Applications open for SBS and Screen Australia’s Digital Originals initiative

'Iggy & Ace' writer AB Morrison and producer Hannah Ngo.

Aspiring drama practitioners with stories that reflect and explore the diversity of Australia in “innovative, entertaining and compelling ways” are invited to apply for this year’s Digital Originals initiative.

Delivered by Screen Australia and SBS, the program is designed to develop projects from screen creatives who have been traditionally under-represented for SBS On Demand and NITV.

Up to 10 teams (which must include at least one writer) will be invited to attend an exclusive workshop in Sydney scheduled for May 4-6, featuring a range of industry guest presenters.

The workshop will focus on short-form narrative writing skills, as well as developing the projects to align with the SBS Charter and SBS platforms, culminating in a pitch to Screen Australia and SBS.

Of these 10 teams, up to four will be chosen to take their projects into further development, from which three will be chosen for production funding and commissioning with Screen Australia and SBS.

Among the groups eligible to apply are those who are First Nations Australians; are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds; are living with a disability; are female or trans/gender diverse; identify as LGBTQIA+; or those who are located in regional and remote areas.

Screen Australia senior online investment manager Lee Naimo said the initiative had previously helped to uncover stories that added to the cultural landscape of Australian content.

“We have been incredibly impressed with the online original projects we have funded over the years, including critically acclaimed Homecoming Queens and Robbie Hood for SBS On Demand,” he said.

“The web series format is a terrific way for emerging practitioners to explore and develop their creative voices, and this year we are expanding our initiative by supporting up to three projects to fruition with production funding.”

This year, SBS will premiere two new Digital Originals projects – Iggy & Ace, a comedy exploring friendship, addiction, and recovery through a queer lens, filming in Western Australia in early 2021, and The Tailings, a murder mystery set against the west coast of Tasmania that celebrated regional communities.

SBS director of Indigenous content Tanya Denning-Orman said Digital Originals was a great opportunity for Indigenous voices to tell their stories on their terms.

“SBS, with NITV at its heart, is committed to the development of the incredible First Nations creative talent that exists around the country, and providing vital pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners,” she said.

“We can’t wait to see a range of new projects and practitioners in 2021, and look forward to the journey ahead with them.”

Naimo, SBS development executive Donna Chang and NITV’s head of commissioning and programming Kyas Hepworth will host a Q&A webinar on Wednesday, February 10 at 12pm AEDT for practitioners interested in applying for the initiative. Click here to register.

Submissions for Digital Originals close ay 5pm on Thursday, March 11. Click here for more information.