Four AFTRS Talent Camp Projects to receive $70,000 in production funding

Top (L-R) are Sara Glaoua and Alice Yang. Bottom (L-R) are Chika Ikogwe and Jason Christou.

Two narrative projects and two documentaries will share in $70,000 of production funding via AFTRS National Talent Camp.

Comedy-horror proof of concept Dog Eats World from Nigerian/Australian Heartbreak High actress Chika Ikogwe, Alice Yang’s short film Happy Bellies Happy Jia, Jason Christou’s documentary proof-of-concept Skinny, and Sara Glaoua’s documentary short Mum’s The Word were selected for support as part of the skills development program, now in its fifth year.

It follows the National Talent Camp in September, for which 12 creatives from across the country were invited from their respective State Talent Camps to complete a week-long intensive consisting of writers’ room simulations, a notetaking/script supervision workshop, one-to-one industry mentorships, and feedback sessions. The third iteration of the camp was split into two programs — one for Narrative storytelling and one for Documentary.

Ikogwe, who previously co-wrote the play The House at Boundary Road Liverpool and has a number of works in development, said she would use the production funding to finalise the proof-of-concept for Dog Eats World, a story about a young, money-hungry black woman and her co-worker who land the job of a lifetime working for a mega celebrity and her dog, unaware they’ll be dedicating their lives to the new role.

Dog Eats World explores the idea of societal prioritisation of animal lives over the lives of Black people and other people from marginalised community groups,” she said.

“The 2022 National Talent Camp was a nourishing experience that allowed me to further explore what is quite an eccentric idea, with a group of inspiring emerging creatives.”

In the other narrative project, Happy Bellies Happy Jia, an immigrant child yearns for the type of life she sees on western TV.

It’s the latest in a series of shorts helmed by Yang, whose work has been selected at festivals including the St Kilda Short Film Festival and Antenna.

The South Australian writer/director, who is also a content producer at Beyond Content, described Talent Camp as “immensely invaluable” to her as an emerging filmmaker.

“I’m stoked to continue this journey with the support of the production funding where I can put to practice all that I’ve learned and bring to life my vision for my short film,” she said.

Social change is a common theme in the documentary projects, with Skinny aiming to break the silence on the eating disorder epidemic among boys and men, while Mum’s The Word is the story of the filmmaker’s mother, who was born in Morocco in 1967 from the forbidden love of a Jewish woman and a Muslim man and then adopted.

As a survivor, filmmaker, and new dad, Christouis said he wanted to provide a platform for young multicultural male survivors, and all boys, to love the skin they’re in before it’s too late.

Skinny seeks to break the silence on male eating disorders from a multicultural perspective,” he said.

“Talent Camp was invaluable in honing the project and we’re grateful this funding will support a proof of concept, taking another step to bringing this urgent and important story to the screen.”

For Glaoua, the Documentary Talent Camp was an “incredibly supportive and inspiring environment” that helped her structure ideas.

“My project Mum’s The Word is a documentary about illegal adoption practices in Morocco in the 1960s and the search for my mother’s biological family,” she said.

“The production funding will get me started on my journey of making my first feature documentary by developing a proof of concept.”

Speaking about the selected projects, AFTRS director of First Nations and outreach Romaine Moreton said each filmmaker has made important contributions to the Talent Camp program throughout the two-year process while showing great support for their fellow participants.

“We are proud to be championing their works and look forward to sharing their projects,” she said.

Talent Camp 2022 was a partnership between AFTRS, Screen Australia, South Australian Film Corporation, VicScreen, Screen Queensland, Screen NSW, and Screen Tasmania.