One of the key things that encouraged AP Pobjoy to apply for the Victorian Screen Development Internship, which sees creatives spend 12 months working across Film Victoria, the ABC and either Fremantle Australia or Princess Pictures, was that their identity was actually listed on the application.
“Being a queer, trans person it was so great to see I had a level opportunity to make it into a type of initiative where I hadn’t seen my gender on a piece of paper before,” the filmmaker tells IF.
“I was ready to take the next step in my career, but also bring my identity with me.”
AP joins producer and writer Ravi Chand in being selected for this year’s program, aimed at talent from under-represented backgrounds.
The initiative is designed to “fast-track” career progression by giving recipients exposure to the lifecycle of development.
At Film Vic, the duo will help assess pitches, scripts and funding applications; at the ABC, they’ll work with commissioning editors and EPs across the production process, and at Fremantle and Princess Pictures will work alongside principal producers.
A Swinburne grad, AP is inspired by storytelling centred around the queer and trans experience. Recently nominated for the Byron Bay Film Festival’s Filmmaker of the Year, they wrote and directed Why Did She Have to Tell the World?, which aired on the ABC last week after premiering at the Mardi Gras Film Festival. They have recently worked for Orange Entertainment Co. as a development assistant, and was a script co-ordinator for the company’s ABC series, Retrograde.
AP was attracted to the internship program because of its development focus, an area they’ve always wanted to get into as they believe it is the most effective way to make change in the industry and bring through under-represented voices.
“Having an idea of how these ecosystems work; how they standalone but also how they inform one another is really important. This initative really helps you to understand that,” they say.
Chand founded Warrior Tribe Films in 2019, with an eye to championing projects that showcase authentic diversity and inspire social change. His work has been shortlisted for the Sundance YouTube New Voices Lab, selected for the Documentary Australia Foundation’s Storyworks Lab, and Cinespace’s Screenwriters Fellowship Program.
His feature documentary Five Year Grandma, produced by Diana Fisk and co-produced and co-directed by Tony Briggs, recently received development funding via Screen Australia, and its pitch video has had almost 600K views on Facebook. He is also developing two TV series, a feature film, another documentary and a children’s one-off.
Chand is excited to see where the program takes him, arguing its more than just an “internship” but rather a “supercharged catalyst”.
“This is no ordinary internship. It’s peeling back the curtains to see the inner workings of some of the most influential film and TV institutions in the state and country.”
For Chand, one of the key benefits will be an insight into what goes into the decisions around funding and commissioning, and to see what strong pitches and applications look like.
“So many times, you have all the criteria they’re looking for. But it’s not so much about criteria, it’s about how competitive you are, and it’s difficult sometimes to gauge what that competitive field looks like. This will put you directly, smack bang centre, into the heart of all of it.”
Chand started his career as an actor – something he continues – but turned to writing and producing 10 years ago out of frustration with the nature of some scripts.
“Some of the scripts were outright racist,” he says.
“I got so frustrated. I was like, ‘I don’t talk like this. I don’t know any my mates that are like this.’ So I decided to get into making my own stories.”
Born in Fiji and of Indian heritage, Chand moved to Australia in 1982. He struggled with his identity growing up, and today, he’s passionate about telling stories with authentic representation and reclaiming narratives, so that younger generations of people don’t “feel ashamed of their culture.”
“It’s not always about the new settlers that have just come into Australia and are adjusting to that. There’s a whole new other side of us that have assimilated into Australian culture, foregone our own culture, and now, as we’re adults, we’ve realised what we’ve actually given up and are trying to chase our own culture back.
“These are the nuances and intricacies that will certainly shine through a lot of my stories.”
Now in its second year, previous interns to go through the Film Victoria-led program include Davey Thompson, now a development associate at Screen Australia, and Nikki Tran, who is working as part of Fremantle’s scripted department.
AP wants to encourage other screen agencies to look at the inclusive nature of the program, particularly as it relates to trans people.
“It was the first ever interview process where I’ve been asked for my name and pronouns,” they say.
“There have been times where I’ve been not afraid to apply for something, but felt like I wasn’t the right fit. You get worried about saying your name, you get worried about saying your pronouns. It’s been awesome to have encouragement and support to be myself.”