Mr Brown – who began his career in the UK as producer of Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984) and Mona Lisa (1986), and whose Australian work includes vampire thriller Daybreakers (2009), the Nick Cave-penned western The Proposition (2005) and The Railway Man (2013) – says the pair are looking to make films at or below the $2.5 million mark.
The 33 Australian features captured in Screen Australia’s 2019 Drama Report had an average budget of just over $9 million.
But a low budget need not be seen as a limitation, says Mr Brown.
“It gives you the opportunity to say, ‘Here’s the budget, do not spend a penny more, but you have complete creative freedom’,” he says. “It gives you the opportunity to explore diverse ideas from a diversity of creative talent.
“There’s so much you can do with those stories as metaphor,” he adds. “Genre is so good at exploring the politics or mores of the time through horror or science-fiction or whatever. It’s not about screwing the creative, it’s about giving them freedom to do their best work.”
The as-yet unnamed production house (Brown favours Monsters in Paradise, a merging of Hardie’s company name and his own Pictures in Paradise shingle) also takes inspiration from a more contemporary model: the US indie Blumhouse Pictures.
Super-producer Jason Blum has overseen a massive slate of titles largely made under a $US4 million ($5.7 million) cap, a figure he has claimed allows him to recoup costs even if a film does not succeed at the box office. Titles produced under the Blumhouse banner include the Oscar-winning Whiplash, Get Out and BlacKkKlansman, as well as this year’s Australian-made hit The Invisible Man (made with Sydney’s Goalpost Pictures).
According to thenumbers.com, the 95 Blumhouse films released since 2006 have cost an average of $US6.35 million and returned an average of $US61 million – an 860 per cent profit.
Given those numbers, and Australia’s success in the late 1970s and early ’80s as the home of so-called Ozploitation cinema, Mr Brown thinks we’re well overdue for a new wave.
Others have tried, he concedes, but what most have lacked is the kind of support at the distribution end that Mr Hardie, who also runs Monster Fest, will bring to the table.
“We want to create a self-sustaining model,” says Mr Hardie. “Australia has never really had a studio that will support a production from development through to release, and that’s what we want to do. We want a team of writers, of directors, of creators who are constantly working on new projects, to constantly keep making films, creating jobs and keep making money.
Adds Mr Brown, “This will be a real business that employs people. We want to be here to stay. Of course we want to make as much money as we possibly can. But what would be wonderful is if we could start to nurture talent and generate this genre renaissance.”
Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.