2021 outlook: Diversity ‘as important as ever’, says Every Cloud’s Fiona Eagger

Fiona Eagger.

The industry’s proactive approach to the coronavirus pandemic should serve as an example for other areas of the sector, including in the development of new voices, producer Fiona Eagger says.

Eagger’s company Every Cloud Productions, which she co-founded with Deb Cox, felt the pandemic’s impact on the industry last year as its productions were thrown into limbo.

She and Cox have since been able to build momentum across their slate, delivering A Sunburnt Christmas for Stan before Christmas and completing on eight-part series Eden, also for the streamer, with Balloon Entertainment.

They are also in the process of filming the second series of Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries for Seven/Acorn TV.

Eagger paid tribute to the federal and state agencies for finding innovative ways to keep production alive, while also assisting with budgets for COVID risk minimisation.

“When COVID-19 hit, we were financing Eden and we were about to go into production for another one, so it was stressful to work out whether these projects were going to go into production, and how to deal with COVID,” she says.

“We ended up having three things go into production, so we went from potentially having nothing going into production to being busier than we have ever been.

“It’s quite interesting that Australia has been one of the few markets to keep itself afloat, which has I think has been the result of a proactive approach from our federal agency Screen Australia, and also our state agencies.”

A new way of working based on social distancing was not the only byproduct of 2020, which also heralded increased discussion about diversity and representation through the rise of social movements such as Black Lives Matter.

For Eagger, who has been an outspoken advocate for greater multicultural and gender diversity in the screen industry throughout her career, the issue has never been more important.

“The events of 2020, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, have shown how important it is for the media to respect the realities of our world and use authentic voices,” she says.

“As an industry, we have to be so proactive in training writers, creatives and actors.

“Changing education systems can be a slow process but I think the cultural diversity in front of and behind the camera is a must.”

“You’re not going to make shows that sell if you don’t start addressing that.”

Every Cloud has worked to bring new voices to the forefront within the industry, including that of young filmmaker Vanessa Gazy, who wrote Eden.

Eagger identified the development of creative talent as a key part of ensuring the industry was accessible and inclusive.

“I think companies need to take a commitment to mentor and bring in new creators and writers.

“It’s about giving opportunities and being a little bit more rigorous where we find our creative talent.

“People have voices in a myriad of places, so I think we need to look at our artists across the board, including playwrights, authors, and poets, and work out whether there are some of those that can access the more traditional media of television and film drama.

“If they can, it’s important they have the chance to experience a production from conception to conclusion.”