Monthly Archives: May 2012

Jewel in the crown

He made sure The King’s Speech waltzed off with four Oscars last year, then went
one better this year with The Artist. Long before all that, he had been a leading light
in his own country’s cinematic renaissance in the late 1980s, with the indie
powerhouse brand Miramax. Now, film chief Harvey Weinstein has taken a shine to

Weinstein has gleefully snapped up The Sapphires – Australia’s officially selected
entry at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which premiered late Saturday night – for
US and overseas distribution. In doing so, he has added to the significant buzz
Australia is enjoying at the world’s most prestigious film festival.

The success at Cannes of the fact-based musical biopic – about an indigenous, all-girl
singing troupe from an Aboriginal mission in Victoria, groomed to sing for troops in
Vietnam in 1968 – follows a sea of chatter that’s gathering steam for returning star
Nicole Kidman. She is back starring in both Lee “Precious” Daniels’ The
Paperboy (as a white-trash lover of an inmate on death row) and Philip
Kaufman’s Hemingway & Gellhorn (as the latter, a war journalist).

Another Kidman vehicle – Rowan Joffe’s upcoming Before I Go To Sleep – is also
being shopped to buyers in the marketplace, while Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska,
Jason Clarke and Noah Taylor feature heavily in John Hillcoat’s Lawless. Even Kylie
Minogue is here (in Holy Motors). This year at Cannes, Aussies are everywhere.

One Australian making a more modest comeback is Isla Fisher (aka Mrs Sacha Baron
Cohen). After almost five years away, spent raising a family, the former Home and
Away star speaks candidly to Unwind from inside the seaside locale’s uber-swish
Carlton hotel, while down below her husband steps out one last time to help keep The
Dictator in the headlines.

“I don’t give interviews unless I really have to,” she says. “I like to keep myself to
myself. I’m sure [Cohen] is tweeting right now, from the back of a camel! But I’m
very private.”

Fisher’s low-key presence here – to help publicise an upcoming animated
DreamWorks picture, Rise of the Guardians (which also features the voice of Hugh
Jackman) – reflects an underlying feeling shared by many stars on the Croisette this
year. Notably, the festival’s good-natured opener, Wes Anderson’s kooky fantasy
romp Moonrise Kingdom, features Jason Schwartzman and Edward Norton, who
both confess to Unwind about feeling nonplussed by the “red carpet” duties they
perform. Cannes, they insist, is all about the works of directors, particularly those
who command an ensemble cast of world-class pedigree.

For Australia, The Sapphires (which will also open this year’s Melbourne
International Film Festival, in August) promises to make stars of the film’s director,
Wayne Blair, and his leading ladies Jessica Mauboy and Deborah Mailman (who also
stars in the upcoming telemovie Mabo, about the historic 1992 land rights decision
for Australia’s indigenous people). Mailman admits to feeling cautiously excited
about the fuss and bother a global event such as Cannes creates, even if the hoopla
cools over time. The message the film brings, she says, remains vital.

“I feel there is a responsibility we are taking with this film. We’re putting Aboriginal
culture on the world stage. People who don’t know about Aboriginal culture will be
asking us questions. We will be telling people who we are as a culture, what our
stories are about, what our films are about. It’s a big responsibility – people will get
to know who we are.”

Mailman, like her director (who starred in the original 2004 stage play), is all too
aware of the potential aftershocks a breakout film can create. Blair’s Sundance
counterpart, Kieran Darcy-Smith, scored a co-production deal with the US after his
debut, Wish You Were Here, premiered at a major international film festival. Blair
may be relatively cautious (it’s also his debut feature), but Mailman – these days a
married mother of two – is happy to actively pursue whatever may come as a result.

“My head is spinning at the moment,” she says, before the premiere of The
Sapphires. “I cannot comprehend the magnitude of this – and I know how big it is.
I’m mixed between really being scared shitless and crazy out of my mind excited
about being at Cannes. I’ve been happy working [in Australia]. But this is starting to
open my mind up to the possibility [of working overseas].”

Before the world premiere of The Sapphires, the Croisette – the main drag of Cannes
– has been typically swamped with journalists and industry types devouring daily
servings of established names alongside young, rookie directors. Britain’s Ken Loach,
Austria’s Michael Haneke and a slew of American directors, led by Moonrise
Kingdom’s Anderson, have all resonated with critics in this, the festival’s 65th year.
Upcoming films by Hillcoat (Lawless) and New Zealand-born Andrew Dominik

(Killing Them Softly, starring Brad Pitt) lead a surprisingly high-profile selection at
the tail of proceedings. And while a slew of other features from the region are being
spruiked to buyers – including another musical, Goddess, and the WWII
drama Emperor, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Lost’s Matthew Fox – The
Sapphires has, it seems, hit an undeniable nerve.

