Tony Coombs is currently teeing up a big budget war drama to made in China with his American associate Jeff Greene.
19 Mar 2013 - 12:27 PM  UPDATED 19 Mar 2013 - 12:27 PM

China-based American writer/producer Jeff Greene is in discussions with an Australian production company with a view to co-produce the big budget war drama, Shimalaya: The High Road to China 3D, based on the crucial, but often forgotten, World War II trans-Himalayan, 'Hump' air route, China's sole war-time supply link to the western Allies.

Greene's Melbourne-based business associate Tony Coombs of Big Loud Dream Pty Ltd, who is at Filmart in Hong Kong and meeting with potential stakeholders in the project, told SBS Film that Greene's reputation in China as a WWII historian is "extraordinary”.

“His late '90s documentary, Chennault and the Flying Tigers, is still one of the highest rated shows on CCTV in China."

Greene's previous screenplay, Flying Tigers, is with Twentieth Century Fox Studios and New Regency, set to star Tom Cruise, who will also co-produce. The film will tell the story of Lt. General Claire L. Chennault, his fabled Flying Tigers and their fight to help save China during the Second World War.

“We're very excited to be talking to an Australian production company that is experienced in this sort of project,” says Greene, “and we will be making a formal, joint announcement shortly with more details, including the first Australian cast and crew.”

Greene's Burma Road Productions is developing the project and says the film will benefit from the input of the Australian producers, who have a proven track record and who know how the Chinese process works. “I also think very highly of the Aussie filmmaking expertise, and their can-do attitude to problem solving.”

Greene (pictured), who is also Chair of the Macao China International Digital Film Festival and 3D Summit (November, 2013), says the market for such a film in 3D is “remarkable… particularly in China where there is tremendous demand for entertaining and well-made 3D motion pictures, a demand that industry experts say will remain unmet for the next several years. There are now more than 6,000 digital 3D theatres currently operating, or soon to be operating in China,” he says.

The film tells the story of the passengers and Chinese and American crew of 'Millie the Mule', a battered and war-weary China National Aviation Corporation cargo plane, as it takes-off from an Allied supply base in northeastern India, and fights its way up, over and beyond what the ancient people of Asia referred to as the 'Roof of the World,' the mighty Himalayan Mountains, and on to the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, the eastern terminus of the historic Hump air route.

The plane is discovered and attacked by Japanese aircraft, injuring many on board; having barely survived intact, the plane encounters hurricane winds, snow and ice storms as well as vicious downdrafts. Inside, the crew and passengers have to learn to trust each other and work together to keep the plane flying to safety.

“To be filmed along the actual course of the historic Hump air route, up, over and through high altitude mountain passes, and down into rarely visited mountain valleys and deep running river gorges, audiences will see breathtaking vistas of the Chinese interior,” says Greene.

Because of its subject matter, says Greene, “the project has strong support from the Chinese Government, key individuals within the Chinese film industry, the Yunnan Provincial Government, a number of Yunnan Province's municipal governments and most significantly, the support of both the People's Liberation Army and the People's Liberation Army Air Force, which will allow the film's producers to bring in an operational Second World War C-47 transport aircraft, and fly it along the actual route for filming.”