Screen Aus annual production funding – where did the money go?

06 February, 2013 by Brendan Swift

Screen Australia says it has not mismanaged its finances by spending its annual production funding in just six months – a state of affairs which it says reflects the strength of the local film industry.

The government screen agency revealed in mid-December 2012 that it had spent its entire annual $42 million drama production allocation due to the unprecedented number of quality feature film and television projects seeking support. The shock announcement was reminiscent of the agency's abrupt decision to cut its investment cap in 2009 while several films were mid-financed. That decision threw several major Australian productions into dissaray including The Tree and the biggest box office hit of 2010, Tomorrow When the War Began (Omnilab Media had to increase its investment at the last minute to ensure production).


Overspending on such a scale has never occurred before, even going back to the era of Screen Australia’s predecessor funding arm, the Film Finance Corporation. However, the screen agency has no plans to reduce staff: it says their workload may change but the overall workload has not.

“We are now in the process of contracting a large volume of projects and are of course still managing projects,” a spokesperson said.

Screen Australia increased the number of funding rounds from four to seven last year in at attempt to reduce timing pressures on producers (which has not worked – in fact, producers are now more likely to be encouraged to get in early before the money runs out). However, Screen Australia head of production investment Ross Matthews said the agency will be reviewing the number of rounds as it has proved “impossible” to quarantine funds for the later half of the year.

“This situation reflects the current strength of the Australian film industry, rather than Screen Australia's fiscal management,” he said via email late last year. “It is always hard to predict when film and television projects will have the funding jigsaw in place and be ready to go. The process of putting a film together is not only about a finance plan but also, critically, a matter of timing – such as artist availability and seasonal considerations.

“Putting a 'production ready' project back a couple of rounds in order to keep money in the pot for future rounds can be detrimental to the quality of the projects as they may lose artists, financiers, locations etc. The fact is that Screen Australia was called on to fund considerably more 'production ready' quality projects in the first half of the financial year than we had anticipated.”

The first-half overspending by Screen Australia now threatens to create a production lull in the second half of 2013 with little chance the Labor government will increase direct or indirect production incentives before the September 14 election.

The agency will continue to evaluate projects but funding them is dependent on money returning to Screen Australia from lapsed projects.

The list below shows all of the screen drama projects that have received Screen Australia funding in the first half of fiscal 2012 and, where known, shoot dates. Updates or corrections can be sent to me at

Contact this reporter at or on Twitter at @bcswift.

Screen Australia's 2012-13 drama funding: where the $42 million went


Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Proposed Start Shoot: Mid-2013
Synopsis: ‘Sparra’ Farrell has left his secret prison past behind, with a new fiancée and a new life. But he finds it’s a door that is never closed when his newly released cell mate turns up with other ideas.
Production Company: Matchbox Pictures
Producers: Michael McMahon, Trevor Blainey
Writer: Blake Ayshford
Director: Tony Ayres
International Sales: eOne Entertainment
Australian Distributor: Hopscotch eOne Films

Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: Set in the primal darkness of the forest, Fell is a fable of revenge, redemption and renewal.
Production Company: Felix Media Pty Ltd
Producers: John Maynard, Mary Minas
Executive Producer: Bridget Ikin
Writer: Natasha Pincus (story by Kasimir Burgess, Natasha Pincus)
Director: Kasimir Burgess
International Sales: Maze Film Sales, The Yellow Affair
Distribution: Footprint Films

Status: Pre-Production (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: In a sun-drenched Australian surfing town, a young woman is the thread that binds three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge.
Production Company: KM3T Pty Ltd
Producers: Tania Chambers, Laurence Malkin, Share Stallings
Executive Producer: Jack Drewe
Writer: James McFarland
Director: Kriv Stenders
International Sales: Cargo Entertainment Ltd, William Morris Endeavor (WME)
Australian Distributor: Hopscotch eOne Films

Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: Normal life implodes for a suburban family when their popstar cousin comes to stay.
Production Company: Gristmill Pty Ltd
Producers: Wayne Hope, Robyn Butler, Louisa Kors
Executive Producers: Greg Sitch, Geoff Porz, Robyn Butler, Wayne Hope
Writer: Robyn Butler
Director: Wayne Hope
International Sales: Lightning Entertainment Group
Australian Distributor: Roadshow Films

Status: Post-Production (Shoot finished end of January. Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: Aboriginal people live on the threshold of two worlds – one of everyday reality and the other of spirits, demons and entities. Although they might seem stoic and complacent, with the clash of these two worlds the reality is we should all be scared shitless. Director Warwick Thornton has assembled a collection of poignant, sad, funny and absurd ghost tales from across the country and will bring them to life with some of Australia’s most iconic actors being the storytellers. The Darkside gives a black perspective on the afterlife.
Production Company: Scarlett Pictures
Producer: Kath Shelper
Writer/Director/Cinematographer: Warwick Thornton
Camera Operator/Assistant: Simon Morris
Production and Costume Designer: Annie Beauchamp
Location Manager: Peter Hicks
Editor: Roland Gallois
Sound Recordist: David Tranter
Distribution: Transmission Films
Broadcaster: ABC1

Status: In Production (Screen Australia funded November 12, 2012)
Shoot Dates: January-February 2013
Synopsis: What starts as a beautiful and strangely innocent affair between a vulnerable teenage romantic and a French S&M mistress, soon becomes more dangerous in My Mistress, an unconventional and provocative love story.
Production Company: Mini Studios
Producer: Leanne Tonkes
Executive Producer: Robyn Kershaw
Writer: Gerard Lee
Director: Stephen Lance
Cast: Emmanuelle Béart, Harrison Gilbertson, Rachael Blake
Cinematographer: Geoffrey Simpson
Editor: Jill Bilcock
Costume Designer: Angus Strathie
Sound Post-Production: Soundfirm
Investors: Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, Film Victoria, Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund, Soundfirm
Australian Distributor: Transmission Films with RKPix
International Sales: LevelK
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland

Status: Pre-Production (Screen Australia funded November 12, 2012)
Start Shoot: Late-February 2013
Synopsis: Son of a Gun is about a seasoned armed robber who takes a small-time thief under his wing and the two orchestrate an ambitious heist.
Production Company: Southern Light Films
Writer/Director: Julius Avery
Producer: Timothy White
Co-Producer: Janelle Landers
Executive Producers: Aaron L Gilbert, John Collee, Bryce Menzies, Aidan O’Bryan
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander, Jacek Koman
Distribution: Hopscotch Films/Entertainment One
International Sales: Altitude Films, United Talent Agency (UTA)

Status: Pre-Production (Screen Australia funded September 6, 2012)
Shoot Dates: March 18 – May 11
Synopsis: Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil collaborate to create a tragi-comic portrait of Charlie’s struggle to understand how he should define himself as an Aboriginal in modern Australia.
Production Company: Vertigo Productions Pty Ltd
Cast: David Gulpilil
Producers: Nils Erik Nielsen, Peter Djigirr
Writer/Director: Rolf de Heer
International Sales: Fandango Portobello
Distribution: Hopscotch Films/Entertainment One

Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded September 6, 2012)
Start Shoot: 2013
Synopsis: Chronicles the life of a temporal agent who, on his final assignment, must recruit his younger self, while pursuing the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. Based on the Robert A Heinlein short story All You Zombies.
Producers: Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan
Executive Producer: Vince Gerardis
Cast: Ethan Hawke (attached)
Production Company: Wolfhound Pictures/Blacklab Entertainment
Writer/Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
International Sales: Arclight Films
Distribution: Pinnacle Films

Status: In Production (Screen Australia funded September 6, 2012)
Shoot Dates: January – March
Synopsis: The outback once again becomes a place of mind-bending horror, action and suspense as another unwitting backpacker becomes prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-shooter, Mick Taylor.
Production Company: Emu Creek Pictures Pty Ltd
Producer/Writer/Director: Greg McLean
Producers: Helen Leake, Steve Topic
Writers: Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns
Cinematographer: Jules O’Loughlin ACS, Ernie Clark ACS (second unit)
International Sales: Arclight Films
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Cast: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn, Philipe Klaus