“It was 1968 in Australia,” producer Rosemary Blight says of the film. “It was a
period of the indigenous right to vote. The girls didn’t know how significant it was.
The amount of Australian artists who went to Vietnam – there were hundreds of
musicians and artists, both Australian and American. The stories are wild: bands
would hire a car and go into war zones, people got killed on stage. Yet it was a part of
people’s lives that they had wanted to keep private.”

Given the 4000-odd journalists covering Cannes – and the scores of locals crowded
around the festival’s Palais headquarters for brief glimpses of its stars – that secret
has been laid wide open. With Weinstein its most vocal champion, its future seems

SMH – May 20, 2012. Ed Gibbs

Gem of a film shines in Cairns, sorry, Cannes

Wayne Blair was at the Cannes Film Festival two years ago trying to raise money to
make a film about a 1960s Aboriginal girl group who entertain the allied troops in
Vietnam.The film would be Australia’s answer to the Supremes, with girls doing the
Pony, frocks and a potentially dazzling soundtrack. But it was still difficult to make
the money stack up.

Now, the film director is back in Cannes with The Sapphires, 200 auditions and a
couple of investors later, having been given a plum slot in the biggest film festival in
the world. The Weinstein Company has already picked up the film and is selling it to
the world.

“The last 12 months have been a roller-coaster,” Blair said, “and it started in a
rehearsal room in Melbourne Theatre Company!”

The Sapphires is based on a hit play by Tony Briggs, who discovered the story when
his mother mentioned in passing that she had once gone to Saigon to sing with a
group made up of her sisters and cousins. When told the movie of the story was being
shown in Cannes, she thought they meant Cairns, rather closer to home.

Blair was in the original production at Melbourne Theatre Company and the Belvoir
theatre company as an actor; he had also made several successful short films, one of

which – The Djarn Djarns – recently won a Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. “I
was in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Both play and film amalgamate nine or 10 members of the Briggs family and friends
into four composites; most of their dramatic travails and romances are imaginary,
but the core of the story is true. What became clear as they worked on the original
script, he said, was that it was not just about four individuals. It was also the story of
its times.

Mailman in The Sapphires with Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.

In 1968, Blair points out, Aboriginal people had only just won the right to vote in
several states. “Before that, [they] counted as flora and fauna,” Blair said. “But these
young Koori women had the same wants and needs as other women in Australia at
that time, you know. Just simple things. We all want love. They wanted respect in
their country town, to be seen as citizens and not as plants or animals. And they
wanted to achieve things. It’s a film that shows that Aboriginal people did participate
in the world in 1968.”

The four singers are played by Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy – both well-
known faces – with newcomers Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens. Even the famous
contenders did half a dozen auditions. “Deb said she wanted to audition,” Blair said.
The band’s manager is played by Chris O’Dowd, who had just had a huge Hollywood
hit with Bridesmaids. “But Chris is so down-to-earth, it’s not funny. They all looked
after each other.”

The real Sapphires are now in their 60s; three of the Briggs aunts came back to work
at the frontline at a Redfern medical centre. “So they achieved things, but what they
chose to do was come back and serve their community rather than be famous,” Blair
said. “They trust Tony implicitly, but I think they still don’t know the ramifications of
being in Cannes; it’s like my mum thought I meant Cairns and a short trip to

When the film has its premiere in Melbourne on August 9, he said, he thinks the
crowds will bring home how far their story has gone. For them now, it probably all
feels a very long time ago. “They’re very worldly women and they have a sense of
wisdom about them,” Blair said. They only sing at family occasions now, he adds.
“But they love a tune.”

Stephanie Bunbury – SMH – May 20, 2012

Cannes market adjusts as indie pic trends shift

As the film world readies for the Riviera, Jerome Paillard, Cannes Market exec
director, sees reason for optimism. “With a growing attendance in Cannes this year
we’re seeing some signs of health and dynamism,” he says, noting that overall it’s still
a tough market where finding a distributor has gotten more complicated. He also
notes that it’s difficult getting films into theaters. “It’s not easy for films that aren’t
mainstream, crossover features to get released theatrically and stay in theaters long
enough to find an audience. Distributors, for the most part, have become risk-averse
and have restricted their minimum guarantees.”

Paillard addresses other shifting trends in the market.


“TV and video sales are tough to clinch, and while VOD is growing, it hasn’t yet
replaced video. On the upside, VOD negotiations are usually non-exclusive, but they
don’t give minimum guarantees whereas video did.

“In countries like China, the expansion of the VOD market represents a great
opportunity for foreign cinema: Films can now access the Chinese market directly
through VOD. Even if the prices paid remain small it’s encouraging.”

