A New Zealand father-and-son team who have just had two of their novels published and two of their feature films released offshore, continue to seek finance to greenlight their biopic based on the life story of Precious McKenzie, MBE.
Lance Morcan and James Morcan, a writing and filmmaking team who originate from the Bay of Plenty, recently launched their co-written novels - Fiji, an historical adventure, and The Ninth Orphan, an international conspiracy thriller - courtesy of New Zealand publisher Sterling Gate Books.
Both novels, which have been published as trade paperback and Kindle ebook editions, are selling well overseas and have already had stints on the bestseller lists of the world's largest bookseller, Amazon. The Ninth Orphan and Fiji will be available nationwide next month in selected bookstores.
Papamoa resident Lance Morcan says reaching this point in their dual careers has entailed a lot of blood, sweat and tears for James and himself.
"Besides all the usual trials and tribulations novelists and screenwriters experience, we have also faced some unique challenges," he says. "Probably the biggest obstacle has been co-writing while living in separate countries."
Lance's son, Tauranga-born James Morcan, lives in Sydney where he also works as an actor in the Australian entertainment industry. His recent performances include acting in the Russell Crowe-headlined theatrical production of Ben Hur at the Sydney Olympic Stadium.
"Any artistic collaboration is hard enough at the best of times," Lance says, "but once you factor in our locations, plus being father and son, and all the drama that comes with that, we have certainly been up against it. But overall there's an inherent strength and trust factor that comes with being a family endeavour. In the end it's precisely that unity which has paid dividends for us."
Lance says he and James have had to rely on modern technology, including Skype, to overcome the physical distance between them.
As filmmakers, the pair produce their own screenplays through their trans-Tasman production company, Morcan Motion Pictures. The company recently produced the New Zealand feature Desired, which premiered at this year's Cannes Film Market, in France. The edgy thriller was shot in Auckland and stars acclaimed Kiwi actor Dwayne Cameron (The Tribe), and will be released in cinemas next year.
Desired follows the release of Morcan Motion Pictures' debut feature film, The Pawn, an Australian neo-noir thriller set in Melbourne which James also acted in. The Pawn is currently on the film festival circuit and to date has screened at cinemas in Australia and Italy.
The Morcans have other films scheduled to go into production in 2012, but one project they have not yet been able to bring to fruition is their biopic based on the life story of Precious McKenzie. The inspirational true story follows Precious' life as a poor black child growing up in apartheid South Africa through to early adulthood where he engages in a David and Goliath-type struggle to escape the brutal regime and triumph against all odds.
Titled The Precious One, the planned feature film has a star-studded cast attached including Nick Nolte, Kim Basinger and John Rhys-Davies; short, muscular African-American actor Kevin Hart (Death at a Funeral) will play the 4ft 10in Precious McKenzie; the Morcans have secured former James Bond director Roger Spottiswoode to helm the production and LOTR Executive Producer Mark Ordesky, of Los Angeles, to produce with them.
"The Precious One is a real passion project for us," James says.
"We have invested almost a decade of our lives into it, from initial development meetings with Precious, to writing and perfecting the screenplay over many years, to eventually finding the right director, cast and crew. We consider it one of the best scripts we have written and firmly believe this underdog story has a real X-factor. Precious' life contains universal themes that we predict will transcend borders and touch audiences worldwide upon release."
James says he and Lance have been on the verge of fully financing the US$7.9 million film production on several occasions, only to have the deal full apart at the 11th hour on each occasion.
"One deal fell through because of the global financial crisis, and another was due to a high level Kiwi investor abruptly deciding he would only finance the film provided Lance and I were not part of the production."
The Morcans still have no clear idea what led to his change of heart, but believe it may have been due to a misunderstanding on the part of the investor.
"It's bizarre that somebody would love the screenplay we wrote," says James, "and be keen to invest in a production we ourselves created from scratch, yet want us off that production before financing it. Now obviously this film can never be made without us, but it is a tricky thing to educate investors who have had no prior experience with the film industry."
Regardless, James says the production team are now approaching other potential financiers and have total faith they will eventually be standing on South African soil filming The Precious One.
"Unfortunately, the film does not qualify for NZFC funding. Financing it is obviously a big challenge, but everything in the film industry always is. You have to be committed to each project for the long haul.
"It took Sir Richard Attenborough 15 years to finance Gandhi. And like Gandhi, this film has to be made."
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