AIM HIGH IN CREATION (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Synopsis: A revolutionary film about the cinematic genius of Kim Jong-il with a groundbreaking experiment at its heart: the making of a film-within-a-film, based on the rules of his manifesto The Cinema and Directing. No Western filmmaker has ever done this before – for good reason!Unicorn Films
Producer: Lizzette Atkins
Writer/Director: Anna Broinowski
International Sales: High Point Media Group
Australian Distributor: Antidote Films

Status: Post Production (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Shoot Dates: November 5, 2012 – Late-December, 2012
Synopsis: Three male detectives become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident which leaves a small child in a coma. One is guilty; one will try to cover it, and the other attempt to expose it. The crime sends the three men on a thrilling ride where they discover that the road to forgiveness is longer and more complex than that of a simple social justice.
Director: Matthew Saville
Producers: Rosemary Blight, Joel Edgerton, Michael Benaroya
Executive Producers: Lisa Wilson and Myles Nestel (from The Solution Entertainment Group which is representing the film internationally), Ben Grant (Goalpost Pictures Australia)
Writer: Joel Edgerton
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, Melissa George, Jai Courtney
Production Companies: Goalpost Pictures Australia, Blue Tongue Films, Benaroya Pictures
Distribution: Roadshow Films
International Sales: The Solution

Status: Pre-Production (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Shoot Dates: February 18 – March 22
Synopsis: Healing is a moving story of redemption, the discovery of hope and its healing of the spirit – in the most unlikely place, for the most unique men, through the most unusual catalyst.
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Don Hany (attached)
Producers: Craig Monahan, Tait Brady
Writers: Craig Monahan, Alison Nisselle
Director: Craig Monahan
Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie ACS
Casting Agent: Faith Martin
Editor: Suresh Ayyar
Production Company: Pointblank Pictures Pty Ltd
Distribution: Pinnacle
International Sales: Lightning Entertainment (Richard Guardian)
Location: Melbourne

Status: In Production (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Shoot Dates: January 29 – Late-March
Synopsis: A man pursues a gang who stole his car through the wild and rough Australian outback of the near future.
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce, Scoot McNairy, Susan Prior, Gillian Jones, Anthony Hayes, David Field
Writer/Director: David Michôd
Producers: David Linde, Liz Watts
Line Producer: Libby Sharpe
Production Companies: Lava Bear Films, Porchlight Films
Cinematographer: Natasha Braier
VFX: Angelo Sahin
Location: South Australia


THE CODE (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: The Code is a fictional thriller set between the remote Australian desert and the corridors of power in Canberra. A murder in the Outback thrusts two unlikely brothers into an international political conspiracy.
Production Company: Playmaker Media
Producers: David Maher, David Taylor, Shelley Birse
Writers: Shelley Birse, Blake Ayshford, Justin Monjo
Director: Shawn Seet
International Sales: FremantleMedia Limited
Broadcaster: ABC1

NEVER TEAR US APART (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: Never Tear Us Apart tells the uncensored story of Australia’s most successful band, INXS. This big, brash and colourful TV drama will chart the rise of six Sydney boys who became the biggest band in the world. A story of mateship, a story of success and excess, talent and sheer bloody will, set to a pulsating soundtrack including all of INXS’s greatest hits.
Production Company: Shine Australia
Producers: Rory Callaghan, Mark Fennessy
Director: Daina Reid
Writers: Justin Monjo, Dave Warner
International Sales: Shine International
Broadcaster: Seven Network

POWER GAMES: THE PACKER-MURDOCH STORY (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: Boy publisher Rupert Murdoch comes to Sydney to take on the Packers in a war for control of newspapers and television.
Production Company: Southern Star Entertainment
Producers: John Edwards, Mimi Butler
Writers: David Caesar, Samantha Winston
Director: David Caesar
International Sales: Endemol Worldwide Distribution
Broadcaster: Nine Network Australia

Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Shoot Dates: May 27 – July 26
Synopsis: 1988. Thirty-five years after Fred Schepisi’s film The Devil’s Playground, Tom Allen, now a psychiatrist, becomes a secular confessor to the Catholic clergy, and is soon embroiled in political and theological intrigue.
Production Company: Matchbox Pictures
Format: 6 x 47 mins
Producers: Helen Bowden, Blake Ayshford
Executive Producers: Penny Chapman, Simon Burke, Penny Win, Tony Ayres
Casting Director: Kirsty McGregor
Writers: Blake Ayshford, Cate Shortland, Alice Addison, Tommy Murphy
Directors: Rachel Ward, Tony Krawitz
International Sales: NBCUniversal
Broadcaster: FOXTEL

SECRETS AND LIES: THE TRACK (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: Ben is an innocent man who becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a four-year-old boy. As his world falls apart, he desperately tries to find the real killer… at stake is his marriage, his kids, his reputation and his sanity.
Production Company: Hoodlum Active Pty Ltd
Producers: Tracey Robertson, Nathan Mayfield, Leigh McGrath
Writer: Stephen Irwin
International Sales: Cineflix
Broadcaster: Network Ten

Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded December 17, 2012)
Synopsis: When young Jack is bundled off and sent to stay with distant relatives in a far off land, he has no idea quite how much his life is about to change.
Shoot Date: No start date at January 2013 but production is expected to run over two years (Screen Australia funded in December 2012).
Production Company: Buzz Studios (in association with Flying Bark Pictures)
Format: 52 x 11 mins animation
Producers: Jim Ballantine, Barbara Stephen
Writers: Fin Edquist, David Evans, Cleon Prineas
Directors: Serg Delfino, Marc Wasik
International Sales: Wavery Productions BV
Broadcasters: Seven Network (first run), ABC (shared runs)

Status: Pre-Production (Screen Australia funded November 12, 2012)
Synopsis: Redfern Now is a kaleidoscopic drama series that explores the inner-city suburb and the people who inhabit it. Over six stand-alone episodes, with interlinking secondary characters, we join the households of six ordinary families whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident.
Production Company: Blackfella Films
Broadcaster: ABC1
Producers: Darren Dale, Miranda Dear
Story Producer: Jimmy McGovern
Writers: Steven McGregor, Adrian Wills, Jon Bell, Wayne Blair, Leah Purcell
International Sales: ABC Commercial

Status: Post-Production (Screen Australia funded October 15, 2012)
Shoot Dates: October 8, 2012 – December 14, 2012
Synopsis: The Gods of Wheat Street transports the audience into the world, hearts and humour of the Freeburns, a modern Aboriginal family of local legends.
Cast: Kelton Pell, Lisa Flanagan, Shari Sebbens, Mark Coles-Smith, Rarriwuy Hick, Miah Maddeen, Ursula Yovich, David Field.
Location: Northern Rivers, New South Wales
Production Company: Every Cloud Productions
Writer: Jon Bell
Directors: Catriona McKenzie, Adrian Wills, Wayne Blair
Producers: Lois Randall, Jon Bell
Executive Producers: Fiona Eagger, Deb Cox
Network: ABC1

BETTER MAN (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Synopsis: Exactly how much risk would you take to save your brother? For Van Nguyen the answer was whatever it takes, and the devastating consequence of his attempt to traffic heroin from Cambodia to Australia via a change of planes in Singapore was that the 396 grams of drugs that he was discovered carrying was enough to incur the death penalty – 26 times over.
Production Company: FremantleMedia Australia in association with Bravado Productions
Producer: Stephen Corvini
Executive Producer: Jason Stephens
Writer/Director: Khoa Do
Broadcaster: SBS
International Sales: SBS International

