Category Archives: Television

Essential Media returns to drama space with Essential Scripted

Essential Media Group (EMG) has re-activated its drama arm with the mandate to produce premium international TV dramas and theatrical features via the newly-
unveiled Essential Scripted.

Michelle Hardy, who produced the International Emmy® Award-winning multi-
platform ABC2 comedy #7DaysLater, has joined as vice president of scripted,

Australia, while Simonne Overend continues as VP of scripted, US.
Essential Media has also signed a first-look deal with Hardy White Pictures, a joint
venture between Hardy and director Erin White (Sando, Little Lunch).

The move marks a return to the scripted sphere since founding partner Ian
Collie departed last September and Essential sold its drama slate and catalogue to
Easy Tiger Productions, launched by Collie and FremantleMedia.

It follows the acquisition of EMG (formed by the merger of Essential and Quail
Entertainment) by Canada’s Kew Media Group for $32.8 million, a deal which is
expected to close next week.

EMG CEO Chris Hilton said: “We’re relishing the prospect of our return to drama
production in Australia and the US at a time when the opportunities have never been
greater. We have an exciting new slate and with the support of our new partners at
Kew we’re looking forward to bringing more premium scripted content to audiences
around the world.”

Hilton recalled that he and Collie started from scratch in drama in the early years at Essential Media and Entertainment, producing a raft of shows including Rake, Jack Irish and The Principal and the Disney movie Saving Mr Banks on the back of the company’s factual slate.

Essential Scripted is working with new and emerging writers including Yolanda
Ramke (Cargo) and Chris Squadrito (who worked on Hoodlum Entertainment/
Netflix’s Tidelands) on a slate which includes six TV dramas and as many features.

Hardy has been working unannounced for Essential for some months so some
projects are in advanced development or are close to the pilot stage. The projects are
being developed in partnership with networks and distributors.

“Australian broadcasters are aspiring to produce dramas that are comparable to
those screening on Netflix,” Hilton tells IF. “That means you need sufficient quality
to attract pre-finance from European or US broadcasters or a deep-pocketed
distributor.”

Hilton has identified the need to develop the next generation of writers partly
because creatives such as Andrew Knight, Sarah Lambert and Kris Mrksa are tied up
with their own projects. His plan is to put emerging writers together with
experienced writers and showrunners.

Overend is working with Ramke as she develops a TV series based on a crime novel
and a feature screenplay. Hardy’s credits include Skit Box’s Wham Bam Thank You
Ma’amand Back Seat Drivers, a comedy entertainment series for ABC2.

She worked with Greg Quail, who is now EMG’s chief content officer, on several
projects including Timothy, a half hour narrative comedy that was part of Mental As,
ABC’s Mental Health Week.

Last year she produced a low budget feature film in Los Angeles for Essential,
working title Wild Woman. The survival saga set in the desert from writer-director
Nick King is yet to be released.

Hilton is discussing several feature films and feature docs with Kew Media’s
international theatrical sales company, observing, “Being part of a large group means
we can leverage their resources.”

06 July, 2018 by Don Groves INSIDEFILM

Go West: Seph McKenna on his vision for Screenwest

Formerly the head of Australian production at Roadshow Films, Seph McKenna left
the east coast to take on the role of Screenwest CEO in January, succeeding Ian
Booth.

But the former exec says he’s no stranger to Western Australia. Roadshow has been
involved with many recent films that were shot in the state, including Bran Nue Dae,
Red Dog, Paper Planes and Red Dog: True Blue. It acquired Simon
Baker’sBreath and will distribute upcoming See Pictures film Go Karts, shooting
in Busselton.

McKenna particularly credits regional film festival CinefestOz for luring east coast
distributors and producers like himself into the west’s regions over the past seven or
eight years.

“It woke all of us up in the east to the potential of the west,” he says.
Western Australia has grown as a production destination over the last decade. Ten
years ago it was averaging about one feature-length film a year. In 2015-16,
Screenwest supported a record seven feature-length films to shoot in WA, and in
2016-17, the production of four and the post of two others.

McKenna says that while he was at Roadshow they found their biggest films, in terms
of indie Aussie fare at least, came out of WA.

“Red Dog was the standard bearer there – until Lion came along it was the highest
performing independent Australian film of the last 20 years.

