When four guys realised their dreams of playing for the Wallabies were never going to happen, they had a crazy idea: form Australia's first national Sudoku team and compete in the world Sudoku championships in Goa, India.
This ambitious plan overlooked the fact that one guy had never played the numbers puzzle and the prowess of the others was moderate, at best.
One of the foursome dubbed The Numbats, Mick Colliss (the Sudoku neophyte) wrote a book about their experiences, Full Contact Sudoku: How Four Rugby Mates Realised Their Dream of Playing for Australia.
The underdogs' tale sparked an ABC-TV documentary, Colours By Numbers: The Sudokumentary, and now producer Stephen Van Mil (pictured) plans to make a film about their adventures.
The founder of Perth-based Impian Films, former veterinarian Van Mil tells SBS Film he's talking to one of Australia's “top comedy writer-directors” (surely a small pool in film, anyway), whom he won't name until a contract is signed. He plans to shoot the film, Big Numbers, in 2014, switching the location of the Sudoku championships to Japan as he thinks India has been over-exposed of late.
Colliss is the director and chief copywriter of a Perth-based advertising, marketing and communications company, a rugby commentator for 6PR, and a poet. He says, “I do a lot of things but I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best at any of them. I call the rugby but I'm no Dennis Cometti. I write poetry but I'm no Banjo Paterson. I've written books but I'm no Stephen King. I write ads but I'm no John Singleton. I do a bit of speaking but I'm no Anthony Robbins.”
Big Numbers might be Impian's first feature to go into production. Van Mil has been developing The Drowner, an historical love story based on the Robert Drewe novel and scripted by John Collee, since 2008, a co-production with Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey's Icon and UK-based Robert Jones. Also on his slate are Black Honeymoon, a sexy thriller which will mark Collee's directing debut, co-produced with Martin Brown Films; and Shallows, a film based on Tim Winton's novel which spans three generations of one family from the birth of the WA whaling industry in the 1830s to the present day, also with Icon.
Fred Schepisi signed to direct The Drowner last September and the plan is to shoot in 2014 after he finishes Words and Pictures, a romantic drama about a charismatic English teacher and an art teacher, starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, which rolls March 18 in Vancouver.
Van Mil's wish-list cast is truly stellar: Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, James McAvoy and Emily Blunt. He says all are interested in the project but he can't make formal offers until Collee finishes the screenplay. The budget isn't set but may be around $30 million, financed by the 40 per cent producer offset, private investors – mostly from the WA mining community – and global pre-sales. He hasn't locked in a sales agent yet.
The Shallows screenplay is being worked on. Van Mil, Brown and Collee went to Tanzania on a scouting trip for Black Honeymoon last year and that's the likely location. It's the story of an American executive in Paris who gets married and honeymoons in the Congo, where his bride disappears. Talks with potential cast and sales agents are ongoing.
Van Mil is executive producing with Tania Chambers Tango Underpants, a short film based on a short story by Carolyn Swindell, adapted by the ubiquitous Collee. Emma Booth will play an Australian backpacker who loses her mojo after a bad breakup and heads for Buenos Aires where she discovers Tango dancing and the importance of wearing the right underwear. It will be co-directed by Miranda Edmonds (Impian's director of development) and her brother Khrob Edmonds. The producers raised $107,000 via crowdfunding site Pozible, boosted by a 3-1 grant from Screen West. The shooting date isn't set yet as it depends on Booth's availability but it will be after Miranda has her own production: a baby.