Screen Australia finds money for ghost thriller

Defying earlier media reports it had spent its full allocation for drama production investment for the financial year before the end of 2012, Screen Australia has today announced funding support for a supernatural thriller from Michael Petroni, the writer of the 2011 Hollywood exorcism thriller The Rite.

The Anthony Hopkins vehicle took $96 million worldwide on a reported budget of $37 million.

Petroni will write and direct Backtrack, billed as "a spine-chilling supernatural thriller ... in the vein of The Sixth Sense and What Lies Beneath", in which a psychologist discovers his patients are in fact the ghosts of people who had died in an accident 20 years ago.

In a media statement, Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said, Backtrack is "an emotionally moving and engaging story with a unique Australian setting that should appeal to a wide audience both here and internationally".

The announcement comes on the back of a round of development funding on Monday in which $276,000 was spread among 10 projects, including a new film from The Sapphires writer Tony Briggs (The Grip) and a romantic comedy called Purely Business from director Rowan Woods, best known for the chilling true crime drama The Boys.

In December 2012 Screen Australia issued a statement in which it declared that its "$42 million budget for drama production investment this financial year has been fully committed".

The statement from the federal government's screen agency added: "Screen Australia is aware that this news will be disruptive for some producers. It is very unfortunate that we are in this position."

It was widely reported that as a result Screen Australia would be unable to support any new projects before July 2013.

The next meeting of the Screen Australia in April will consider letters of interest only, with the next chance for feature projects to be considered for funding support coming on June 25.

The agency advised in December 2012, however, that "availability of funds for this round will be limited, and will depend on funds previously committed to lapsed projects becoming available".

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