Tyler Mitchell’s philosophy has always been “run to love”.
So when Film Victoria called him in early 2019 expressing admiration for the inaugural Impact accelerator program he ran with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer in the US, it was enough to plant the seed for an Australian version of the initiative.
“If someone loves what you are doing, you should embrace that,” he told IF.
“We started talking and between Film Victoria, Screen Australia, and the states, there was tremendous support and a real partnership, not just financially, but with the mission we have.”
It’s a collaboration that will continue this year when Impact Australia returns in person following an inaugural virtual program in 2020.
Delivered in conjunction with Gentle Giant Media Group, Impact Australia 2 will pair local creators with leading screenwriters, or ‘shapers’, who over eight weeks will help them craft their project and prepare them for pitch day in front of buyers.
Writers and creators of all experience levels have been given an added week to apply for the 2021 initiative, with the deadline extended to June 27.
The second iteration will be held on the Victorian College of the Arts’ (VCA) Southbank campus at the University of Melbourne from September 21.
Mitchell said while there was a silver lining to last year’s COVID-19 disruption, he was pleased to be adding a personal touch to the program.
“We are incredibly excited to get down to Australia again.
“The work didn’t suffer at all [as a result of COVID] and, in some ways, it might have even proved beneficial in the sense it provided an outlet for the creators and writers to really throw themselves even further into their work. “
“The thing that was really lost was the community of peers that the program provides.
“We’ve seen so many incredible relationships fostered that way and we’re excited to be able to build that camaraderie in Australia and also just to work face-to-face in rooms together.”
Shapers for last year’s program included Shaun Grant (True History of the Kelly Gang), Jason Smilovic (War Dogs), Kai Wu (Paper Girls), Stuart Beattie (Collateral), and Sarah Heyward (Girls) among others.
They provided assistance to participants such as Brendan Fletcher, who co-created the series Firebite with Warwick Thornton, recently greenlit by AMC Studios earlier this month. Another Impact participant, Devi Telfer, has been hired to write for the series.
Also benefitting from the program was Victorian writer Jess Harris, who was paired with Heyward to develop her semi-autobiographical television series Bloomers.
Harris, whose previous writing credits include ABC series Twentysomething and Foxtel’s Open Slather, is in the process of finding a home for the series, having taken it from a synopsis with rough series overarch to a pitch-ready concept via the program.
She told IF Heyward’s confidence and experience working in the US market helped bring the idea to the next level.
“I was encouraged to really back my idea and not change it to suit what someone else wants.
“Also, the connections made through both the US pitch day and the Australian pitch day led to meetings with a whole lot of production companies I would not have otherwise been exposed to.”
International interest has been a hallmark of the Australian screen sector so far this year, with the country’s relative handling of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a slew of inbound productions.
Impact co-founder Ron Howard has been among those to make the trip, having decided to film the 2018 Thai cave rescue-inspired Thirteen Lives on the Gold Coast this year.
Mitchell said the current state of the Australian industry made it an exciting time to search for new talent.
“We know production is continuing to explode in Australia and we know that the country has so much talent, so we really want to encourage anyone and everyone to apply, regardless of their level of experience,” he said.
“We’ve seen some pretty amazing stories from people who had very little, if any, experience when it came to writing a screenplay or teleplay, because the strength of their short stories or voice allowed us to teach them the craft of screenwriting and they were able to go and be working writers in the industry.”
Impact Australia 2 has received principal funding from Screen Australia and Film Victoria and is being supported by the University of Melbourne, and the state and territory screen agencies.
Applications for the program close June 27. Find out more about how to apply here.