Screen News in Brief: Stan accelerates growth to more than 30 productions a year

The local streamer makes a flurry of announcements; plus Screen Australia development funding, Jack Thompson turns 80, and lots more in our fortnightly roundup of news and views.

Stan Grows Bigger, Does Deal with NBCU

On Monday, Nine-owned streaming service Stan announced it was ramping up its slate of local and internationally produced Stan Original TV series and films. Volume was set to increase to over 30 productions a year over the next five years, and as part of this investment strategy, Nine’s production capabilities would be directed towards this goal.

The new slate of upcoming Stan Original local productions included:

  • Eden, an eight-part, hour-long original drama series from Australia’s rising creative star Vanessa Gazy and the creators of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Skins. Eden is currently in production.
  • Bump, a ten-part, half-hour original drama series starring Claudia Karvan, and reuniting the creative team behind Love My Way and The Secret Life of Us. Bump is currently in production.
  • Dom and Adrian: 2020, an original comedy special from the creators of the Bondi Hipsters, Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nick Boshier, is currently in production.
  • After The Night, a four-part true crime docuseries exploring the harrowing legacy of one of Australia’s deadliest serial killers: Eric Edgar Cooke, is currently in production.
  • Christiaan Van Vuuren will direct a new Stan Original Film written by Elliot Vella, Gretel Vella & Timothy Walker that is in advanced development.

Stan said it would also build on its relationships with state and national screen organisations, continuing initiatives such as the Stan and Film Victoria Development Fund and the Screen Queensland and Stan Premium Drama Development Fund.

Later in the week, Stan and NBCUniversal Global Distribution announced a long-term, exclusive content partnership that would see Stan become the Australian home of new productions from Sky Studios and NBCUniversal International Studios, as well as Peacock content produced by Universal Studio Group. This deal will see Stan become the home of new DreamWorks Animation TV shows produced for Peacock, in addition to NBCUniversal’s children’s programming, scripted and unscripted content from Sky Studios; as well as scripted library TV series and hundreds of blockbusters films from NBCUniversal’s catalogue.

Screen Australia Announcements  

  • Screen Australia has announced the two feature films, one television series, one children’s drama and five online projects that will share in $2.7 million of production funding. Projects include: Wyrmwood Apocalypse, a sequel to 2014 zombie film Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead; writer/director Sara Kern’s debut feature family drama Vesna from Sweetshop & Green; Nakkiah Lui and Gabe Dowrick ABC series Preppers; and Love Bug, another season of the IGTV series filmed in self-isolation, written and directed by Imogen McCluskey. The full release is here.
  • Completion funding was also provided to six-part series Loving Captivity which released on Facebook in July. Developed through the first COVID-19 lockdown and produced as original Stage 3 restrictions eased in Victoria, this romantic comedy follows a 30-something single mum Ally (Christie Whelan Browne), who reluctantly agrees to iso-date Joe, a flirt-machine she slept with before the world changed. The creative team features writer/director/producer Libby Butler, writer/producer Lewis Mulholland and producer Scarlett Koehne.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) says we’re falling behind

SPA has released new research [PDF] showing Australia is falling behind comparable economies in support for its local production sector in the face of the challenges brought by coronavirus. According to SPA the critical factor holding back recovery in Australia has been ‘the unprecedented and unwarranted freeze on local commissions, brought about by the suspension of quotas for commercial free-to-air and subscription television, and the lack of clarity as to whether they will apply in 2021.’ Read the full release.

Jack Thompson at 80: A Tribute

One of Australia’s most iconic actors, Jack Thompson, turns 80 this year. Together with SFF and the NFSA, David Stratton has selected three classic features to mark his milestone birthday and his 50+ years in the industry. The three films – Breaker MorantSunday Too Far Away (recently restored and preserved digitally by the NFSA), and The Sum of Us – will be presented online from Monday 31 August (Jack’s birthday) to Sunday 6 September. Afternoon and evening sessions are available, plus introductions by the filmmakers. Funds raised go to the Indigenous-owned and run health service Purple House, a charity close to Jack’s heart. Bookings and info here.

News from the West

  • WA studio proposal suddenly gets real. The WA government is now serious about supporting a studio complex in Perth and has asked for proposals in a month.
  • The 13th edition of CinefestOz Film Festival is currently underway in WA’s south (25 – 30 August). It’s the first Australian film festival to host screenings for live cinema audiences since the easing of restrictions. Opening with Jeremy Sims’ RAMS, and closing with Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music, other feature films on offer include Disclosure, Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt), Moon Rock for Monday, Unsound, Paper Champions100% Wolf, Combat Wombat, Swimming for Gold, The Legend of the Five; and a selection of documentaries including Slim & I, Brock: Over the Top, Coffee Heroes, Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky, Our Law, Rosemary’s Way and Wild Things. 
  • The CinefestOz industry program (27-28 August) is also available online this year, with in-person passes sold out.

Read: Parental Guidance Recommended: Michael Bentham on making ‘Disclosure’

Festivals Abroad

  • Toronto International Film Festival 2020 (TIFF) is set to take place September 10 – 19, and is one of the first big festivals to happen physically after COVID lockdowns. It will exist as a both limited physical event and online experience, through a combination of physical screenings, drive-ins, digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences, and industry talks. The full program is yet to be announced, but so far the only Australian film is Glendyn Ivin’s Penguin Bloom, starring Naomi Watts, who is a producer alongside Emma Cooper, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Jodi Matterson. A special presentation, Penguin Bloom will have three physical screenings and one online.
  • The Berlin International Film Festival has announced plans to run as a physical event in 2021. The festival has revealed its acting awards will be gender-neutral from 2021; instead of best actor and the best actress, a Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance and a Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance will be awarded on a gender-neutral basis. There will also be a new category called the Silver Bear Jury Prize, replacing the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize which was suspended in 2020 after Bauer’s Nazi links were uncovered. Another change in 2021: the Generation strand will only show feature-length films with a running time of at least 60 minutes. The Berlinale is set to run February 11 – 21, 2021.

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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