News recap: Vale John Pilger, Screen NSW announces companies for slate development program

John Pilger. (Image: WikiCommons)

The IF team is back for 2024. Here’s what happened while we were away.

Vale John Pilger, esteemed journalist and documentary filmmaker

Tributes have flowed in across the world for renowned journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger, following his death at the age of 84.

A post on Pilger’s Facebook page confirmed his passing in London after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

“It is with great sadness the family of John Pilger announce he died yesterday 30 December 2023 in London aged 84,” the post read.

“His journalism and documentaries were celebrated around the world, but to his family he was simply the most amazing and loved Dad, Grandad and partner.”

Originally from Bondi, Pilger began his journalism career while still in high school, starting a newspaper at Sydney High School, before completing a four-year cadetship at the Australian Consolidated Press.

He left Australia for Europe in the early ’60s, working as a freelance correspondent in Italy, and then at Reuters in London, after which he settled at The Daily Mirror, where he would remain for the next 23 years. As the paper’s chief foreign correspondent, he reported from across the globe, covering the Vietnam War, as well as the US Civil Rights movement.

In the ’70s, Pilger exerted his influence in the documentary space, with 1979’s Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia, which was shot on location less than a year after the Khmer Rouge downfall, raising almost $50 million for people in the country. His other works of note include 1994’s Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy, for which he travelled undercover and helped build support for the East Timorese, as well as a range of films centred on his own country’s ‘forgotten past’, including as The Secret Country (1983), the bicentenary trilogy The Last Dream (1988), Welcome to Australia (1999) and Utopia (2013).

He has been recognised with an Emmy and a BAFTA for his films, and was also awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2009.

In the past few years, Pilger has advocated for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whom he interviewed for a 2016 documentary.

AACTA announces Young Stars Finalists

AACTA has announced the top 50 finalists for its Young Stars: National Youth Casting Call.

Delivered in collaboration with the Casting Guild of Australia, the national initiative aims to provide opportunities for the next generation of acting talent.

The top 50 finalists will attend next month’s inaugural AACTA Festival, where they will have the chance to take part in workshops and receive guidance from mentors.

A judging panel made up of casting directors Thea McLeod, Anousha Zarkesh, Nikki Barrett, and Liz Mullane, as well as actors Claudia Karvan and Mark Coles Smith will select the winner, who will receive a $10,000 Flight Centre voucher and $2500 cash in travel support to fly to the US. While there, they will meet with a casting director, network with key industry practitioners, and participate in a weeklong workshop at Howard Fine Acting Studio in Los Angeles. They will also have access to The Studio by Casting Networks in Sydney for a full year and will have the chance to meet with both Australian-based Casting Directors and Agents.

Emma Stone in ‘Poor Things’ (Image: Atsushi Nishijima)

‘Barbie’, ‘Poor Things’ included on BAFTA longlists

Writer Tony McNamara and actors Margot Robbie and Jacob Elordi are early Australian hopes for this year’s BAFTAs, included among the longlist for the awards.

Robbie’s turn as the titular character in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie was included in the leading actress category, while Elordi is recognised as a potential nominee for supporting actor for his performance as Felix in Emerald Fennel’s Saltburn, and McNamara’s script for Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things advanced in adapted screenplay.

Barbie, on which Robbie was also a producer, was one of three films to earn 15 places in the long lists alongside Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, with Poor Things just behind on 14.

The second round of voting for the awards will close January 12, with the nominations to be unveiled January 18 ahead of the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall on February 18. Doctor Who star David Tennant will host this year’s event.

Jaydon Martin’s ‘Flathead’, Michael Duignan’s ‘The Paragon’ added to Rotterdam line-up

Australian drama Flathead and New Zealand black comedy The Paragon have joined Jonathan Ogilvie’s Head South in the line-up for this month’s International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).

The former, which will have its world premiere as part of the Tiger Competition, marks the directorial debut of Jaydon Martin, who mixes fiction and documentary to present a portrait of blue-collar life in Australia. At the film’s centre is Cass Cumerford, a man that borne more than his fair share of setbacks in life. Now in his 70s, he decides to return to his childhood home of Bundaberg. Through conversations with the strangers he encounters and the friends he makes, Cass gradually reveals the events that have shaped his life – the mistakes he has made, the moments of joy, and the grief that weighs him down.

Flathead was edited by Patrick McCabe, who also produced the film via Portmanteau Pictures, with contributions also coming from cinematographer Brodie Poole, production designer Cornelia Van Rijswijk, sound designer Lachlan Harris, and composer Angharad Van Rijswijk.

The Paragon, which will have its international premiere in the Bright Future section, represents another feature directorial debut, this time for New Zealand filmmaker Michael Duignan, who also wrote, lensed, produced, and edited the film.

