2019 outlook part 5: Deanne Weir hatches ideas to encourage private investment

Deanne Weir.

Given the commercial pressures facing Australia’s free-to-air networks and funding agencies, the industry should look to private investors to fill the widening gap in financing TV dramas and features, according to Deanne Weir.

The chair of Hoodlum Entertainment who also runs her own investment company, Weir is talking to Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason about how to encourage private investment in the screen sector.

“We have to find ways to create an investor class, particularly as the financing gap in television becomes more of an issue,” she tells IF. “We have to help producers become more pro-active and to educate private investors.”

In the final part of IF’s series on the challenges and opportunities for the screen industry, IF also spoke to Animal Logic CEO Zareh Nalbandian and Ausfilm CEO Debra Richards.

Pre-production has started in Sydney on Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit 2, a co-production between Animal Logic Entertainment and Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment. The firm will soon deliver LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part to Warner Bros. and VFX for Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel. Work has started on another animated movie for WB at AL’s Vancouver studios.

“We’ve had a solid start to the year but the jewel in the crown for us will be another Animal Logic Entertainment family film out of Sydney,” says Nalbandian. “We have a fantastic slate of projects across our relationships with studios and I am optimistic one of those will land in Australia this year.”

He soon hopes to reveal the first project from genre label Truant Pictures and from its joint venture with Imagine Entertainment, which includes an animated film he is developing with maestro Ron Howard.

Richards sees plenty opportunities for the screen industry this year, hailing the Federal Government’s $140-million, four-year Location Incentive Program as a boon which “keeps us competitive and at the table.”

Ausfilm’s initiatives this year include hosting a networking event at the VES (Visual Effects Society) Awards in LA on February 5; G’Day USA; Partner with Australia, which will set up meetings in LA for 10 or more producers chosen by screen agencies; the Australia-China Film Industry Exchange; and Ausfilm Week.

Weir’s confidence in helping to educate private investors about why they should look at putting their money into TV dramas or features stems partly from the success of the Documentary Australia Foundation and Good Pitch Australia, which raised $20 million in donations for docs in the past 10 years.

“People who are motivated to donate can be motivated to invest,” she says. With Cass O’Connor, a Goalpost Pictures director and investor, she is a developing a pilot scheme which will be refined through the year. One possibility is a 20 per cent tax rebate similar to that for early stage innovative companies.

Weir’s investment company WeirAnderson has invested in Goalpost’s I Am Woman, producer Alex White’s Babyteeth and Every Cloud Productions’ Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears.

She is developing with filmmaker Sophie Mathisen Sugar (working title), a documentary which will look at sugar babies and sugar daddies (which precedes the infamous case of Nationals MP Andrew Broad).

Wearing her Hoodlum hat, she is excited about the slate overseen by Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield, which includes Harrow 2 now shooting in Queensland; Network 10’s drama series Five Bedrooms created by Michael Lucas and Christine Bartlett and directed by Peter Templeman; and an anthology which will retell Shakespeare’s plays from female perspectives, a co-venture with Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap Entertainment, the ABC and ABC Studios International.

As for the prospects of a second season of Tidelands, she says: “Netflix has been fantastically supportive of the show. Stay tuned.”

Shows such as Tidelands, Harrow and Playmaker Media’s Bloom, she says, “demonstrate we can tell locally-relatable stories with international appeal; there is a world of opportunities. We want to push the envelope on quality: that’s the key to being competitive.”