Digitization of screens

“We have yet to see if the digitization of theaters will benefit smaller films — there is a
risk that it will make it easier for exhibitors to program films that work well in
multiple screens.”

New distribution models

“For certain movies that have a limited theatrical potential, the traditional film
distribution chain is way too long. We’re seeing a growing interest for non-

commercial circuits, such as festivals, cinematheques and film societies. Some
companies like the Festival Agency in France are now specializing in these types of
sub-distribution, by helping filmmakers and right-holders get their movies on the
festival circuit and collect fees.”

Digital models

“There are too many films that don’t travel outside their country of production, co-
production and sometimes France (where there are about 350 foreign films that
come out every year and about half of them sell less than 15,000 admissions).

“Using digital technology, filmmakers can have their films seen and create mini-
events at a lesser cost — publishing expenses are very small and the cost of
advertising, taking into account the weight of social networks, is also very low. These
films can build an online community, access distribution via viral marketing and
social networks and ultimately get programmed in theaters through on-demand

Reality bites

“Documentaries now represent more than 14% of the completed films at the market,”
Paillard says. “One of the reasons behind the popularity of documentaries is that that
they can be promoted via social networks: each documentary can address its own
community in a way that a fiction film seldom can.”

Market innovations

The doc corner: A dedicated space at the market, it boasts a screening room focused
on feature-length documentaries and a meeting area for sales agents and buyers who
are exclusively seeking docs.

After the market, the docs will be available to buyers and sales agents on’s Screening Room, where films can be downloaded. Site is run by the
market. The Doc Corner will also host about 10 mini-conferences for a group of 20
documentary producers and filmmakers. Each panel will feature leading figures of
the documentary world, from festivals toppers to doc commissioners and sales

Producers’ Workshop: The Producers’ Workshop is growing in its second edition.
It will address some 250 producers who have experience making local films but have
not yet been involved in international co-productions. There will be six conferences
discussing how to approach sales agents, how to co-produce with international
partners, what funds are available in Europe and elsewhere. There will also be a la
carte coaching sessions for producers.

“We’re telling producers, especially those from Asian or Latin American regions
where international co-production is still uncommon, that it’s crucial for them to not

wait to have a film in selection to come to Cannes, as they must build an
international network even if they won’t activate it right away,” Paillard says.

3D: The market has 17 3D-equipped screens (three more than last year) and some 50
screenings in 3D, which is about the same as last year, had been confirmed as of
April 15.

“Sales agents and distributors are finding that 3D movies, apart from animated
features, aren’t attractive enough to justify their bigger asking prices,” Paillard says.

New Partnership: The Cannes Market has signed a deal with Europa Cinema, a
network of European independent theaters, to allow distributors and producers of
films available on Cinando to connect directly with exhibitors.

Participation: The biggest growth in participation at the market comes from
producers. “I think that underscores the importance of co-production in this market,
as well as the fact that Cannes offers the best platform for co-production,” Paillard

The market had registered 8,480 participants as of April 23, a 9% increase on 2011.

“The rise in participation is well spread geographically, with the biggest spikes
coming from Asia and Latin America,” Paillard says. “Another encouraging sign this
year is the fact that companies will send slightly larger teams to Cannes.”

More than 250 producers will attend the Producers Workshop — 40% more than last

As many as 3,300 market titles, including 1,800 completed films, are set for the
market as of April 23. Documentaries rep 12% of all titles.

By ELSA KESLASSY Mon., May. 7, 2012. Cannes Preview 2012

Europeans take small steps in VOD market

Video on demand remains in arrested development outside the U.S., to the
frustration of many foreign distribs who are pinning their hopes on digital sales to
replace their crumbling DVD revenues.

According to Richard Broughton, head of broadband for IHS Screen Digest, the
American VOD market for feature films topped $1.8 billion in 2011, whereas Western
Europe delivered just $900 million.

The entrenched power of European exhibitors remains a big obstacle to contract the
windows and moving toward a day-and-date VOD and theatrical model. In France,
there’s even a law against it. Euro distribs are frustrated that they can’t develop their
VOD revenues to replace their disappearing DVD income.

Sales companies say they aren’t yet seeing any significant revenues from VOD from
any territory outside North America, apart from the U.K.

But the launch of the Curzon on Demand platform in the U.K., offering VOD day-
and-date with theatrical releases, is a small but significant sign that new digital
distribution models are finally starting to reach Europe, following the example set by
the likes of Magnolia and IFC in the U.S.

“It’s a paradigm shift in the business,” argues Philip Knatchbull, chief exec of Curzon
Artificial Eye, the U.K.’s leading arthouse exhibitor and distributor. “This is now
where the market opportunity lies for independent cinema.”

The rest of Europe is watching this arthouse experiment with curiosity, and a degree
of skepticism. Benelux specialty distrib Cineart is a proactive VOD player, but has
decided against launching its own platform, for now at least.

