Screen Aus and Create NSW back ‘The Merger’ from ‘Backyard Ashes’ team

Damian Callinan. 

With production funding from Screen Australia and Create NSW, comedian Damian Callinan will adapt his live act into a feature, The Merger.

The film reunites writer and actor Callinan with the team behind 2014 comedy Backyard Ashes, producer Anne Robinson and director Mark Grentell.

The Merger will follow a country football coach who has a plan to rebuild the local football team by recruiting recently settled asylum seekers. It's an adaptation of Callinan’s 2009 live show, which toured nationally for six years and earned him nominations for the Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the West Australian Editors’ Choice Award at Perth Fringe.

“The live version of The Merger, which has toured every nook of the nation, used empathy to simplify the confusion over the refugee issue and was well received by audiences of all ilks,” said Callinan and Grentell in a joint statement. “We are excited to be able to take the story to a wider audience."

From Crow Crow Productions, Dream Genie Pictures and Definition Films, The Merger has also secured funding from the Create NSW Regional Film Fund and a grant from the City of Wagga Wagga, who will host production later in the year.

Backyard Ashes is a low-budget gem that showcases the charms of regional Australia to great effect,” said Screen Australia head of production Sally Caplan.

The Merger goes one step further and weaves important social issues through the story. We are delighted to be supporting what represents an excellent career opportunity for Mark, Anne and Damian to tell this witty, topical and engaging story that we expect will resonate with city and country folk alike.”

Umbrella Entertainment will handle local distribution, with the film expected for theatrical release next year. 108 Media will rep international sales.