Aus-India film co-production treaty not being signed anytime soon

A film co-production treaty between Australia and India is currently being negotiated but won’t be signed anytime soon.

So says Screen Australia when contacted by IF, contradicting recent online reports that suggested the agreement would be signed last week.

“The text of the agreement is currently under discussion and an agreement is unlikely to be ready for signature in the near future,” a spokeswoman said.

“Following signature, domestic approval processes must follow before an agreement would come into force.”

The first ever Australian Film Festival of India – launched by X-Men lead actor Hugh Jackman – was just held in late-March to great success, further strengthening the relationship between the two countries.

Claire McCarthy, director of The Waiting City – which was filmed in India – says when it does happen it’ll be “a fantastic opportunity”.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to galvanise creative relationships between our two great nations, to foster collaborative and cultural understanding and to open up new horizons within the global film community,” she told IF.

She quickly points out that filming in India – like anywhere for that matter – depended on story, budget and context.

“Certainly if it is appropriate to shoot in India the resources and personnel are world-class and there is an inherent flexibility, immediacy and affability that further enhances the experience,” says McCarthy, whose credits include debut feature Cross Life, and documentary Sisters (which was also shot in India).

The Waiting City had a 32-day shoot, starting in late-2008, and the director/writer/producer said it needed to be a collaborative process between the two countries.

“It was crucial to me that the team became like a family in the making of The Waiting City,” says McCarthy, who is now working on an adaptation of Tim Winton novel The Turning.

“So we never wanted to be considered a ‘foreign’ film as such and were resistant to the idea of just coming into India, taking over and doing things our way.

“We wanted the film to be a collaborative process with a blending of ideas, resources and approaches to the filmmaking process.

“The film is a very fine example of high-level planning, collaboration and cultural exchange between incredible Australian and Indian creatives and technicians.”

Many feel that international co-productions are a way of the future as they allow filmmakers to secure more funding, more talent and more of a global audience.

Oranges and Sunshine, directed by Brit Jim Loach and co-produced by our own Emile Sherman, is a 100 per cent “textbook” co-production between Australia and the UK and is set to do well after opening in the “mother country” on the weekend, and Down Under in June. It stars Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.

Last month, Chinese-Australian co-production The Dragon Pearl had a massive opening in China, being shown across more than 18,000 sessions and grossed 16.2 million CNY ($A2.46 million), as reported by IF.

The national agency released new revised co-production guidelines last October, saying they were “significantly more flexible” and “more user-friendly”.

They now allow a writer from outside the co-producing partner countries to contribute to a screenplay.

Australia currently has treaties with the UK, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Israel and Singapore, and has MOUs (Memoranda of Understanding) with France and New Zealand.

A treaty with South Africa has also been signed and is currently being considered by the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT).

"JSCOT will report to Parliament within the next few months and recommend whether Australia should ratify the treaty (make it come into force). If the Australian government does ratify the treaty we would expect it to be sometime in the July-September quarter," a Screen Australia spokeswoman said.

For more on international co-productions, visit the Screen Australia website.