Beneath Hill 60 director has a new war zone in his sights.
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7 Nov 2011 - 10:30 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 12:33 AM

After directing WWI drama Beneath Hill 60, Jeremy Sims plans to tackle a new battleground: terrorism.

The Australian filmmaker is in Los Angeles this week hoping to clinch a deal with an international distributor to co-finance The Training Ground, a co-production with London-based production outfit Slingshot.

The plot centres on a group of adventure-seeking tourists who stumble on an Al Qaeda training ground in the hills of Uzbekistan. They find a 'dirty' bomb, unwisely take it and are pursued by the terrorists who start picking them off one-by-one.

“It's a chase movie with a fantastic 21st Century premise,” Sims told SBS Film. He was offered the directing gig by Slingshot on the strength of Beneath Hill 60, which was released on DVD in the UK, selling more than 100,000 units, according to Sims.

The first draft was written by an English writer and several other scribes have become involved and Sims says the final credits haven't been determined yet.

The plan is to shoot the film in South Australia's Flinders Ranges in 2012, taking advantage of the 40 percent producer offset; Sims also hopes for Screen Australia funding. The timing depends partly on whether or not the multi-faceted Sims is occupied with the second series of the Seven network's bushranger adventure Wild Boys, in which he plays Frances Fuller.

The network announced a renewal at its 2012 programming launch in September but Wild Boys' ratings were then buffeted by the World Cup Rugby; Sims is hoping for confirmation of another series within a week. If it happens, he'll be busy on that production for six months starting in March so The Training Ground would follow that.

After Beneath Hill 60 Sims, who's represented by Mark Morrissey & Associates, was hoping to get the chance to direct TV dramas but apart from making two episodes of Nine's Rescue Special Ops he hasn't been inundated with TV offers.

“There still seems to be an old fashioned belief that film directors will be far too finicky and not fast enough to direct television. I know as an actor I keep seeing the same directors,” he said.

On the film front, Sims has been working for years on a screen adaptation of Last Cab to Darwin, Reg Cribb's play loosely based on the true story of a terminally ill Broken Hill taxi driver who drove to Darwin aiming to be the first person to take advantage of the Northern Territory's voluntary euthanasia law. In Darwin the 65-year-old cabbie realises he needs to go back to the Hill to make peace with the true love of his life, a 55-year-old Aboriginal woman. The play toured Australia in 2001-2003, produced by Sims' Pork Chop Productions.

Sims describes the screenplay, which he's co-written with Cribb, as a comedy, so it must be on the dark side. He's doing a polish of the script and intends to apply for Screen Australia's investment in the first or second round of funding next year.

Transmission is loosely attached an the Australian distributor, continuing its association with Sims after Beneath Hill 60; in their earlier roles at Dendy, Transmission's Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie handled the director's first feature, Last Train to Freo.