News in Brief: What a week – Bluey joy, Feds whack sector, fests are back!

Cry, laugh, fight, keep going. It's hard to know where to start, but Bluey will do. Queensland is the centre of the universe in this roundup of policy, production, awards and opportunities.

The impossibly cute award-winning animation series Bluey has just been greenlit for a third series. The ABC, BBC Studios and Screen Australia were thrilled to make this announcement today, perhaps as an antidote to all the disturbing news for children’s television coming out of this week’s announcements around local content quota ‘relaxation’.

Starring Australia’s favourite Blue Heelers, Ludo Studio will commence production on series three in Brisbane later this year. Australian viewers can watch new episodes from series 2 from Monday 26 October, but in other heartwarming and wholesome Bluey news, a special sneak episode will drop for Grandparents Day, Sunday 25th October. Fans can record a fun message for their Grandparents, or any beloved seniors in their lives, using the interactive Bluey AR Filter.  

But what’s really going on in children’s TV? Announced this week, the federal government is giving $20 million over two years to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation. But also ‘reducing and simplifying the Australian content ‘sub-quota’ obligations on commercial free-to-air television broadcasters’. Read the department’s full spin on the announced package and other changes relating to offsets, quotas and location incentives here. See below for our analysis.

Queensland Dreaming

  • Bluey’s being made there, Screen Forever’s happening there, and everything’s looking a bit Queenslandy this week. Not just because they’re largely COVID-free. Production and funding announcements are coming thick and fast from Screen Queensland and the Queensland Government, who are all about ‘boosting economic recovery’.
  • Up in Port Douglas, Dive Club, a 12-episode teen mystery drama by Brisbane-based production house The Steve Jaggi Company, starts filming in late October, with support from the Queensland Government through Screen Queensland. The wholly Queensland-made series will include post-production by Brisbane company Serve Chilled, and will be released in 2021 on a yet to be announced Australian commercial broadcaster, and outside Australia on Netflix. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk  estimated the series would create in excess of 110 jobs for Queenslanders and inject nearly $8 million into the economy.
  • Netflix has also announced it has commissioned its first Australian Netflix Original documentary, Microworlds: Reef, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen Queensland. Filmed in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, Microworlds Reef will be directed by Nick Robinson and produced by Electra Manikakis, Nick Robinson and Peta Ayers for Wild Pacific Media (Australia’s Ocean Odyssey, Australia: The Wild Top End); and Pete West, Louise Polain, Daniel Stoupin for BioQuest Studios.

Read: Steve Jaggi Company: We make the wrong movies and the industry is a scam

  • Three Universal Studio Group TV series – Young Rock, Joe Exotic and the 10-part Matchbox drama Irreverent – are set to film in Brisbane’s Screen Queensland (SQ) Studios, promising to generate ‘an 18-month pipeline of continuous production work for the state’s thriving screen industry.’ According to the media release, ‘Leveraging its local expertise and infrastructure, Matchbox Pictures will lead and oversee all three projects on the ground – partnering with Universal Television to deliver Young Rock and UCP to deliver Joe Exotic.’
  • Screen Australia has announced production funding for a new five-part comedy series for ABC iview, with support from Screen Queensland. Created and written by Enoch Mailangi, winner of First Nations writers workshop RAW, All My Friends Are Racist ‘follows two Zoomer best friends who make a pact to call their racist friends out, but instead of causing a revolution… they themselves get cancelled. The series will be directed by Bjorn Stewart (At Home Alone Together, Killer Native) with Kodie Bedford (Robbie HoodGrace Beside Me) writing and co-producing. Produced and executive produced by Liliana Muñoz launching Maximo Entertainment’s first scripted series, All My Friends Are Racist is executive produced by Hoodlum Entertainment’s Nathan Mayfield and Tracey Robertson, Leah Purcell and Bain Stewart, with Hoodlum’s Deborah Glover also producing.
  • Revealed: the Gold Coast’s hidden nest of entrepreneurial indie filmmakers. Disdainful of agencies, game for anything, addicted to genre, enthralled by risk, true indie filmmakers are hard to hunt and study. Until now, on the Gold Coast, disguised as simple business folk.

Film Festivals in uninfected states

  • Today sees opening night of Brisbane International Film Festival (of course, it’s Queensland!). Opening with the Australian premiere of Stephen Johnson’s High Ground and closing with Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, the festival will take place between 1 – 11 October. Other highlights include the Australian premiere of Catherine Dwyer’s Brazen Hussies. We’ll be bringing you coverage.
  • Next up is the Adelaide Film Festival (14 –25 October), opening with the AFF Investment fund film, Seth Larney’s sci-fi thriller 2067. Other AFF investment fund highlights include When Pomegranates Howl from Granaz Moussavi (My Tehran For Sale) and Eleanor Sharpe’s Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling.

