‘Project Greenlight’ shines in Oz

Channel's expenditure set to get bigger

SYDNEY — Feevee channel Movie Network has sunk about A$4 million ($3 million) into a pair of pics by emerging filmmakers this financial year and earned itself considerable kudos, exposure in the mainstream press and some useful programming to boot.

Now topper Tony Forrest says the experience was so good he’s pressing the greenlight button again, and the channel’s expenditure is set to get bigger.

“Project Greenlight Australia,” an Oz version of the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck Miramax skein that taps a filmmaker and provides him with $700,000 to make a movie, aired from July through October last year. Morgan O’Neill, an actor, writer and director of short films, scooped the prize to make “Solo,” a revenge thriller about a hit man who wants to get out of the business, starring Colin Friels.

Now the channel, a joint venture between WB, Roadshow, Disney and MGM, carried on feevee platforms Foxtel and Optus (urban) and Austar (rural), has backed Peter Carstairs’ debut feature “September.” Carstairs was one of 16 finalists in the recent Tropfest short film competition. His short “Pacific” didn’t win, but his feature script drew attention.

Movie Network Channels will fund “September,” also for $700,000. Pic is about a friendship between two teenage boys — one white, the other Aboriginal — on a sheep station in Western Australia in 1968.

“We’ve gone from being a small investor in big movies to a big investor in small movies,” observes Forrest. Channel fully funds the pics independent of Australia’s state and federal funding agencies, providing emerging filmmakers with a much- sought-after alternative to state funding.

Depending on its execution, “September” may or may not receive a theatrical release, but it will definitely air on Movie Extra. “Solo” will likely premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in June before a limited theatrical distribution by Movie Network in conjunction with Dendy Films. It will also air on the channel.

“Project Greenlight” will return in the second half of the year, but with a significant revamp to generate interest and keep it contemporary.