Richard Harris, Nicola Forrest and Andrew Forrest. (Image: Lisa Tomasetti)

The newly formed social impact film division of the Minderoo Foundation will “most likely” have a core diet of feature documentaries but is also open to other genres that facilitate social impact storytelling, according to executive producer Richard Harris.

Minderoo Pictures has been established with an initial commitment of $10 million to support screen projects that address the global challenges championed by the Perth-based philanthropic organisation.

The first four projects include a feature film collaboration between Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and Josh Murphy, Robert Connolly’s feature Blueback, Michael Cordell and Emily-Anyupa Butcher’s Honey Ant Dreamers, and First Born, produced by Workshop TV.  

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, the Minderoo Foundation has since gone on to commit $2 billion to a range of global initiatives, ranging from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and arts and culture projects.

Harris said the organisation’s activity would play a key role in determining the projects for Minderoo Pictures.

“We’re absolutely in the social impact space but we are not making a film about every little social issue.

“What will drive the decisions will be the initiatives that Minderoo runs and any projects we go into will have to be absolutely aligned with one of those initiatives.

“It’s incredible to have $10 million to put together a film division like this but that’s not bottomless and can be spent relatively quickly with all the projects I know are out there.”

Harris, who has been helping to set up the social impact enterprise for the past six months, said they were not closed off to genres or mediums.

“If it is a series or something a bit outside the core of what we are doing, we will be asking all the same questions,” he said.

“One of which will be, how is this series going to be the thing that really drives change?”

Harris comes to Minderoo Pictures with more than 20 years’ experience in the film industry, having held leadership roles at Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation.

His involvement in the venture came after he was introduced to the director of the Minderoo Arts and Culture portfolio, Ella McNeill, through Arenamedia’s Robert Connolly and Robert Patterson, with Minderoo CEO Andrew Hagger soon becoming involved in discussions about what Minderoo Pictures would look like.

Blueback – Photograph by David Dare Parker

For Harris, there were multiple points of interest.

“I’ve been an independent producer for the last three years which has been amazing and I’ve loved it, but actually being able to have resources behind you to make films and make a difference is an incredible opportunity,” he said.

“For me, it’s one of those game-changer moments because Australia doesn’t have a great culture of private engagement with the sector generally. 

“Not only was this in of itself a great thing, but as something could potentially change the relationship between filmmakers and the private sector.”

In addition to the films themselves, Minderoo Pictures is also working to produce high profile, cross-platform impact campaigns designed to reach policymakers, schools, and the business sector.

With Blueback, an educational release is planned following the film’s commercial distribution to emphasise the importance of ocean preservation.

Harris said each project would present a different engagement opportunity.

“One of the beauties about the conversations we’ve been having was recognising that they were not just going to put money into individual films in an investment sense and then say goodbye,” he said.

“They’re really keen on engaging in development where it was necessary, or in production when it made sense, and also allowing Minderoo Pictures to engage on impact campaigns because, in the end, impact is the key aspect for Minderoo.

“There’s no point in investing in a film if it’s not going to have an impact.”

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2 Comments

  1. The article mentions that for all projects,
    ” we will be asking all the same questions,” … “One of which will be, how is this series going to be the thing that really drives change?”

    Broadly, what are the other questions?

  2. ‘We’re absolutely in the social impact space but we are not making a film about every little social issue.’
    Hmmm, every little social issue? Odd way of describing your mission statement. But well done to Rob C. for helping Richard get such an amazing gig and glad to see him return the favour by backing his film.

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