Status: In Development (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Synopsis: The greatest invasion in the history of warfare was to become a diabolical failure – an eight-month siege where the bravery of Anzac troops was squandered. But in doing so a legend, and a nation, were born.
Production Company: Southern Star Entertainment
Producers: John Edwards, Imogen Banks, Robert Connolly
Writer: Christopher Lee (based on the book by Les Carlyon)
Broadcaster: Nine Network
International Sales: Endemol Worldwide

Status: In Production (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Shoot Dates: February 18 – August 9
Synopsis: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries series 2 is a 13 x 1-hour murder mystery series based on the novels of Australian author Kerry Greenwood.
Directors: Tony Tilse, Declan Eames, Sian Davies, Catherine Millar
Producers: Fiona Eagger, Deb Cox
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Writers: Deb Cox, John Banas, Kristen Dunphy, Chris Corbett, Ysabelle Dean, Michelle Offen Script Producer: Deb Cox
Production Company: Every Cloud Productions
Sales: ABC Commercial
International Sales: All3Media International
Format: 13 x 1-hour series

PARER’S WAR (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Synopsis: Parer’s War is the story of World War II frontline cameraman Damien Parer and his desperate efforts to reveal the savage truth of battle and the brutal truth of the heart.
Production Company: Pericles Film Productions Pty Ltd
Producer: Andrew Wiseman
Writer: Alison Nisselle
Director: Matthew Saville
Broadcaster: ABC
Domestic Sales: Transmission

WENTWORTH (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Synopsis: We all know Bea Smith ruled Wentworth Detention Centre. She was gutsy and fearless. But who was Bea Smith before prison? How did a wife and mother from the suburbs become a top dog without rival? Where did the confidence and fortitude come from that enabled her to get there, and what injustices and misadventures fuelled her determination to do it? Wentworth is a dynamic, often confronting, drama series that begins with Bea’s early days in prison. Set in the present day, it’s a modern re-imagination of Prisoner.
Production Company: FremantleMedia Australia Pty Ltd
Executive Producer: Jo Porter
Producer: Amanda Crittenden
Script Producer: Lara Radulovich
Director: Kevin Carlin
International Sales: FremantleMedia
Broadcaster: FOXTEL

Status: Pre Production (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Shoot Dates: Late-February (13-week shoot)
Synopsis: Four boys get lost in the forest, and discover, when they return home, that they have returned to an alternate world identical to theirs except for one startling difference – they were never born.
Production Company: Matchbox Productions Pty Ltd
Producers: Michael McMahon, Tony Ayres
Writers: Craig Irvin, Rhys Graham, Roger Monk, Elise McCredie, Polly Staniford, Shanti Gudgeon
Directors: Peter Carstairs, Robert Connolly
Broadcaster: ABC
International Sales: NBCUniversal
Domestic Sales: ACTF

SAM FOX: EXTREME ADVENTURES (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Synopsis: Sam Fox: Extreme Adventures is an action-packed adventure series about teenage ‘danger magnet’ Sam Fox as he braves the wilds from open ocean to deepest jungle, coming face to face with killer sharks, man-eating leopards, raging tornadoes, erupting volcanoes, deadly scorpions, giant anacondas and much, much more.Production Company: SLR Productions Pty Ltd
Producer/Executive Producer: Suzanne Ryan
Writer: Keith Thompson
Broadcaster: Network Ten
International Sales: ZDFE

THE WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE – AGAIN! (Screen Australia funded July 26, 2012)
Production Company: Worst Year Productions
Producers: Ross Allsop, Bernadette O’Mahony
Writers: Mark Brotherhood, Brendan Luno, Sam Carroll (and others)
Directors: Pino Amenta (and others)
Broadcasters: ABC, CBBC (UK)
International Sales: ACTF
Synopsis: When Alex King goes to bed on the eve of his 15th birthday, he’s relieved that the last disastrous year is finally over. But when he wakes up, time has reset itself and he’s going to have to relive the worst year of his life all over again.