Ballarat writing couple Lou Sanz and John Kachoyan will take their talents to the Big Apple after being awarded this year’s AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes development grant.
The pair were selected from a group of five finalists at the Screenworks Regional to Global Screen Forum for their concept Land’s End, a drama about an emergency room doctor who flees to a remote property ‘prepping’ for an imagined apocalypse, only for a global catastrophe to strikes, forcing her to choose between isolation or life amongst the survivors.
They now have the opportunity to present the project at this year’s Australian International Screen Forum in New York as part of the initiative, which is delivered in partnership with Screenworks, and with the support of the AISF.
Sanz and Kachoyan will also receive ongoing guidance from the AACTA Regional Landscapes judging panel, which this year comprises producer Michael Pontin, Stan head of features and development Rachel Okine, writer and producer Tony Briggs, Likely Story Production VP of production and development Peter Cron, and creative executive Hannah Gordon.
Speaking to IF, Kachoyan said he was excited about travelling “for the first time in a while”, especially with a story set in regional Australia.
“I haven’t been anywhere for such a long time,” he said.
“We’re showcasing kind of regional Australia and Victoria (with the concept) and so getting to talk about where we’re from and bring it to the world is going to be really cool.”
Whereas Kachoyan is relatively new to screenwriting, having spent more than 15 years working in theatre, Sanz has previously been in the writer’s room for The PM’s Daughter, while also penning the screenplay for Natalie Bailey’s Audrey, as well as her own upcoming feature directorial Laugh Club.
Land’s End is one of two projects the pair have collaborated on, with the other a dark comedy series entitled Ellie Ruins Everything that is being developed with Orange Entertainment and Gambit Media.
Kachoyan said they had been working on the former for “3-4 years”, noting the pandemic had served to make the story “more relevant and sharp”.
“Lou and I were watching these prepping shows and laughing about them because it is easy to do, but then she sort of mentioned that they were looking for someone somewhere in the world.
“We started to think more about what it means someone suffers a tragedy or loses something and what it looks like.”
AACTA Awards and Industry development manager Ivan Vukusic described Land’s End as a “unique and compelling survival story” that resonated with the influence of the pair’s personal journey.
“It was great to see them incorporate the advice of our judging panel to flesh out the key hooks and the finer details of their story, which culminated in their fantastic winning pitch,” he said.
“We’re very confident Land’s End will hit home with audiences here and abroad.”
Land’s End was joined in the final five by Madeleine Chaplain and Luke Chaplain’s The Bank Manager, Leonie Kelly and Di Smith’s Black Magic, Dave Wade’s Radio Infrequency, and Travis Akbar and Adam Gerard’s The Track, with all finalists receiving feedback and guidance from the judges in the lead up to their final pitch.
Screenworks CEO Ken Crouch said the organisation had been “incredibly impressed” at the range and diversity of the stories submitted for this year’s initiative.
“All five finalists’ projects offered very different perspectives on life and landscapes in regional Australia and showed there is a wealth of stories to be told outside of the metropolitan areas,” he said.
“We’re excited to be supporting the Land’s End project through the next stage of development – and we’re confident that Lou and John will benefit greatly from the opportunity to head to the US to pitch and network with producers, studios and key decision-makers.”