“We did the analysis to see if it makes sense,” says Cineart chairman and co-
managing director Marc Smit. “But in a territory like Benelux, it’s hard to make it
work financially. The trouble with a distributor-led platform is having enough films
on it. People want choice, and you can’t rely only on your own taste.”

The Brit VOD market is already far in advance of the rest of Europe, with fierce
competition between subscription VOD players Lovefilm and Netflix to sign up indie
distribs and major studios with lucrative output deals. Those deals, with the likes of
Studiocanal, eOne, Momentum and Lionsgate, have revolutionized the economics of
U.K. indie distribution over the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, pay TV giant BskyB is also making an aggressive move into the VOD
market with its own Internet movie service to supplement the pay-per-view outlet on
its own satellite platform.

“The U.K. is very evolved, but continental Europe not as advanced,” agrees Exclusive
chief operating officer Marc Schipper. “The main reason is that the key European
players are the broadcasters and telecom companies, and they aren’t as

Knatchbull is convinced there’s also room for an arthouse player with a strong brand
and a distinctive programming policy to carve out a niche among the big boys,
particularly when its virtual service is closely tied to physical cinemas.

“If you’re only on the Internet, it’s quite soulless, but what’s great about having our
physical cinemas is that you are more connected to your community.” Knatchbull is
such a believer in the importance of combining the two that he says he’s eyeing deals
to take over the running of arthouse theaters in Berlin and New York as a prelude to
international expansion of his online service.

Cineart, which releases pics such as “The Artist,” “Drive” and “Carnage” across
Benelux, prefers to stick with the traditional theatrical window, and then market its

titles on as many VOD services as possible. “But the real money comes from the
telcos and the cable operators, not the Internet-based platforms,” Smit says.

He says the VOD market is more developed in Belgium, thanks to the investment of
telco Belgacom, than in the Netherlands. Overall, Cineart’s VOD income is growing
by 50% a year, from 2%-3% of sales three years ago to 8%-10% today. Aside from the
top theatrical titles, its best performers are pics with a thriller twist, such as
“Essential Killing” or “13 Assassins,” or arty pics with a misleadingly sexy titles.

Sales agents say that VOD is becoming a more noteworthy factor in negotiations with
Euro distribs, even if the revenues are not yet significant. “We’re all paying a lot more
attention to VOD in deal terms, but it’s not coming through significantly in the
reporting yet, except in the U.K. where we’re beginning to see impact on the bottom
line from Netflix and Lovefilm,” says Focus Features Intl. prexy Alison Thompson.

VOD deals are negotiated on either a royalty or a fee basis, which varies from
territory to territory. The distributor’s share is typically lower than on DVD — maybe
40%-50%, rather than 60%-85% — because the VOD entails much lower physical
costs for the distrib. “Historically the DVD splits were terrible for producers, so this
is a chance to roll those back,” says one top sales agent.

“The U.K. is the strongest foreign market for VOD. We’re seeing some value in
Australia and other parts of the world, but nothing that’s really moving the dial,” says
Alex Walton, sales prexy at Exclusive Media Group.

Broughton suggests the slow development of VOD in Europe may have more to do
with the relatively primitive infrastucture of cable and telco systems. Once they are
upgraded, the potential for VOD will increase significantly.

Many distribs are waiting to see if the likes of Netflix, Amazon (which owns the
U.K.’s Lovefilm), Google and Apple (via iTunes) will emerge as significant innovators
to challenge those traditional local players.

In the meantime, VOD remains stubbornly underdeveloped.

“Outside the U.K., it’s difficult to see where the value is in the VOD market,” says
Andrew Orr of Independent Film Sales. Sales agents who have experimented with
offering unsold or library titles directly to pan-European Web-based platforms such
as Mubi say that the returns so far have been negligible. “For social reasons,
European audiences are just not as advanced as Americans in terms of looking at
films on the Internet,” says Bankside’s Stephen Kelliher.

“VOD is still in its infancy in Scandinavia,” says Jim Frazee, acquisitions topper at
Scandinavian distrib Scanbox. “It’s doing business, but not growing as rapidly as we
hoped, and not nearly enough to compensate for DVD which is declining far more
rapidly than we feared. VOD needs to be 10 times larger than it is to make up for

Robert Beaumont of L.A.-based Lightning Entertainment sees a role for U.S. sales
agents and distributors in helping to develop the foreign VOD market by exporting
their domestic expertise.

“We’re a technical aggregator for cable systems in the U.S., and we have so much
experience about best practice, that we are contemplating offering this service in
Europe, to act as a go-between between distributors and VOD platforms,” he says.
“We would continue to sell rights as a sales agent, but because the VOD market in
Europe is immature, we could also service the ambitions of our European buyers by
providing technical support, not just for our content but for other sales companies as

By ADAM DAWTREY Mon., May. 7, 2012. Cannes Preview 2012

As DVD pie crumbles, is VOD sweet?

