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Legend Media Seeks Trio of West Australia-China Co-Productions (EXCLUSIVE)

Perth, Australia-based production company Legend Media is preparing a slate of three feature films to be produced with partners in China.

The company styles itself as one that recognizes the opportunities for Asian engagement that have fallen to Australia, through geography, trade and culture. The company aims to make use of the bilateral film co-production treaty that came into effect in December 2008 between Australia and China and has been used on average by nearly one film per year.

Operations are headed by Camille Chen, a writer-director-producer with relevant co-production (“Little Sparrows”). The company is backed by mining executive Bronwyn Barnes, property developer Paul Lakey, and banking and property executive Darren Cooper.

First up, and aiming to shoot from late January 2020, is “Outback Dragon,” an action-adventure-comedy in the vein of “Lost In Thailand” and “Chinatown Detective,” that is set in gold mining territory around Kalgoorlie, and in Chinese mega-city Shenzhen. Lead cast and director are to be announced soon.

The story was originated by a Chinese writer Hua Jiao Tao and the screenplay adapted by an Australian writer. Final dialog is expected to be in both Mandarin and English.

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“Chasing Waves,” a romantic drama, now in advanced development, reverses the process and is originated in English, before being adapted and expanded in Chinese. Action is likely to take place in the Margaret River area, known both for its fine wines and world class surfing. Third is a romantic epic “Chinese Daughters,” which Legend pitches as “a ‘Chinese Gone With the Wind,’ set in Kimberly.”

The pictures are being assembled with minimum production budgets of $9.5 million (A$14 million) that will tap into finance from Australia’s federal offset system and West Australia’s state regional film fund, as well as Chinese and Australian private sector backing.

They are to be co-produced with Chinese company Truly Sense Media, part of streaming firm PPTV, which is owned by Suning, the largest retail group in China.

Tait Brady, a veteran Australian producer with credits including the recent documentary “Suzi Q” and recent feature “Dating at the end of the World,” is also attached as producer of “Outback Dragon.” Truly Sense’s Hou Li is set as executive producer.

Truly Sense is in discussions with other Chinese firms to come on board as a possible mainland China distributor. Among the contenders is United Entertainment Partners, which in the last year co-distributed hits “The Wandering Earth” and “Dying to Survive.” The producers have also held preliminary discussions with possible international sales agents and international distributors.

“We are thinking of the films as a trilogy, but in fact they are each separate products, not linked in equity terms,” Chen told Variety. “We envisage ‘Chinese Daughters’ to be by far the biggest, with mega stars and blockbuster aspirations. These days, China really needs this epic scale.”

“West Australia is unique. The iron ore industry gives a strong and enduring connection between the two countries. And the Labour government, which has been in power in the state since 2017, is making it a China friendly state. It takes a holistic approach and even has a minister for Asian engagement.

Australia and China have become major partners in a range of industries from commodities to food and education. Hopes have been raised for a close relationship in film too, especially as the two countries have overlapping time zones, but movie industry cooperation has moved at a trickle, rather than a flood. And the joint output to date has not yielded any major hits.

“As a company, Legend is about a core of high-quality offerings, with the (co-production) treaty providing a baseline. We understand story, and the development process,” said Chen. “Getting back to my Asian roots is a challenge and an opportunity.”

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