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Surprise batch of new TV and films as local entertainment industry gets major funding boost

Any new funding, says the MEAA is

Any new funding, says the MEAA is Photo: TND

The Australian film and television industry is about to get a major boost after Screen Australia announced $12 million in funding for four feature films, three television dramas and two children’s projects.

Back in March, after the previous government’s federal budget was handed down, the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance issued a statement saying the sector was “doomed” to return to the under-investment of the pre-COVID years after budget documents showed massive cuts.

It said it reflected a pattern of neglect and a lack of vision by the Morrison government.

So what has changed under the Albanese government?

Federal Arts Minister Tony Burke has said “shining a spotlight on Australian stories, is so important, not just for those in the arts sector, but all of us as Australians”.

“These stories contribute to our national identity, and I know these projects will showcase the incredible talent and creativity of our actors, writers, producers, directors and post-production workers – here in Australia and right around the world,” he said.

Shrunken funding

An MEAA spokesperson told The New Daily this week “any new funding from Screen Australia for Australian-made films and television is welcome as it keeps the industry busy and performers and crew in work.

“But for the last decade, the financial support Screen Australia has been able to provide to the industry has fallen due to cuts to its annual budget by the previous Coalition governments.”

The spokesperson said SA’s federal funding in 2013-14 was $100 million but had dropped to $92 million by 2021-22. In many of the intervening years, government funding was as low as $81.8 million.

“In our submission to the National Cultural Policy Review commissioned by Arts Minister Tony Burke, we have called for a substantial increase in funding to both Screen Australia and the Australia Council to restore some of this damage,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Burke confirmed that showcasing Australian stories – particularly First Nations stories – was a central part of “what I want to do as Arts Minister”.

‘Fun, joyful drama content’

According to Screen Australia’s Head of Content, Grainne Brunsdon, there is an appetite for fun, joyful drama content in the international market.

“We have a solid pipeline of impressive applications coming through this financial year. In our first round alone we received applications that exceed our total budget for the entire year, and the remarkable calibre of projects means it’s incredibly competitive,” she said.

She said there were a number of Australian “dramedies and romantic comedies” which will engage global audiences, and give more opportunities for local casts and crews to expand their skillset.

Northern Pictures will produce their first feature film Little Bird, while Arcadia brings to life their first episodic drama with While the Men Are Away for SBS.

Elsewhere, funding has been allocated for a third series of ABC’s award-winning high stakes Australian political drama Total Control, starring Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths.

Griffiths, who plays a conservative prime minister and created the series with Darren Dale, won an AACTA Award for best supporting actress in a drama in the first two series, while Mailman won in 2019 for best lead actress.

Times are changing

After the federal election in May, when six independents were voted in and before the Logies were held, Griffiths told The Sydney Morning Herald: “We could never have imagined, really, the sea change of the last few years, so I don’t really think we predicted.

“It was the trend that was there.”

She said they “failed utterly” to predict the appeal of the Greens, with writers “skewed a little older”, which meant “the youth-animated vote was a surprise, and it shouldn’t have been, because all these nice, educated teal ladies are great, but for young people who have just had their university fees doubled and can’t see how to ever get a house they are perhaps not the answer”.

Stay tuned for what’s in the third series.

Meanwhile, Paramount+ is launching its next crime thriller in Australia, with North Shore, after receiving some of the funding pool.

Created by Mike Bullen (Cold Feet), the six-part series is set on and around Sydney Harbour.

Screen Australia says it “follows the clash of cultures when British and Australian detectives team up to solve a complex murder mystery, and uncover a conspiracy with international political consequences”.

Over 2021-22, Screen Australia distributed more than $44 million in production funding for film, television and children’s projects. The agency provided a further $6 million to drama productions through the First Nations Department.

Other shows to get funding:

  • The Moogai, a horror film from Redfern Now writer and director Jon Bell in collaboration with Mitchell Stanley (We Are Still Here) and Kristina Ceyton and Samantha Jennings of Causeway Films.
  • Addition, the debut feature film from Becca Johnstone (Open Slather).
  • Went up the Hill, a New Zealand-Australian co-production from Samuel Van Grinsven and Jory Anast (Sequin in a Blue Room).
  • Rock Island Mysteries, A 20-episode second series for Network 10, produced by Timothy Powell, and Jonah Klein of Fremantle Australia.
  • The Strange Chores, A 26-part third season for ABC, from the multi-Emmy Award-winning production company Ludo Studio (Bluey, Robbie Hood) and Media World Pictures.
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