New Zealand film-makers have gained a new ally with the signing of a deal to cooperatively produce feature films with a Singapore company.

Eyeworks Touchdown and Singapore-based MediaCorp Raintree Pictures are to co-produce two films, which will be psychological thrillers.

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended the signing in Auckland yesterday of the deal for the first films to be made under the countries' two-year-old Audio Visual Agreement.

The New Zealand-based film Tattooist was described by producer Robin Scholes as a psychological thriller with elements of horror.

She said the screenplay was in an advanced stage of development, while the Singapore-based Altar - about an Asian child embryo ghost - was at an early stage.

Robin Scholes, producer of Once Were Warriors, said both films used an Asian approach to the supernatural but were culturally specific.

"By combining our two cultures it gives us a point of difference in a competitive and crowded international market where film buyers are looking for something that is unique."

She said that making a film from a New Zealand base always needed international funding and combining the companies' two sources of funding would benefit both countries. "We are both small countries and both want to use our countries as a base to make films for the international market.

"We have a common mission to make films which we otherwise would not be able to make as individuals."

Raintree would be the film distributors in Asia.

"We intend to work with Raintree to develop a slate of films long term," said Robin Scholes. "For New Zealand, it means another source of infrastructure by which we can make more films."

Tattooist has private investors and the Film Commission gave development funding.

The Prime Minister said New Zealand film-makers had enjoyed success and acclaim both for blockbuster big-budget movies and for films telling New Zealand stories.

A key role in the tie-up was played by the Film Commission, Singapore's Media Development Authority and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.


* Tattooist, about an American tattoo artist who gets caught up with a Samoan ghost in New Zealand, will be made here.

* Singapore gets to make Altar, a film about an Asian child embryo ghost.