Screen News in Brief: Production continues, festivals ramp up, Facebook plays hard

Maintaining bubbles of safety is key to the fragile ecology. Meanwhile, proposed legislation battling online giants threatens press diversity and we're worried.

The view from the rest of the world has Australia with the virus under control. Screen production from established players continues, albeit with restrictions and state support, but all fingers and toes are crossed the bubble won’t burst.

As Jungle Entertainment CEO Jason Burrows told Deadline Hollywood this week, ‘At the moment we’ve got new film and TV production incentives that add up to 30% of qualifying Australian expenditure. We’ve got a very competitive exchange rate now. We’ve got very, very low COVID-19 cases in New South Wales. We’ve also got very film-friendly regulations, and we have world-class infrastructure, studios and talent. We’ve got more talent home now than we’ve ever had, obviously, because COVID has been so terrible in a number of territories, including the U.S.’

  • Jungle, whose other team members include director Trent O’Donnell, writer Phil Lloyd and COO Chloe Rickard, is currently in production with two projects for the ABC: the drama Wakefield and feature documentary The Democracy Project (working title). Next up will be Season 3 of Mr. Inbetween, co-produced with Blue Tongue Films and Pariah Productions. The company is best known for Australian and US versions of comedies No Activity and The Moodys, and is actively developing US versions of Bad Mothers and Squinters.
  • Star spotting in and around Byron Bay must be even easier than usual with production underway on Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers featuring Nicole Kidman, Luke Evans, Melissa McCarthy, Asher Keddie and Samara Weaving. The adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s bestseller of the same name is being produced by Kidman’s Blossom Films, Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories and Endeavor Content. It’s been reported that the strictly quarantined $100m production began on 10 August to continue for 19 weeks at Kidman’s Southern Highlands property.
  • Also shooting in the Byron and Northern Rivers region of NSW, is Stan’s Eden, an eight-part, hour-long original drama series created by writer-director Vanessa Gazy and based on an original concept by Every Cloud’s Deb Cox. It follows ‘a devastating chain of events which lays bare the dark, hidden heart of paradise triggered after the disappearance of a young woman,’ and is produced by Fiona McConaghy and directed by John Curran and Mirrah Foulkes.  
  • Other Stan productions underway include ten-part series Bump, starring Claudia Karvan; Four-part true crime docuseries After the Night about serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke; and Dom and Adrian 2020 from the creators of Bondi Hipsters.
  • Screen Australia has announced $1.3 million of production funding for 12 documentaries. They include a second season of Love on the Spectrum for the ABC; The Department, a feature documentary going behind the frontlines of New South Wales’ child protection system; and online series There Is No ‘I’ In Island detailing the experiences of people in isolation throughout COVID-19 in Tasmania, from Rebecca Thomson and Catherine Pettman.

Film Festivals cautiously proceeding

  • Brisbane International Film Festival (1 – 11 October) approaches quickly with many anticipated Australian premieres, including High Ground, Firestarter: the story of Bangarra, and Bloody Hell, from Alister Grierson, described as ‘a pitch black comedy-horror in the vein of Sam Raimi. There’s also Brazen Hussies, Catherine Dwyer’s documentary about the women who changed Australia by fighting for liberation and equal rights. We can’t wait for this one. Produced by Philippa Campey and Andrea Foxworthy, Brazen Hussies ran an energetic crowdfunding campaign in 2018 and we talked to the inspiring young director at the time.

Read: Brazen Hussies: making trouble with feminist history

  • Adelaide Film Festival (14 – 25 October) has unveiled its program. Opening night film is the world premiere of Seth Larney’s sci fi thriller 2067. Produced by Lisa Shaunessy, Jason Taylor and Kate Croser, the AFF Investment Fund film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanten and Deborah Mailman. Read our full take on the festival program here.

Google and Facebook go head to head with News Corp and Nine newspapers and we tremble

It seems impossible to imagine a world in which we can’t share news on Facebook, but after lobbying from the Murdoch press and Nine newspapers, the government is introducing legislation to force Google and Facebook to pay for journalism. On one level this makes sense. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has drawn up the rules to “level the playing field” between the tech giants and publishers who are struggling due to lost advertising revenue.