Production & Funding Elsewhere

  • Pre-production has commenced in Sydney on the new SBS original commission The Unusual Suspects, a four-part heist caper from Aquarius Films’ Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford (Lion). Starring Aina Dumlao (Sanzaru, Ballers, MacGyver), AACTA award-winner Miranda Otto and Michelle Vergara Moore (Condor, The Time of Our Lives), it’s set in Sydney’s glamorous eastern suburbs and described as ‘a fun, yet gripping story about female friendship and a celebration of Filipino culture and community.’ The series was written by Jessica Redenbach, Roger Monk and Vonne Patiag, with Margarett Cortez as Script Consultant. In the directors’ chairs are Emmy Award-winning Natalie Bailey (RetrogradeRun, ) and Melvin Montalban (Rope BurnCupid). Executive Producer is SBS’s Acting Head of Scripted, Amanda Duthie.
  • Sweet As, the debut feature film from writer/director Jub Clerc, has received major production funding from Screen Australia, with filming to take place in Western Australia. Inspired by Clerc’s own experiences growing up in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia, Sweet As is co-written by Steve Rodgers, with Arenamedia’s Liz Kearney (Paper Planes) producing and Robert Connolly (The Dry) as executive producer. With major production investment from Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, Sweet As has also received funding from Screenwest and Lotterywest and support from the Western Australian Regional Film Fund and is financed with support from Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Premiere Fund and Film Victoria.
  • Also in WA news, Screenwest has announced eight female Indigenous writer-directors who’ve been selected as part of the RED project to contribute to an anthology of stories from a female Aboriginal perspective: Kodie Bedford, Debbie Carmody, Jub Clerc, Kelli Cross, Karla Hart, Chantelle Murray, Ngaire Pigram and Mitch Torres. The RED project is driven by WA Indigenous production companies PiNK PEPPER and Ramu Productions and Aeoteroa (New Zealand) company Brown Sugar Apple Grunt.

Awards News

  • The Australian Academy of Cinema Arts (AACTA) has announced that the AACTA Awards will go ahead this year with the usual modifications. This year’s industry awards luncheon won’t actually be a lunch, but will be streamed on Friday 27 November. The 2020 AACTA Awards Ceremony will be held across two physical sittings at The Star Sydney on Monday 30 November, with highlights broadcast nationally on Channel 7 on Wednesday 2 December. In the meantime, stay tuned for nominations to be revealed from 5 October (Best Short Film and Best Online Drama or Comedy), 1 November (most of the headline ones) and finally, 11 November (TV Craft, Documentary Craft, Casting and VFX).
  • The Australian Writers’s Guild has announced the nominees for the 53rd Annual AWGIE Awards across 19 individual categories, including feature film, television, documentary, theatre, audio, animation and children’s television. Individual category winners will be eligible for the Major Award, given to the most outstanding script of the year. Recipients will be gonged via an online ceremony, broadcast on Tuesday 8 December 2020, free to watch, with tickets available in late October. 

Moves & Shakes & Goodbyes

  • Warner Bros. has announced it will end its decades-old film distribution relationship with Roadshow Films in Australia and New Zealand. Roadshow’s current contract to handle  theatrical releases of Warner titles will not be renewed beyond its expiry at the end of December, with Warner’s films reported to be handled by Universal from the beginning of 2021.
  • Executive Director Diana Burnett will depart the Australian Directors’ Guild to take up the role of Studio Manager at Animal Logic.
  • Screen’s most famous bro duo to leave Shine. Banijay reshapes Endemol Shine Australia without its swashbuckling co-CEOs, Mark and Carl Fennessey.
  • Feminist icon and singer Helen Reddy dies aged 78. Australian singer Helen Reddy, who co-wrote and performed the lauded feminist anthem ‘I am Woman’, has died after a battle with dementia. She was the subject of Unjoo Moon’s recent debut feature, I Am Woman.

Deadlines & Opportunities

  • YouTube has announced three NIDA scholarships for creative individuals from historically underrepresented backgrounds to study at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. Launching in 2021, the YouTube Scholarship will be awarded to a successful applicant to any of NIDA’s six Bachelor of Fine Arts undergraduate courses, which span acting, design for performance, costume-making, props-making, set construction and technical theatre and stage management. The successful applicant will receive approx. AUD $14,500 per year for three years. Apply by 31 October.
  • The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) is teaming up with AFTRS and Doc Society, in partnership with Screen NSW, to launch the New Perspectives Pitch Lab, which will be held during next year’s event  (28 Feb – 3 March 2021). An initiative for emerging non-fiction talent with a social impact project in development or production, the  Lab aims to empower non-fiction storytellers to pursue and build support for the stories they want to tell. They’re looking for ‘stories that offer a rare insight into the often under-represented and overlooked aspects of what’s being reflected in the current zeitgeist – stories that break barriers and explore nuance over polarity.’ Projects are welcome from emerging storytellers and those changing genre or platform, on any theme or subject. Entries close Friday 30 October 2020.

Box Office

There’s a reason we put this last. Tenet, Babyteeth, Slim Dusty, The Eight Hundred. At least the opening of Melbourne should bring a bit more cash into the system. At the moment the most exciting thing in cinemas is a film about toadstools. 

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