“What we found was because Western Australia is a big outdoor canvas for our
filmmakers, all of Australia really embraces the film. It feels like they are big, epic
Australian films of scale on the big screen, because you have these phenomenal
landscapes. You don’t run into any rivalries between Sydney and Melbourne.

“Films that are made here are just intrinsically Australian, and we found we could
sell that to audiences successfully.”

Vision and new opportunities

Given its varied and spectacular landscapes, WA is a natural home for the outdoor
film, says McKenna.

“If you’re looking for a big canvas to paint on, you can’t lose in WA. And we have
both experienced crews now and post facilities to do everything here.

“I think there used to be this presumption – I used to have it years ago at Roadshow
– that you could do some things in WA, but you couldn’t do everything here. Now
you can do everything here.”

McKenna praises his predecessor Booth, and Screenwest head of development and
production Rikki Lea Bestall, for the uptick in production activity and the growth of
infrastructure in WA.

“Including – and they so often don’t get the acknowledgement because you don’t get
the big splashy roll outs – our documentary producers who are the vanguard of
selling to international.

“Our documentary companies are the bedrock of the Western Australian screen
sector. In the feature land we can learn from what they’re doing because they’re
having such success.”

In his new role, McKenna is keen to capitalise on that level of production nous and
capacity that now exists in WA.

He says his time at Roadshow has left him with a sense of what works in the market,
what doesn’t and why. It’s a skill he believes will be important at Screenwest now
that it has transitioned from a government agency into an independent non-profit
organisation.

“I do think there is a sense of cautious optimism about what the new Screenwest
structure can bring, and it really is on me to deliver.”

Under the new non-profit structure, Screenwest continues to receive funding via the
WA government and Lotterywest. However, McKenna envisions the agency will now
have the flexibility and opportunity to ramp up its production attraction by building
partnerships with organisations in a way that may have previously been in conflict
with government policy or restrictions. This includes market and fundraising
partnerships.

“When I say fundraising, I mean going out and trying to raise funds around either
specific films, helping producers go out and do that, or finding pots of money that
can come in and partner with us in a general slate way – something you absolutely
couldn’t do in government.”

McKenna argues these partnerships will help Screenwest to find potential flagship
projects to “sell the state on” that will play both in Australia and find a home
internationally.

Small screen

While the west has seen a strong upswing in feature production, there isn’t much TV
drama being produced in the state at present – with some notable exceptions like the
ABC’s Mystery Road.

For McKenna, drumming up more is a key focus. In particular, he’s keen to see a fan-
driven drama in the vein of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries that would attract fans to WA to visit the show’s locations – just as they might visit Hobbiton in New Zealand or Highclere Castle in the UK, where Downton Abbey is shot.

“I would not only love to see that, I’m actively looking for a production or
productions that could fall into that category.

“And I think we’re probably more likely to find a television series of scale than we are
to find a movie of scale. But of course we’ll take either, or both.

“But for crews and consistency of work, nothing beats television. Series television is
becoming more and more difficult Australia wide to find, produce and fund. Our
most natural partners in that are the ABC and SBS, and we are working closely with
them.”

Just as CinefestOz was successful in luring east coast feature film execs to the WA
around seven or eight years ago, McKenna says there is more work to do to bring
those working in TV in the east over to the west to show them what’s possible.

“I think once they get familiar with the opportunities, the place and the locations,
they’ll start to see that. So it’s about getting our east coast TV people comfortable
with the idea that you can shoot in the west and that’s okay.

“And we have WAAPA, and WAAPA brought us Hugh Jackman. I think we have the
best acting school in the country here – don’t tell NIDA. But it’s certainly producing
strong students who go off to do amazing things. There’s a wellspring of talent here
and they’re happy to stay here if they can shoot here.”

Challenges and promise

Lotterywest, which runs the lottery in WA, supports both Screenwest and the Perth
International Arts Festival, as well as other cultural activities in the state.

However, The Australian reported in late January that lottery driven revenue was
declining in Western Australia by almost $300 million per year and that $16.5m out
of $25m multi-year grants issued by the state arts department were due to be funded
with revenue from Lotterywest, but a nearly $2m gap opened up between what it was
able to be eventually delivered.

“Younger people aren’t buying lottery tickets at newsagents, they are either not
gambling or they’re gambling online; it’s just a declining source of revenue,” says
McKenna.

