Guy Pearce's directorial debut Poor Boy will be one of the recipients of $10 million in funding for film, TV and computer games announced by the Victorian government on Wednesday.
"We have a lovely, very emotional, very beautiful story that we'd like to tell and Film Victoria has jumped onboard, which is very exciting," Pearce told The Age.
Also receiving support is the debut feature from another local acting legend, Rachel Griffiths, who is set to direct Ride Like a Girl, the story of Michelle Payne's ride into the history books in 2016 when she became the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.
More than $400,000 has been directed to 12 projects in the computer gaming sector, an area that is a strength for Victoria but little supported by federal money since the axing of Screen Australia's Interactive Games fund in 2014, just one year into a planned three-year program, after deep cuts to the agency.
But the biggest surprise in the latest funding round is that Neighbours will receive government money, despite the show's producers Fremantle Media having signed a new five-year contract with the UK's Channel 5 in October.
In fact, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said, without the support of the Andrews government, the future of the show was in serious doubt.
"Film Victoria was integral to that re-signing of the deal," he said. "[Channel 5] was umming and aahing for a little while. It's never one thing that gets the deal over the line, but without Film Victoria I think it would have been problematic."
Though the 30-year-old soap that launched Guy Pearce's career arguably has less cache than the man's directorial debut, it has great significance in the state for ongoing employment, Mr Foley said.
"It's that industrial-scale production that has sustained and given a launch pad to so many people - not just the obvious names, like Guy and Kylie and so on - but to writers, producers, directors, actors who work on more than 250 episodes every year. "It's such a bedrock of Australian screen production that whatever we can do to sustain it, we will do. We're obliged to."
Both Pearce and Griffiths are still in the pre-production phase, attempting to cement deals that will allow their projects to reach completion. Pearce said he hoped to shoot in the second half of 2018, and had a cast including Richard Roxburgh, Frances O'Connor, Callan Mulvey and Sarah Peirse??? attached.
"Over the years I've seen many a director stand up to introduce their film at a festival, saying '11 years it took', so maybe I'm being a bit na??ve in thinking that timeline is realistic," he said. "But I've read a lot of scripts in my life, and it's a lot more ready than many of them."
Pearce will also act in the film, a story about a young boy who believes he is actually a grown man, who happens to be dead, and a member of a different family. It is adapted from the play, written by Matt Cameron with songs from Tim Finn, in which Pearce appeared in the 2009 Melbourne Theatre Company production.
But it won't be a musical, said Pearce.
"I said I don't know I want the first thing I direct to be a musical," Pearce said of his initial response to the suggestion by Cameron, who is adapting his play for the screen, that he take on the directing role. But it was Al Clark, producer of Stephan Elliott's Priscilla and Swinging Safari (both of which star Pearce) who made the bold suggestion of cutting the songs.
"It instantly freed up the project," said Pearce. "Tim was very easygoing about it. He said, 'It's your film, I have no attachment to how you go about it'. He gave us his blessing."