This year's SPAA conference proves once again that film funding is never easy.
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17 Nov 2011 - 4:18 PM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:09 PM

Producer Michael Clarkin and writer/director Rory Noke this week won DigiSPAA with their feature film 10 Metres at the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) conference.

The film was up against 24 other Australian entries, all made outside the government financing systems, and all made with digital rather than film equipment.

The prize for the thriller focussed on a student who has a bomb strapped to his chest by a vengeful classmate, includes cash, a pay TV sale and a visit to CineMart, which is part of the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The win is a big boost for both filmmakers.

The annual conference, held in Sydney, was a reminder that extreme doggedness is needed to finance movies.

Red Dog, which last night won the IF Award for best film, illustrates this with its eight-year journey to the big screen. Producer Nelson Woss originally set it up as an Australian film made with Hollywood money – until the US studio casually mentioned that they were expecting him to film in Texas – then financed it out of Australia with a considerably smaller budget from scratch.

Producers use the conference to try and find partners and help finance their next film or sell their last. Delegates heard how the producers of The Tunnel are building a fan club to help pay for future projects, how 33 Postcards producer/director Pauline Chan is working with Chinese partners, and how producer Emile Sherman amassed $10 million of The Kings Speech's $13 million budget by selling it in advance to major territories around the world, one of the reasons he was voted SPAA feature film producer of the year.

The conference was also the setting for an announcement that the feature The Boy Castaways, a dramatic rock musical, is one step closer to production thanks to the Hive Production Fund.

The fund grew out of Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) director Katrina Sedgwick's determination to get more cross-pollination between art forms. First a five-day residential workshop was held involving people from the visual arts, literature and film; then the fund was set up in partnership with the ABC and the Australia Council.

Michael Kantor, who left his role as artistic director of Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre last year, was at the Hive workshop and is set to direct The Boy Castaways. Tim Rogers, lead singer of rock band You Am I, and cabaret star Paul Capsis are likely to play two of the handful of men who escape to an abandoned theatre to play out their futile fantasies in order to stay forever young.

Jo Dyer, who produced Lucky Miles and is executive producer of the Sydney Theatre Company, and Stephen Armstrong, former executive producer of Malthouse, are now trying to raise more finance, the aim being to premiere the film at the 2013 AFF.

“We are seeking to… explore a non-traditional distribution patter which would see the film screen in theatres and arts and music festivals alongside a live concert featuring our key stars... The soundtrack will unashamedly and fabulously feature new takes on Australian pop and rock classics.”