Australian drama lands US deal

CMD Distribution has acquired US rights to The Playbook, an Australian drama about a basketball coach whose life is torn apart after a tragic accident.

Shot in Victoria, it’s the feature writing and directing debut of Darran Scott, a former actor who has produced several documentaries and short films.

Scott tells IF that CMD has agreed to release the film on at least 40 screens in North America and on DVD and VoD. That will be a far wider spread of cinemas than at home, where it played on 15 screens in the six capital cities last July, restricted by a lack of marketing dollars.

The privately funded film used the producer offset and got a grant from Film Victoria’s Regional Location Assistance Fund. The cast includes Mick Preston, Harry Borland, Dennis Coard, Lauren Clair, Kath Gordon and newcomer Lloyd Edwards. Australian and NBA basketball star Luc Longley has a cameo.

Preston plays Steven Thomas, a loving father and basketball coach. After a tragic accident caused by a drunken friend sees his family torn apart, he struggles to forgive the person responsible. Through the support of his young basketball team, he uses his basketball playbook to rekindle his spiritual beliefs and get his life and family back on track.

CMD’s international partnerships will see The Playbook released theatrically and on DVD in Brazil. The worldwide sales agent, Brisbane-based Heritage Distribution, has also notched sales to Scandinavia and Poland, with other territories in negotiation.

Darran began his career in the early 1980s as an actor in shows such as Special Squad, Carson’s Law and The Henderson Kids. His later credits include Underbelly, Australia On Trial and Neighbours.

He produced the feature-length docs Walk by Faith and A Bright Shining Life and has directed shorts, corporate videos and music videos.

The next project for Scott's Shearwater Entertainment is Spirit of the Game (working title), the true story of the young American missionaries who, while serving in Australia in the mid-1950s, were asked by Australian Olympic basketball coach Ken Watson to play the Australian team in the lead-up to the 1956 Olympics.

The Americans (all college players) trounced the Aussies and they were then asked to play other Olympic nations. The missionaries beat them all except the Russians (the eventual silver medallists). There was a rematch with the French team who cheated and roughed up the young church boys. Scott’s screenplay is based on the book Mormon Yankees – Giants On and Off the Court by Professor Fred Woods.

“We’ve got some private finance from the US committed already and will also put this to Screen Australia and Film Victoria and seek the producer offset as we propose to shoot the entire film in Melbourne,” he said.

Cinematographer Damien Beebe, who shot The Playbook, is attached. He hopes to start shooting in November.