Rob Gibson and Ian Collie.
TV drama producers face a balancing act next year: How to take advantage of the 30 per cent Producer Offset while coping with watered-down local content regulations and the financial constraints affecting all Australian broadcasters – public and commercial.
For Easy Tiger, and no doubt other production companies, one solution lies in attracting more investment from international streamers, networks and co-productions.
Hence Easy Tiger founder/producer Ian Collie and CEO/producer Rob Gibson are working on multiple international deals, not just with the US and the UK, but also with less obvious markets such as Mexico, Norway and India.
In addition, the production company backed by Fremantle continues to foster new and emerging writing talent including Imogen McCloskey, Hannah Lehmann, Anchuli Felicia King and Julia Patey.
“The drama market in Australia is increasingly tough and the changes to the sub-quotas leave the industry in a much more precarious position,” Gibson said. “The 30 per cent Offset will enable us to bring in more international partners and finance to get projects over the line.”
Like virtually all producers, Collie and Gibson were surprised that the new rules for the Producer Offset mean that producers’ overheads are no longer eligible.
So producers can no longer recoup at least part of the overheads incurred in the often lengthy development process, during financing and, later, reporting revenues and royalties.
Gibson said: “So the net gain in the Offset is less than 10 per cent. We would hope to have discussions with the government about the overheads before the new rules are embedded in legislation.”
The development slate is being nurtured by Laura Nagy, Georgia Gilbert and Keah Wright following the departure of Rachael Turk, who is working on her own slate as well as several projects she set up at Easy Tiger.
Funding from Screen Australia, Screen NSW and the ABC’s Fresh Start fund enabled the company to ramp up development during the pandemic.
The producers are partnered with Fremantle Norway on mystery thriller The Red Cord, created by Turk, which follows two women, one in Australia, the other on the other side of the world, who set out to solve a mystery surrounding a child whom they inadvertently share. The show is being pitched to Norway’s NRK.
There is strong international interest in Over and Out, a TV series spin-off of a short film created by Adele Vuko and Christiaan Van Vuuren. A co-production with Midwinter Films’ Bridget Callow-Wright, the comedy follows a couple who struggling to raise toddlers in the midst of a post-apocalypse.
Richard Roxburgh came up with the basic concept of The Mayor of Nothing, in which he would play Carl, a school teacher who impulsively buys a rundown village in Italy in memory of his recently deceased wife, and drags his three daughters there on an ill-conceived restoration mission.
Andrew Knight and his son Dan Knight are scripting the pilot and series outline, with Mirrah Foulkes and David Michôd attached to direct. Collie intends to set up the fish-out-water drama-comedy as a co-production with Italy’s Wildside, whose credits include TV’s My Brilliant Friend and Paolo Sorrentino’s The New Pope.
The producers are in discussions with a UK broadcaster, a US cable network and a local platform on Scrublands, a six-hour miniseries based on a Chris Hammer novel, co-produced with Martha Coleman’s RevLover Films. Scripted by Tim Lee and Felicity Packard, the narrative follows a journalist who investigates why a priest shot five members of his congregation a year earlier in a fictional rural town.
Lehmann is attached to write and direct Mirrorball, a young adult drama which centres on 17-year-old Cyd, who is diagnosed with retrograde amnesia and hallucinates a counter reality in the future.
The prolific Knight is doing the final polish on Arc of Fire (formerly In the Evil Day), inspired by a Peter Temple novel. UK producer Simon Maxwell, a former head of international drama at Channel 4, will co-produce the conspiracy thriller which follows a guy who works for a shadowy surveillance agency in London, an investigative journalist and an ex-mercenary.
Sarah Lambert is scripting The White Mouse, based on the true story of the New Zealand-born, Sydney-raised Nancy Wake, who joined the French resistance movement in World War 2 with her husband Henri Fiocca and saved the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers.
Easy Tiger will co-produce with Peter Glover, who, some years ago, tried to turn the story into a feature with director Bruce Beresford.
Collie said: “Nancy is rightly known for her heroics but she has also had a personal crisis when her husband was captured by the Gestapo, tortured and killed. After the war she was determined to find out who betrayed her husband.”
Adam Zwar wrote Mature, a comedy based on an original concept from Tom Armstrong, which Turk acquired for Easy Tiger at the Screen Canberra TV Pod. The story follows 18-year-old Billie who, on her first day at university, meets a mature age student –the long-lost father who abandoned her as a young child to pursue his career as a rock star.
Shooting of the fifth series of the Nine Network’s Doctor Doctor was delayed from March to July due to the pandemic and will wrap just before Christmas.
Guy Pearce, who has been filming the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce in the US, is due to arrive in Australia early next month so after two weeks of quarantine he will be ready to start on the new series of the ABC’s Jack Irish in Melbourne on November 30.
Greg McLean will direct the four episodes, scripted by Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios, Matt Cameron and Alli Parker.
Stan commissioned Dom and Adrian: 2020, a mockumentary created by and starring Nick Boshier and Christiaan Van Vuuren. Co-produced by Easy Tiger and Soul HQ, the show follows the duo as they regroup after the bushfires, confront 5/6G conspiracy theories and are baited by the illuminati.
The company plans to embark on more factual projects after co-producing the Network 10 documentary A Dingo’s Got My Baby: The Lindy Chamberlain Story with producer-director Mark Joffe and Francine Finnane. Fremantle is handling international rights.
Gibson concludes: “We’re positive and looking to a bright 2021 and beyond after a very challenging 2020 for everybody.”