Screen Australia development funding to 40+ drama projects, online & movies

New projects from Toni Collette, Baz Luhrmann, Asher Keddie, Margot Robbie

Screen Australia has announced 14 feature films, eight online projects and 20 television dramas that will share in $1.6 million of Story Development funding.

The latest slate includes Toni Collette’s directorial debut with feature film The Best Of, and ambitious anthology of Shakespeare’s works re-imagined by teams of creators including Leah Purcell, Elise McCredie and Anchuli Felicia King called Shakespeare Now.

Screen Australia’s head of development Nerida Moore said, “While this has been a turbulent, challenging time for many in the industry, it hasn’t stopped the drive, passion and imagination of Australian creative teams. In fact we have continued to see applications coming through with really strong and distinctive content, with the application numbers across March-June this year up 76% on the same period last year.

“It’s exciting to see re-imaginings of well-loved stories such as Shakespeare Now and an animated series inspired by The Sapphires. We continue to support storytelling on all platforms, with two online series from comedians Gabriel Willie (better known as Bush Tucker Bunjie) and Chloe Black who are each creating their first scripted narrative comedies.”

This slate is the final funding awarded in the 2019/20 financial year. During this period Screen Australia received 534 Story Development applications across the Premium and Generate Funds, up 41% from the 378 applications received in 2018/19. In the last 12 months, Screen Australia has provided funds to a total of 110 projects out of a pool of 508 projects that were creatively assessed. This included 50 through the Generate Fund for lower budget projects and 60 through the Premium Fund for higher budget projects from established creators.

Moore continued, “We are really pleased to see more ambitious television projects in the pipeline, with 32 television projects funded through the Premium stream in the past 12 months, up from 12 projects last year.”

In April 2020 Screen Australia launched the Premium Plus Fund to provide late-stage development funding to high-budget projects with firm market interest that were impacted by COVID-19. In this time, the agency funded 17 projects. Recipients include ABC drama The Newsreader and feature film You Won’t Be Alone. The fund closed on 31 July 2020.

The TV projects include development funding going to Bunya Entertainment, Northern Pictures, Princess Pictures, East Tiger, Lingo Pictures, Goalpost Television, Hoodlum Entertainment, Endemol Shine Banks, Beyond Entertainment, Porchlight Films, Every Cloud Productions, See-Saw Productions, Bazmark (Baz Luhrmann), Hopscotch Features and December Media.

Television projects include:

• Six-part dramedy New Animal, from writer Marieke Hardy (Laid), based on the upcoming debut novel by Ella Baxter. The television series follows 28-year-old oddball Amelia who works as a cosmetician at a family funeral parlour. After the sudden death of her mother, she is drawn into the local BDSM community in an attempt to deal with her grief. New Animal will be produced by Jason Stephens and Helen Bowden of Lingo Pictures (Lambs of God).

• Shakespeare Now, an anthology of adaptations of Shakespeare’s works for television, including Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Macbeth, Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night. The works are led by teams of all-female creatives including Anya Beyersdorf (It’s Me), Corrie Chen (Five Bedrooms), Lucy Coleman (Hot Mess), Elissa Down (Feel the Beat), Anchuli Felicia King (play White Pearl), Michelle Law (Homecoming Queens), Claire McCarthy (The Luminaries), Elise McCredie (Stateless), Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson), Amelia Roper (The Great), Sarah Scheller (The Let Down), Nadine von Cohen, Vivienne Walshe (Everything’s Gonna Be Ok), and Rachel Ward (Palm Beach). This project is executive produced by ABC’s Sally Riley; Lucky Chap Entertainment’s Margot Robbie, Brett Hedblom, Tom Ackerley and Josey McNamara (Maid); and Tracey Robertson, Nathan Mayfield and Kerrin McNeil of Hoodlum Entertainment (Harrow). It will be developed with the support of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

• Toni Collette’s directorial debut with The Best Of, a feature film based on the novel by Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project) and written for the screen by comedian and writer Mark Watson. This romantic comedy follows amateur musician turned IT specialist Adam Sharp who has a stable, unexceptional life with his matter-of-fact wife Claire. But when his first love, Angelina, gets in touch with an offer of reuniting, Adam must choose between the fantasy of a life unlived and the reality of his marriage in its quiet beauty. This project will be produced by Collette and Christopher Simon (Miss You Already), and co-produced by Jen Turner.

• The Sapphires Animation, a television series inspired by hit Australian film The Sapphires. This series re-imagines Gail, Julie, Cynthia and Kay growing up in today’s world, as they follow their musical dreams and learn about life, love, and who they are in the process. A celebration of sisterhood, sass and sweet grooves, this project will be written by Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road) and produced by Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne with Tony Briggs, who worked on the original film.

• A Top End Wedding Story, a one-hour comedy drama series based on the Australian movie Top End Wedding. From Goalpost Television with writers Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler, producers Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne and co-producers Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler.

• The Sisters Antipodes, from Endemol Shine Banks. A drama set in 1965, two families collide. Affairs ignite, couples switch and the scandal pushes the realigned families to opposite sides of the world. Reeling, two little girls are given each other’s fathers. The Sisters Antipodes is the ensuing story of the lifelong competition between them and the tragedy that ends it. Writers Fiona Seres and Rebecca Rigg, producers Imogen Banks and Asher Keddie.

Asher Keddie

• Full list of the latest funding approvals for television development here.
• Full list of the latest funding approvals for feature film development here.
• Full list of the latest funding approvals for online development here.

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