On location shooting 'Dance Academy'.

Speaking to IF from her home in Melbourne, Dance Academy producer Joanna Werner begins by apologizing for the “squawking” that might erupt at any moment.

“I have a nine-week old-baby who’s happy – at the moment. I found out in week one of pre-production that I was pregnant, and I’ll always remember exactly how long it takes to make a movie because she was born two weeks after we finished the film.”

The Dance Academy feature, in 211 cinemas around the country from April 6, revisits the characters we last saw in the series, which ran on the ABC for three seasons beginning in 2010.

The show’s success on Netflix in America helped Werner and series co-creator Samantha Strauss put together the feature with the backing of Screen Australia and the show’s German distributor ZDF Enterprises.

StudioCanal came onboard as the Australian and New Zealand distributor, and the film was shot last year on a budget in the $5-10 million range.

Directed by Jeffrey Walker (Ali’s Wedding), who helmed the show’s pilot, the feature shot in Sydney for five weeks, followed by a four-day stint in New York in July.

“Our first day we shot a 12-hour day in Times Square,” says Werner. “Our lead actor Xenia had arrived a day and a half earlier and was then shooting in 44-degree heat in the middle of Times Square.”

“One of the real trials was getting visas and all the logistics of getting to New York and being allowed to film over there and unions.”

“But we worked with a fantastic company, Jax Media, that Jeffrey Walker had worked with on a series he shot in New York, Difficult People, and they have huge experience helping out film crews in New York.” 

Werner describes the four days in the Big Apple as long, with frequent changes of location.

“One day we started at Battery Park and then we were on the Staten Island Ferry and then at Grand Central Station and then on Broadway. We really fit a lot into that time.”

Now the producer is focusing on the film’s Australian release with “fantastic partners” StudioCanal, while an international rollout is still being negotiated.

“Our distributors from Germany are coming over for the Australian release, to really see how all that goes and take it from there,” Werner says.

“There’s big interest in Europe and the States, which is fantastic. We’ve got a huge fan-base all over the world. The TV series has sold to 160+ countries. We’ve done a big social media rollout. We’ve got over 300,000 Facebook followers and over 50,000 Instagram followers, so we’re hoping that they’re motivated to go out and buy tickets.”

“And a lot of our fans are international, so every time we load something about the Australian release, all we get is: when is it coming to Portugal, when is it coming to Brazil? Russia, South America and Europe have huge fan-bases which hopefully will mean a big international rollout. But we’re letting the Australian world premiere happen first.”

Werner is also in development with the ABC on a ninety-minute telemovie which she hopes to shoot in Sydney in July.

“It’s the first adult drama from my company. I produced the political thriller Secret City with Matchbox Pictures, but this telemovie will be the first adult drama show for Werner Film Productions.”

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