Australians in Film and Screen Australia announce 2023 Untapped participants

Top from left are Miranda Aguilar, Samuel Leighton-Dore, and Tim Williams. Bottom (from left) are David Valencia, Grace Tan, and Neilesh Verma.

Australians in Film (AiF) and Screen Australia have unveiled the five projects that will be nurtured through this year’s Untapped Development Lab, which began last month and runs until December.

Grace Tan and Neilesh Verma’s horror/psychological feature Koan, David Valencia’s dramedy feature Here Now, Miranda Aguilar’s dramedy series Courting Ghosts, Samuel Leighton-Dore’s animated horror/comedy series Other Half, and Tim Williams’ dramedy series The Impatients were chosen from more than 380 participants for the program.

They will now take part in group and individual sessions, with each participant(s) given a professional mentor, script advisor, and pitch coach, plus an invitation to the AiF alumni network, which consists of Australia’s leading and award-winning content creators.

The development lab follows a series of open-access online masterclasses delivered by writer Aïda Mashaka Croal (Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Luke Cage), writer/director Amy Wang (Crazy Rich Asians 2), writer/director Andrew Ahn (Fire Island), Emmy-nominated writer/director Cherien Dabis (Only Murders in the Building), and Sort Of co-creators Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo.

The topics covered included ‘Creating Comedy that Transcends Boundaries’ and ‘Write What You Know: The Art of Personal Filmmaking’.

In welcoming the 2023 cohort, AiF executive director Peter Ritchie was pleased to once again be able to uncover “some of Australia’s most exciting new voices” through the program.

“We all know how hard it is to not only break into the industry, but also to maintain a career and bring a vision authentically to the screen,” he said.

“With the incredible support of Screen Australia and all our partners, Untapped, as part of AiF’s professional development programming is strategically placed to welcome the best emerging talent into a supportive network of international creatives who are currently working at the highest level in the industry.”

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said this year’s development lab participants exemplified the “depth and diversity of our world-class screen industry and how exceptional our emerging talent is”.

Supporting partners for Untapped include the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, South Australian Film Corporation, and Scripted Ink, while industry Partners include the Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers Guild, Screen Canberra, Screen Producers Australia, Screen Tasmania, Screen Territory, Screenwest and Screenworks.

The 2023 projects are as follows:

Grace Tan and Neilesh Verma (NSW)
Koan – Horror/Psychological Drama Feature
Synopsis: After recently being released from prison Anya finds herself caught in the grip of a mysterious online cult that watches her every move. When her estranged mother re-enters her life, Anya, now consumed by a delusion of divine purpose, finds her sense of reality begins to crumble.

David Valencia (QLD)
Here, Now – Comedy/Drama Feature
Synopsis: Struggling first-time parents Daniel and Sophie are determined to do the best for their young daughter with special needs — all while trying to survive each other, their families, a bizarrely-themed birthday party, and a rather unexpected arrival.

Miranda Aguilar (NSW)
Courting Ghosts – Dramedy Series
Synopsis: Self-conscious teenager Luisa-Marie can’t be honest with her online crush or herself, but when her Grandpa Ernesto dies, the only one who can help her grow up is his ghost.

Samuel Leighton-Dore (QLD)
Other Half – Animated Horror/Comedy Series
Synopsis: In the 1960s, a jaded marriage counsellor abducts a series of newlywed clients, surgically attaching them spine-to-spine and forcing them to compete in challenges designed to prove they are soulmates. Twenty years later, a documentary film student conducts interviews with the one surviving couple, who are divorced but not yet separated, in hopes of solving the absurd case.

Tim Williams (VIC)
The Impatients – Comedy/Drama Series
Synopsis: When a tenacious young wheelchair soccer prodigy is forced to spend his summer in hospital, he decides to put together a team of misfit patients to take on a group of bullies. In doing so, he starts to regain the sense of purpose he lost after his injury.