Rachel Okine.

Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford’s Aquarius Films has stepped up its feature film and TV drama development slate, collaborating with such creatives as Justine Flynn, Del Kathryn Barton and Huna Amweero, Clementine Ford, Anya Beyersdorf, Roger Monk and Rhys Graham.

The production company gained momentum after hiring former eOne and Hopscotch Features executive Rachel Okine in the newly created role of managing director.

Okine joined in March, just as the pandemic struck. After a pause when, she says, Aquarius’ focus on growth switched to survival mode, the development pace picked up.

The Unusual Suspects, a four-part crime caper for SBS co-funded by Screen Australia starts pre-production next week. A whodunit set in the Filipino domestic worker community in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, it’s scripted by Jessica Redenbach (Spirited, Rush), Roger Monk (Nowhere Boys) and Vonne Patiag (Halal Gurls).

Parent Up, a Korean/Australian kids spy comedy, is in advanced development for the ABC with Buster Productions and Justine Flynn, who created The Unlisted for Aquarius and the ABC.

Barton and Amweero will start work for Aquarius on Flower, an erotic drama, after they complete Puff, a Screen Australia-funded feature about a young traumatized girl who retreats into her imagination with Puff, the magic dragon who who was her childhood companion, for Causeway Films.

Alethea Jones is attached to direct Rock Eisteddfod, a teen musical drama-comedy scripted by Thomas Wilson-White and Yve Blake (Fangirls).

Sinet Chan, Anya Beyersdorf and Tara Winkler are co-writing an untitled feature about a Cambodian orphan who teams up with an Aussie in a fight to end child trafficking, based on Sinet Chan’s life. Jen Peedom is attached to direct.

Roger Monk is scripting Paradise, a romantic drama adapted from the article True Love in Nauru by Abdul Karim Hekmat in The Monthly. Rhys Graham is attached to direct the saga of two gay Iranians who met and fell in love in the detention centre, which Aquarius is co-developing with Tine Klint’s LevelK, continuing a relationship that started on Wish You Were Here.

Aquarius has optioned Clementine Ford’s book Fight Like a Girl, a feminist manifesto in which she uses a mixture of memoir, opinion and investigative journalism to expose how unequal the world continues to be for women. The plan is to turn the book into a TV drama series.

Polly Staniford and Angie Fielder.

The feature slate includes adaptations of Matt Okine’s debut novel Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips, based loosely on his pubescent years and the loss of his mother Roslyn to breast cancer when he was 12, a co-production with Jude Troy and Richard Finlayson’s Wooden Horse; and Dominic Smith’s The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, the saga of a celebrated Australian art historian who painted a forgery of a work by a 17th Century Dutch artist, written by Laura Jones.

Also, Hannah Kent is adapting her second novel, The Good People, set in an 1820s Irish village ruled by folklore and superstition. The latter two are intended to be European co-productions.

Universal Pictures is yet to set a launch date for Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music, which will close CinefestOZ on August 29. In the US the film starring Kelly Macdonald, Garret Hedlund and David Wenham was released on digital and cable-on-demand by Samuel Goldwyn Films on July 17.

Guy Pearce will make his feature directing debut on Poor Boy when he returns from his Amsterdam base. Scripted by Matt Cameron based on his play, the paranormal mystery-drama follows a boy who announces to his family on his seventh birthday that he is a stranger named Danny – a grown man who died seven years earlier.

The boy is yet to be cast. Pearce and his partner Carice van Houten will star alongside the previously announced Frances O’Connor, Richard Roxburgh, Callan Mulvey and Sarah Peirse, depending on shoot dates and availability.

Okine reflects: “We’re excited by the breadth and range of talent we’re working with and looking forward to getting these projects into production as soon as the landscape allows us to.”

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