Sarah Thornton.

Network 10 has committed to commission more documentaries following the success of Joined Up Films’ Coronavirus Australia: Our Story, which went to air 16 days after getting the green light.

Hosted by Ryan “Fitzy” Fitzgerald, the hour-long doc combined archival footage with user generated content and expert interviews to chart how Australians at home and around the world have adapted to the ‘new normal’ of life during COVID-19.

Sarah Thornton, 10’s head of popular factual, says: “We have an extraordinary commitment to the freelancers who have kept this industry alive for a long time. We mustn’t let them fall through the cracks.”

Thornton was speaking on Running Free Live: Pivoting Production, a webinar last Thursday night hosted by Denise Eriksen, presented by ACMI, Film Victoria and Media Mentors Australia.

“We will need content, content will be delivered but which businesses will be delivering it will be up to the people who run them to be nimble, bloody-minded and hard working,” she says.

“I have a lot of productions running and have just crewed up an entire series. We have to keep everyone safe and we have to try to keep people working and to find a way to support people.”

The executive said she is keen to continue working with Joined Up Films and 10 will commission more factual series but did not elaborate.

In the webinar Joined Up Films’ co-founder and creative director Dan Brown said the fast-turnaround for the Screenwest and Lottery West-supported Coronavirus Australia: Our Story was achieved thanks to editors who worked around the clock and having some post handled in the UK. “It’s changed what I thought is possible,” says Brown.

Cathie Scott, executive producer of Warner Bros. Television’s Dancing with the Stars, and Fremantle CEO Chris Oliver-Taylor also participated in the session.

Referring to the government’s review of local content quotas, Eriksen asked Oliver-Taylor what needs to be done to ensure funding for Australian drama continues.

Oliver-Taylor cited the ton of work being done by the guilds, Free TV Australia and Screen Australia to prepare the screen sector’s responses to the options paper, while acknowledging some are taking different positions.

“We can argue, correctly and properly, to ensure that Australian stories, not exclusively drama, are told,” he says. “Documentaries are equally important and so is Dancing with the Stars. Our networks should be encouraged to support Australian stories.”

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