(L-R) Tanya Phegan, Ian Collie, Rachael Turk and Rob Gibson.
Bolstered by the arrival of Rob Gibson as CEO and producer, Ian Collie’s Easy Tiger Productions is ramping up the development of Australian and internationally-targeted projects, drawing on emerging talent as well as seasoned creatives.
“The difficulty we all recognise is that people like Tony McNamara, Andrew Knight and Kris Mrksa are getting pulled into US or UK projects,” says Collie, who launched the company in 2017 with the backing of Fremantle.
“Our big focus is working with tomorrow’s talent, the wonderful emerging writers and creators who hopefully will be the next generation.”
Gibson adds: “It’s very much a two-pronged strategy of finding prestige projects and international opportunities with our increasingly sought after partners like Andrew Knight and Tony McNamara, and also working with rising stars and the next generation.
Collie and Gibson are working with development executives Rachael Turk and Tanya Phegan on a diverse slate which is a mix of specifically Australian subjects like Scrublands and international projects.
Based on a Chris Hammer novel published by Allen & Unwin, Scrublands follows a journalist’s investigation into why a priest shot five members of his congregation a year earlier in a fictional NSW Riverina town. Tim Lee (Doctor Doctor, Mystery Road) and Felicity Packard (Pine Gap) are writing the adaptation as a six-hour miniseries for a yet-to-be disclosed broadcaster.
Collie, who produced the ABC telemovie The Broken Shore based on a Peter Temple novel in his previous life at Essential Media and Entertainment, is keen to make a series based on an earlier Temple work, In the Evil Day, in collaboration with Germany production powerhouse UFA.
Scripted by Andrew Knight and Kris Mrksa and set in Europe, the conspiracy thriller centres around a guy who works for a shadowy surveillance agency in Hamburg, an expose journalist in London and an ex-mercenary.
Gibson, who served as head of originals at Stan from its inception, overseeing the commission and production of shows such as No Activity, Wolf Creek and Bloom, says: “One area I am focussing on is growing the business by working with international players. It’s a combination of finding the right material and bringing in the best possible team.
“One of the many reasons I joined the company is their outstanding relationships with some of the best talent in the country: writers, directors and producers.
“I want to add capacity while growing the slate and giving Collie more time and space to focus on the creative and finding new projects.”
Among the other shows in development is a Chinese-Australian comedy-mystery with Benjamin Law, Corrie Chen (who is now directing Hoodlum Entertainment’s Five Bedrooms), Niki Aken (co-writer of Closer Productions’ The Hunting commissioned by SBS), Melissa Lee Speyer (who won the inaugural $20,000 Foxtel Diversity Screenwriting Scholarship) and Tristram Baumber.
Based on idea by Collie, the series revolves an investigative team which goes in search of a missing person. He likens the concept to Killing Eve in that it subverts familiar tropes. Gibson is confident it will resonate not only with Australian audiences but also travel, appealing to the Chinese diaspora worldwide.
A family adventure series in advanced development as a co-production with another company has the brothers Christiaan and Connor Van Vuuren and Kacie Anning attached as directors with the writers, sisters Hannah and Eliza Riley and Mithila Gupta.
Sarah Lambert and Alice Addison are writing a drama in development for SBS, which revolves around a successful migrant family who hide a darker underbelly.
Gupta is working on the fourth series of Easy Tiger’s Doctor Doctor and developing an Indian-themed drama which Collie expects will appeal to streaming services like Netflix, which have been aggressively acquiring content in India.
Shooting in May, the next season of Nine’s medico drama will see Rodger Corser’s hedonistic character revert to his bad boy persona after taking responsibility as a sole parent for his love child.
It will be directed by Geoff Bennett, Lisa Matthews (who directed an episode of series 3 with Jennifer Leacey, thanks to the ADG), Kriv Stenders and Erin White. Keith Thompson has replaced the otherwise engaged, Oscar-nominated McNamara as script producer and lead writer, working with Liz Doran, Tim Lee, Katherine Thomson, Angela McDonald, Gretel Vella and Gupta.
Collie hopes to produce a third series of Jack Irish for the ABC next year, depending on the availability of the writers Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios, Matt Cameron and Elise McCredie.
“The industry is in a very interesting place at the moment,” Collie observes. “It is very competitive in TV drama land as a lot of filmmakers and documentary makers are getting into drama.
“It’s the lure of the Netflixes, HBOs and Amazons out there and we are chatting to then regularly. But they are hard to crack because there is so much English language production. Australia, sadly, is not a high priority for them.”
To that end Collie and Gibson are heading to LA in April to meet with broadcasters, SVOD platforms, producers and talent agents.