The selective appeal of theatrical and the emergence of Queensland as a production hotspot was on the agenda as children’s content creatives came together on Monday for an AACTA Screenfest 2020 Spotlight event.

A panel comprising Emmy-winning Bluey team Charlie Aspinwall and Daley Pearson from Ludo Studio; Like A Photon Creative co-fonder and CEO, Nadine Bates; and fellow children’s TV creatives Dena Curtis (Grace Beside Me) and Steve Jaggi (Swimming for Gold) joined film critic Sarah Ward for a discussion on Creating Screen for Kids.

It has been a big year for Aspinwall and Pearson, with the third season of Joe Brumm-created series, which won an AACTA Award yesterday, set to commence production in Brisbane later this year.

While the show has enjoyed extensive success overseas – Disney snared the global rights – Pearson credited the Australian production environment for allowing the show to stay true to its roots.

“We put in a lot of effort to make it good,” he said.

“Some of the bigger shows overseas can sometimes be put on a conveyor belt in terms of production but that has never happened with us, which is maybe what Australia does a little differently.”

Clockwise from top left are Sarah Ward, Dena Curtis, Nadine Bates, Charlie Aspinwall, Daley Pearson and Steve Jaggi.

Curtis specifically credited Screen Queensland for their support of the Logie-nominated Grace Beside Me, commissioned by NITV.

“They [Screen Queensland] actively pursued us to come to Queensland and they really gave us the support we needed in terms of getting the project funded,” she said.

“It wasn’t an easy project to fund as we picked a broadcaster that had a small budget for any kind of scripted content, so it was about putting that jigsaw puzzle together, which they helped us through.”

Jaggi has also had plenty to celebrate in the sunshine state this year, with Netflix buying the rights to his teen mystery drama Dive Club, which began shooting in Port Douglas during October.

The series is the third Jaggi production supported by Screen Queensland following the Brisbane-shot Swimming for Gold and Cairns-based This Little Love of Mine. The producer also recently shot Kidnapped, The Dog Days of Christmas and the Netflix-acquired Romance on the Menu in the state.

Speaking about the challenges of creating content against the background of the pandemic, Jaggi said the landscape had evolved to the point where a theatrical release had become a “small piece of the pie” for creators.

“It seems as though kids are consuming content at a rate that hasn’t been seen previously and the streamers are reporting record profits,” he said.

“Cinema can still be used effectively, but in my experience, it doesn’t count for more than 10 per cent of the revenue stream on a project.”

For Bates, whose studio followed up the release of the animated feature film The Wishmas Tree in February with Combat Wombat in October, theatrical has reached a point of no return.

“Throughout the past 6-8 months, we have seen the collapse of the theatrical window and the rise of a completely new format of distribution,” she said.

“At the moment, we are making money from premium video-on-demand, streaming video-on-demand, and home entertainment.

“The change has been seen across the board and I don’t think we will ever go back.”

Pearson said if there had been positive to come out of the events of this year, it was that kids had the opportunity to explore more content.

“Kids tend to stick with one show forever but recently, they have had the opportunity to watch more content and find something else they love,” he said.

“I feel like more people are watching our shows because they are running out of things to watch.

“Now could be a time when they are looking for more Australian content because they like what they see.

“If they can find it, they’ll love it.”

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