The rise of the co-pro
Australian producers increasingly are looking to international co-productions as one solution to the difficulty of raising finance at home.
Producers say the ‘soft’ money available for co-pros with Canada and Europe will help to compensate for the very low minimum guarantees offered by Australian distributors.
Another advantage, they say, is the improved chances of securing marquee cast for films shot in part or completely in Canada and Europe.
“ With the collapse of distribution windows, online communication, and the competitiveness of getting soft money out of Australia, producers are becoming more savvy in financing their films with global partners especially as we are telling more global, universally themed stories,” says producer Raquelle David, who is developing the futuristic thriller Lucid as a co-pro.
Producer Matthew Dabner aims to shoot Seasons Pass, a comedy scripted by Heath Davis about an Australian ski instructor who goes to the Canadian snowfields where he is confronted by the son he never knew he had, as a co-pro with Canada.
“I pitched the idea at Toronto last year and it received a lot of favourable attention/feedback,” Dabner tells IF. “The story of an Australian ski bum in Whistler works well on a number of levels, but specifically it speaks to cultural content and to the kind of balance of creative, financial and practical elements required of a genuine co-production.
“Combining the soft money from our two countries will hopefully enable us to tell a story on a bigger canvas and utilise a wider talent pool both in front of, and behind, the camera.”
Kristian Moliere, who produced The Babadook with Kristina Ceyton, is looking to team up with a Canadian or US producer for The End of Everything, a thriller scripted by Andy Cox, adapted from a Megan Abbott novel.
“Our plans are to take this project to North America later in the year to look for a co-producer, either as an official Canadian co-pro or in partnership with a US producer, “says Moliere.
“For me it is an attempt to make films that can potentially appeal to a wider audience (and more than likely will make the task of financing a little easier). It has been disheartening to see great Australian films in the past few months not find a larger local audience, including our own film; perhaps making larger scale co-pros with more recognisable cast and films that are not immediately identifiable as 'Australian' will overcome that audience perception of local films.”
This week Screen Australia revealed that another project which is getting development funding, B Model, a comedy/drama from writer/producer/director Rachel Griffiths and producer Louise Smith, is now an official Australian-UK co-pro. The British producer is Kevin Loader, whose credits include In the Loop, Hyde Park on Hudson and Le Week-End.
Scripted by Philip Tarl Denson, Lucid tells of a dream programmer who gets trapped in a client’s dream and must find a way out to save the woman he loves.
David aims to attach a Canadian or UK director. “Scarcity of finance out of Australia, including a very little DG, if at all, from ANZ distributors, is a big contributor to producers looking globally,” she says “I do believe that screen agencies like Screen Australia are becoming more embracing and supportive of distinct genre films with strong international appeal, which naturally lend themselves to international co-productions. I do believe we are at the cusp of "new wave" of genre filmmakers and it's an exciting time.
“Genre films, whether fantasy, sci-fi or even rom-com are universally-themed stories that have proven, broad global audiences and it’s easier to structure them as treaty co-productions where you can take advantage of your co-producing partners tax credits, which can be substantial. For instance, you can get 65% back on your Canadian labour spend if you film in provinces like Nova Scotia or Manitoba.
“In working with Canada, UK and European countries, we're able to open the gamut to marquee cast. The climate is extremely cast driven (as well as director driven) so if you don't have the names to back your project, cast becomes paramount. For instance, if you're filming in Toronto, Canada and post-producing in Australia you have a greater chance at attracting marquee cast that wouldn't normally wish to relocate to Australia for six weeks. If they're LA or NYC based there a short flight away and it’s a more attractive option.”
Screen NSW funded a treatment of Seasons Pass, which Davis wrote after living in Whistler and Vancouver for several years while pursuing another project
“It’s kind of based on my experiences and people I met along the way,” says Davis, who has just made his feature writing and directing debut on Broke, a drama about a washed up, former rugby league star who battles a gambling addiction, starring. Steve Le Marquand, Max Cullen, Claire van der Boom and Brendan Cowell.
“I’d like to direct but we will just have to wait and see how the points system works."
The End of Everything centres on the disappearance of young Evie and her best friend Lizzie, who seeks the truth behind her vanishing. Moliere says there is no decision yet on the director although a local helmer is considering the project.
“We would love to be shooting in 2015/16 but we are only at second draft, so will see how we progress in next six months,” he says.