The gulf between the evolution of video on demand in the U.S. and the rest of the
world is posing both an opportunity and a challenge for producers and sales agents of
indie films.

VOD is a growing component of domestic distribution deals but unlike boffo box
office figures, such success adds no value for the international market.

Indeed, releasing a film day-and-date on VOD and theatrical in the U.S. may
diminish its appeal to foreign distributors, who still regard that as a sign of inferior
quality. Plus, the secrecy surrounding VOD revenues undermines any positive
reports regarding any business a film has done.

“There’s definitely a lack of sophistication in the way that foreign markets view
what’s going on in the American VOD business,” says Alex Walton, president of
international sales and distribution at Exclusive Media Group. “But at the same time
it’s understandable when there’s no significant VOD market in their own territory,
and there’s no U.S. box office chart for the top VOD releases.”

This despite the U.S. model of launching pics on VOD alongside or even a couple of
weeks before the theatrical release, as pioneered by the likes of Magnolia and IFC, is
reaping healthy dividends for some specialized films.

“If you have a film that’s going to VOD in the U.S., it’s a negative signal for a
distributor who’s trying to book exhibition in France or Italy, because those
multiplex chains are driven by the domestic box office figures,” Walton says.

But the boom in domestic VOD is great news for companies selling films into the U.S.
market, where a much wider range of titles is being picked up than ever before.

“We’ve sold everything on our slate to the U.S. — some for traditional theatrical
releases, some for day-and-date with VOD — and the fact we haven’t got any films left
for the U.S. shows how interesting that market has become,” says Stephen Kelliher of
London-based sales outfit Bankside.

But conversely, the secrecy around VOD figures in the U.S. is significantly hampering
the international sales effort.

A year ago, producer Ted Hope complained to Variety that the robust VOD
performance of his film “Super” was irrelevant to potential foreign buyers, who could
only see its relatively paltry theatrical gross. “Theatrical box office clearly sends a
message loud and quickly to international buyers that yes, there is an audience for
this film — what’s different about the VOD market is that it’s hidden,” Hope

Kelliher agrees. “Even if a film has supposedly done well on VOD, it doesn’t matter,
because verifying the figure is impossible.”

Mirjam Wertheim of Orange Entertainment, a veteran L.A.-based rep for multiple
foreign buyers, echoes that frustration. “If they would release the numbers, my
buyers would care.”

But Martin Moszkowicz of Germany’s Constantin makes the point that it’s not about
how many people see a film in theaters, it’s about the publicity that a U.S. theatrical
release generates.

“A film with a big theatrical P&A spend has repercussions around the globe, but I’m
not sure if that works if you go straight to VOD. Of course, the fact you don’t have to
spend so much on P&A is why VOD makes sense economically for producers, but it
doesn’t help to create the global branding.”

Stefano Massenzi of Italian distrib Lucky Red echoes the foreign bias: “A VOD
release in the U.S. is like straight to video, it’s a different kind of product from a
theatrical film.”

What aggravates foreign buyers most is when a movie they already bought for
theatrical release ends up going the day-and-date VOD route in the U.S.

That’s what happened to Neil Jordan’s “Ondine.” “It was frustrating for people who
have pre-bought it as a theatrical release, and didn’t get the U.S. platform they
needed to sell it to their exhibitors,” says Walton, who handled the title when he
worked at HanWay.

It’s not just the multiplex chains in some key territories that make their booking
according to the American theatrical box office. As Robert Enmark of Scandinavia’s
Svensk Filmindustri says, the domestic release pattern can also directly affect the
value of foreign TV rights.

“With some of our TV deals, the price of our free or pay TV rights follows the U.S. box
office,” he says. “The problem with U.S. VOD releases is that there’s no reliable
statistics on the transactions. If something has done well on VOD, it’s good to hear
about that, but it doesn’t make a difference to us. We have ‘Margin Call’ in
Scandinavia, but its U.S. VOD success won’t translate for our audience in any way.
It’s invisible, the press doesn’t write about it, so it doesn’t create any publicity.”


By ADAM DAWTREY Mon., May. 7, 2012

Crawlspace to premiere at Cannes

A new Australian film by a first-time feature film director has been picked up by
Arclight Films ahead of a world premiere at Cannes film market. Crawlspace, a
psychological thriller by writer/director Justin Dix, will be handled by Arclight’s
genre arm, Darclight Films. The film has also secured North American rights,
acquired by Los Angeles-based XYZ Films.

Dix told Encore there was no Australian distributor attached yet, but he hoped the
film would be out this year.

