News in Brief: Cameras roll on Total Control 2 while US version gets piloted

SBS cooks up its biggest commission, Megan Riakos leaves WIFT to get creative, and Australian films selected for Hot Docs. Our fortnightly round-up of industry news and reviews.

Cameras are rolling on Series 2 of the critically acclaimed ABC and Blackfella Films political thriller Total Control. Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths are stepping back into their award-winning roles as women navigating the corridors of power, with Wayne Blair joining the cast as well as directing all six episodes. Filming is taking place in Sydney, Canberra and Broken Hill.

This season sees Alex (Mailman) running as an Independent, and coming up against the dirty tactics and well-financed machinery of the major parties. Can she survive Australia’s political system with her hands clean and her values intact?

Also recently announced was the news that Disney’s ABC in the US has ordered a pilot based on Total Control, to be known as Dark Horse, with NBCUniversal-owned Universal Television and Keshet Studios attached. Dark Horse is being written by William Jehu Garroutte and has Jessica Goldberg (The Path) attached as showrunner. As reported by Television Business International, ‘Garroutte, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who most recently served as a story editor on Stumpton for ABC, executive produces the US pilot alongside Goldberg, Keshet Studios’ president Peter Traugott, Keshet Media’s Avi Nir, KI’s Alon Shtruzman, Darren Dale and Miranda Dear of Blackfella Films, and star Rachel Griffiths.’

Read: Will Disney toast distributors with streaming policy?


  • Box Office Report: The Dry is more impressive than you think while Nomadland shines too. In the lull before the holiday onslaught, The Dry passes $20 million. Meanwhile in China the highest grossing weekend flick is the first Avatar movie.
  • Australian films in cinemas now include: Girls Can’t Surf, Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling, High Ground, Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, The Dry, Penguin Bloom, Great Barrier Reef 3D, Unsound.
  • Opening today: Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Disclosure
  • Coming soon on our radar: Moon Rock for Monday (22 April), Rosemary’s Way (22 April), This is Port Adelaide (22 April), The Greenhouse (6 May), June Again (6 May).


  • What does Netflix want from documentary makers? Netflix offers some of the best documentary opportunities in the world. They are ultimately managed by Lisa Nishimura, a key guest at the Australian International Documentary Conference.
  • The rise of the tiny film. Short-form content: a symptom of the social media plague, or an exciting emerging artform? Screenhub talks to two TikTok producers and a Very Short Film Festival director to find out.
  • SBS has announced its biggest commission ever with 200 episodes of new food show The Cook Up with Adam Liaw to screen each weeknight on SBS Food from Monday 19 April. The half hour show will see the popular chef joined by two different friends each episode, for conversation, cookery and laughs.


  • Aboriginal horror short The Moogai wins at SXSW. Jon Bell’s The Moogai stunned the jury in the Midnight Short section at SXSW with its exploration of the continuing horror of stolen Aboriginal children.
  • A number of Australian films have been selected to screen at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (29 April – 9 May) which will run online this year. They include the world premiere of Matthew Walker’s debut feature I’m Wanita, about Australia’s self-crowned ‘Queen of Honky Tonk’ country singer Wanita Bahtiyar. Produced by Carolina Sorensen, Clare Lewis and Tait Brady, I’m Wanita screens as part of the Artscapes strand exploring creativity in the arts. Other features include Sally Aitken’s Playing with Sharks, Nays Baghai’s Descent, and Nel Minchin and Wayne Blair’s Firestarter.
  • Two Australian short films have also been accepted into Hot Docs: Sophie Raymond’s Recorder Queen; and Matthew Bate and Case Jernigan’s animation A Game of Three Halves: Where the F%*ck is Hamish?


  • Six West Australian LGBTQIA+ web series have been shortlisted to enter the development stage for Screenwest and Screen Australia’s ‘Out Now’ initiative and will each receive $2000 in development funding and mentoring with producer Julie Kalceff (Common Language Films), writer, actor and producer Tim Spencer (Wintergarden Pictures) and web series producer Melanie Rowland (Lilydale Films). Following the development workshops, up to three of the shortlisted applicants will receive up to $100,000 per project in further production funding.
  • Screen Australia commits $2 million to 10 new documentaries. The subjects covered in the latest round of funded documentaries ranges from ‘koorioke’ to fungi to social justice.


  • After nearly four years with Women in Film & Television (WIFT) Australia, Megan Riakos, the powerhouse activist behind the creation of the organisation in 2018, will depart the board this month to focus on her slate of projects as an independent producer with Hemlock & Cedar Films. The company’s most recent production, the Australian women in horror anthology Dark Whispers Volume 1, has just debuted on SBS On Demand as well as other platforms. Riakos recently wrote and directed an episode of the horror series Deadhouse Dark which premiered at Canneseries last year and will launch online on Shudder at the end of April, and she’s optioned rights to Robin Klein’s YA classic People Might Hear You, which she is developing for screen with Enzo Tedeschi (The Tunnel, Event Zero).
  • The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) has announced that CEO Annabelle Sheehan will step away from the role, after three years leading the agency. She is returning to Australia to complete her treatment for breast cancer.
  • Naomi Wenck has been announced as Screen Queensland’s director of production attraction and investment. In the newly-created role, Wenck will oversee delivery of the Queensland Government’s Production Attraction Strategy securing international and interstate production, as well as investment into content from the state’s own creative sector. Her most recent role was as head of production at Brisbane’s Like a Photon Creative, but she’s worked in the industry both as an independent producer and in senior executive roles across development, production, sales and distribution.





Diversity in Australian Media, in collaboration with Diversity Arts Australia and ArtsHub/Screenhub will publish a series of 20 articles that highlight the big issues facing underrepresented/marginalised creators and communities, while also offering strategies for change. It is important that we hear the perspectives of those with lived experience. The theme: Systemic Challenges in the Australian Screen & Arts sector.

This call for pitches is for writers/journalists who are Indigenous / First Nations / Black / People of Colour / CaLD/ disabled and understand the screen or arts sector well. Article word limit: 800 words. Payment: $300. Deadline: 1 April 2021. Submit your pitch here.

The selected articles will be published on ArtsHub and/or Screenhub and shared on the Diversity in Australian Media social media, Diversity Arts Australia website and other places. The writer will own the copyright to their article. If you have any questions, please email Ana Tiwary at:

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a journalist for Screenhub. She is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram