‘Burlesque Blokes’ wins VICE and Screen Australia’s Pitch Australiana

The real Burlesque Blokes – MenXclusive Australia (Photo: James Le Tegola).

VICE and Screen Australia have announced director Isaac Elliott and producer Lucy Knox’s Burlesque Blokes as the winner of their joint annual pitching comp, Pitch Australiana, held at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) earlier this month.

The creators will receive $50,000 in production funding for a short form documentary commission which will be released through VICE’s global digital network, and broadcast on local TV channel SBS VICELAND.

Burlesque Blokes is an observational documentary that follows a group of male erotic entertainers as they go on tour. It explores both the gruelling schedules and how the performers navigate consent in-the-moment with female participants. It also looks at the personal toll their work has on their relationships, self-image and the financial realities of working in one of the only industries where in their experience, male performers are paid far less than their female counterparts.

Elliott and Knox said: “We are really excited to work with VICE and Screen Australia and are grateful to be given the opportunity to add a new chapter to the Australiana series.”

“Burlesque Blokes opens the curtains on an often misunderstood industry, delving into the lives of a group of male burlesque performers as they take their stage show from Melbourne to regional Australia. We’re excited to explore this world and the gender politics tied to it, while telling an entertaining story full of heart, hard work and an abundance of washboard abs.”

Pitch Australiana is designed to provide early career Australian filmmakers an opportunity to collaborate with VICE in telling a story overlooked by mainstream media. The three other projects pitched at AIDC includeCleaning Trauma, a confronting insight into the inner workings of Melbourne’s most successful trauma cleaning business; General Hercules, about a gold prospector searching in isolation for his fortune in the desert outside of Kalgoorlie, while nearby a mix of locals and FIFO workers operate Australia’s largest open pit mine; and Boxed In, about an ex-cage fighter who fronts the local drug epidemic head on by teaching kids at risk the discipline of Muay Thai Boxing on the banks of the Murray River.

2018 winner Shooting Cats: Australia’s War on Feral Cats, was directed by Inday Ford and produced by Dylan Blowen, and looked at the catastrophic impact feral cats have on Australian wildlife and the complexities environmentalists face in their attempt to find solutions to this epidemic. The project which was released in November 2018 has had over 700,000 views on VICE’s YouTube channel.

“Pitching a project live in front of a panel of representatives from VICE, Screen Australia, and the documentary community in a public forum at a major documentary conference is no easy feat,” said Screen Australia head of documentary Bernadine Lim.

“Isaac Elliott and Lucy Knox really seized this opportunity and presented an insightful documentary that opens a door into a divisive profession revealing the unique challenges faced by those working within it. I congratulate all those who pitched in the forum and look forward to seeing this project on VICE later this year.”

VICE Australia head of video Katy Roberts said: “There was an incredibly strong set of finalists pitching at AIDC this year, so credit to them all — they made the decision difficult. We’re particularly excited about Isaac and Lucy’s winning documentary pitch, and know it will throw a unique and dynamic lens onto the ongoing Australiana series. Thanks to Screen Australia and AIDC for partnering with us again to make this possible.”