“Lotterywest funding is really what has supported the organisation’s funding into
production for quite some time. So that’s a concern to everybody, and everybody’s
well aware.”

However, McKenna says the Western Australian Regional Fund – “purpose-built to
bring work into the nine different regions of WA” – is healthy and been “quite a tool”
for Screenwest.

Established in 2016, the $16 million Western Australian Regional Fund is designed
to support high quality international and Australia feature films, high-end television
series and documentaries to shoot in regional WA. It’s already helped to attract Ben
Elton’s Three Summers, Mystery Road and the upcoming Go Karts to the state.

“Everyone is pretty excited by that because it absolutely has been successful in
bringing in productions,” says McKenna.

The fund does have defined rules – you have to show economic and cultural benefit
to the region, and it has a minimum 2:1 spend – so McKenna says it can knock out
productions that are sniffing out extra funding from any old place.

However, he says for the productions that are aligned to a region, it can be a terrific
fit that can overcome the higher costs that can be associated with shooting in the
west if people need to be flown over. “That’s major for us.”

As for what is working else to attract productions, McKenna says: “We’ve got money,
we’ve got weather and we’ve got locations. That’s the west sell.”

The challenge for interstate or overseas producers shooting in WA will always be the
tyranny of distance, but McKenna counters: “It’s just being away from home, which
is something all producers face as they run around the world for places to shoot.

“The good news for Australian producers that need otherworldly landscapes is you
can find it here in Australia. You don’t have to go abroad; it’s here.”

18 May, 2018 by Jackie Keast INSIDEFILM

Australian director Kate Dennis continues to triumph

Melbourne director Kate Dennis, now based in the US, has continued to triumph with an Emmy nomination for The Handmaid’s Tale. This article by IF Magazine’s Don Groves talks about her dilemmas in choosing the projects she will work on after being deluged with offers of work.

Dennis continues to work in Australia as well, having directed Queensland based but global focussed Harrow, a co-production with ABC and Disney-owned ABC Studios International, which screens in Australian on March 9, according to Groves.

See article here:

Kate Dennis, go-to director for US networks, lands another US gig

Kate Dennis, go-to director for US networks, lands another US pilot
12 February, 2018 by Don Groves INSIDEFILM

If there were an award for the hardest working, most travelled and in-demand
Australian director in US and international TV drama, Kate Dennis would be a prime
candidate. Next month in New York she starts shooting an untitled, character-driven
medical drama for NBC that follows the maverick director of the city’s Bellevue
Hospital, her seventh US pilot which also happens to be the first shot on US soil.

Her burgeoning career got an adrenaline shot last year when she was nominated for a
prime-time Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale after directing episodes of multiple
series including Fear the Walking Dead, CSI: Cyber, Suits and TURN:
Washington’s Spies.

Last year Dennis was the set-up director of Harrow, Hoodlum’s 10-part crime
drama commissioned by the ABC and Disney-owned ABC Studios International,
which premieres in Oz on March 9.

Ioan Gruffudd plays Dr Daniel Harrow, a forensic psychologist who harbours a dark
secret, alongside Mirrah Foulkes, Remy Hii, Darren Gilshenan, Anna Lise Phillips,
Damien Garvey, Ella Newton, Hunter Page-Lochard and Robyn Malcolm.

Dennis was directing an episode of Marvel/Netflix’s Jessica Jones when Hoodlum’s
Tracey Robertson offered her the gig but she was initially reluctant. “I told Tracey
that procedurals and me are probably not a good mix but I read the script and
thought this one was different and out of the box,” she tells IF via Skype from her
home in LA. “It’s very character-driven and there is the mystery of the man at its
core. I was very attracted to it.”

She created the look and tone of the show co-created by Stephen M. Irwin and Leigh
McGrath with Robert Humphreys, who was the DOP on the first five episodes
(Simon Chapman shot the remainder).

Dennis directed the first episode while Tony Krawitz (The Kettering Incident), Tony
Tilse (Wolf Creek, Underbelly), Daniel Nettheim (Doctor Who, Broadchurch),
Peter Salmon (Doctor Doctor, Rake) each handled two and Catriona McKenzie (The
Warriors) did one.

It was her third collaboration with Hoodlum following Secrets & Lies and the US
remake of the crime series created by the prolific Irwin.

