The Australian Directors Guild (ADG) has criticised FremantleMedia Australia for importing a Canadian to shoot Foxtel mini-series Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The production company has enlisted Canadian director Larysa Kondracki to shoot half of the six-episode series, currently in pre-production in Sydney.
Kondracki is behind 2010’s The Whistleblower, and has directed episodes of Better Call Saul, The Americans, Rogue, Gotham and Heroes Reborn. Aussie Michael Rymer will also direct.
In a statement, ADG CEO Kingston Anderson said the guild opposed Kondracki’s visa, claiming it did not meet the required Net Employment Test.
“Australian directors are amazed and astonished at the choice of a foreign director to work on a classic, especially as it is not a co-production and is being fully financed in Australia,” said Anderson.
“The Net Employment Benefit test clearly states that to get a 420 Visa there needs to be a net employment benefit for the Australian industry. As this production was always going to be shot in Australia and is fully financed by Australian money, including funds from Screen Australia and Foxtel, it clearly does not have any net employment benefit for Australians as one of the major jobs on the production is being given to a Canadian.”
Anderson said that this was an ongoing issue, particularly on TVCs, claiming that as many as 20 foreign directors were granted 420 Visas each year without meeting the requirements.
“It is clear to the ADG that the government has no interest in supporting Australian creative talent by not upholding their own rules when it comes to visa approvals and being inconsistent in the way it applies the rules.”
The ADG said it understood that a number of Australian directors currently working overseas were contacted about Picnic at Hanging Rock, but that no female television directors currently working in Australia were approached.
“In light of the recent Screen Australia figures stating that only 17 per cent of Australian feature films were directed by women and Screen NSW’s figure that only 22 per cent of TV drama[s] were being directed by Australian women, this is a slap in the face to all the good work that is being done by the industry to redress the balance,” said Anderson.
“It saddens the ADG to see Screen Australia, Foxtel and Fremantle Media supporting Canadian television directors at the expense of Australians.”
The ADG also announced that it will launch a campaign for better recognition for Australian directors, focused on “rights, respect and remuneration”. It argues that directors’ rights have slipped behind those of all other screen industry workers.
IF has contacted FremantleMedia for comment.