He said: “I hope so. I can’t see why it wouldn’t. I know a lot of these things come
down to peak time and being strategic. I’d love to say it will be.”

Produced by John Finemore, The film is about a team of elite Australian soldiers
who are sent into the US military base Pine Gap in the Australian outback. The team
discover the site is a testing ground for something more sinister, battling escaped

Gary Hamilton, managing director of Arclight Films said: “Crawlspace is a prime
example of the new face of the sci-fi action thriller. It has a rich story line, intense
action, fascinating characters and top of the line special f/x via the expertise of one of
the best special effects masters in the business, director Justin Dix.

Dix comes from a special effects background, having worked on two Star Wars films,
Red Hill and the forthcoming 100 Bloody Acres.

Crawlspace, made without finance from any of the funding bodies, was produced by
Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek Pictures, Finemore’s Maker Films and Dix’s own Wicked
of Oz Studios. Dix told Encore: “It gave us autonomy. It’s great. I’m a control freak.

Dix told Encore that, as well as XYZ coming on board, a lot came out of a recent trip
to the states. Dix said: “I picked up a manager, screened Crawlspace to WME which
is one of the largest agencies and pitched two new projects. I’m not one to hang
around see what Crawlspace does, I’m on to the next thing, in the same vein as
Crawlspace, a claustrophobic story with spooks.”

He added: “I don’t know how it will go here but it will have international appeal with
top quality in the way it looks and its actors. It’s a movie I’d go see. Whenever I watch
it to review I want to watch the whole thing. It’s in my top ten films.” – May 3rd, 2012

Nott wins the ACS Award of the night

Ben Nott was crowned Australian cinematographer of the year for his work on
director Stuart Beattie’s local hit Tomorrow When The War Began at the annual
national awards of the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS).

Among the 15 other cinematographers also presented with Golden Tripods at the
presentation at Sydney’s Manly Pacific Hotel were Mark Wareham for Cloudstreet in
the television drama section, Nick Matthews for The Palace in the section for
fictional drama shorts and Brad Dillon for episode 13 of the dramatized documentary
series Fatal Attractions.

The other winners were Iain Mackenzie and Aron Leong (commercials), Mark
Lamble (wildlife/nature), Campbell Munro (non-fiction television), Peter Barta,
Daniel Soekov and Tarryn Southcombe (news and current affairs), Callan Green
(music clips), Andrew Deubel (promos), Daniel Graetz (experimental) and Boris
Vymenets (student).

Television personality Ray Martin was master of ceremonies at the awards, held at
Sydney’s Manly Pacific Hotel, and actor Rebecca Gibney was a special guest.

One Golden Tripod is given out in each category and all these winners were then
considered for the Milli Award, the honour this year granted to Nott, who did not
attend. The only way to be considered for an ACS national award is to first win gold
at a state or territory level; Nott won in Queensland.

Several ACS members were inducted into the ACS hall of fame being David Eggby,
David Muir and Barry Woodhouse.

As already announced, Emmanuel Lubezki won the international award for his
efforts on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Jimmy Ennett was selected as the
emerging cinematographer deserving of an award – he will now do an internship on
the set of The Railway Man. Heidi Tobin, Craig Pickersgill, Martha Ansara and
David Lewis were all acknowledged with awards for special contribution to the

More Here:


Sandy George – INSIDEFILM – Mon 07/05/2012

Foreign and local creatives hook up on eMate

The Down Under film biz is not just relying on coin and government handouts to
help tempt runaways, there are a range of other initiatives to help make it easier to
head to Oz.

In February, Film Victoria launched its online database eMate that is aimed at
making it easier for international creatives to create a relationship with Aussie
bizzers. The database is expected to help international films firm up Aussie partners
that may help access the Producer Offset, currently at a competitive 40%, which
requires a key “Australian content” test that includes the use of locals in key creative

Film Victoria topper Jenni Tosi says the launch of the database has been a great
success with many overseas and local creatives already getting in touch.

“There are quite a considerable number of projects that we are tracking and we are
talking to a range of studios and independents, and with those projects it just a
matter of timing,” Tosi says.

She says Victoria, which recently hosted Miramax’s “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” and
actioner “Killer Elite,” sees a lot of repeat business; however, they have to stay
vigilant having recently lost a U.S. series to Canada due to Oz’s distance.

Of course, sometimes getting out of town can be a benefit in the run-up to
Hollywood’s pilot season.

“Due to the timing of pilot season in the U.S., Sony Pictures Television was attracted
to the prospect of shooting the pilot episode of ‘Frontier’ in our region,” says Tosi.
“Film Victoria was very quick to respond and offer the right mix of incentives,

locations advice and production services to convince the filmmakers they could make
this drama pilot here.”

