Multimillion dollar boost for Australian movies

THE husband and wife comedy team behind The Librarians and Very Small Business is making the leap from small to the big screen.

Screen Australia said on Monday its investment in a slate of new projects including Now Add Honey, a comedy feature film written by Robyn Butler, directed by Wayne Hope, and produced by the couple and Louisa Kors.

Screen Australia chief executive Ruth Harley said Now Add Honey had "laugh-out-loud comedy moments". She predicted its "razor-sharp dialogue will appeal to mainstream audiences of all ages".

In all, Screen Australia announced investment in five features, five television drama series and one children's series, with a total investment value of $11.4 million and anticipated budgets of $64 million.

Also getting the green light were new films from Samson & Delilah writer-director Warwick Thornton, Red Dog director Kriv Stenders and a new project from Tony Ayres, the writer-director of the acclaimed autobiographical feature The Home Song Stories and a producing partner in Matchbox Pictures, the company that brought The Slap to the small screen.

Thornton will write and direct The Darkside, a look at the indigenous take on the afterlife. Stenders will direct Kill Me Three Times, which is described as "a black comedic thriller set in an Australian surf town", in which a young woman is "the thread that binds three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge".

Ayres will helm Cut Snake, a "gritty true life crime thriller" about a former prisoner whose attempts to start a new life are derailed when his former cell mate turns up looking for trouble.

The final feature to get the government funding agency's thumbs-up is Fell, the debut feature from Kasimir Burgess, whose short Lily won the Crystal Bear award (for best children's film) at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival. Written by Natasha Pincus, it is described as "a fable of revenge, redemption and renewal".

Among the television projects getting the go-ahead are the high-profile INXS story Never Tear Us Apart for Channel Seven, Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story for Channel Nine and Return to the Devil's Playground, for Foxtel, a return to the territory of Fred Schepisi's 1976 feature debut. Among its producers and stars is Simon Burke, who plays the role of a psychiatrist revisiting the seminary where he was a student 35 years earlier.

The popular children's book series Tashi will be developed as a 52-part series of 11-minute programs, to be run on both the ABC and Seven.

kquinn@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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