Screen Australia to invest in 'Oranges'

Australia-U.K. co-pro gets greenlight from government agency

SYDNEY -- Screen Australia is to invest in a new official Australian-U.K. co-production, Jim Loach’s “Oranges and Sunshine,” the agency said Monday. 

“Oranges” tells the story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham, who uncovered the scandal of the organized deportation of children in care from the United Kingdom to Australia, which took place in the 1930s to the 1950s. 

It is being developed by Ken Loach’s production company, Sixteen Films, with Camilla Bray as producer and will be co-produced by Ian Canning and Emile Sherman’s Australian production shingle See-Saw Films. Rona Munro wrote the script.

Jim Loach, is best known for his work a as TV director on popular UK TV dramas including “Holby City,” “Hotel Babylon” and “Casualty.” 

Icon Films will handle Australian, U.K. and worldwide distribution for “Oranges and Sunshine.”

The agency also said it would provide production financing for “Sleeping Beauty,” the directorial debut of novelist Julia Leigh. To be produced by Jessica Brentnall with Tim White as executive producer, the film will star Mia Wasikowska as Lucy, a disenchanted and financially strapped university student who accepts work as a sleeper in a "Sleeping Beauty" chamber.

Screen Australia said its latest funding round means it has AUS$10 million ($8.3 million) for direct funding for feature films for the remainder of the financial year, out of total of AUS$93.5 million ($77.6 million) the agency received from the government this year to fund, features, TV dramas and documentaries.

Already it has committed to provide financing for seven projects this financial year including French-Australian co-production “The Tree," Kriv Stenders’ “Red Dog,” based on the Louis de Bernieres novel, ”The Wog Boy 2” and Stuart Beattie’s directorial debut “Tomorrow When The War Began."  

The agency has come under fire from some producers recently for dropping the cap for its maximum direct investment in a feature from AUS$5 million ($4.15 million) to AUS$3 million ($2.4 million) per project this fiscal year. 

However, CEO Ruth Harley told an industry forum in July that the agency’s ability to provide top up funding is limited, due to recent budget cuts. 

Instead she said the producer offset, introduced two years ago, would provide a way for more commercial projects to be made without the need for direct investment from a government agency.

She said that since its introduction, Screen Australia estimates that the Offset scheme has delivered somewhere between $60 and $70 million of production support per year.