Kingston Anderson. 

The Australian Directors Guild (ADG) has criticised FremantleMedia Australia for importing a Canadian to shoot Foxtel mini-series Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The production company has enlisted Canadian director Larysa Kondracki to shoot half of the six-episode series, currently in pre-production in Sydney.  

Kondracki is behind 2010’s The Whistleblower, and has directed episodes of Better Call Saul, The Americans, Rogue, Gotham and Heroes Reborn. Aussie Michael Rymer will also direct.

In a statement, ADG CEO Kingston Anderson said the guild opposed Kondracki’s visa, claiming it did not meet the required Net Employment Test. 

“Australian directors are amazed and astonished at the choice of a foreign director to work on a classic, especially as it is not a co-production and is being fully financed in Australia,” said Anderson.

“The Net Employment Benefit test clearly states that to get a 420 Visa there needs to be a net employment benefit for the Australian industry. As this production was always going to be shot in Australia and is fully financed by Australian money, including funds from Screen Australia and Foxtel, it clearly does not have any net employment benefit for Australians as one of the major jobs on the production is being given to a Canadian.” 

Anderson said that this was an ongoing issue, particularly on TVCs, claiming that as many as 20 foreign directors were granted 420 Visas each year without meeting the requirements.

“It is clear to the ADG that the government has no interest in supporting Australian creative talent by not upholding their own rules when it comes to visa approvals and being inconsistent in the way it applies the rules.”

The ADG said it understood that a number of Australian directors currently working overseas were contacted about Picnic at Hanging Rock, but that no female television directors currently working in Australia were approached.

“In light of the recent Screen Australia figures stating that only 17 per cent of Australian feature films were directed by women and Screen NSW’s figure that only 22 per cent of TV drama[s] were being directed by Australian women, this is a slap in the face to all the good work that is being done by the industry to redress the balance,” said Anderson. 

“It saddens the ADG to see Screen Australia, Foxtel and Fremantle Media supporting Canadian television directors at the expense of Australians.”

The ADG also announced that it will launch a campaign for better recognition for Australian directors, focused on “rights, respect and remuneration”. It argues that directors’ rights have slipped behind those of all other screen industry workers.  

IF has contacted FremantleMedia for comment. 

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7 Comments

  1. An Australian didn’t direct the original “Wake In Fright” nor “Walkabout”. Australian Directors work on oversea projects all the time. What’s your point DGA?

  2. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. There can be no logic that can justify this. Is it an Aus/Can co-pro? What on earth does Freemantle think a Canadian director can bring to a quintessential Australian story. Fremantle and Foxtel need to get a grip. Australian female directors are kicked in the teeth, again.

  3. Its to be shot in Melbourne& production in Melbourne
    Maybe she is a very good director, thought about that?
    Maybe Directors and writers need to come up with the goods??

  4. To Adrien Q. Seffrin: both “Wake In Fright” and “Walkabout” were shot over 35 years ago. The industry has changed significantly in that time, as has the talent and skill of local Directors.

    To Jessica: NO female television Directors currently working in Australia were approached. Our Directors and Writers do have the goods. If you were involved in our industry you would know that.

  5. The Australian Director’s Guild (ADG) was formed more that 30 years ago. I was one of its founders. The ‘initiating incident’ for its formation in the 1980s (under a different name) was the regular importation of overseas directors to work on productions for which there were eminently qualified Australian directors to work.

    Why does the ADG, 2016, remain powerless to prevent such importations? Why is Screen Australia, seemingly so concerned about the under-representation of women as directors in film and TV, backing this project? Do Graeme Mason and the powers that be within Screen Australia believe that there are no directors in Australia (mal or female) qualified to work on this series?

    The bigger question, for me, is this: “Is there such a dearth of good new ideas for films and TV programmes in Australia that we must, as an industry, as a culture, resort to re-makes?”

  6. Aren’t we bigger than this? Seriously. We have dozens of Australian directors working in Hollywood at any given time and the Americans never complain. Why do we have to be so parochial? We should be encouraging foreign directors to work here, not chasing them away. Just because it’s an Australian production doesnt mean it has to be an Australian director, even if we have a ton of local directorial talent. That’s such a protectionist attitude. If he’s the right guy for the job, let the production hire him, not hire a local because of some protectionist mandate.

  7. But wait, it gets worse. Apparently the cinematographer will be non-Aussie as well. If this is true, I think the various guilds and technicians’ associations might need to organise a boycott of this production. Seriously, have we gone this far backwards in the decades since Peter Weir’s production?

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