‘Playing for Keeps’.
Feature films directed by Robert Connolly, Jeremy Sims, Kriv Stenders and first-time directors Maziar Lahooti and Natalie Erika James have received production investment from Screen Australia.
In its largest ever single funding round for adult TV drama, the agency is supporting new series from Closer Productions, Screentime, Guesswork Television and Playmaker Media, plus a further four projects to be announced,
The slate also includes Aquarius Films’ first move into children’s TV with the ABC tween series The Unlisted, and online series from Ludo Studio, the Wyrmwood team of Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner and Robot Army.
In total, Screen Australia is investing more than $17 million in six features, 10 TV series and seven online productions, which collectively represent more than $142 million in production.
CEO Graeme Mason said: “This slate represents the most money we have ever invested in adult TV drama in a single round. Indeed in the ten years Screen Australia has been operating, the near $20 million we have invested in adult TV drama in the 2017/18 financial year is an all-time record.
“It truly is a remarkable time for Australian television, and it is clear local broadcasters and streaming services see our local stories as their point of difference in an incredibly crowded marketplace. Many of the titles in this round have the makings of returnable series, representing potentially years of work for not only the creative teams, but for the hundreds of cast and crew that it takes to get these stories to screens.”
Connolly will direct The Dry, an adaptation by Harry Cripps of Jane Harper’s debut novel of the same name about a cop who returns to his country hometown after an apparent murder-suicide committed by his childhood friend. The producers are Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies), Jodi Matterson (Down Under) and Steve Hutensky (The Nightingale). Roadshow will distribute; Cornerstone Films internationally.
Sims is directing Rams, as an English-language adaptation of the Icelandic film Hrútar, the story of two feuding brothers on adjoining sheep farms who must find a way to work together to save their small town and their family’s legacy. Jules Duncan wrote the screenplay and WMBC’s Janelle Landers and Aidan O’Bryan are producing. Roadshow; WestEnd Films.
Lahooti will direct Below, a thriller set in a near-future Australia which follows Dougie, a darknet grifter who enters a world of corruption and blackmail in a detention centre. Australian playwright Ian Wilding wrote the screenplay for the producers, Good Thing Productions’ Nick Batzias, Veronica Gleeson and Kate Neylon. Screenwest and MIFF Premiere Fund are co-investing. Madman Entertainment; Seville International.
Natalie Erika James will direct and co-write with Christian White Relic, a psychological horror about three generations of women – daughter, mother and grandmother – who are haunted by a manifestation of aged dementia that takes over their family home. Carver Films’ Sarah Shaw and Anna McLeish are producing with two US partners to be announced along with the cast. Umbrella Entertainment; Endeavour Content.
The other films are Kriv Stenders’ Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, which has just wrapped, and Steven Vidler’s Standing Up for Sunny, which gets completion funding.
Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music, a drama based on the Tim Winton novel, also received funding but was not included in the announcement. The film is due to shoot in Western Australia later this year, produced by Aquarius Films.
The TV projects include The Hunt, Closer Productions’ first long form drama with Sophie Hyde directing, commissioned by SBS. Scripted by Matthew Cormack (52 Tuesdays) and Niki Aken (ANZAC GIRLS, Janet King), the 4 x 54′ female-centric drama centres on two high school teachers who discover students are sharing explicit photos of their underage friends and peers – a revelation that puts unbearable stress on the lives of four teenagers and their families. The SAFC is also investing.
Guesswork Television is producing a second series of Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan’s Get Krack!n for the ABC. Produced by Tamasin Simpkin and Antje Kulpe, the show will continue to build on its commitment to encourage diversity in the writers room. Film Victoria is also on board.
Now shooting in Melbourne, there will be guest appearances from a host of well-known faces including Matt Day, Elaine Crombie, John Howard, Genevieve Morris, Adam Hills, Michala Banas, Denise Scott and Justine Clarke. The returning cast includes Nakkiah Lui, Miranda Tapsell, Anne Edmonds, Michelle Lim Davidson, Adam Briggs, Charlotte Nicdao, Ming-Zhu Hii, Wes Snelling and Dave Thornton.
