Cate Blanchett, Bryan Brown Receive Screen Australia Backing

Focus Features

A-list names among those getting backing from a new slate by the Australian film agency.

SYDNEY – Several A-list Australian actresses are joining forces with some equally heavy hitting local producers and directors to develop a number of new Australian films, alongside several new emerging writers and directors, that have been granted development funding by national film agency Screen Australia.

Rachel Griffiths will make her directorial debut on the feature BModel, about a young Australian girl who gets swept up in the chaotic world of international modelling. Griffiths and Louise Smith will produce the film from a screenplay by Samantha Strauss.

Griffiths, who has previously directed several short films, is the latest Aussie actress to turn her talents behind the camera.

Cate Blanchett is attached to direct one of a handful of short films collectively titled The Turning, based on Australian novelist Tim Winton’s short story collection. It is being produced by Robert Connolly (Balibo) and received development funding from Screen Australia in February.

Also receiving development financing this month are writer-director Gregor Jordan and producer Bryan Brown who are developing Five Spice, a love story between Lilli, a purist chef from Shanghai and Luke, the son of a billionaire who is in China setting up a frozen Chinese meal business; the Spierig brothers (Daybreakers), with producers Chris Brown and Emile Sherman are developing Jungle, based on the true story of Yossi Ginsburg who gets separated from his friends in the Bolivian jungle and is forced to survive on his own; and former Crystal Bear winner Elissa Down  and producer and Oscar winner Eva Orner are developing a feature on Leni Riefenstahl. Emile Sherman is also on board to produce Tracks, based on Robyn Davidson’s 1977 trek with her camels across the Australian desert, and Bruce Beresford is attached to direct The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, written by Chris Anastassiades and Andy Cox.

Screen Australia’s head of development, Martha Coleman, said, “The projects are getting stronger. It’s exciting to see emerging writers coming through who have an innate appreciation of audience engagement along with some quality projects from established writers.”

At the same time two first time feature directors, Callum Cooper and Hannah Hilliard are to receive funding under Screen Australia’s new Director’s Acclaim Fund, which provides support for the next stage of professional development for directors whose short film has screened in an A-list international festival. Hilliard won the Crystal Bear at Berlin in February 2010 with Franswa Sharl while Cooper’s Little Brother screened in competition at Sundance this year.

A total of 13 features received development financing ranging from AUS$15,000 ($15,600) to AUS$39,000 ($40,560) each this month.