Essential Media docuseries shows survival and love in the Outback

‘Outback Lockdown’.

When Essential Media’s Brendan Dahill heard British chef Calem O’Grady and his partner, Australian stunt woman and survival expert Ky Furneaux, were planning to self-isolate in the Outback, all three seized on the idea of an observational documentary.

Acting fast, Essential’s head of factual David Alrich and DOP Max Corkindale spent 22 days filming the couple who are living in an old stone hut on a 46,000-acre sheep farm in South Australia owned by Ky’s cousin.

They have to forage for food, including hunting ducks and goats for dinner, all served in Cordon Bleu style by O’Grady.

The result is Outback Lockdown, a 3 x 60′ series which will be sold worldwide by London-based Abacus Media Rights (AMR), which was launched last month by Jonathan Ford, the former executive VP of sales at Kew Media Distribution.

Essential’s GM for Australia and New Zealand, Dahill hired Furneaux last year to work as the survival expert on Nature’s Fury (formerly Mutant Nature Down Under), a six-part climate change documentary commissioned by National Geographic.

“As soon as she told us that she was planning to see out the pandemic in the Outback we were on board,” Dahill tells IF.

“COVID-19 has turned the world upside down but Outback Lockdown offers the audience both escapism and optimism. It’s a survival story and a love story – set against the backdrop of one of the harshest and most remote places on Earth.”

Dahill knew Ford through Kew Media, which collapsed in February. Subsequently Essential Media Group CEO Greg Quail and North American president Jesse Fawcett engineered a management buyout.

Ford, who facilitated funding for the series through UK-based media investment company Head Gear Films, said: “When Essential came to us with this fantastic project we knew it was a special series and a meaningful one that needed to be made.

“With Essential’s great credentials and a fantastically relevant and engaging premise it also appealed to Head Gear and we are delighted with the result.

“We look forward to releasing the series to our international clients next month and believe there will be a lot of interest in a series that reveals how some have tried to stay alive and survive in 2020.”

AMR’s slate includes Essential Media’s This Could Go Anywhere (6 x 60′), a road trip which follows former cricketers Brendon McCullum and Phil Tufnell, for Sky New Zealand, and Rhys Darby in Japan (4 x 60′), commissioned by TVNZ and Network 10.