(L-R) Carolyn Johnson, Eve Spence and Amin Palangi.

Intrigued by people who choose to live off the grid in shacks, Eve Spence had the idea of writing a feature centred around one such community, overlaid with the arrival of asylum seekers from Iran.

Recognising she needed help with the Iranian angle, she reached out to filmmaker Amin Palangi, whose debut feature documentary, Love Marriage in Kabul, won the Audience Award at Sydney Film Festival, initially as a consultant.

That progressed to the duo collaborating on the screenplay of Common Ground and they decided take that a step further and co-direct. They brought in experienced producer Carolyn Johnson, whose credits include Bentley Dean and Martin Butler’s Tanna and Benjamin Gilmour’s Son of a Lion.

The saga of Kayla, a young surfer whose life in a coastal hideaway is disrupted by the arrival of Omid and Babak, asylum seekers who are on the run from Immigration, it’s among six Australian projects selected for the Attagirl feature film development lab.

The stubborn Kayla and idealistic Omid fall in love but just just as they begin to imagine a future together, he betrays Kayla’s trust and she reports him, extinguishing Omid’s last hope.

The trio is looking forward to the workshops and the feedback from international mentors. They figure they can shoot the film in a remote location with a limited number of cast and crew.

The founder of the Persian International Film Festival, Palangi is confident his network of contacts in Iran will help them to secure distribution in that country, where the annual Fajr International Film Festival draws 20 million visitors.

“There is a lot of interest in Australian stories in Iran and they see Australia as an immigration destination,” says Palangi, who expects that casting will tap into well-known Iranian actors.

This will be the feature debut of Spence, whose Screen Australia-funded short Playground premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Her writing credits include the BBC drama series Doctors and she recently co-wrote, edited and produced the short ZPR 359 with director Liam Branagan.

Johnson is the Australian producer on Life In Colour With David Attenborough for Sealight Pictures, a co-production for the BBC, Netflix, Nine Network, Stan and Flame.