In neighboring South Australia, there has been something of a film biz revolution
with pix such as Justin Kurzel’s “Snowtown” going on to international acclaim and
local feel-good pic “Red Dog” grabbing more than $A20 million ($20.6 million) at
the Aussie B.O. The state has opened a state-of-the-art new studio complex called
Adelaide Studios. The studios bowed late last year and have been developed for
$44.4 million, including custom-built sound stages, cutting-edge post-production
facilities and a mixing room which has only just achieved Dolby Premiere

The last pic to shoot at the old Hendon Studios, Rolf de Heer’s “The King Is Dead,”
was first into the new sound-mixing suite while TV mini “Resistance,” co-produced
by Andrew Dillon and Lesley Parker, was one of the first skeins to lens in the space.

“The new Adelaide Studios is the only Australian studio that is backed by a
government screen agency, allowing it great flexibility to tailor packages across
production and post-production for filmmakers,” says South Australian Film Corp.
topper Richard Harris. “The Adelaide Studios has strong appeal for independent
producers with budgets ranging from ($5.6 million-$31 million).”

So while the financial incentives may be yet to materialize, the industry itself is
getting ready for the influx.

By PAUL CHAI Mon., May. 7, 2012

Variety world report – Australia 2012

‘The Wolverine’ | ‘The Great Gatsby’

After a dry spell with virtually no runaway prods heading Down Under in the past
couple of years, the announcement last month that “X-Men” spin-off “The
Wolverine” would lens in Sydney caps off a positive 12 months for the local biz.

The Hugh Jackman starrer joins Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” with Leonardo
DiCaprio; the Jonathan Teplitzky-helmed “The Railway Man,” starring Colin Firth
and Nicole Kidman; and local production “I, Frankenstein” — which is produced by
Hopscotch Films, which pacted with Lakeshore on the Aaron Eckhardt starrer. And
all these films have provided a shot into the arm for an industry that was moribund
at this time last year.

“The announcement that ‘The Wolverine’ will film in Australia will result in
meaningful benefits for the industry and the economy; including jobs, skills and
training and investment back into the local industry,” says Debra Richards, topper of
industry org Ausfilm. “This announcement shows substantial government support of
the Australian film industry and highlights the importance of an increase to the
Location Offset to attract and compete for large scale international production to
shoot in Australia.”

In the details of the “Wolverine” announcement was an interesting fact, the
revelation that the Oz federal government made a one-off $A12.8 million ($13.2
million) payment to “The Wolverine” to attract it to film in Sydney. Pic is said to be
worth $82.6 million in investment and will create up to 2,000 jobs.

Said the minister government at the time: “The payment effectively provided ‘The
Wolverine’ a one-off investment package equivalent to an increase in the existing
Location Offset to 30%.”

The Location Offset stands at 15% but it is hoped that the payment to “Wolverine” is
an indication that a permanent increase is not far off. Last year’s budget saw an
increase in the post, digital and visual effects offset from 15% to 30%, and there was
widespread disappointment the same was not done for the location coin.

“Wolverine,” of course, has the support of Jackman, a local boy known for his
support of the biz Down Under. The previous Wolverine pic “X-Men Origins:
Wolverine” shot in Sydney. Wrapping up last December in the same city was another
local hero who likes to bring Hollywood back home — Luhrmann, whose 3D take on
“The Great Gatsby” now enters a 12-month post phase, much of which is also being
done locally.

“Over the past 18 months it has been very encouraging to see the return of large-scale
international production to Australia including films such as ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ‘I,
Frankenstein’ and most recently ‘The Wolverine,’ ” says Richards. “The turnaround
in difficult economic circumstances with the continued strength of the Australian
dollar showcases the caliber of the production services on offer in Australia.”

Andrew Mason, producer of “I, Frankenstein,” the Stuart Beattie-helmed adaptation
of the Kevin Grevioux graphic novel, agrees.

“The Producer Offset is doing what was always planned, which is attract our higher-
profile filmmakers back to Australia,” says Mason. “It would be easier for the talent
that have left to make films here. Baz is the perfect example of someone whose
unique talent fit into the Producer Offset equation, ‘I, Frankenstein’ is another. With
Stuart Beattie having made ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ (in Australia) it would
be easy for him to have gone to make a film in the U.S.”

Mason is also exec producer on “Grandmothers,” another local prod with Hollywood
trimmings, featuring Naomi Watts as well as Robin Wright; the two thesps portray
lifelong friends who come into conflict when they fall in love with each other’s
teenage sons. Pic recently finished filming in Sydney.

TV has also played a role in the revival starting with the premiere season of the Fox’s
time-traveling skein “Terra Nova,” which lensed in Queensland during its lifetime,
while Melbourne recently attracted the NBC pilot “Frontier” from “American
Gothic’s” Sean Cassidy.

