Director Alister Grierson acknowledges ABC1 has given his film Parer’s War a tough time-slot next Sunday night, programmed against the finale of Downton Abbey on Seven and the Logie Awards on Nine.

So he’s keen to bang the promotional drum for the dramatised saga of WWII cameraman Damien Parer, whose work almost cost him the woman he loved.

“It’s a very romantic movie, a nice change from my movies which usually show people getting blown up,” said Grierson, whose first feature was Kokoda, the story of Australian soldiers stranded in the Papua New Guinea jungle in 1942, which screens on SBS1 on Saturday night.

The director credits the ABC with giving him, producer Andrew Wiseman, screenwriter Alison Nisselle and DoP Mark Wareham a lot of creative freedom on the $4.5 million production, a generous budget for a telemovie. Matt Le Nevez plays Parer with Adelaide Clemens as the woman he loved, Marie Cotter.

“It’s not a multi-camera movie with a lot of rapid editing,” he said. “It’s a thoughtful, handsome looking adult drama that is embedded in the period.”

Grierson's next project is the Biblical epic Mary, which is due to start shooting in Matera, Italy, later this year, budgeted at about $25 million.

Described as a prequel to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the project was unveiled in Cannes in 2012. The plot revolves around Mary’s attempts to defy King Herod to save her son Jesus.

Israeli actress Odeya Rush was cast as Mary; she’s now shooting the Jack Black horrorv movie Goosebumps but Grierson hopes the shooting schedule will accommodate her. He could not confirm negotiations are underway to have Ben Kingsley play Herod and Julia Ormond as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin.

Earlier scripts were penned by Benedict Fitzgerald (who co-wrote The Passion of the Christ) and Barbara Nicolosi but Fitzgerald dropped out and producer Mary Aloe is now co-writing. Lionsgate is the North American distributor.

Grierson is still attached to direct Deep Water, a $30 million 3D action film intended as a follow-up to Bait. The screenplay was to have focussed on a flight from Beijing to Sydney that crashes in the Pacific and pits an air marshal and a small group of survivors against giant tiger sharks.

Producer Gary Hamilton decided to rethink that concept after the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, particularly given Deep Water is envisioned as a Chinese co-production.

“The film was never going to happen this year because it was too big,” Grierson said. He still likes the idea of the film as a cross between a disaster picture and a horror movie, observing, “It would play with people’s expectations, with some surprises and key differences.”

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