ABC head of comedy Rick Kalowski quipped that the first season drew all four key demographics: fans of great satire; young people delighted to learn the ABC existed; angry old guys who just got Facebook; and people who only watch shows that offend them. Series 2, he added, “will give all something to love/find deeply problematic.”
The other TV projects include the previously announced Bloom, produced by Playmaker Media for Stan, and Screentime’s Playing for Keeps for Network Ten. The latter follows the male-dominated world of a football club where the real power is with the women and features Madeleine West, Cece Peters, Annie Maynard, Olympia Valance and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor. The creative team includes writers Claire Phillips and Christine Bartlett.
Aquarius Films’ The Unlisted (15 x 30‘) centres on 12-year-old identical twins who discover the government is secretly manipulating Australia’s youth via electronic tracking devices and with a group of underground vigilante kids set out to stop the evil authorities from creating an army of young soldiers. Rhys Graham and Corrie Chen are among the directors. The writers include Mithila Gupta, Timothy Lee, Tristram Baumber, Jane Allen and Greg Waters.
In addition, Cheeky Little Media’s ABC children’s series Spongo, Fuzz and Jalapeña received completion funding.
In the online sphere Ludo Studio and Indigenous Media Company Since 1788 will collaborate on Robbie Hood for SBS, a re-imagination of the classic tale Robin Hood, Indigenous style. Set in Alice Springs, the 6 x 10′ series will follow Robbie and his gang of preteen mischief masters. Dylan Rivers is writing and directing with Tanith Glynn producing. Screen Queensland and Screen Territory are also investors.
Director Kiah Roache-Turner and producer Tristan Roache-Turner are teaming with Spectre Studios for Wyrmwood VR, a one-off 15 minute short form virtual reality experience which will allow audiences to immerse themselves in the Wyrmwood zombie narrative.
The concept: The viewer is trapped in an underground bunker with a psychotically evil doctor and a group of zombie-blending soldiers and so must orchestrate a daring escape before his or her brains are sucked out of the skull.
Robot Army will produce 10 Year Beached Aziversary (10 x 5’) for the ABC. Written and directed by Nick Boshier, Jarod Green and Anthony MacFarlane, the show will reunite the Whale (Boshier) and the Seagull (Macfarlane) in addition to a new set of seafaring, human-ish and mythical-creature friends.
The Big Nothing (5 x 7’) is a sci-fi detective thriller co-directed by Lucy Campbell and Peter Ninos, produced by Sharptooth Pictures with Sophie Morgan and Adam Camporeale. The online series will follow Detective Lennox as he investigates a murder on an isolated mining outpost near Saturn.
Created by writers and performers Fiona Harris (The Beautiful Lie) and Mike McLeish (Utopia, Keating the Musical), online comedy The Drop Off (6 x 8’) will explore that strange bubble of time each school morning between when parents and carers drop the kids off and when the school bell tolls.
Writer/director Tonnette Stanford and Opening Act Films will deliver the second season of online series Romp (6 x 14’). Originally launched as Love Bytes in 2014 and generating more than 9 million views online, the sitcom style series will continue following Jade, Stacey and Michael as they seek love and romance but instead find misadventure in Sydney’s hetero-flexible dating scene.
Made Up Stories Pty Ltd
Genre Drama, Thriller
Producers Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky
Director Robert Connolly
Writer Harry Cripps
Australian Distributor Roadshow
International Sales Cornerstone
Synopsis After an absence of twenty years, Aaron Falk returns to his drought-stricken hometown to investigate an apparent murder-suicide committed by his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. But when Aaron’s investigation opens a decades old wound – the unsolved death of 16-year-old Ellie Deacon – Aaron must struggle to prove not only Luke’s innocence but his own.
Good Thing Productions Pty Ltd
Genre Action, Drama, Comedy
Producers Veronica Gleeson, Nick Batzias, Kate Neylon
Executive Producers Paul Wiegard, Annick Poirier, Virginia Whitwell
Director Maziar Lahooti
Writer Ian Wilding
Australian Distributor Madman Entertainment
International Sales Seville International
Synopsis In a near-future, darknet grifter Dougie is recruited to work security at a refugee detention centre. There, he is drawn into an underground operation blackmailing detainees to fight for profit. When tragedy strikes courageous fighter Azad, Dougie locates his hitherto dormant conscience and takes a stand.
DANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN
Red Dune Productions Pty Ltd and Deeper Water Films Pty Ltd
Genre Drama, War
Producers Martin Walsh, John Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Stuart Beattie
Executive Producers Tony Noun, Silvio Salom, James Costas, Alistair Birmingham, Gabriel Carey
Director Kriv Stenders
Writer Stuart Beattie
Story by Jack Brislee, James Nicholas, Karel Segers, Paul Sullivan
Australian Distributor Transmission
International Sales Saboteur
Synopsis The true story of how Major Harry Smith and his company of 108 young and mostly inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers hold off an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 battle hardened North Vietnamese and Main Force Viet Cong soldiers in The Battle of Long Tan.
Carver Films Pty Ltd
Genre Psychological horror
Producers Sarah Shaw, Anna McLeish
Director Natalie Erika-James
Writers Natalie Erika-James, Christian White
Australian Distributor Umbrella Entertainment
International Sales Endeavor Content
Synopsis Three generations of women – daughter, mother and grandmother – are haunted by a manifestation of aged dementia that is taking over their family home.
Genre Comedy, Drama
Producers Janelle Landers, Aidan O’Bryan
Director Jeremy Sims
Writer Jules Duncan
Australian Distributor Roadshow Films
International Sales Westend Films
Synopsis When a proud sheep town’s flocks are threatened by a rare disease, two feuding brothers struggle to preserve their family’s legacy by outsmarting a government plan that jeopardises the whole community.
6 x 60mins
Producer Sue Seeary
Executive Producers Nick Forward, Rob Gibson, Glen Dolman, David Maher, David Taylor
Director John Curran
Writers Glen Dolman
Synopsis One year after a devastating flood kills five locals in an idyllic country town, a mysterious new plant appears with the power to restore youth.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS
8 x 46mins
Screentime Pty Ltd
Producers Kerrie Mainwaring, Paul Moloney
Directors Sian Davies, Tori Garrett, Scott Major
Writers Claire Phillips, Christine Bartlett, Ian Meadows, Ainslie Coulston
Broadcaster Network Ten
International Sales Screentime Commercial Pty Ltd
Synopsis In the male-dominated world of a football club the real power is with the women. In a fresh, contemporary voice this female-skewed, heightened, telenovela style drama takes no prisoners. Foregrounding five very different women, Playing for Keeps explores this unique world from their perspective. From the grand-stands and the locker rooms to the red carpets and the bedrooms. Is it infatuation or love, power or relevance? What makes these women tick? This is lifestyles of the rich and famous writ large. Bold, brassy, funny and dangerous. Playing for Keeps will be addictive, must-see TV. When you fly high you sometimes feel the heat.
4 x 54mins
Closer Productions Pty Ltd
Creators Sophie Hyde, Matthew Cormack
Producers Rebecca Summerton, Sophie Hyde
Director Sophie Hyde
Writers Matthew Cormack, Niki Aken
International Sales DCD Media
Synopsis Two idealistic high school teachers discover students are sharing explicit photos of their underage friends and peers – a revelation that puts unbearable stress on the tightly woven lives of four teenagers and their families.
GET KRACK!N SEASON TWO
8 x 25mins
Guesswork Television Pty Ltd
Producers Tamasin Simpkin, Antje Kulpe
Executive Producers Kevin Whyte, Kate McCartney, Kate McLennan
Director Hayden Guppy
Writers Kate McCartney, Kate McLennan
International Sales Guesswork Distribution
Synopsis Get Krack!n is the highly anticipated new series from the stars of The Katering Show (Australian TV’s all time most viewed digital series).
8 x 60mins
Jungle FTV Pty Ltd
Producers Chloe Rickard, Steven Zanoksi
Executive Producers Rachel Lang, Chloe Rickard, Gavin Strawhan, Phil Lloyd, Steven Zanoksi
Writers Gavin Strawhan, Rachel Lang, Phil Lloyd, Sarah Walker, Tim Lee
Broadcaster Nine Network
Synopsis Bad Mothers is a fresh ensemble drama about four very different friends negotiating the perils and joys of being a modern mum: from parties to play dates, hangovers to homework, mishaps to murder.
