‘Two Hands’ TV series among Screen Australia’s 28 recipients of Story Development Funding

Gregor Jordan's crime comedy goes to series, a live action family film from Ludo, and a gay romance anthology are among projects sharing $950,000.

Screen Australia has announced that its final 2020/21 Story Development Funding round of $975,000 will be shared between 12 feature films, 13 television dramas and three online projects.

The Story Development Fund is for fictionalised stories of any genre and is open for applications year-round, and can be applied to any stage of a project’s creation towards production. These announcements chug along throughout the year and give a picture of what’s going in production and the kinds of ideas being developed. In this round, feature films become TV series, animators delve into feature film, and comedy looks back to counter-culture 70s and 90s sitcoms.

Read more: March 2021: Screen Australia announces 21 projects for story development funding

The projects receiving development funding this time include: a television series inspired by the 1999 film Two Hands from director Gregor Jordan; a live-action family feature film, Staycation, from the producers of the phenomenal kids’ animation series Bluey (their first foray into features); and an anthology feature from 10 different writer-directors following moments in a gay love story, produced by Michael McMahon and Mat Govoni and executive produced by Tony Ayres.

The Two Hands news is interesting to those of us enjoying a 90s retrospective that also makes us feel old. The crime-thriller-comedy (originally starring Heath Ledger, Bryan Brown and Rose Byrne) set in Kings Cross, could make for great series TV. The now-deemed-classic film was also programmed for special event screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival, with live music by garage band The Murlocs. (Latest restrictions throw this up in the air.)

In the media release, Screen Australia’s Head of Development Nerida Moore said, ‘Screen Australia is really proud to be supporting this impressive mix of projects. This includes fresh genre-bending comedies HOME and Our Haunt, and beautiful romantic drama 10 Moments that will bring together 10 chapters from a great team of exciting creative voices. It’s also wonderful to support more children’s content with Big Serious Studios’ Goo Zoo set to invite children into the world of microbiology as part of the company’s aims to deliver more STEM content for kids.’

The release said that in the last financial year, Screen Australia received 397 Story Development applications across the Premium and Generate Funds, and has provided funds to a total of 83 projects out of a pool of 387 projects that were creatively assessed.

Those aren’t terrible odds at all.

This included 45 through the Generate Fund for lower budget projects, and 36 through the Premium Fund for higher budget projects from established creators.

There were also two projects funded through the Premium Plus Fund for critical late-stage development funding to high-budget projects with firm market interest that were impacted by COVID-19 during 2020: The Newsreader (set to air on the ABC on 15 August) and New Gold Mountain which is coming to SBS later this year.

(We talked to Screen Australia’s Nerida Moore back in 2019 about the different strands of story development funding if you want background.)

THE LATEST PROJECTS FUNDED FOR DEVELOPMENT INCLUDE:

  • 10 Moments: An anthology feature film telling the love story of Chris and Ben, two very different men who have a special connection. Ten key moments, from when they first meet through the years that follow, will be brought to the screen by 10 different writer/directors across a range of genres. The creative team currently includes writer/directors Neil Triffett (EMO The Musical), Roger Monk (The Unusual Suspects), Adrian Chiarella (Black Lips) and Brendon McDonall (The Dam). The film will be produced by Michael McMahon (Cut Snake) and Mat Govoni (Lone Wolf) and executive produced by Tony Ayres (Clickbait).
  • Goo ZooA 26-part animated children’s series set in a petri dish, in a world populated by microbes. Following the fun and wacky adventures of Tina the Amoeba, this television series from Big Serious Studios will bring to life an amazing microscopic world. Goo Zoo will be directed by Charlotte Rose Hamlyn (Kangaroo Beach) and David Peers (Happy Feet 2). Hamlyn will also write alongside Bruce Griffiths (Spongo, Fuzz & Jalapena), Maria Lewis and Roshelle Fong, with ARIA Award-winning band Art Vs Science lending their musical talents. The series will be produced by Katrina Peers (Legend of the Guardians).
  • HOME: An eight-part series written by Patrick Durnan Silva and Honor Wolff of award-winning comedy duo Hot Department (featured on At Home Alone Together). HOME is a comedy series inspired by the classic 90’s sitcom, set in an absurd and elastic universe. Whiplashing through a mixture of odd, horrendous and hilarious scenarios and characters, The Funkles’ ‘nuclear family’ is pushed to the verge of implosion. HOME will be directed by Hot Department director Liam Fitzgibbon, and executive produced by Jono Mastrippolito (A Life in Questions: Wisdom School with Aaron Chen).
Patrick Durnan Silva and Honor Wolff of comedy duo Hot Department, currently developing online series Home. Via Screen Australia.
  • Our HauntAn eight-part television series about a hapless couple who buy an old Surry Hills terrace to do it up, but instead find their haunted house wants to do them in. Unable to afford to leave, they’re forced to become bumbling investigators of the previous occupants’ murders – flashing back to the counter-culture 70s and razor-gang 20s. This horror-dramedy series will be written, directed and produced by Daniel Reisinger whose 2018 series Sideswiped, featuring the likes of Jason Sudeikis, has gained over 50 million views online. The creative team also features writer/directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke whose credits include Haunting Of Bly Manor and Cargo, as well as Romina Accurso (The Heights).
  • Remembrance: An interactive virtual reality (VR) project that will allow audiences to explore the memories of a shell-shocked World War I veteran, in a quest to find the source of his repressed trauma. This project sees writer/director Anna Brady team up again with producer Lester Francois, whose 2018 VR project RONE screened at South By Southwest Festival and Cannes NEXT.
  • Staycation: A family feature film from the producers of Bluey which follows the dysfunctional Moore family, whose dream holiday is cancelled so they try to survive their summer break at home on a ‘staycation’. Tempted by the luxuries of the rich Smith family across the road, they begin living at their neighbours’ house and impersonating the Smiths. But they soon discover the other family are under witness protection. The creative team features writer/director Daley Pearson (Bluey), writers Donick Cary (Parks and Recreation) and Kim Huffman Cary, and producer Charlie Aspinwall (Bluey).
  • Two Hands (working title): An action-charged comic revenge thriller for television inspired by Gregor Jordan’s 1999 feature film of the same name. Writer/director Jordan (Ned Kelly) is developing the series with writers Melissa Bubnic (Shameless), Gretel Vella (The Great), Sarah Bassiuoni (The Heights), Greg Haddrick (Pine Gap) and Meyne Wyatt (play City of Gold). They are joined by producers Justin Davies (Psychoville) and Marian Macgowan (The Great) and executive producers Tim White (The Luminaries) and Chris Oliver-Taylor (Glitch).

In 2020/21, Screen Australia’s story development funding of $3,005,382 went to 30 films, 44 commissioned platform (TV) projects, and nine online projects.

Find out more at Screen Australia.

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