PRIDE ON SCREEN
The 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was one of the last major international events to happen before lockdown. Fittingly, the theme for 2021 is ‘Rise’ to mark the overcoming of hardships and the tentative re-emergence of live events.
The colourful parade, an annual celebration of LGBTIQ+ diversity, will have its temporary home at the Sydney Cricket Ground to ensure COVID-safety for all involved. SBS, the official broadcast partner for the eighth year running, will broadcast to audiences across Australia and around the world, live and free on Saturday 6 March from 6pm AEDT on SBS On Demand (geo-block removed for viewers internationally), or the full parade will be on SBS and NITV at 7:30pm.
Mardi Gras week will be celebrated from 1 March across all the SBS channels with a variety of movies and programs including Faboriginal, Holding the Man, Deep Water: The Real Story and Australiana: Island Queens.
Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival (18 Feb – 4 Mar 2021) is underway in Sydney and on demand. Highlights include the non-binary indie feature, Under My Skin, an Australia/US co-production written and directed by David O’Donnell; and the lesbian coming-of-age film My First Summer, written and directed by Katie Found, which premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival last year.
BOX OFFICE AND CINEMAS
- Box Office: Glory over, The Dry and Penguin Bloom push for milestones. An ordinary US film hits number one, while The Dry pushes for $20m and The Furnace snorts back into view.
- Can Australian cinema keep reaping box office rewards after the pandemic? Right now, local films and the local industry are showing confidence in the market and cinema audiences. By contrast, writes Stephen Gaunson, the Hollywood studios are panicking.
- Currently in theatres, Australian films include Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, High Ground, The Dry, Penguin Bloom, Long Story Short, Operation Rainfall, and Disclosure.
COMMISSIONING & PRODUCTION
KIDS LIVE ACTION
ABC and Screen Australia have announced the commissioning of two new live action kids’ series, Parent Up and The PM’s Daughter, both of which will go into production this year.
Created by Justine Flynn (The Unlisted) Parent Up is a comedy action series for 8-13 year-olds. The synopsis: ‘Yu Na and Min Park want more excitement in their lives, but they don’t realise just how crazy their lives will become when they discover their once unremarkable parents are actually international spies and have disappeared in suspicious circumstances!’ Parent Up is an Aquarius Films production in association with Buster Productions for the ABC, with major investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW and Cutting Edge and support from ABC Commercial. Directors: Nick Verso, Chase Lee, Hyun Lee, Darlene Johnson, Neil Sharma and Justine Flynn. Producers: Angie Fielder & Polly Staniford. Creator/Executive Producer: Justine Flynn. Series Producer: Naomi Just. ABC Executive Producer: Mary-Ellen Mullane. International Distributor: ABC Commercial.
The PM’s Daughter is a political comedy-drama series co-created by Tristram Baumber. It follows teenager Catalina Parkes Pérez (Cat to her friends) who wants to fight the powers that be. ‘There’s just one complication: her mother is the Prime Minister of Australia.’ The PM’s Daughter is a Fremantle Australia production for the ABC, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW and financed with support from Fremantle International and the ACTF. Directors: Julietta Boscolo, Erin White, Alana Hicks. Producer: Alice Willison. Co-Producer: Kieran Hoyle. Creators: Tristram Baumber, Matthew Allred. Executive Producers: Chris Oliver-Taylor, Tristram Baumber. ABC Executive Producer: Mary-Ellen Mullane.
In Melbourne, principal photography has begun on Werner Film Productions’ (WFP) new NETFLIX/ZDFE 10-episode teen surfing drama, Surviving Summer. Created by Joanna Werner (Dance Academy) and Josh Mapleston (Ready For This, Beat Bugs, Dance Academy) Surviving Summer is written by Mapleston, Marieke Hardy, Magda Wozniak, Keir Wilkins, Gemma Crofts and Kirsty Fisher and will be shot on location at iconic surf beaches in Victoria and supported by Film Victoria. The story follows Summer (Sky Katz), ‘a fierce Brooklyn teen who is sent Down Under to live with family friends in a tiny coastal town on the Great Ocean Road.’ Katz stars alongside Brazilian rising star João Gabriel Marinho (Malhação), Australia’s Kai Lewins (Wild Boys) and Savannah La Rain (Content) and in her first foray into acting, five-time Queensland Junior State Surf Champion Lilliana Bowrey. Set up director is Ben Chessell (The Great, Giri/Haji), with Sian Davies (Bloom, The Gloaming) and Charlotte George (Big Smoke) also directing. DOP is Katie Milwright (Upright, Please Like Me) with water and surfing cinematography by Rick Rifici (Breath, Dirt Music). Production design by Paddy Reardon (Glitch, Underbelly) and costume design by Shauna Lovisetto (Five Bedrooms, Get Krack!n). Joanna Werner is Producing with Executive Producers Werner and Stuart Menzies.
Two documentaries, JUVIE and Movement at the Station, will receive production funding from The Guardian and Screen Australia under their joint online documentary initiative that allows Australian filmmakers to reach an international audience via one of the world’s leading English-language news sites, with documentaries streaming for free on The Guardian’s website later in 2021. Both films are between 25 and 30 minutes duration. (Previous Australian documentaries commissioned by The Guardian include Where The River Runs Red and Lost Rambos.)
