Screen News in Brief: Breaking the Ice, Victoria back in business

Cinemas open, feminist docs rule, production re-starts and Liam Neeson will be around town in Melbourne this month. Here's our fortnightly round-up of news, interviews and reviews.

CINEMAS, BOX OFFICE AND THE FUTURE OF EXHIBITION

After eight months in lockdown, Victoria is finally open for business again. Indoor cinemas are back this week, albeit with limited 20-seat per space capacity. This makes it hard for proprietors to make ends meet (and seems odd considering the rules around more spittle-risky venues like restaurants). Hopefully a continuing string of donut days will bring about relaxed rules.

Australian films now viewable on the big screen include Babyteeth, Dirt MusicRams and Never Too Late, as well as feminist documentaries Brazen Hussies, and for the first time on Victorian screens, The Leadership (Cinema Nova).

Written and directed by Ili Baré, and produced by Greer Simpkin, The Leadership follows a group of women in science on a leadership cruise to Antarctica. The film, which screened in online versions of SFF and MIFF, turns into a complex reflection on what it takes to be a good leader and the obstacles to women’s advancement in science and beyond.

It’s a good year for Australian feminist history in documentary, with Women of Steel also available this month for cinema screenings via Fanforce. A finalist for the SFF Documentary Awards, and jut announced as winner of the 2020 NSW History Council Applied History Award, Women of Steel is written and directed by 30-year career steelworker Robynne Murphy, who left a promising career as a young filmmaker (she was selected for AFTRS’s very first intake), when she became caught up in the Jobs for Women Campaign. Using rare archival footage and interviews to camera, Women of Steel tells the story of migrant and working class women fighting to be allowed to work at Wollongong’s steelworks in the 1980s. Their 14-year battle against BHP took them to the High Court and changed the rules for working women throughout Australia.

What is the future of Australian screen exhibition? An interview with Kirk Edwards, CEO of Village Cinemas, lays out some key ways in which the industry will evolve after COVID-19, with the help of a certain magpie.

Box Office: Rams does well, with feminists and returned terrorists following on. Numbers may be cruddy but cinemagoers have solid local options to whet their tastes for community.

IN PRODUCTION 

It’s Lights, Camera, Action again in Victoria, with at least 15 screen productions commencing across the state in the last few weeks, and the reopening of the Docklands Studios. In the big news for the state, announced today by Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher and Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson, Docklands is hosting the production of the $43 million action thriller Blacklight starring Liam Neeson. Written, directed and produced by Ozark co-creator Mark Williams, Blacklight is expected to create more than 500 local jobs for cast and crew, as well as 550 roles for extras.

Read: Seeing is No Longer Believing: the manipulation of online images

Other Vic productions include: Matchbox’s Clickbait and Every Cloud’s Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, as well as Kitty Flanagan’s six-part workplace sitcom Fisk (previously Entitled) for the ABC. Flanagan stars as a contract lawyer forced to take a job at a shabby suburban law firm specialising in wills and probate. Julia Zemiro, Marty Sheargold, Aaron Chen and Glenn Butcher also star. Fisk is one of Porchlight Films’ final productions and will air on ABC TV and iview in 2021.

The ABC and Screen Australia announced a second series of irreverent comedy Superwog (Princess Pictures) is in production in Melbourne now. Created by and starring brothers Theodore and Nathan Saidden, the six new episodes will dive further into Superwog’s volatile highly dysfunctional family as they struggle to navigate life in Australian suburbia.

Also in Victorian news Film Vic finds $19.2M stimulus cash as sector grinds into gear.  A new attraction incentive of $19.2 million will be used quickly as a longer term plan evolves.

In other funding news, NSW ramps up screen funding by $20M per year. With stimulus funding flying around, NSW pumps a substantial swag of new money into the screen sector.

MUST READ

REVIEWS

DATES FOR THE CALENDAR

  • The 2nd Asia Pacific Screen Forum will take place at HOTA (Home of the Arts, Gold Coast) and online 20 – 26 November.
  • 2020 AACTA Awards. The Industry Awards (previously known as the Industry Luncheon) will be broadcast for the first time via AACTA ScreenFest website and Foxtel Arts at 6.30pm on Friday 27 November. The 2020 AACTA Awards Ceremony will proceed across two sittings on Monday 30 November at the Star Sydney, and will be broadcast on Channel 7 on Wednesday 2 December.
  • 35TH Screen Forever: 16 – 18 February 2021. Venue: The Star Gold Coast & Online.
  • The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) 2021: a fully online event from  28 February – 3 March 2021. The theme this year is ‘Moment of Truth’ and first guests have been announced.

CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS

  • Submissions for MIFF 2021 are now open. If you’ve made a feature-length film, short film, XR work or episodic content, MIFF want to see it. 
  • Screenwise, the Sydney Film and Television Acting School is now accepting applications for the Founder’s Scholarship 2021. Now in its fourth year, this program continues to offer one talented but economically disadvantaged actor the opportunity to study. Valued at $35,000 the Founder’s Scholarship covers tuition fees for the 10869NAT Advanced Diploma of Screen Acting over the complete course of two years and includes production of the recipient’s Showreel and Industry Graduation Showcase.
  • The Australian Writers’ Guild is calling for entries to its annual Monte Miller Awards for unproduced screenplays or scripts of any genre or format. Dedicated to uncovering the hottest new scripts and writing talent across Australia, the Monte Miller Awards are a purpose-built and industry-recognised opportunity for AWG Associate and Student members to have their work showcased directly to industry decision-makers.The winning writers and scripts will be made eligible for AWG’s prestigious Pathways Showcase. Entries close 5pm Monday 23 November 2020. Fees are waived this year.

FILM FESTIVALS

  • The Sydney Film Festival’s Traveling Film Festival has partnered with the Independent Cinemas Association (ICA) to present two curated programs of 11 features and four short films, all designed to attract audiences back to local theatres. Known as the ‘My Cinema My Film Festival’ it will run in 19 cinemas in metro and regional NSW, Queensland, WA, SA and the ACT across November and December with a selection of Australian and international films.
  • The inaugural Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival (SSFFF) is set to run from 19 – 21 November at the Actors Centre Australia complex in Leichardt. Alex Proyas (Dark City; I, Robot; Knowing) is the festival’s Patron and Festival Director is Simon Foster. The international lineup includes 10 features and 41 shorts from 20 countries. Australian highlights include the world premiere of Mark Toia’s Monsters of Man as opening night film. Independently shot in Cambodia and described as ‘Predator-meets-Robocop’, the trailer for this ‘fierce action thriller’ has generated much anticipation. 
  • The Children’s International Film Festival (CHIFF) takes place in Melbourne and Sydney from November 27 to December 13. Now in its third year, the 2020 festival’s highlights include the Australian premiere of contemporary retelling of Lassie Come Home, the first three episodes of the new series Moominvalley, Australian animated adventure Daisy Quokka and a special 25th Anniversary screening of Australian classic Babe.

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