SPONGO, FUZZ & JALAPENA
26 x 11mins
Cheeky Little Media Pty Ltd
Genre Children’s, Animation
Producers Patrick Egerton, Isla Curtis
Executive Producers Patrick Egerton, David Webster
Director David Webster
Writers Bruce Griffiths, Tim Bain, Charlotte Rose-Hamlyn, Joel Slack-Smith, Bruce Griffiths, Cleon Prineas, Dan Mansour, Simon Dodd, Zoe Harrington, David Breen, Thomas Duncan-Watt
International Sales DHX International
Synopsis Three best buds, a town full of crazy contests and a friendship that breaks all the rules!
15 x 30mins
Aquarius Films Pty Ltd
Genre Action adventure, Thriller, Drama
Producers Polly Staniford, Angie Fielder
Executive Producer /creator Justine Flynn
Directors Rhys Graham, Corrie Chen
Writers Mithila Gupta, Timothy Lee, Tristram Baumber, Jane Allen, Greg Waters, Natesha Somasundaram, Chris Kunz
International Sales Sinking Ship
Synopsis Twelve-year-old identical twins Dru and Kal discover that the government is secretly tracking and manipulating Australia’s youth via electronic tracking devices. Together with a group of underground vigilante kids – The Unlisted – they must stop the evil authorities from creating an army of young soldiers who can be manipulated to serve the wealthiest citizens.
ROMP SEASON TWO
6 x 14mins
Opening Act Films Pty Ltd
Producer Pete Ireland
Executive Producer Zayn Buksh
Director / Writer Tonnette Stanford
Synopsis Three housemates – Jade, Stacey and Michael – refuse to grow up. Now in their thirties, and with reality closing in on all sides, can they find happiness in Sydney’s hetero-flexible dating scene…without killing each other first?
THE DROP OFF
6 x 8mins
Kiss & Go Productions Pty Ltd
Producers Mike McLeish, Fiona Harris
Executive Producer Paul Walton
Director Tori Garrett
Writers Mike McLeish, Fiona Harris
Synopsis A short-form comedy exploring that strange bubble of time every school morning known as The Drop Off.
6 x 10mins
Ludo Studio Pty Ltd, Since1788 Productions Pty Ltd
Producers Tanith Glynn-Maloney, Meg O’Connell
Executive Producers Charlie Aspinwall, Daley Pearson
Director Dylan River
Writers Dylan River, Kodie Bedford
Synopsis Robbie is a troublemaker with a heart of gold living in a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia, wreaking havoc with his gang of merry boys. They’re in their mid-teens, young enough to get a slap on the wrist by the law, but old enough to know better.
THE BIG NOTHING
5 x 7mins
Genre Sci-fi, Drama
Created by Claire Bishop, Lucy Campbell, Sophie Morgan and Peter Ninos
Producers Adam Camporeale, Sophie Morgan
Directors Lucy Campbell, Peter Ninos
Writers Lucy Campbell, Sophie Morgan
Synopsis After a brutal murder on a space station, Detective Lennox is sent to investigate the three remaining crew members.
10 YEAR BEACHED AZIVERSARY
10 x 5mins
Robot Army Productions Pty Ltd
Producers Nicholas Boshier, Jordana Johnson
Director Nicholas Boshier
Writers Nicholas Boshier, Jarod Green, Anthony Macfarlane
Animator Benjamin Zaugg
Synopsis The 10 year anniversary of the seminal very short cartoon, Beached Az.
1 x 15mins
Guerilla Films Pty Ltd
Producer Tristan Roache-Turner
Director Kiah Roache-Turner
Writers Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner
Platforms STEAM, VIVEPORT, Oculus Home
Synopsis You are trapped in an underground bunker with a psychotically evil doctor and a group of zombie-blending soldiers, and must orchestrate a fantastically daring escape before your brains are sucked out of your skull.