A self-portrait of Asphyxia.

Orange Entertainment Co. has optioned Asphyxia’s YA novel Future Girl, which explores what it means to come of age as a Deaf teenager against the backdrop of a near-future Melbourne facing an environmental catastrophe.

With OEC, Asphyxia will co-develop the project, currently being prepped as a series, serving as writer, creator, and EP.

Published last year via Allen & Unwin Australia, Future Girl has been described by writer and appearance activist Carly Findlay as “a life-changing book for young Deaf and disabled people…demonstrating the importance of the #OwnVoices movement.”

Asphyxia is excited to bring authentic Deaf characters to the screen, providing a positive representation for the 1 in 6 Australians who have hearing loss.

“I have never even seen a movie in my own language, Auslan, which is poetically beautiful and expressive and begging to shine on the big screen. At last, in Future Girl, it will,” she says.

The aim is to make the project inclusively, with a call put to the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community to work on the adaptation as writers, cast, crew, and creatives.

OEC content and talent executive Steph Westwood and Future Girl producer tells IF she was drawn to the novel not only because of its authentic representation but its “exciting” dystopian setting. She saw the potential for world building and a political, YA-focused series.

This showed a dystopian future, but was coming at it from a place of hope and sustainability; about a young girl that finds a new community and finds a new way to live,” she says.

Creative meetings are already underway with Asphyxia, alongside an Auslan interpreter. The author will maintain ownership of the IP as a co-producer, in keeping with OEC’s creator-led philosophy.

“Ideally in the writers room, as well as Asphyxia, and the interpreter, we’ll have a Deaf writer who has their own perspective on the Deaf community. We also are looking for emerging Deaf directors and crew members that we can put on as attachments on our other shows that we have in development currently, so that by the time Future Girl reaches production, hopefully we will have trained people up to be able to join the crew,” Westwood says.

“We’ve hired a Deaf consultant as well, who we’ll bring onto set, who can look at the way our sets work, look at the way our writers rooms work, and help us come up with a new, more accessible way of working when we do get to filming.”

Aven Yap, Dan Lake, Steph Westwood, Diya Eid and Kurt Royan.

Future Girl is just one project on Orange Entertainment Co.’s rapidly expandly development slate.

Launched in late 2019 by Kurt Royan and Dan Lake as the development and production arm of The Post Lounge, the queer-led company aims to champion creatives to tell their own stories, while also providing support so that projects that are market ready.

Its early projects include the ABC COVID-comedy Retrograde, which it produced with Unless Pictures, starring Pallavi Sharda, Ilai Swindells, Maria Angelico, Esther Hannaford, Nick Boshier and Max Brown.

Reflecting the expanding slate, OEC has recently grown its Brisbane office with two new hires in Diya Eid, as development producer, and Aven Yap as content assistant. They join Westwood, who joined the Melbourne office last year thanks to support from Screen Australia’s Enterprise People program.

“I am beyond thrilled to join the Orange team,” said Eid, formerly Screen Queensland’s head of content.

“Our ethos is centred on must-watch, voice-driven content. We take risks to back new talent and make bold creative choices. We partner with our creators as co-producers and will go to the ends of the Earth to best serve their vision. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

Next up for OEC is Missing Persons Investigation, which it is producing in association with Southern Pictures for the Nine Network.

The recently greenlit docu-series goes inside Australian Federal Police’s forensics laboratory in Canberra, where the National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons is underway, joining forensic specialist Dr Jodie Ward.

With Invisible Republic’s Michael Wrenn, it is developing Natalie Bailey’s debut feature, Audrey, written by comic screenwriter Lou Sanz. It follows self-appointed ‘Mother of the Year’, Ronnie, who has given her daughter Audrey everything. When Audrey ‘selfishly’ falls into a coma, Ronnie has no choice but to keep their dreams alive by assuming her identity. Development has been supported by Screen Australia and the hope is to go into production in the first half of next year.

In June, a writers room began the episodic screen adaptation of Shannan Lim’s Malaysian folk-horror stage play Salty, with development support from Film Victoria.

Also in development is the screen adaptation of Shannon Molloy’s best-selling memoir Fourteen: My Year of Darkness and the Light That Followed with Jane Allen attached as lead writer, as well as noir feature film Seeing Red by Liselle Mei and Derek Nguyen (founder of recently launched New York production outfit The Population).

With by Since1788, OEC has also recently completed production on Tanith Glynn Maloney’s Finding Jedda and Vivianna Petyarre’s Shiny One. Both shorts were co- with Unless Pictures as part of Screen Australia and NITV’s No Ordinary Black initiative, and will premiere on NITV and SBS On Demand in 2022 following festival premieres.

OEC is open to unsolicited submissions and pitches from all creatives, especially those from historically excluded backgrounds, regardless of experience level.

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