“The support and services we have received from Film Victoria have been
outstanding, as has the crew and Victoria’s exceptional facilities,” Cassidy says.
“Victoria’s beautiful regional areas help create the perfect backdrop for this
production.” If picked up, skein will follow a group of 19th century pioneers as they
head across America.

But it was not all wins. Fox canceled “Terra Nova,” local frightener “Wolf Creek 2,”
the sequel to Greg McLean’s breakout horror hit, has wound up stuck in the courts
with one of its private investors, while one of the biggest losses was the shuttering of
the Alex Proyas pic “Paradise Lost,” which was set to film in Sydney and star Bradley
Cooper. Legendary Pictures pulled the plug on in February citing budgetary issues —
something the Location Offset should help avoid.

By PAUL CHAI – VARIETY – Sun., May. 6, 2012

Homeland in the UK

Gripping and daring, Homeland raised questions British TV
needs to answer

As with Victorian novels, much of its power comes from the space available for
narrative development, writes Mark Lawson.

Damian Lewis in Homeland, ‘notable for an ambiguity of attitude far outside the us-
and-them divisions of most political thrillers’.

The highest levels of televisual tension have generally rested, in recent years, on
which of two aspiring performers would be allowed to record an album for Simon
Cowell. But – for upwards of 2.5 million viewers of Channel 4 on Sunday night –
genuine pulse-thumping, sweaty expectation attended not the result of a public
phone-vote but that oldest of dilemmas: the outcome of a story.

Twelve weeks after he returned to America a hero from eight years as a hostage in
Iraq, would Damian Lewis’s Private Brody finally prove the view of CIA handler
Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) that he was an al-Qaida sleeper set on devastating
the American government?

Following three months of unnerving reverses, in this adaptation by the American
cable network Showtime of the Israeli prisoner of war dramaHatufim, the answers
were typically twisted and ambivalent. While intermittently implausible (requiring,
for example, the secret service to be oddly cavalier about sniper lines of sight), the
plot intelligently combined concepts – rendition, redaction – introduced to the
language by recent occupants of the White House. It was also notable for an
ambiguity of attitude far outside the us-and-them divisions of most political thrillers.
The quality of writing and acting made Brody sometimes warm and supportable to
the extent that the viewer is tempted into the mental treachery of wanting his anti-
democratic massacre to succeed.

But the most daring aspect of the drama was to create two central characters who
could never necessarily be trusted in anything they said or did: Brody because he was
suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but also a suspected terrorist and
Carrie due to a bipolar condition for which she received electroconvulsive therapy in
Sunday night’s finale, conveniently wiping from her mind some of the details of
season one.

And, if Homeland had a serious weakness, it was the nagging need to keep a second
series possible. At times, there was an unwanted additional tension, now common in
TV drama, between the narrative logic whipping the story to its natural conclusion –
would Brody get away with it, whatever “it” is? – and the commercial imperative for a
successful show to continue for as many series as possible.

So, while Brody did seem by 10.45pm to be an American Taliban who flunked his
mission to kill the vice- president, enough doubt has been left about who exactly is
running whom to make viewers eager for the sequel, in which Carrie will again seek
to convince America that it is him rather than her who has the unreliable mind.

For British television, the brief relief at not being found wanting in comparison with
Scandinavian shows (The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge) will be tempered by another
round of cringing contrasts with America. And, while the alleged inferiority of British
TV drama can be exaggerated – shows such as Sherlock, Life on Mars and Downton
Abbey are envied in the US – the viewer and reviewer reception of Homeland here
does raise issues that commissioners in this country need to consider.

David Harewood, who plays double-dealing CIA chief David Estes, has, in a number
of interviews, echoed the complaints of other black British actors that our networks’
preference for period dramas and classic adaptations reduces the availability of
strong non-white roles. Harewood has suggested that he would not be offered in
Britain a role as pivotal and complicated as Estes and that even the acclaim for
Homeland has not yet improved the flow of offers.

Our homeland drama departments should urgently examine such complaints and
perhaps also reflect on the greater risk-taking of overseas fiction. The 12 episodes of
Homeland’s opening season are a standard span in the US, whereas six parts is
exceptional for a UK start-up and two or three more usual.

This caution comes from a tradition of public funding, state regulation and rapid
newspaper fury over “flops”. But, in common with the vast Victorian novels with
which the form of British TV drama shares so much, much of the pulling power of
Homeland comes from the space available for narrative and character development.

Tension now shifts to the arrival of this autumn’s second season. Surely, though, two
runs must be the limit. The experience of series such as Lost makes us fear the
revelation, in the schedules of about 2017, that the previous six seasons were Brody’s
nightmare in his Iraqi rat-hole on the eve of release from imprisonment.

Mark Lawson, Sunday 6 May 2012