Shooting started in Sydney today on The Little Death, the debut film from Ticket to Ride, a low-budget production and financing offshoot of See Pictures’ Jamie Hilton and Michael Petroni.

Marking the feature directing and screenwriting debut of US-based actor Josh Lawson, the comedy explores the lives of five seemingly normal couples and their five eccentric desires.

The ensemble cast includes Lisa McCune, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvany, Kim Gyngell, Kate Box, Alan Dukes, Patrick Brammall, TJ Power, Tasneem Roc, Josh Lawson and his brother Ben Lawson, Lachy Hulme and newcomer Erin James.

“It’s a comedy that looks at sex in a very contemporary way, it’s daring but it has a heart,” said Lawson. “I am so thrilled to work with such a talented cast of actors, and we have a great team behind us. Directing has always been a priority for me and I’m really excited and looking forward to the process.”

Ticket to Ride, which is using an innovative financing model that does not rely on federal or state agencies, aims to fully fund and produce three features costing up to $2 million each year, including projects from other indie producers.

The firm is partnering with London-based sales agent Bankside Films, local distributors, UK financier Head Gear Films, Deluxe Australia and Red Apple Cameras, as well as using the 40% producer offset.

“We are looking for the next generation of studio filmmaker,” said Hilton, “creative talent with original and innovative ideas who understand they have to work within their means but are hungry to stretch what is possible, both creatively and practically, on a low budget. Concept and ambition is key."

Ticket to Ride is asking directors, producers and writers to reinvest their fees in the budgets. “We are trying to encourage filmmakers who want to put money on the screen in order to launch themselves,” Hilton told IF. “We are also investing all of our fees in the film.

“The original Mad Max cost less than $1 million. Peter Weir made Picnic at Hanging Rock for $500,000, his third low budget film. Peter Jackson made Meet the Feebles for around $250,000.

“Gareth Edwards worked for two years on Monsters investing his time, he's now directing Godzilla. Colin Trevorrow directed Safety not Guaranteed on a tiny budget (reported at 750k), he's now directing Jurassic Park 3.

Head Gear is cash flowing the producer offset and investing some of the minimum guarantees, without a bond, and is deferring interest so that all the money goes on the screen.

Bankside Films and Deluxe hold approval rights on Ticket to Ride projects. “We have a shared vision,” Hilton said of his relationship with Deluxe. “I don't see them rejecting any material we take to them; they also see material we don't, so it's a very complementary relationship."

Hilton said Ticket to Ride will look for screenplays that are ready to finance, adding, “We'll team up with savvy producers who understand the production methodology and want to make innovative films with big ideas; they will co-own the films.”

The Little Death will be released in Australia by Hopscotch/eONE. Matt Reeder is producing for See Pictures alongside Petroni and Hilton.

See Pictures was formed three years ago by Petroni and  Hilton, who are preparing to shoot Backtrack, a supernatural thriller written and directed by Petroni. They are developing a wide range of projects, mostly larger co-productions.

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