets.

Due to roll in December, “Jindabyne” is the saga of a man who discovers the body of a slain aboriginal girl during a fishing trip. No cast has been set.

“Bikini Racers,” which has no director attached, is skedded to start pre-production in January. Penned by Helen Bandis (“Love and Other Catastrophes”), it’s a teen road movie with a girl at the wheel. Casting is under way.

April Films is the development and production arm of April Entertainment, headed by exec director Garry Charny. Its shareholders include media mogul John Singleton and April Films chief exec Philippa Bateman.

“We have come up with a structure that works for equity investors,” Charny said. “We think we will be able to cut better deals with sales agents and distributors because we’re putting up 100% of the budgets.”

He put the combined budgets of the two pics at about A$25 million ($18.2 million).

Investors in the April/Babcock & Brown Movie Venture are being offered a 100% tax deduction, plus a return believed to be around 30% from funding agency Film Finance Corp. Australia.

Investors will be able to borrow against the FFC’s guarantee, fulfilling the org’s aim of leveraging its coin to attract scarce private capital.

The FFC board agreed to invest in “Jindabyne” at its Wednesday meeting, subject to approval of the pic’s completed financing plan.

April has a first-look deal with United Artists; neither project has been presented to UA.

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