Ludo Studio tops the SPA Awards

Charlie Aspinwall and Daley Pearson. 

Ludo Studio were the big winners at last night’s Screen Producers Australia (SPA) Awards in Melbourne, taking home four gongs, including the major prize of the night: Screen Production Business of the Year.

The Brisbane company, co-founded by Charlie Aspinwall and Daley Pearson, also walked away with Animated Series Production of the Year for its pre-school phenomenon Bluey, Online Series Production of the Year for Robbie Hood with co-production partner Since 1788 Productions and Screen Business Export Award for Bluey, in recognition of its Disney sale – it will be the first Australian series to stream on Disney+.

The latter award was jointly shared with Porchlight Films’ Animal Kingdom, with the US remake now in its fourth season for TNT.

“This industry has been very kind to us,” said Pearson on accepting the major award, which recognises Ludo’s growth over the past five years, and the success in the last year of not just the International Emmy-nominated Bluey and Robbie Hood, but also vertical comedy Content and the recently released The Strange Chores.

“Thanks to everybody along the way for helping us. Even when we’ve been rejected, it was a good thing; we learned a lot from it. We just want to thank everybody; we think you know who you are. You’ve been so kind.”

Closer Productions took home Breakthrough Business of the Year, recognising the company’s impressive slate over the last 12 months that includes feature film Animals, SBS mini-series The Hunting and documentary In My Blood It Runs.

“We feel like we’ve been breaking through for about 10 years or so,” said Closer’s Rebecca Summerton. “But as we all know, or the producers in the room, producing is like breaking through every year. When we’re facing the challenges of changing technology, changing audience behaviours, changing finance models, it feels like every year and every project is a breakthrough. So we’re really pleased to receive this.”

Goalpost Pictures and Kojo Entertainment’s Top End Wedding was awarded Feature Film Production of the Year, while GoodThing Productions’ The Australian Dream was awarded Feature Documentary of the Year.

In television, Playmaker Media’s Bloomwhich just kicked off production on a second season – won Drama Series Production of the Year, while Lingo Pictures’ Lambs of God was awarded Telemovie or Mini Series Production of the Year.

Former Film Finances Australasia MD Anni Browning was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award. Browning worked for Film Finances for 22 years, nine of which were at the helm, before stepping down in July – she remains with the completion guarantor in an advisory role.

On accepting the award, Browning noted her work is not over yet – but said that the prize had given her cause to reflect on a 40-year career in the screen industry.

“While financing has changed dramatically, and the digital realm has made a huge impact – the actual physical process of filming hasn’t changed. You can recognise a film crew anywhere. A group of people, standing around a camera – sometimes larger, sometimes smaller – but working together to capture the images that tell a story and to make the magic. Although these days, there’s usually tables and chairs for lunch, instead of sitting in the gutter, which we did in my day. But that collective effort is what makes it all so rewarding,” Browning said.

“The one change I think has been for good is the increase in women’s participation. The only female key creative I ever worked with when I was in the art department was the legendary Pat Lovell on Gallipoli… She also taught me my first lesson in producing. Peter Weir had decided that although it wasn’t scripted, he really wanted to do that ballroom scene to bring a little light and joy before we hit the horror of ANZAC cove. She went out and she raised enough money – and I’ll tell you, the art department spent a lot of money on that scene. But she raised the money because she believed in that vision that he had to enhance the film. That was pretty amazing.

“I did also produce a documentary myself, which was an almost all female crew. But then at Film Finances I’ve been very fortunate to work with many talented women – directors, writers, DOPS, designers, editors, and of course producers. The very first film I bonded was Rachel Perkins’ Radiance, but more recently I’ve been involved in many more successful, female-led productions. The government agencies and organisations like Natalie Miller, WIFT and Dame Changer have worked to improve the diversity and I do hope it’s a permanent change.”

The full list of winners:

  • Children’s Series Production of the Year – Mustangs FC season 2Matchbox Pictures
  • Animated Series Production of the Year – Bluey, Ludo Studio
  • Documentary Program or Series Production of the Year – Employable Me series 2, Northern Pictures
  • Feature Documentary of the Year – The Australian Dream, GoodThing Productions
  • Short Film Production of the Year – Judas Collar, No Thing Productions
  • Online Series Production of the Year – Robbie Hood, Ludo Studio & Since 1788 Productions
  • Interactive or Game Production of the Year – RONEStudioBento
  • Screen Business Export Award – Animal Kingdom, Porchlight Films
  • Screen Business Export Award – BlueyLudo Studio
  • SBS First Look Grant – Taryne Laffar
  • Screen Australia Internship – Rachel Higgins
  • Comedy Program or Series Production of the Year – Rosehaven series 3, Guesswork Television & What Horse?
  • Telemovie or Mini Series Production of the Year – Lambs of God, Lingo Pictures
  • Light Entertainment Series Production of the Year – The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Thinkative Television
  • Services and Facilities Business of the Year – Roar Digital
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Anni Browning
  • Breakthrough Business of the Year – Closer Productions
  • Drama Series Production of the Year – BloomPlaymaker Media
  • Feature Film Production of the Year – Top End Wedding, Goalpost Pictures & KOJO Entertainment
  • Media Super Production Business of the Year – Ludo Studio