2020 marks the centenary of civil aviation in Australia and to celebrate the milestone SBS is airing WildBear Entertainment’s three-part documentary Australia Come Fly with Me, hosted by Justine Clarke. Australia Come Fly with Me launches October 14 at 8.30 pm on SBS.
The series will attempt to bring together pop culture and the history of flight as it explores how civil aviation helped change the Australian way of life.
Ahead of the launch, Mediaweek spoke with Alan Erson, managing director for WildBear Entertainment, about the importance of the history of flight in Australia, Justine Clarke, and how Covid-19 affected filming.
The series explores the opportunities and tensions created by air travel feminism, Indigenous Australians, the LGBTQI community and migrants. Erson said that Australians in particular, due to living in such a vast country, had their lives changed by flight.
“The story of people getting a fair go is an important strand in the history of Australia and this is what the series explores.
“It is a really interesting window in which to look at the history of Australia. SBS was looking to tell a story of diversity in Australia and the skies had been a place that Australians of a lot of different backgrounds had sought opportunities such as women, Indigenous Australians, migrant Australians and the LGBTQI community. Opportunity in the sky is a great way to look at Australia in the last 100 years.”
Working with Justine Clarke
WildBear chose a familiar face to pilot the series in Australian icon Justine Clarke. Erson said Clarke has a long history with jet setting dating back to her Home and Away days where she would fly across the country to do showcases in shopping malls.
“Justine relates to Australians of all ages and all backgrounds. Our children love her music and screen performances and we also know her as a five-star actor from some really classy Australian dramas.”
Taking off during Covid-19
Erson admits that it is ironic to be releasing a TV series based on air travel when there is a global shut down on international flights, but also finds it fitting that it aligns with the show’s ambitions.
“The premise of the series is what happens in the skies foreshadows many of the big changes that happened in Australia on the ground, and that is exactly what happened with Covid. Planes distributed the disease and aviation was shut down first and the people who work in the industry were struck the hardest and for the longest. It is really interesting looking at these big events through the prism of aviation.
“The thing we kept asking everyone was will we go back to the skies? We don’t know what is going to happen. It’s interesting to watch the series and see that people don’t think our love affair with travel will go away but just change.”
The show had finished production before Covid created a seismic change in the civil aviation industry, but WildBear and SBS agreed that the final quarter of the show needed to be changed.
“The last piece to camera that Justine does is standing on the runway at Sydney airport at 7am which is rush hour, where a thousand flights used to come and go a day, and she is walking down the runway and all you can hear is her shoes on the concrete.”
Australia Come Fly with Me airs October 14 at 8.30 pm on SBS.