Frustrated at being unable to finance feature films in Australia, Johan Earl has moved to Bangkok and launched Triton-X with plans to produce a slate of international films.
The producer/director/writer/actor is partnered in the new venture with James Sangtaweep, who runs one of the biggest TVC production companies in Thailand, and six other investors.
Sangtaweep was one of the principal investors in Forbidden Ground, an Australian WW1 movie co-directed by Earl and Adrian Powers, which centred on three British soldiers who found themselves stranded in No Man’s Land in 1916 France.
Triton-X’s maiden production will be Kamera-12, based on the infamous Russian Sleep Experiment during WW2 when the Soviet Union used five prisoners-of-war as guinea pigs to test a deadly poison.
Earl, who will direct and write the drama, plans to cast a mix of Australian, Canadian and American actors to play the German and Russian POWs and the Russian researchers, scientists and soldiers.
He intends to shoot in Canada, probably northern Ontario to take advantage of that province’s film incentives, starting in September.
The production partners are Andrew Priestman of Canada’s Steel Roots Productions, Michael Suan of Canada’s KingSky Productions and Los Angeles-based Alan Pao.
“I’ve spent a lot of time uncovering the earliest roots of the existing story,” he tells IF. “I’ve also engaged a Russian military researcher who has uncovered a vast array of archival documents. We now have what we believe is the origins of the story, the truth behind the myth of the Russian Sleep Experiment. The film will be a historically accurate account of the horrific events.”
Explaining the move to Thailand, he says: “Because the money is in Thailand. I tried getting investors in Australia but that raises a whole new set of questions about investor confidence in Australia.
“Having said that, a small portion of the budget is coming from Australian investors. The bulk, however, is coming from Thailand, the US and Canada.
“James got a return on his investment in Forbidden Ground and he and the other investors trust my vision and my ability to deliver great films for them.
“After Forbidden Ground I spent a great deal of time writing a few scripts, stories that were in my head that I had to get before doing anything else. I then spent a couple years chasing investors around the world with much frustration. There are a lot of time wasters out there who love the allure of the title ‘producer’ but have nothing to really back them up, let alone the money to invest.
“Aside from my own projects we’ll also be looking at other projects to finance and produce as well. We’re based in Thailand but we’re shooting films across the globe. We’ll also be producing several films back home in Australia.”
This is Earl’s third writing and directing effort following the 1999 action-drama Theory of the Trojans (co-directed with Melanie Cavin and Michael Massen). He also wrote and starred in the 2010 thriller Perfect Life, directed by Jith Sen.