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Co-financing market draws global interest

Two major industry initiatives pay dividends

Now in its third year, the Melbourne Intl. Film Festival’s 37°South co-financing market has emerged as one of Australia’s more developed international industry fixtures — and the only one held in conjunction with one of the country’s major fests.

Over the course of four days, 70 local producers will present slates of market-ready projects to a variety of international sales agents, studio reps and private-equity financiers. There are also roundtables and panels, market screenings for unattached Australian features and a sidebar event — MIFF Book — with 20 local publishers pitching tomes to potential investors, a close relation to the Berlin fest’s Books at Berlinale initiative.

The fest’s other major industry initiative is the MIFF Premiere Fund. Founded in 2007, and with a spend of A$1.6 million ($1.28 million) over two years (“Not a huge amount of money, in the grand scheme of things,” fest topper Richard Moore admits, “but helpful”), it was established by the Victorian state government as an alternative to the traditional Film Victoria funding pipeline, a “second door” for new Australian theatrical films and feature-length docs.

It was recently renewed for a second two-year cycle, with support already given to helmer Nadia Tass’ latest project, “Love and Mortar.”

The aim, Moore says, is to create “a whole cradle-to-grave process: Producers go to 37ºSouth for development, the Premiere Fund for financing, then make their film and world-premiere it at the festival.”

So far, at least, the strategy appears to be working: Last year the fund provided MIFF with its opening-night film, Mark Hartley’s Oz-exploitation doc “Not Quite Hollywood,” and this year it will do the same, with the world preem of Robert Connolly’s East Timor-set drama “Balibo.”

The fund also furnishes 2009’s closing-night entry, Rachel Perkins’ Outback musical “Bran Nue Dae,” and another of the fest’s most hotly anticipated titles, Ana Kokkinos’ “Blessed,” scripted by Andrew Bovell (“Lantana”).

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