The story picks up with former tennis coach Dutch (Benedict Wall) struggling from a hit-and-run car accident a year ago. Limping and embittered, he decides to undergo psychic training to unlock his latent mind-control powers, to find and take revenge on the driver. He finds – or rather is found by – Lyra (Florence Noble), a witchy disciplinarian who might perhaps be the perfect psychic tutor, much to Dutch’s chagrin. But all is not what it seems and Lyra herself has an ulterior motive, involving her evil brother Haxan, a parallel universe and a cosmic crystal called The Paragon. The cast also includes Michelle Ang, Jonny Brugh, Jessica Grace Smith, and Shadon Meredith.

Lissy Smith served as producer alongside Duignan, with production company Our Invisible College also handling international sales. Rounding out the creative team were production designer Gavin Walker, sound designer Shane Taipari, and musician Lucola Bang.

IFFR runs January 25 – February 4.

Australian producer makes it on to Oscar shortlist with ‘Red, White and Blue’

Nazrin Choudhury’s short Red, White and Blue, produced by Australian Sara McFarlane, has been shortlisted for this year’s Academy Awards, after winning the Grand Jury Award for Best Live Action Short at Edmonton International Film Festival.

The film follows Rachel (Brittany Snow), a single parent in a precarious position forced to cross state lines in search of a necessary abortion. As the audience learns more about Rachel and the series of events that led to this journey, there is also a heartbreaking truth that means her life will never be the same again. 

McFarlane, who is the founder of boutique executive producing, production management and business affairs company E/S Collab, produced the short alongside Choudhury, with comedian Samantha Bee on board as executive producer.

She began her career at the ABC and See-Saw Films before moving to Fulcrum Media Finance, and then relocating to New York to work with with CinePointe Advisors, eventually founding E/S Collab in 2020.

Screen Producers Australia unveils Ireland Connect delegation

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has announced the eight Irish and ten Australian producers that will form the Ireland Connect delegation at this year’s SPA Connect Market,

The ten Australian production companies seeking co-production partners are Arcadia, Buster Productions, Factor 30 Films, Hoodlum Entertainment, LM Films/Chemical Media, Magpie Pictures, Princess Pictures, SeeView Productions, Southern Pictures, and The ACME Film Company.

The Irish production companies joining the Australian cohort are Cardel Entertainment, Prelude Content, Red Shoe Productions, Ripple World, Samson Films, ShinAwiL, Subotica, and Tri Moon Films.

The SPA Connect market begins March 18 and runs for the duration of Screen Forever, which will be held March 19 – 21.

Polly Staniford and Angie Fielder.

Screen NSW announces production companies for slate development program

Screen NSW has unveiled the 12 production companies from the state that will share in $1 million of funding as part of its Slate Development Program.

Designed to support production companies with at least one key creative from underrepresented groups, the program will enable a pipeline of 32 new screen projects, encompassing everything from children’s animation to feature films.

The supported production companies and their projects are:


Feature film
Key creatives: Angie Fielder (producer), Polly Staniford (producer), Osamah Sami (producer), Abdul Karim Hekmat (executive producer), Roger Monk (writer), Rhys Graham (director), Phoenix Raei (director)
Synopsis: Paradise is the devastatingly beautiful true love story of two young men who meet in an
offshore detention on Nauru after fleeing persecution – their relationship becomes a life-affirming
source of strength as they take on institutional indifference and overcome hopelessness, finally
making their way to freedom.

The Servient
TV series
Key creatives: Angie Fielder (producer), Polly Staniford (producer), Stella Ha Vi Do (executive
producer), Shiyan Zheng (writer)
Synopsis: When a rising management consultant learns that her Vietnamese Tiger Mum has clawed her way to the top of Western Sydney’s underworld and is now under attack from rival gangs, she must do the one thing she swore she’d never do… help her mum.

Smile Bitch
TV series
Key creatives: Angie Fielder (co-creator, producer), Polly Staniford (co-creator, producer),
Clementine Ford (co-creator)
Synopsis: A high-profile media presenter develops an appetite for murder after one too many sexist microaggressions lead her to manifest the ancient goddess of Rage.


Okay Bay
Children’s TV animation
Key creatives: Katrina Peers (producer), David Peers (director), Charlotte Rose Hamlyn (head writer), John Armstrong (writer)
Synopsis: Sunny, a playfully plucky six-year-old, enjoys whimsical adventures with friends and family in her home of Okay Bay: A magical place when nature comes alive to play.

Goo Zoo
Children’s TV animation
Key creatives: Katrina Peers (producer), David Peers (director), Charlotte Rose Hamlyn (creator, head writer), Bruce Griffiths (writer)
Synopsis: Goo Zoo is about a one-day old amoeba – Tina Amoeba – who’s wildest dreams come true
when she becomes the boss of her very own microbe theme park.


