News in Brief: Zombies rise in Dural, low budget features not dead, BAFTA nod for Babyteeth

Wyrmwood Apocalypse wraps shoot, while George Clooney and Julia Roberts have tickets to paradise in Queensland production boom. A grab bag of news, views, opinions and announcements.

Guts & Gore: Wyrmwood

In 2015 the Roache-Turner brothers released their rough-around-the-edges zombie film Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead which rose to top spot on Netflix. Now they’ve just wrapped filming on the next instalment, Wrymwood: Apocalypse, in Sydney’s Dural, with a cast and crew of 100. The synopsis says: ‘In a post-apocalyptic world, this film follows special-forces soldier Rhys, (Luke Mckenzie), who teams up with a group of super-powered survivors to save a young woman from death. With a high-octane mix of weird and wacky tropes, the action-packed film also features home-grown talent Nick Boshier, Jake Ryan, Bianca Bradey, Jay Gallagher and the sensationally talented, indigenous actresses Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan.’

Zalar is most recently known from playing Shevorne Shields in ABC’s drama series Mystery Road, while Barnes-Cowan made her debut in the ABC’s Total Control. ‘Now the insanely talented duo are coming together to dominate the living dead.’ Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a Bronte Pictures and Guerilla Films production. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW. Local distribution by Studio Canal and International sales by Arclight.

Ticket to Paradise sees QLD stand in for Bali

At the other end of the budget spectrum, George Clooney and Julia Roberts will be heading to Queensland this year for the filming of Universal Pictures’ rom-com Ticket to Paradise, directed by Ol Parker (Mama Mia! Here We Go Again).

The Hollywood A-listers are playing a divorced couple reunited in Bali for their daughter’s wedding. Attracted by the Australian Government’s Location Incentive program, the film will be shot exclusively at the Whitsundays, the Gold Coast and in Brisbane, and estimated to inject $32.7 million into the Queensland economy and create more than 1,000 jobs for local cast, crew and extras.

As per a recent AusFilm announcement, six out of 10 international productions entering Australia since July 2020 will film in Queensland. Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis project recently wrapped at Village Roadshow Studios, and this month Ron Howard starts production on Thirteen Lives about the Thai soccer team cave rescue. Amazon Original The Wilds S2 also films on the Gold Coast from April, Universal Studios Group’s Joe Exotic moves into Screen Queensland Studios in April, and Fremantle’s new teen series Taylor’s Island will also film on the Gold Coast. 

BAFTA nomination for Shannon Murphy

Shannon Murphy, the director of Babyteeth has been nominated for Best Director by the British Academy Film Awards for her debut feature. This follows a sweep of AACTA Awards, where Babyteeth won nine of its 13 nominations. Murphy will be competing against Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Sarah Gavron (Rocks). Four of the six nominees are women. Winners will be announced on April 11.

‘Originate’ low budget feature initiative

Film Victoria brings low budget filmmaking mojo to inclusion and diversity program. Film Victoria, in association with Robert Connolly’s Arenamedia and SBS, has announced a joint development initiative climaxing in a $1.5 million low budget feature with a cinema release before a national broadcast on SBS. It is called Originate and is designed to accelerate the development of a slate of creative-led fiction features, turning early draft scripts into production-ready screenplays through a three-part process delivered by internationally renowned UK-based story developer Angeli McFarlane. Applications are open and close 11pm Thursday 15 April 2021. Visit film.vic.gov.au for details.

The Geography of Friendship to be adapted by Aquarius Films and Dollhouse Pictures

Sally Piper’s novel The Geography of Friendship will be adapted and developed into a 6 x1 hour series by Aquarius Films’ Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford, alongside Dollhouse’s Jessica Carrera and Rose Byrne executive producing. Screenwriter Guila Sandler will adapt the story about three female friends united after years of estrangement. Gracie Otto is attached to direct, and Krew Boylan will be a writer. No broadcaster or streamer has been announced yet. 

Announcements

  • Screenworks announces Regional to Global Screen Forum program. Keynoted by Screen Australia’s Head of Indigenous and featuring over 40 speakers across three days, the Forum seeks to unite the industry that COVID scattered. Featuring a 3-day lineup of over 40 speakers, the Screen Forum will be held both in-person and online, with a conference taking place in Lennox Head, Northern NSW, from 25 to 27 March.
  • PAX Aus returns to Melbourne after a year online. The festival will be held in person this year and gamers are rejoicing.
  • Screen Australia head of Indigenous Penny Smallacombe has announced she will depart the agency in June after six and a half years. She joined Screen Australia in 2014 and has overseen some of the Indigenous department’s greatest successes. She will announce her next moves soon.
  • Variety has announced that Leah Purcell’s SXSW-bound feature The Drover’s Wife has been acquired by Samuel Goldwyn for North America. (Roadshow are releasing in Australia.)
  • South Australia’s inaugural Film Lab New Voices skill development program has announced its first three teams who will be mentored by story development mentor Louise Gough across a 12-month period, to develop a low budget feature script, with one chosen to be produced and premiered at Adelaide Film Fest in 2022. The selected teams are: writer/director Peter Ninos and producer Georgia Humphreys; writer Lucy Campbell, producer Bettina Hamilton and director Matt Vesely; and writer/director Madeleine Parry and producer Peta Bulsara (Astbury).

Opinions & Reviews

Calls for Entries

  • 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.
  • Short filmmakers from anywhere in Australia are invited to submit their short films (3 to 20 minutes) to the Stories of Tasmania Short Film Competition at the 2021 Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival. Tourism Tasmania and Brand Tasmania are providing prizes of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 for the top three rated films. The twenty shortlisted films will be screened to 30,000 viewers nationally in the free BOFA Online Film Festival (3–30 May), plus receive a year’s free subscription to Forty South magazine. Deadline for entries is 28 March.

Film Festival Highlights

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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