Screen Australia calls for more family film scripts after Oddball success

05 October, 2015 by Brian Karlovsky

Screen Australia has launched a new initiative to encourage writers to submit more family film scripts after the genre helped 2015 break the 2001 Australian box office record.

On Monday, The Australian box office total surpassed $64 million on the back of a slew of family films including Paper Planes ($9.6 million), Last Cab to Darwin ($7.1 million), Blinky Bill ($2.3 million) and now Oddball ($8.1 million).


Screen Australia is now seeking to encourage experienced writers to consider family film through the creation of the Family Film Initiative.

"Family films represent one of the most lucrative genres at the Australian box office, yet in recent times the modest volume of scripts being submitted to Screen Australia for this category does not reflect the significance of the market," according to Screen Australia.

Working with screenwriter, script editor, producer and author Joan Sauers, Screen Australia’s initiative will fund up to three writers to develop their family film script up to a polished draft.

Screen Australia head of production, Sally Caplan, said Red Dog, Babe and Paper Planes were three of the highest grossing Australian films of all time, "With this genre also benefitting from high ancillary values such as DVD and merchandise sales,” she said.

“We want to see the volume of live action family scripts coming to us significantly increase as we believe in this category. 

"We want other Australian writers to experience the success Oddball’s creative team is now enjoying.”

The Initiative is open to eligible Australian writers with Stage One submissions requiring a logline, one-page synopsis and writers notes. Submissions are due November 30, 2015 and only live action family films with an estimated budget of under $7 million will be considered.

Stage Two will include the shortlisting of up to ten family film concepts and the selected writers will attend a two-day Family Film Forum in Sydney in March 2016. 

The forum will feature guest speakers including Harry Cripps, the writer for Dreamworks’ forthcoming musical feature Larrikins to be directed by Tim Minchin. 

Industry will also be able to register to attend the forum (or watch a live stream), with details to be announced in January.

After the forum, shortlisted writers will consult with Joan before having the opportunity to revise and submit their final documents by April 8, 2016. 

Screen Australia will then select up to three successful writers from the shortlisted applications who will be announced on April 29, 2016. 

These projects will then be funded to develop a polished draft script in consultation with Joan and selected mentors. 

These scripts can then progress to apply to Screen Australia’s standard production funding program if desired.

Sauers, as Family Film Initiative guest executive producer, said scripts for family films were perhaps the hardest to get right.

"So we want to offer guidance, especially to writers who may never have thought about writing for the family market before,” she said. 

“We hope to encourage a distinct voice – maybe a little more twisted than your average Hollywood fare, which speaks in a uniquely Australian way.”