McElroy seeks crowd to kick-start Zebras

Jim McElroy, producer of The Year of Living Dangerously and Sea Patrol, has turned to Kickstarter to crowd-fund the final piece of his financing puzzle for a South Africa-Australian co-production. The new film Zebras, directed by Mao's Last Dancer's Bruce Beresford and written by David Williamson.

Starring Luke Hemsworth, he aims to raise $900,000 to fill the gap beyond the already committed film incentives subsidy. McElroy tells Reel Time the crowd-funding process began slowly yet had been instructive. "As filmmakers, we sit in gigantic warehouses called sound stages and are so separated from our audience," he says. "This has been the fantastic part of the process. I've never spoke to the audience like this before. Pledges can secure varying levels of involvement in the film, including your name, whether corporate or personal, being included somewhere in the film for $2000, or for $8000, a speaking role. McElroy plans to shoot the film, based on the true-life story of a multi-racial soccer team in 1983, in South Africa with post-production in Sydney and Brisbane. "It's not a big commitment and I know Australians are conservative in this area," McElroy says. "But a $1 pledge will make them part of the process of an inspirational story."

WHILE we're at it, we should mention another independent film chasing the crowd-funding dollar. Broke, produced by Luke Graham, written and directed by Heath Davis and starring Steve Le Marquand, Steve Bisley and Claire Van Der Boom, is looking for dollars on indiegogo.com for filming in Gladstone. The film is about a former rugby league player and gambling addict who turns his life around.

AS the AACTA Awards celebrate the year of film passed, the year ahead is firming up. And, even at this early stage it looks promising after 2013 was a bit of a washout at the box office for local films. For example, The Railway Man's box-office in its first week (from Boxing Day) was bigger than the box office for all Australian films last year bar The Great Gatsby. It has amassed nearly $6 million, the best result since The Sapphires. Next on the horizon is the beautiful adaptation of Robyn Davidson's Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska, which is finally released March 6. And Roadshow Films has announced tentative dates for the releases of its batch of local films. Zak Hilditch's energetic apocalypse-in-Perth film These Final Hours will be released on June 12. David Michod's anticipated follow-up to his hit Animal Kingdom, The Rover, starring Guy Pearce and Twilight's Robert Pattinson, is scheduled for a July 31 release and Matthew Saville's Sydney thriller Felony, written by and starring Joel Edgerton alongside Jai Courtney, Melissa George and Tom Wilkinson is due for an August 289 release. A solid batch.

THEN there's the South Australian hit of the recent Sundance Film Festival, The Babadook. Jennifer Kent's domestic thriller starring Essie Davis as a single mum coping with her troubled son, doesn't have a local release date yet but anticipation had increased after its reception at Sundance. In a great show of confidence, the film was acquired to screen in the US by IFC Midnight, which previously released Snowtown there, and Wild Bunch bought rights to sell it in France, Germany and Switzerland.

THIS week's Raymond Longford Award winner Jacki Weaver said she'd just completed a number of diverse films in exotic locales, including a Woody Allen film, Magic In The Moonlight. Another, Reclaim, was shot in Puerto Rico with John Cusack and Ryan Phillippe. The thriller is the first feature in seven years for Alan White, who made his name here casting Hugh Jackman in his first feature, Erskineville Kings, before Risk, the 2000 banking drama starring Bryan Brown, Tom Long and Claudia Karvan. White's last film was Broken, the 2006 drama starring Heather Graham. Reclaim is in post-production.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au

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