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Escalator takes three up

From 133 applications, the NZFC has whittled down and made the announcement of the second year’s films under the three-year Escalator scheme. Only three films are greenlit, despite the scheme having funding to support four.

After the initial cull and bootcamp, the NZFC-appointed panel making the final decisions comprised academic, writer and producer Shuchi Kothari (A Thousand Apologies, Firaaq, Apron Strings), director Paul Murphy (Second Hand Wedding, Love Birds), cinematographer Thomas Burstyn (This Way of Life, The Insatiable Moon, Underbelly NZ), Julian Harvey and NZFC Script Executive Katherine Fry.

Harvey is one of the producers of Aussie low-budget feature The Tunnel, which crowd-sourced funding by attempting to sell the 150,000 or so frames in the film for $1 each. The film was released earlier this year, with a limited theatrical run, on DVD with Transmission distributing, and on the internet via p2p torrent – legally for a change.

The judges’ decision to support only three teams came down to the money, specifically the panel’s confidence (or lack of) in teams’ ability to complete within Escalator’s $250,000 budget. Graeme Mason said, “It is difficult to conceive a film achievable on a low budget of $250,000 and the panel took their responsibility very seriously to ensure that the projects that got through were not only great stories but also had a realistic plan to achieve the film above and beyond calling in favours and doing deals.”

The unspent allocation will be directed to other production funding.

The three projects that did manage to convince the panel of both their idea and capacity to achieve it were the animated Shirley and the Hungary Bear, Fantail and Stealing Tommy.

Shirley and the Hungary Bear comes from Yukfoo, who had a busy day on the announcements front yesterday. Three hours after Shirley was selected for Escalator, their short Preferably Blue was announced as a selection in the Unlikely Bedfellows programme at the upcoming Show Me Shorts festival. The team for both films is writer Wayne Ching, director Alan Dickson and producer Glen Real. Escalator panellist Shuchi Kothari was an EP on Preferably Blue.

Fantail, “a funny and dramatic story of a girl’s search for her identity and belonging”, comes from writer Sophie Henderson (Legend of the Seeker, Underbelly NZ and the upcoming The Most Fun You Can Have Dying); director Curtis Vowell (Spies & Lies, Legend of The Seeker) and producer Sarah Cook.
A drama about the arrival of a new child through illegal means, Stealing Tommy comes from writer and director Max Currie (Some of My Best Friends Are American, Shortland Street, QueerNation) and producers Luke Robinson (Xena, Aidiko Insane, Power Rangers) and Tom Hern (I’m Not Harry Jenson). Currie was an Escalator runner-up last year with Actress Wanted.

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