Shannon Murphy and Courtney Wise on the set of ‘On the Ropes.’
After working on both sides of the fence as a screenwriter/producer and broadcasting executive, Courtney Wise is determined to build her own TV drama slate.
Since securing a US manager, Fourward’s John Levin last April, she hopes to attract US finance to productions made in Australia.
Among the projects in the pipeline is Dreamscapers (formerly The Gifted), which received Screen Australia’s Gender Matters funding. She has completed the pilot and a bible for the 13-part horror drama which follows a 16-year-old orphan who is suspected of killing her father and is offered refuge at the Phoenix Institute for Gifted Teenagers.
The girl soon discovers the school is run by a highly evolved supernatural race preparing for a war against humanity.
Giula Sandler worked with her on the first draft and Courtney is keen to collaborate with her if the series proceeds. Levin thinks the concept would appeal to the US market and is putting her name up for other projects.
Also in the works is a contemporary drama series which deals with the challenges of modern parenting in Australia, set both in Sydney and a resort.
“I’m loving going back to the creating, writing and development phase and getting my own slate together, which I wasn’t able to do full time before,” she tells IF.
“I’m so invested in attracting co-productions or overseas money and making shows in Australia with our crews and casts that can travel.”
Originally she set her sights on being a novelist but switched to screenwriting after doing a creative writing course. A lot of her prose turned out to be dialogue, prompting her teacher to suggest she was more suited to script writing.
After graduating from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, creative writing and philosophy she did a Master of Arts at AFTRS, specialising in producing for film and TV and screenwriting
Fresh out of film school in 2008 she worked with Endemol Southern Star’s John Edwards in development and research on Channel Ten’s Rush and the Nine Network’s Rescue Special Ops.
Werner Film Productions’ Joanna Werner hired her as a script coordinator on the first season of Dance Academy and then to write two episodes of the teen drama.
From 2012 she spent four years at the ABC as development manager and script assessor in drama and comedy, working on Ruby Entertainment’s The Secret River and John Edwards’ The Beautiful Lie.
After the ABC she produced the online comedy Fragments of Friday, written and directed by Kacie Anning, supported by Screen Australia.
Lingo Pictures’ Helen Bowden loved that show and invited Wise to join the company for two years, funded by Screen Australia’s Enterprise People program.
At Lingo she served as development producer on Kriv Stenders’ Wake in Fright for Ten and then created and produced the SBS miniseries On the Ropes: “the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Wise had followed Shannon Murphy’s career ever since watching a play Murphy directed and hired her to direct the drama. “I can’t fault her; she’s a dynamo, extraordinary,” she says.