Atkins prepares projects with Brooks, Saville, Kokkinos

As a solo producer, Unicorn Films’ Lizzette Atkins has a remarkably diverse and prolific development slate.

Atkins is preparing projects for directors Sue Brooks, Matthew Saville and Ana Kokkinos plus a slate of low-budget horror movies. While they span a variety of genres, Atkins says there is a common thread: all are director-driven.

She founded Unicorn Films last year after nine years as a partner in Circe Films, whose credits include Jon Hewitt’s steamy thriller X, Lawrence Johnston’s Night and Eddie Martin’s Lionel, a feature documentary on Aboriginal boxer Lionel Rose.

Her latest production, Anna Broinowski’s Aim High in Creation! had its world premiere on Wednesday at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

The most advanced project on her slate is Brooks’ Driving Back from Dubbo, the saga of a 15-year-old girl who runs away with her best friend to see her favourite band, prompting her parents to hire an aging private detective to help find her.

Richard Roxburgh and Miranda Otto will play the parents with Sam Neill as the private eye; the lead girl has not been cast yet. Atkins is assembling the finance and hopes to start shooting next year, co-produced with Brooks’ and screenwriter Alison Tilson’s Gecko Films.

Atkins is working with the same creative team on Lovesong, the tale of a Melbourne man who reflects on a romance he had years before with a young woman in Paris, based on the novel by Australian author Alex Miller.

Saville, who recently wrapped Felony, a crime thriller starring Jai Courtney, Melissa George and Joel Edgerton, is set to direct Kid Snowball. A dramedy scripted by John Brumpton and Shane Danielsen , it centres on a burn-out tent boxer who falls in love with a young stripper as he takes her young son under his wing.

Kokkinos is to direct Billy & Pearl, the story of 10-year-old Billy who, while searching for his father, meets 30-plus Pearl who is running away from herself. The screenplay is by Mira Robertson, who collaborated with Kokkinos on Head On.

Mother with a Gun is a feature documentary about the matriarch of the Jewish Defence League, a bloody terrorist organisation, from writer-director Jeff Daniels.

Atkins is developing the horror movies with Michael Wrenn, an executive producer on The Rocket and Mystery Road. She acknowledges the genre is often a tough sell for Australian audiences but says “there is an insatiable appetite for horror internationally.”

She’s keen to see a different distribution model evolve in Australia which would enable local films to be released on DVD and Video-on-Demand soon after their cinema release has finished.

The slate includes Pinky Pinky, a South African-Australian co-production from director Allistair Orr, about a mythical creature that preys on innocent young girls; Jon Hewitt’s Avampyr, a revenge saga about a network news anchor who is abducted and raped; and Eron Sheehan’s End of Animal, a post-Apocalyptic sci-fier written by Danielsen about a pregnant 20-year-old who is caught between towns in the middle of the West Australian desert.