The NBC drama is inspired by Dr. Eric Manheimer’s memoir Twelve Patients: Life
& Death at Bellevue Hospital, a facility billed as the only one in the world that can
treat Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers Island and the US President under one
roof.

She’s excited to be collaborating with David Schulner (Desperate Housewives, Trauma, Emerald City), the writer/creator and co- executive producer, and co-executive producer Peter Horton, who set up Grey’s Anatomy.

The creative team includes DoP Stuart Dryburgh (who was Oscar-nominated for The
Piano) and production designer Kristi Zea, a frequent collaborator with Martin
Scorsese. She likens the tone to West Wing in a hospital.

Her US credits include I’m Dying Up Here, the Showtime comedy/drama set in the
Los Angeles stand-up scene of the early 1970, which screened here on Stan; Damnation, a 1930s-set drama shot in Calgary about a preacher who rallies the townsfolk in Iowa to stand up against industrialists, which aired on the USA Network and on Netflix internationally; and GLOW, another Netflix show which revolves around US women wrestlers in the 1980s.

She also directed an episode of Heathers, a black comedy inspired by the 1988 movie
of the same name, which will premiere in the US on the Paramount Network on
March 7.

Dennis has just come back from Belfast where she directed Krypton, the story of
Superman’s grandfather as he fights for justice on his home planet, for the Syfy
channel. She was much impressed with the super-efficient showrunner, Australian
Cameron Welch.

Asked about the criteria she uses when deciding whether or not to accept offers,
particularly the barrage she has received since the Emmy nomination, she says, “I try
to keep myself out of a genre box. I like taking all sorts of work. It can be a high-risk
way to approach things but luckily it seems to have paid off.”

Number of women directors up slightly in 2017 but still only 11%

This article from Screen Daily by Orlando Parfitt (11 January 2018) indicated that there has been virtually no change in the participation of women directors.

Patty jenkins gal gadot clay enos dc comis

Source: Clay Enos, DC Comics. Patty Jenkins directing ‘Wonder Woman’

Women directed 11% of the 250 top-grossing films in the US last year, rising from 7% in 2016.

The figures come from an annual report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

The study, entitled ‘Celluloid Ceiling’, shows that women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films, a rise of 1% from 2016 but unchanged from 1998.

25% of all producers for the top 250 films were women, (up 1%); 16% of editors (down 1%) and only 4% of cinematographers (a decrease of 1%).

The number of women writers was down two percentage points, to 11%.

Once again, the report also flags up that almost all blockbuster films are directed by men. Only one film directed by a woman made the top 20 highest grossing films: Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, the third highest grossing film of the year in the US with $412m.

The next highest was Pitch Perfect 3 directed by Trish Sie, at number 34 in the US chart.

Some more statistics from the study:

  • 88% had no women directors
  • 83% had no women writers
  • 45% had no women exec. producers 28% had no women producers
  • 80% had no women editors
  • 96% had no women cinematographers
  • 30% of films had no or 1 woman in the above roles

As in 2016, no women directors were nominated for a Golden Globe or a Bafta this year.

The Celluloid Ceiling report has been published annually since 1998.

Read more: Baftas 2018 – full list of nominations

How an independent Aussie production company made it in Asia

In September 1988, Sydney television producer Michael McKay started a small
independent production company called activeTV.

ActiveTV is best known locally for putting on the Carols In The Park event, which is
broadcast on Seven. Outside of Carols, however, the company is best-known for its
success in Asia. In 2006, activeTV Asia was established in Singapore off the back of
the company’s first production of The Amazing Race Asia for AXN.

The company is now headquartered in Singapore with a strong production base in
Manila, as well as the foundation business in Melbourne.

“When we first came into Singapore in 2006 no one had really done reality TV so we
quickly trained up a lot of people and a great many have progressed in the industry
today because of that training,” McKay told Mediaweek’s Peter Olszewski in an
interview this year. “We did the same thing up in Manila. We also take on interns, we
try to train and develop people and if I was proudest of anything it would be that.”
However, McKay’s strategy for success in Asia involved looking beyond just
production.

“We wanted to be not just a production company,” said McKay this week. “I was
worried production companies were a dying breed – the margins are always getting
crunched and getting tougher and tougher. At the centre of our business now we have
content we own, or that we at least have a partnership in.

“We then ask if we can make money off the production and then can we make money
from the distribution and sell sponsorship too. We look at every possible revenue
stream, from events to government funding.”

