02/05/2006 - 22:00

Action heats up for WA film finance

02/05/2006 - 22:00

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Film-maker Michael Garcia is the latest Western Australian with ambitions to make a movie here.

Action heats up for WA film finance

Film-maker Michael Garcia is the latest Western Australian with ambitions to make a movie here.

But he knows it is no simple task to raise – either privately or from public sources – the $13 million required to film his feature movie “Strength of Ten” in the state.

Film funding hit the headlines last year when WA arts minister Sheila McHale withdrew $375,000 of state funding for former boxer Ray Fazio who planned to make an autobiographical movie, Two Fists, One Heart.

Mr Garcia’s feature film, which he proposes to be produced by his company Imaginites, will be based on a children’s action-adventure TV series “Strongmen”, screened in the past decade in more than 23 countries.

Mr Garcia is based in WA and believes the state’s desert, plateaus and mining infrastructure are perfect backdrops for Imaginites’ film. He is currently negotiating with seed capitalists and private investors in the United States and Australia to get the project off the ground.

The film-maker, who claims significant experience in low-budget productions in the US and South Africa, said the company would shoot the film first before starting on a new round of the “Strongmen” TV series. 

“We’re targeting the 10- to 18-year-old age group and plan a sophisticated film with emphasis on digital animation,” he said.

The company has already purchased $400,000 worth of filming equipment and software, produced costumes and secured commitment from emerging actors for the shoot, planned to last 68 days.

Mr Garcia said the production would provide jobs for 240 people behind the scenes in addition to the 50 cast members required, as well as strengthening WA’s film talent base.

ScreenWest chief executive Tanya Chambers said the state government agency for film and television supports and works closely with WA filmmakers but the reality is that only 20 Australian films are made a year and competition is fierce for both ScreenWest and the federal government’s Film Finance Corporation funding.

“Filmmakers have a greater likelihood of securing the budget if they have a track record of success and can prove they have market attachments from people in the industry,” Ms Chambers said.

Ms Chambers said ScreenWest received applications from many filmmakers but the organisation focused efforts more on prime-time documentaries, children’s TV shows and films with budgets under $1.8 million.

“Making feature films is challenging anywhere in the world. Australian filmmakers are competing in a world market place for a handful of subsidies and so must be able to establish distribution,” she said.

In 2004-05, ScreenWest invested just over $4 million directly into productions that generated more than $20.5 million worth of film and television production activity in WA.

Of the $20.5 million generated, $16.9 million was expended on Western Australian elements.

ScreenWest has developed the initiative West Coast Visions, in which five low budget features will be produced over five years through its program WA on Screen.

Its inaugural film under the initiative, “Last Train to Freo”, directed by Jeremy Sims and written by Reg Cribb, has just been acquired by Australia’s leading independent distributor Dendy Films for release in Australia and New Zealand.

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