Michael Petroni is set to shoot his first Australian film since Till Human Voices Wake Us.
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6 Mar 2013 - 4:37 PM  UPDATED 6 Mar 2013 - 4:37 PM

See Pictures, the Australian production company formed three years ago by writer-director Michael Petroni and Jamie Hilton, will start shooting its first feature, Backtrack, in Melbourne in the middle of this year.

The pair have also teamed up with Simon Baker and Mark Johnson on Breath, a film based on the Tim Winton novel, and they are developing The Little Death, a comedy which will mark the directorial debut of US-based Aussie actor Josh Lawson.

On Tuesday, Screen Australia announced its investment in Backtrack, a supernatural thriller written and directed by Petroni (pictured), produced by Hilton and Antonia Barnard. The plot revolves around a psychologist whose life is thrown into turmoil when he discovers his patients are all ghosts of people who died in an accident 20 years earlier.

Hilton tells SBS Film the project is fully financed, using the 40 per cent producer offset plus the backing of Australian distributor Madman Entertainment, Deluxe, Spectrum and international sales agent Bankside. Casting is underway.

In December, Screen Australia revealed it had fully committed its drama production budget for the year ending June 30 but that didn't refer to projects that had been submitted for the February board meeting.

It's the first Australian film to be directed by Petroni since 2002's Till Human Voices Wake Us. He has been based primarily in the US for 15 years. He co-wrote the screenplay of Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Most recently Petroni wrote the screenplay of The Book Thief, a WWII drama set in Germany based on a novel by Markus Zusak, which will star Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and French-Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse (Monsieur Lazhar).

Baker and his producing partner Mark Johnson bought the film rights to Breath in 2009. It's set in a small town where two 16-year-old boys take up surfing under the tutelage of an enigmatic surfer and his mysterious wife. Hilton, (who produced The Waiting City and exec produced Sleeping Beauty), says the film is out to directors.

Lawson, who currently stars in TV's House of Lies, wrote the screenplay of The Little Death, a comedy about five couples who each have a different sex fetish, in which he will star. Hilton says it will be financed under a new model for low-budget films, the first in what he hopes will be a stream of films through that pipeline. There was a live reading of the script at the Cockatoo Island Film Festival.