ActiveTV has recently been commissioned to make three stand-up comedy specials,
although McKay was not able to give any more detail on that project yet.
“We created a series called Celebrity Car Wars, which is coming up to its third
season. It is family entertainment where we take six celebrities and three motor
racing drivers who teach the celebrities how to really drive a car via some crazy
challenges.”

McKay said he uses his experience from years of making The Amazing Race on the
challenges. ActiveTV worked on that format in Asia, Australia and Israel.
With three seasons for Celebrity Car Wars on Asia’s History Network, McKay said
interest in the format is growing from international markets outside Asia. “People
have realised this is much more than a car show for blokes.”

Other programs on the slate include Food Files for National Geographic
internationally, which examines what is really in the food people are eating. “We
have fun with that too. Our style when we make informative programs is to have
fun.”

ActiveTV more recently did the Asian TV Awards, which were broadcast in Singapore
on Friday December 1. “We have just started to produce content in 4K. The biggest
issue for us is that it eats up much storage space on our server. We have our own
post-production facility in Singapore where we run eight edit suites and we add to
that out of Australia if we need more.”

James Manning – mediaweek – December 14, 2017

ABC’s Michelle Guthrie calls for international focus

The ABC’s Michelle Guthrie has suggested that Australian television producers should look internationally in making content.

“What we need to do is actually have the greatest stories possible, try to get some
global partners involved and frankly, find a way of increasing the budget.”

Speaking at the recently completed SPA Conference in Melbourne, Guthrie said that Australian producers have the capacity to ‘go global’ to increase the local sector’s output.

More here: https://www.if.com.au/abc-md-michelle-guthrie-highlights-global-opportunities-local-industry/

 

 

What networks and production companies should learn from House of Hancock

In the wake of Channel Nine and CJZ’s apology to Gina Rinehart, production companies should be wary of the issues that landed these companies in hot water with the mining magnate. In this post, media lawyer Stephen Digby explains the strategies required to avoid the same fate as TV series House of Hancock.

Stephen Digby is the principal and co-founder of Digby von Muenster Law – mumbrella

– March 7, 2017

After Rinehart’s successful legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW in 2015, which gave her access to part two of House of Hancock ahead of its screening on Nine, it appeared that the parties had come to a settlement that, whilst confidential, seemed to allow broadcast of part two of the docudrama under certain conditions.

Some of these conditions included specific disclaimers in the opening and closing credits the show was a “drama, not a documentary”, and that Rinehart was not interviewed by the producers. Several minutes of footage were also cut from the broadcast.

However, this did not seem to placate Rinehart, as she took Nine and CJZ back to court claiming defamation and malicious falsehood, as well as misleading and deceptive form that excused almost everything, including any “breaches of alleged moral behaviour”. These releases were repeatedly tested in US courts by, amongst many others, unwitting college guys, politicians and etiquette tutors.

The lesson from Borat is that with release forms – provided that they are true and accurate in their disclosures and well packed with the required indemnity and warranty protections – you can significantly limit your exposure to liability from any loss, or damage that may result from the broadcast.

So, whilst Borat offended almost all of its participants, it still lives on in cinema, and House of Hancock which offended one person, is seemingly off the air forever.

3. Use settlement as a bar to future proceedings

Despite an iron-clad release, as outlined above (and as Borat showed), court proceedings can still be unavoidable. If that does happen, then it is almost always more sensible to seek some form of out-of-court settlement that all parties can live with, or, is the best “worst-case”. This appeared to have been the case with House of Hancock, but, unlike that situation, the settlement did not prevent Rinehart from bringing further proceedings.

With this in mind, any production company (or broadcaster) should be very careful to make sure if it does reach settlement outside court, that a key part of this agreement is a widely-drafted and extensive release clause which acts to bar the party who brought or threatened the action from re-visiting the matter in any future legal proceedings in relation to it. Without knowing the full details of the Nine/CJZ/Rinehart confidential settlement, we won’t speculate why this don’t happen on this occasion, but, ideally, these types of clauses as part of a settlement are designed to put an end to all legal proceedings, once and for all, now and in the future.

4. Preparing for the worst

As an essential pre-requisite to a broadcast commission, production companies are required to take out errors and omissions insurance. Whilst these policies can often be difficult to navigate, the House of Hancock experience will force production companies to look more deeply into what these policies do and don’t cover.