But the social media network said that if the proposed legislation becomes law it will stop Australians from sharing news on Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram. They’re standing their ground. As Mike Seccomb argued on a recent episode of Schwartz Media’s 7am Podcast episode: 5 Reasons Facebook is ditching news, this has happened already in Spain, and the results were less news consumed, fewer sources used, and the death of smaller media players.

For a good backgrounder on this and its implications see the Saturday Paper’s ‘The next fight with Google and Facebook’. Or see how the BBC sees it from the other side of the world.

Moves and Shakes 

  • Film Victoria acquires new President. David Hanna takes over from Ian Robertson to keep the Board meetings lively at Film Victoria. 
  • The ABC has announced the appointment of Todd Abbott as head of comedy, succeeding Rick Kalowski who left in February. 
  • Coeli Cutcliffe has been appointed as Development Manager for the recently launched Wooden Horse. Former senior Porchlight Films executive Cutcliffe will report to CEOs Jude Troy and Richard Finlayson. Based in Sydney, Wooden Horse’s Recent productions include Waltzing the Dragon with Benjamin Law (ABC) and The Other Guy Season 1 & 2 in partnership with Aquarius Films for Stan. 
  • VR filmmaker and artist extraordinaire Lynette Wallworth has been announced as AFTRS’ inaugural Artist-in-Residence.

For Film’s Sake announces thirteen global projects for first edition of Attagirl

The thirteen feature film projects selected to participate in the maiden year of Attagirl – a lab dedicated to creating production and distribution pathways for feature films by female and non-binary creative teams includes the following Australian projects: 

  • The Circus (VIC): In rural 1950s Australia a beautiful, feisty circus performer meets a lonely and determined female farmer, forcing them to decide whether to confirm or follow their hearts. Writer/director: Emma Freeman. Producer: Leanne Tonkes.
  • Seeing Scout (QLD): In a western Queensland town, a young woman with physical disability and the local footy hero commence a sexual relationship which not only confronts and divides their small-town community but challenges the couple’s expectations of themselves. Co-writers: Tanya Modini & Stephanie Dower. Director: Tanya Modini. Producer: Stephanie Dower.
  • The White Girl (VIC): Odette Brown is raising her granddaughter Sissy on her own and has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing Aboriginal children from their communities. Odette must make an impossible choice to protect her family at all costs. Based on the Miles Franklin nominated novel by Tony Birch. Co-writers: Tracey Rigney & Tony Briggs. Director: Tracey Rigney. Producer: Damienne Pradier.
  • Common Ground (NSW/SA): When Omid arrives at a coastal hideaway on the run from Immigration, Kayla, a young surfer who would rather fish and trap rabbits than deal with Centrelink, wants him gone. Then the stubborn Kayla and idealistic Omid fall in love. But just as they begin to imagine a future together, Omid betrays Kayla’s trust and she reports him, extinguishing Omid’s last hope. Writer/directors: Eve Spence & Amin Palangi. Producer: Carolyn Johnson.
  • My Sister Ellie (NSW/UK): An Australian woman abandons her life for a British winter, determined to bring home her pregnant sister, the surrogate of her unborn child. Clutching at clues trailing from London to the Kent coast, her search sends her spiralling into memories of their past. Writer: Samantha Collins. Director: Laura Scrivano. Producers: Jessie Mangum & Samantha Collins.
  • Fads & Miracles (WA): Denise is at breaking point. Her teenage daughter, Greyson, refuses to speak. When a charismatic teacher moves to town, he offers an enigmatic treatment that he promises will help, but when Greyson finally opens her mouth it’s not what Denise wants to hear. Writer/director: Zoe Pepper. Producer: Cody Greenwood.

Read: Deanne Weir talks to Screenhub about Attagirl Lab


Games World

Features & Interviews


Career Corner

  • Ask the Mentor: How can I move forward faster?
  • The Screen Business Essentials: Online Workshop is back for another two day intensive, presented in conjunction with Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). The course covers the commercial framework in which producers must operate, including issues surrounding the operation of a creative business from the ground up. Taught by a range of industry leaders, with Owen Johnston, Producer and Commercial and Industrial Affairs Consultant, SPA acting as the course convenor. Runs 14 – 15 October 2020, 09:30 – 17:00. SPA members: $400  |  Early Bird Guilds: $576  |  Early Bird Non-members: $720

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Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and 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. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk