The veteran Australian producer-distributor is spreading his wings in unexpected directions.
29 Oct 2012 - 10:47 AM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 4:33 PM

Here's something you've almost certainly never seen: The names Antony Ginnane and Shakespeare in the same sentence.

Yes, film buffs and industry folk who have followed the 40-year career of the producer/ distributor/dealmaker may be surprised to learn he'll release a new, Australian produced version of Macbeth next year.

Ginnane is best known for making a string of genre films including Patrick, Turkey Shoot, Thirst, Harlequin, The Time Guardian and Encounter at Raven's Gate, but his tastes and his repertoire as producer and distributor are more eclectic.

Much less publicised is his role as the Australian distributor of European art house movies such as Andrzej Wajda's Katyn plus Two in the Wave, a documentary which details the friendship and rivalry of French New Wave directors Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, and A Life for Ballet, a doco profiling dancer/choreographer Pierre Lacotte and his wife, prima ballerina Ghislaine Thesmar.

He's the country's most prolific filmmaker, with more than 60 films—“62, or it might be 63”—to his credit as producer or executive producer, a far bigger volume than any of his contemporaries or more recent arrivals in the production industry.

He has three businesses: FG Film Productions; IFM/Filmways, a theatrical distribution co-venture with Robert Ward; and IFM World Releasing, an international sales company which handles Ginnane's library of films and acquisitions such as Aussie films Romper Stomper (which is soon to be released for the first time in Blu-ray in Germany) and The Odd Angry Shot.

The production division has three strands: Australian films budgeted at up to $5-$6 million, such as David Pulbrook's Last Dance (pictured), which stars Julia Blake and Firass Dirani; remakes of titles from his library such as the upcoming re-imagining of Patrick, Richard Franklin's 1978 Australian psychological thriller, and Thirst; and more costly movies typified by Blowback, a $25 million thriller from Bait 3D director Kimble Rendall.

The Patrick redo, the saga of a comatose, angelic-looking guy who tries to seduce his sexy nurse using psychokinetic powers, stars Charles Dance, Sharni Vinson and Rachel Griffiths. It starts shooting in Melbourne on November 13, directed by Not Quite Hollywood's Mark Hartley.

Scripted by Brian Trenchard-Smith, Blowback is a thriller about a former Special Forces operative whose 15-year-old daughter is kidnapped during a trip to Sydney. Ginnane says it will take a long while to assemble the finance so shooting won't start until the last quarter of 2013 or first quarter 2014.

IFM/Filmways handles a broad slate which spans those art house titles; Australian films that can't secure mainstream distribution and which go out on 10-15 screens, such as Bad Karma and Brian Trenchard-Smith's upcoming Gold Coast thriller Deception; and Andrew Traucki's The Jungle, a thriller about a conservationist who goes to Indonesia to save the Java leopard which is on the verge of extinction, and discovers something much bigger and nastier.

Ginnane pounced on Macbeth after seeing a 15-minute 'teaser' filmed by first-time writer-director Brian Dimmick. A traditional take on Shakespeare's play, the film is due to shoot in February in Tasmania with a local cast, backed by Film Tasmania.

IFM/Filmways' latest acquisition is The Stolen, a WWII drama about three young Australians, brothers Billy and Jack Kelly and their cousin Paddy, who leave their outback home to go to war and come back to find their family has been attacked by cattle rustlers. First-time director Geoff Davis has 95 minutes in the can and he intends to shoot additional scenes in December. Producer Phil Avalon, who is helping Davis to raise the finance to complete the film, did the deal with Ginnane.

Reflecting on his lengthy career, Ginnane didn't ponder for long when asked to nominate the half dozen films he remembers most fondly. He credits the original Patrick as his breakthrough film, the first that sold to theatrical distributors worldwide. It made a ton of money in Italy where it sparked an unsanctioned 1980 sequel, Patrick vive ancora (Patrick Lives Again). Ginnane took legal action to stop the producers from exhibiting the film outside Italy, which was effective for years, although it was released on DVD in the US in April. He's seen it and says it's dreadful.

He cites Simon Wincer's 1980 supernatural thriller Harlequin as it gave him the chance to work with American actor Broderick Crawford and his frequent collaborator David Hemmings.

Among other favourites are Michael Laughlin's Mesmerised (1986), which starred Jodie Foster and John Lithgow in the tale of an orphaned Kiwi girl who was married to an older, wealthy businessman; Wincer's 1987 WWI epic The Lighthorsemen, which Ginnane sold to US distributor Cinecom for an advance of $6 million, the best deal he's ever orchestrated in that market; and Screamers, a 1995 sci-fi adventure based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.

Ever the salesman, Ginnane added one title: Last Dance, a plug for the Australian thriller about a Holocaust survivor who's held hostage by a radical Palestinian, which opens on November 1.