JUVIE focuses on young people with first-hand experience of the juvenile justice system and brings together animation, stylised interviews and observational material. It’s directed and produced by Charby Ibrahim, whose short documentary Bright Lights launched on The Guardian last month. Ibrahim teams up with producer Britt Arthur (Paper Trails) and executive producer Jen Peedom (Mountain).
Movement at the Station follows New South Wales stockman Joe Hughes who rescues Australian brumbies and trains them using an unorthodox horse whispering technique. Hughes has become a practitioner of equine therapy, using the horses to help treat people living with a range of disorders including depression, addiction and trauma. The creative team features writer, director and producer Pete Ward, producer Lisa Shaunessy (2067, Killing Ground) and writer/producer Sam Emery.
SBS, Screen Australia co-fund three year program to foster diverse screenwriting talent: The Emerging Screenwriters’ Incubator will be run in partnership with screen bodies, providing 18 diverse screenwriters with employment in top notch Australian production companies over the next three years.
TV & STREAMING
- This week Disney+ launched Star, its new general entertainment brand on the service in Australia, NZ, Canada and Europe. Already the exclusive holder of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic content, Star is a library of film and TV content aimed at the more mature viewer, with added parental controls.
- Disney launches Star as Ten turbocharges streaming service. Ten was plucked from the boneyard by CBS two years ago. Now we know that its US owners will connect it to streaming. But Disney gets more powerful as well.
- Vicki Madden’s supernatural detective thriller The Gloaming (available here and commissioned by Stan) has been picked up by cable network Starz for the US. The series will debut on Sunday March 21.
- Film festivals 2021: Our calendar for the Australian year. The basic outline of the year’s larger local film festivals is now available, but plenty of details are yet to come. Here is the first list of goodies.
- Exploring solutions for a better world, Transitions Film Fest goes online. Now in its tenth year the documentary festival with a positive spin goes virtual. We talked to director Daniel Simons about the program and his latest reasons for hope.
- Australian Women’s Film Festival to debut, and it’s short films by women, for women. After postponing in 2020, the inaugural AWFF is set to launch in 2021 spearheaded by artistic directors Tahyna Macmanus & Kelly Tomasich.
- Sydney Film Festival is calling for entries from filmmakers for the 68th edition of SF2021 (18-29 August). The deadline for submissions has been extended to Friday 26 March.The Festival is on the lookout for compelling Australian features, documentaries and shorts, and encourages submissions from First Nation filmmakers from around the world. SFF also welcomes entries of any length to the Screenability program from filmmakers with disability. Head to FilmFreeway for details.
- The first online edition of SPA’s annual conference ran like clockwork last week, and though we missed the real live drinks in the bar, we’re almost sold on the convenience, especially the recordings of every session which are still available to ticket holders. Here is some of our coverage with more to come.
- Brave New World: screen industry debates the impact of policy earthquake. There will be a lot of hard tussling over the proposed reinvention of the sector in 2021. Screen Forever offered a taste of the issues.
- This is your new world, says Minister Fletcher to producers. The game is far from over, but the Minister’s speech at Screen Forever 2021 points to a whole new casino for industry funding.
- ALP missing in action on state of screen industry. Who thought of this? The ALP’s opportunity to comment on huge changes in sector regulation turns into a fireside chat about favourite films.
- Showrunning, Sera Gamble and the Australian model. The US creator of TV’s ‘The Magicians’, ‘You’ and ‘Supernatural’ talked power and intensity, while in another session local players Leigh McGrath, Stephen M. Irwin and Jeffrey Walker added their Australian experience.
- Meet the TV Buyers: what do they want in scripted and factual? In two sessions, some key buyers in factual and scripted talked about what’s rating and the gaps they’re looking to fill.
AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY CONFERENCE
- The next big event off the rank is AIDC 28 Feb – 3 March 2021 covering all things in the world of factual. It’s pretty much all online and we’ll be bringing you coverage.
- Highlights this year include keynotes from documentary heavy-weight Alex Gibney (Taxi To the Dark Side) and Netflix’s VP of Documentary Features Lisa Nishimura (Crip Camp), the Film Victoria-presented pitching programs The FACTory and State of Play, a new initiative to showcase collaborations between nonfiction stories and gaming technology. There’s also the Indigenous Creators Program, a dedicated strand of sessions and marketplace activities designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners; as well as the inaugural AIDC Awards.
FEATURES AND OPINIONS
- How Historically Accurate is High Ground? Close research by academics reveals the violence depicted is uncomfortably close to the truth.
- A Valentine for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary and cinema re-release, Mel Campbell writes a love letter to the iconic movie that makes her feel young and old all at once.
FILM AND TV REVIEWS
- Film Review: Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra is vivid and important
- Film Review: Unsound is a charming melody with some missing notes
- Film Review: Long Story Short seizes the years
- TV Review: Why Are You Like This self-skewers twenty-somethings
- TV Review: The End strikes and odd tone with tricky themes
- TV Review: Aftertaste is main course drama with comedy garnish
Vale Ian Richter, scenic artist. He was ‘a generous and gentle soul who loved the world and all its riches’, according to Michelle McGahey in her obituary for the Australian Production Design Guild.