Screen Australia Slate Includes Funds for Geoffrey Rush Family Drama

Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

He scored a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his role. "As an Australian, I'm as excited to be recognized and honored by the Academy as my character must have been when his London speech therapy business flourished when the future King of England happened to pop by one day," he tells THR.

A political thriller from Matchbox Pictures, and the animated feature "Blinky Bill" are also among the 12 projects to receive financial support from Australia's film agency.

SYDNEY - Four major new Australian TV dramas and five new feature films have been greenlit, after agency Screen Australia said on Wednesday it had approved production funding of $11.2 million (AUS$12 million) for twelve projects that will trigger $75 million worth of production.

“This funding round supports a true breadth and depth of Australian storytelling talent across all forms of narrative content,” said Screen Australia Head of Production Sally Caplan.

“We have backed some of our great contemporary writers, directors and producers, alongside some exciting new voices. The projects target audiences as diverse as Australia is today, with projects which are ambitious, risk-taking and culturally important, revealing we have no shortage of great stories to tell," Caplan added.

They include kids animated feature Blinky Bill, the story of music biz legend Molly Meldrum and a neo cold-war thriller set in the national capital of Canberra.

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NBC Universal’s Matchbox Pictures will make a six part political thriller, Secret City for Foxtel, based on the novel The Marmalade Files and its upcoming sequel The Mandarin Code. It is set amidst rising tension between China and America and follows a political journalist who uncovers a long-buried and exposing secret, leading to assassination attempts, suicide and murder. The writers are Belinda Chayko, Matt Cameron, Marieke Hardy, Alice Addison, Tommy Murphy, Kris Mrksa and Greg Waters. Joanna Werner is producing , Penny Chapman is executive producing and local and international sales are being handled by Universal Media Studios International Ltd.

Goalpost Pictures will team with New Zealand’s Pukeko Pictures to produce a high concept sci fi series, Project CM (working title) for the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). The series follows two estranged Indigenous brothers at a crossroads and a community struggling to co-exist with non-human creatures living among them. Project CM is a New Zealand-Australia co-production, written by Jon Bell, Jonathan Gavin and Michael Miller, and produced by Rosemary Blight with Ryan Griffen, Lauren Edwards and Angela Littlejohn. eOne will handle local sales and Red Arrow International is handling international sales.

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Essential Media and Entertainment has been commissioned by multicultural broadcaster SBS to make its first drama in a year, the 4-part adult series, The Principal. It follows the story of Matt Bashir, a history teacher and former deputy at a classy girls’ school who is promoted to principal of a troubled boys' high school with a history of conflict. Just when it seems he is making progress, a 17-year-old student is found dead on the school grounds. Shooting starts in Sydney in November. Kristen Dunphy and Alison Addison have penned the script which Red Dog helmer, Kriv Stenders, will direct. Essential's Ian Collie will produce.

And the Seven Network will air biopic Molly, as a two part telemovie, telling the story of iconic Australian music presenter and producer Ian “Molly” Meldrum . Mushroom Pictures’ Michael Gudinski and Mark Morrissey are executive producing. Kevin Carlin is directing from a screenplay by Matt Cameron and Liz Doran.

On the feature side of the new slate The Blinky Bill Movie will follow the iconic Australian koala Blinky (voiced by Ryan Kwanten). From Greenpatch Productions, the film is written by Fin Edquist, produced by Barbara Stephen and directed by Deane Taylor. It will be a modern version of the Australian children’s literary icon whose legacy extends back to the 1930s.

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Geoffrey Rush and Ewen Leslie will star in The Daughter, the feature debut from theater writer/director Simon Stone. About a man who returns home to uncover a long-buried family secret, The Daughter, will be produced by Jan Chapman and Nicole O’Donohue. Roadshow Films is the local distributor and Mongrel International is handling international sales.

Lightstream Pictures will receive funding for its feature thriller 2:22, about Dylan Boyd, an air traffic controller whose life is derailed following a series of uncanny events all taking place at 2:22pm, which threaten the life of the woman he loves. Paul Currie will write, produce and direct the film, along with writer Todd Stein and producer Steve Hutensky.

Greg McLean will executive produce the country’s first comedy to be set during a race riot with Down Under, to be written and directed by Abraham Forsythe, with Jodi Matterson and Ben Latham-Jones producing.

And Scott Hicks is making a feature documentary, The Guadagnini Project which journeys into a world of rarefied musical instruments and the dealers, philanthropists and musicians who seek them out. Sharmill Films is the distributor.

Josh Lawson's sex comedy, The Little Death has also received completion funding.