Three directors whose debut features were very highly regarded -- David Michôd (Animal Kingdom), Matthew Saville (Noise) and Craig Monahan (The Interview) – get to make new films shortly thanks to investment from Federal Government agency Screen Australia.
Michôd will direct a western, The Rover, from his own script, Saville will make the thriller Felony from a script by all-rounder Joel Edgerton, and Monahan will helm Healing, written by he and esteemed television crime writer Alison Nisselle.
The heartthrob from the Twilight series of films, UK actor Robert Pattinson, who was also in Water For Elephants, will star alongside Australia's Guy Pearce in The Rover, set in the Australian desert in the near future.
Central character Eric (Pearce) has left behind everything, everyone and every semblance of human kindness, by the time he has his last possession stolen by a gang of dangerous criminals. In response, he sets off on a ruthless mission to track down the perpetrators, forced along the way to enlist the help of a naïve and injured junior gang member (Pattinson), abandoned in the bloody chaos of the gang's most recent robbery.
There has been significant US interest in what Michôd would next make after Animal Kingdom, in part because of the attention it got when actor Jacki Weaver received an Academy Award nomination last year for her performance as the smiling matriarch of a tough criminal family.
US producer and former co-chair of Universal, David Linde, has been talking to Michôd about his script since about that time and the pair are producing alongside Australian Liz Watts, who produced Animal Kingdom and two films being ushered into local cinemas in the next few months, Cate Shortland's Lore and Tony Krawitz's Dead Europe.
Saville's Felony is about three male detectives who become embroiled in a tense struggle after an accident leaves a small child in a coma. One is guilty, one will try to cover it up, and one attempts to expose it, but all discover that the road to forgiveness is long and complex.
The film goes into production later this year in Sydney. Joel Edgerton hasn't just written the script: he is also in the cast and stretching his wings as a producer alongside Rosemary Bligh, whose latest film, The Sapphires, opens the Melbourne International Film Festival next week.
In the five years since Noise, Saville has directed some outstanding television drama including two episodes of The Slap, the series made from a novel by Christos Tsiolkas, Cloudstreet, from the book by Tim Winton, and The King, a biopic on television personality Graham Kennedy.
Hugo Weaving and Don Hany, from SBS's hit drama East West 101, will star in Monohan's Healing, which has strong themes of redemption and hope. At the core of this picture, set in a low security prison in the country, is an encounter between two men and a wedgetail eagle.
The Film Critics Circle of Australia proclaimed Saville's Noise and Animal Kingdom the best films of 2007 and 2010 respectively -- Animal Kingdom also earned Michôd the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for best direction -- and both won the grand jury prize in the world cinema section of the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. In 1998, Monahan's The Interview won this country's highest film honour: the AFI Award for best film.