Prolific screenwriter, script producer and story editor Kelly Lefever is juggling multiple projects – not least a deeply personal series about disability.
Inspired by her own family’s experiences, Care will look at five families who each care for a family member who was born with or acquired a disability.
Her daughter Alexandra, who is 30, was born with Kabuki syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.
“This is a universal story,” Kelly told IF. “There are more than 3 million people in Australia who care for a family member or a close relative.
“Most of us will have to deal with this at some time in our lives with aging parents. For me it has been a very grounding experience which has also brought tremendous joy and humour.”
Lefever is in talks with a producer and intends to pitch the project to the ABC, SBS or streamers.
Another project she created is Sundown, a drama about a retired female detective who has Alzheimer’s and had been working on cold cases. She is approached by a young female detective for help in solving a crime which is eerily similar to a cold case. She aims to set that up with an international producer.
Feisty Dame Productions’ Tania Chambers hired her to co-write Angry Underwear with creator Tania Ferrier. The feature drama is based on the true story of artist Ferrier’s experiences creating “underwear with attitude” in New York in the 1980s.
Ferrier was inspired to design underwear with confronting images to protest violence against women after a stripper was attacked in a local strip club. Talks are underway with a director.
Also for Feisty Dame, Lefever is script producing Cape Grace, a procedural drama created by author David Michie, which follows disgraced psychologist and practicing Buddhist Dr Sophia Brandon.
Sophia moves to a small coastal town to work at the base hospital and spend some long overdue time with her sister and family. It soon emerges that small towns have big secrets – including her own family.
“The series focusses on family and relationships, the rocky path to spiritual peace, and it seeks to normalise mental health issues in our community with a mix of Western and Eastern philosophies and great characters,” she said.
Michie, Renée Webster and Miley Tunnecliffe are working in the writers’ room with Lefever.
For Pink Pepper’s Taryne Laffar and Magpie Pictures’ Lois Randall she is the script consultant/script producer on Tata Detective, a six-part drama which follows a feisty and gregarious Indigenous-gallery-owner-turned-culture-detective, Muriel Hunter.
Muriel uses her wit, charm and influence to take down the underbelly of the arts world in her Kimberleys homeland, and finds herself caught between fighting for justice and protecting her family.
Laffar, who created the project, is working with writers Dot West and Mitch Torres, supported by Screen Australia’s Indigenous unit.
Lefever is also working on supernatural drama Seven with the creator Mitch Torres and producer Jodie Bell. The Screen Australia-supported series follows seven disparate and dynamic women who must find a way to come together to unleash their full potential. As they uncover the horrors of their past, they come to understand their combined power may just save the future.
‘The Circuit’ (Photo credit: SBS).
Lefever has written, script produced, script edited, story-lined and story edited more than 600 hours of television for every free-to-air network.
Writing is in her genes: Her mother is screenwriter and former actress Coral Drouyn, who used to run the script department of Reg Grundy Productions’ Prisoner.
Aged 15, Kelly did work experience on the soap. Just as she finished her HSC Grundy’s invited her to join the writing team, where she spent three years.
That led to credits on multiple shows including Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Something in the Air, All Saints and Home and Away.
Her breakthrough came in 2007 when she co-created with Ross Hutchens the SBS legal drama The Circuit, where she collaborated with a host of writers including Dot West, Beck Cole, Wayne Blair and Mitch Torres.
It was the first Australian series to have an Indigenous lead (Aaron Pedersen), directors and writers. The idea germinated when Kelly and Ross chatted in a bar during Screen Forever after she had worked with Carole Sklan at the Australian Film Commission, where she discovered a wealth of Indigenous stories.
Among her credits are Elissa Down’s feature The Black Balloon and episodes of The Code, Mr and Mrs Murder, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and City Homicide.
Despite the challenges to the screen industry in light of the Federal Government’s changes to the Producer Offset and scrapping the sub-quotas for free-to-air broadcasters, she said: “In this industry we constantly turn ourselves inside out to find a way to make projects work.
“It’s a compulsion really. One thing that COVID-19 showed is that storytelling and storytellers matter. I have been extremely lucky to have followed my passion, and made a good living at it – as well as met and created with wonderful people.”