Screenwriters keep plying their trade through the crisis
Samantha Strauss on the set of ‘The End.’
Two days ago Samantha Strauss spent much of the day under the doona, literally crying about the state of the world.
Yesterday Strauss, one of the country’s most successful screenwriters, was back at her computer, working on multiple projects in development for Made Up Stories and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films, Joanna Werner and See-Saw Films, including a second season of The End.
“I’m incredibly lucky but it is such a time of unparalleled shitness. I still have some scripts to deliver so that will tide me over for a while.” she tells IF.
“It does feel like there’s a responsibility for us content makers to work our arses off right now and have a whole lot of local content ready to be made, just as soon as this hell is over.”
Meanwhile writer Shaun Grant is at home in Los Angeles, continuing to script TV projects including an adaptation of Richard Flanagan’s 2014 Man Booker prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North for Fremantle, with Justin Kurzel to direct.
“It’s crazy times at the moment,” says the writer whose credits include The True History of the Kelly Gang, Jasper Jones, Berlin Syndrome and Glendyn Ivin’s upcoming Penguin Bloom, co-written with Harry Cripps.
“Though for a writer who has spent the last 10 years writing feature films, it feels like everything’s changed and nothing’s changed as I’ve been ‘self-isolating’ for years.”
Another seasoned writer, Giula Sandler is at home in Melbourne working on several projects which were in train before COVID-19 struck.
“There is a mixture of relief that I can take my mind off the world for a few hours a day, and the difficulty of concentrating on anything other than the news and becoming an armchair virologist,” says Sandler, who co-wrote the UK drama White House Farm with Kris Mrksa and episodes of Matchbox Pictures’ Glitch and Nowhere Boys.
Strauss hopes The End, the assisted dying drama starring Frances O’Connor, Harriet Walker and Morgan Davies, will be renewed by Foxtel and Sky Atlantic, which already aired the show, and looks forward to filming again in Queensland.
Among the projects in her pipeline are Wellness, a pro-science, pro-medicine TV series with See-Saw Films supported by Screen Australia, a novel (title under wraps) for Made Up Stories and Blossom Films, and The Summer We Ruled the World, an original young adult show with Jo Werner.
She is grateful for the ABC and SBS and for the screen bodies and guilds that are lobbying to preserve jobs and the right to tell Australian stories.
(L-R) Louis Vogel, assistant director Daniel Fletcher, Shaun Grant and producer Hal Vogel on the Kelly Gang set.
As the creator of Dance Academy she fervently hopes the children’s TV sector isn’t gutted during the crisis.
“For anyone who hasn’t worked from home before, come chat to us writers,” she says. “We’re pros about how to manage the isolation, procrastination, self-hate and loneliness.
“What works for me is to have a plan for each week and each day of what has to be accomplished. Podcasts help when your mind starts to eat itself. Call friends and colleagues as much as they’ll let you (my poor wonderful agent cops my existential angst most days, God love her.) Have a shower.
“Also, and importantly, be kind and forgive yourself when all you can do is cry under the doona. Then go back to work the next day if you can.”
Shaun Grant worries that money for development will run out during the production shutdown but adds: “I’m grateful to be in the fortunate position of being able to do my job alone and at home so the next few months will see me continuing to do what I do, either on my current projects in development or beginning something entirely new.”
Sandler is developing a UK-Australian production for Jude Troy and Richard Finlayson’s Wooden Horse and eOne’s Polly Williams.
Also for Wooden Horse she is writing the Bible for a four-part adaptation of the Emily Maguire novel An Isolated Incident, a thriller about a woman’s quest to find out who brutally murdered her younger sister, in collaboration with Sarah Lambert and Tim Lee.
“Development, for the moment, seems to be going ahead as normal, though how the market will change once all this is over and what sort of shows people will want to watch, who knows?” she says.