Whilst premiums can be expensive, broadening the insurance to specially cover the company from the costs of litigation against all types of allegations could well be worthwhile. Given the breadth of the allegations made by Rinehart, these claims may go beyond simply unauthorised use of titles, copyright infringement and breach of privacy, to defamation, idea and story theft, and injurious falsehood, as well as misleading and deceptive conduct. A full and frank conversation with your insurers at the time the policy is being put in place, and close attention as to what it includes, and, more importantly, excludes, could give producers a great deal more comfort when faced with these types of proceedings.

Is it worth it?

Like all businesses, production companies need to do a cost/benefit analysis of the risks and rewards of doing these sorts of shows, but, with luck, these types of measures might help reduce that risk. However, as House of Hancock proves, this type of issue is not always possible to avoid.

Screen Oz boss launches broadside

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason has given a scathing assessment of many deals for film and TV projects that are submitted to his agency.

Speaking at Screen Producers Australia’s annual conference in Melbourne, Mason laid part of the blame on international sales agents and distributors, accusing some of being “greedy” on commissions, inflating expenses and trying to pass off gap financing as equity.

He was also critical of “rights-grabbing” by unnamed global broadcasters and he complained that Australian commercial free-to-air (FTA) networks are demanding new seasons of local shows to cost less but maintain the same standards.

When he took the helm three years ago, it was rare for the agency to be offered terrible deals. Now, he said, in some funding rounds “every second deal seems bad – for all of us.”

Noting that commercial FTA revenues are falling as overnight ratings decline, he told attendees that broadcasters “expect new seasons of series at the same quality for smaller budgets. We and others have traditionally been less invested in second series, if at all. Many of you have had to accept smaller fees and cuts to overheads as a result.”

He continued, “Producers are getting caught in the intransigent behaviour of some global broadcasters worried about new players and platforms. Some projects have nearly fallen over because of rights grabs, compromising Australia’s ability to capitalize on lucrative global opportunities. International sales on several of our TV dramas are phenomenal. Should producers try and bypass traditional media at times?”

He revealed that Screen Australia’s biggest ever return on production investment was generated by See-Saw Films’ Top of the Lake.

Some producers are being railroaded into asking Screen Australia to sweep aside its long-held terms, he said, adding, “A lot of money is flowing in from international but please don’t sell the farm to get it.”

Illustrating the pressure on the agency’s funding after government budget cuts, he estimates the number of applications for feature film and TV drama funding in the current fiscal year will be double that of eight years ago.

Given the rising demand for TV drama funding, he flagged a rethink of the agency’s approach, asking whether assessments should be made on the basis of business sustainability, intrinsically Australian stories or whether projects appeal to mass or niche audiences.

On a positive note Mason said attendees at Mipcom raved about Australian talent in all areas, adding, “The expectation is that one of our scripted shows will pop globally and there was surprise that they haven’t yet.”

Don Groves – 17-11-2016 – C21Media

TV industry ‘running out of famous Australians to make series about’

The TV industry is in danger of running out of famous Australians to make mini-series about, one of the country’s leading producers has warned. The comments came from Posie Graeme-Evans at the Screen Forever conference in Melbourne. Graeme-Evans, who created long-running Nine drama series McLeod’s daughters, made the comments as she delivered the Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture.

She told delegates to the Screen Producers Australia event that while local audiences are showing appetites for biopics, they have often failed to sell in the international market.

Recent biopics have included retellings of the lives of INXS front man Michael Hutchence, TV presenter Molly Meldrum, media mogul Kerry Packer, magazine pioneer Ita Buttrose and billionaire Gina Rinehart. Graeme Evans warned:

“It’s smart that the commercial free-to-airs and Foxtel and the ABC all want to show our audience high end minis about iconic Australians. They play brilliantly at home. Time and sales have suggested that not all do quite so well in the overseas market. Like the issue of running out of Daughters on McLeod’s… – though, we did find a few more along the way – I wonder if we’ve reached peak ‘Famous Australian’ yet?”

New biopics in the works in the coming months include Nine’s miniseries on businessman Alan Bond and criminal Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. Seven’s pipeline includes the life story of cricketer Shane Warne and singer/actor Olivia Newton-John. Graeme-Evans – a former director of drama for the Nine Network who is now working full-time as a novelist – warned that the networks would soon be reduced to the B-list. She said: “Bio-pics based on the B-list… are not quite the same.”

Reasons for the rise of these mini-series are not just because they rate reasonably well, said Graeme-Evans. The shows are also an efficient way for the networks to achieve their obligatory quota of hours of locally-made drama, and also win tax-payer funding via Screen Australia. She said: “Now, none of us is naïve in this room.

We know that commercial FTAs seek to maximise content points making minis – and high concept is often high success if it’s well made. Or not, if it’s not. Art and commerce do collide in the business of TV – sometimes in the worst way in the world.”

Later in the speech, she said that networks are now more likely to commission based on finances. She said: “Today I think it can be argued that accountants are the most important people in our production landscape.” However, she added that as costs of production come down – and secondary channels and streaming services make new commissions – new opportunities are opening up. She cited examples including ABC’s Bondi Hipsters TV series, Soul Mates, and streaming service Stan’s series, No Activity.

Later in the presentation, Graeme-Evans proposed the creation of a national on-the-job learning program to give future TV makers a chance to serve an apprenticeship.

She said: “Could the screen agencies consider coming together to create a pot of cash from which the Shadow program can be funded? Perhaps the unions and associations can contribute, too. Or, perish the thought, the networks.

“Further, perhaps this becomes the first part of what could develop, over time, into a joint strategic training plan for the whole industry – run over a number of years in areas of perceived need and with agreed aims. At the moment, we all do our own State-based programs and initiatives separately. And the ways things are set up are governed by each State Government’s expectations for its own part of the industry in Australia.

“Now, I can’t see individual State Agencies agreeing to trade away competitive edge where attracting shows to their state is concerned. But training? It might make sense.” She warned: “If we don’t, maybe soon there really will less than 10 writers in the country the networks approve to write their high end shows.”

And she also called for overseas-based streaming services such as Netflix to be taxed and the money used to make more local content. She said: “Could Netflix, or Amazon be tithed to create an alternative source of funds? Support the Australian industry by putting 10%, say, of acquisition budgets ie for the programs they do not originate, into a pot that can be used to commission Australian programming.

“Or, and I reckon we’d love this, what about 10% of the budget of the original drama it shows. Australia’s making money for the SVODs. Some of it should come back home. Yes, I know it’s a free range thought. But, supporting our local producers and our local FTA networks – who must make Australian content as a condition of their licences – out of, in effect, a different kind of license fee is worth thinking about.

“And imagine if we could snare 10% of the value of Game of Thrones, or House of Cards or… I can hear the shrieks from here. Impossible. Ridiculous. Can’t be done.

Robbery! Why? Unpop that box of lawyers, I say, have a go. You won’t get everything but you might get more cash into the industry that doesn’t come from government.”

by Tim Burrowes – mumbrella – November 16, 2016 10:26

ADG launches shadow directing initiative for female directors in TV drama

The Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) is offering up shadow directing opportunities for female directors on Australian TV dramas.

Thanks to funding given to the organisation through Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Careers initiative, up to six female directors over the next year will have the opportunity to direct an episode of a show while being ‘shadowed’ by an experienced TV drama director.

The first two shows to participate will be Playmaker Media’s Love Child and Seven Productions’ Home and Away in early 2017.

ADG CEO Kingston Anderson said this was the first time a scheme of this type – directly targeting female television directors – had been developed.

“It will provide real job opportunities for experienced female directors to enter the television industry,” he said.

Screen Australia’s head of production Sally Caplan said it was thrilling to see the ADG already putting their Gender Matters: Brilliant Career funding to work to offer high-profile opportunities to the next generation of female directors.

“We congratulate the ADG and all the partner production companies involved in shaping this program, and encourage those applying for the Shadow Directing roles to give it their all.”

Other shadow directing opportunities with participating production companies and shows will be announced in 2017.

To be eligible, potential applicants need to:

• Have directed TWO short drama films that have been selected for public screening

or ONE feature or short drama film that has screened at Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Busan, Rotterdam, SXSW or Telluride.

• Have completed a directors’ attachment on a feature film or TV drama show or have significant experience in the film or television industry in a related field, for instance as a First AD or editor or have significant experience as a director in other media such as documentary or commercial content.

Applications close December 16. For more information and an application form, email development@adg.org.au or call (02) 9555 7045.

Media Release – Thursday 10 November 2016