Uplift Kabul
Feature film
Key creatives: Kristina Ceyton (producer), Samantha Jennings (producer), Brietta Hague (writer/
Synopsis: Two Australian women stage a daring operation to save the lives of Afghanistan’s top
female athletes in the final days before the country falls under Taliban rule.

Girl on the Page
Feature film
Key creatives: Kristina Ceyton (producer), Samantha Jennings (writer/producer)
Synopsis: A hard-living, hot-shot young editor who has made her name turning an average thriller
writer into a brand superstar, is given the impossible task of steering a reclusive literary artist to
commercial success.

Tell Me I’m Here
Feature film
Key creatives: Kristina Ceyton (producer), Samantha Jennings (producer), Veronica Gleeson (writer)
Synopsis: When a charming teenager becomes a tormented young adult his mother must face the
reality of having a mad child. This is the true story of journalist Anne Deveson’s quest to save her son and shatter the stigma of mental illness.


Vernon and Ted
Format: Children’s TV animation
Key creatives: David Woodland (creator), David Webster (executive producer), Patrick Egerton
(executive producer), Celine Goetz (producer), Veronica Milsom (writer), Jazz Twemlow (writer),
Nick Boshier (writer)
Synopsis: Vernon and Ted couldn’t be more different from each other and yet they’re the very best
of friends. Vernon is an extroverted Australian fire ant and Ted is an introverted Canadian shrew
mole. Despite their differences, the pair love nothing more than hearing about each other’s
adventures over a cup of something and a piece of cake after a busy day.

Children’s TV animation
Key creatives: Patrick Egerton (executive producer), Celine Goetz (producer), Sylvie van Dijik
(development producer)


John Bailey
TV series
Key creatives: Claire Tonkin (producer), Elisa Argenzio (producer), Matt Campbell (executive
producer), Blake Ayshford (writer), Tim Ayliffe (author), Chris Squadrito (writer), Natasha Henry
(writer), Erica Harrison (writer), Claire Phillips (writer)
Synopsis: The story of a damaged war correspondent’s relentless search for the truth in a dangerous world.

Bye Bye Ben
Format: TV series
Key creatives: Claire Tonkin (producer), Elisa Argenzio (producer), Rene Zandveld (writer/creator),
Ainslie Clouston (writer), Hannah Fitzpatrick (writer)
Synopsis: An Australian ‘Thelma and Louise’ style thriller set around a wedding where the bride and bridesmaid are caught up in a deadly secret and hatch a dangerous plan to outrun the truth.

TV Series
Key creatives: Claire Tonkin (producer), Elisa Argenzio (producer), Nick Murray (executive producer)


Dump Him!
Format: TV series
Key creatives: Jenna Owen (co-creator, writer), Vic Zerbst (co-creator, writer), Lizzie Cater
(producer), Rob Gibson (executive producer), Ian Collie (executive producer)
Synopsis: Dump Him! is a road trip character comedy about friendship and loving each other enough to implicate yourself in your friend’s crimes.

TV series
Key creatives: Isaac Elliott (co-creator, writer), Lucy Knox (co-creator, writer), Lizzie Cater
(producer), Rob Gibson (executive producer), Ian Collie (executive producer)
Synopsis: After being paralysed from the chest down in a mining accident, 28-year-old Jim is moved into Grevillea Village Retired Living. Average age: 87. Chances of making it out alive: Nil.

Format: TV Series
Key creatives: Lizzie Cater (producer), Rob Gibson (executive producer), Ian Collie (executive


TV factual series
Key creatives: Margee Brown (producer/writer), Jodi Boylan (producer/director), Dan Goldberg
(writer/series producer), Craig Graham (executive producer)
Synopsis: Speechless spotlights the most iconic Australian speeches of all time told by a high-profile and diverse cast of Australians who were left…speechless. From those explosive words that
confronted our race relations and challenged our sex and gender wars, to those that venerated our
sporting legends and called out the climate crisis, this returnable format will help us understand who we were, and who we are.

Lonely No More
TV factual series
Key creatives: Jodi Boylan (director), Dan Goldberg (executive producer), Dan Brown (executive
Synopsis: Lonely No More is a three-part documentary series, hosted by self-confessed loneliness sufferer Myf Warhurst, that delves into the heart and the science of loneliness in Australia and explores some of the tools to escape it.


Lustration 2.0
VR series
Key creatives: Nathan Anderson (producer), Carolina Sorensen (producer), Wadooah Wali (executive producer), Wolfgang Bylsma (executive producer), Ryan Griffen (executive producer, director)
Synopsis: Bardolph and Gallus are two protectors of The Between, a realm where the dead go to cleanse or lustrate themselves before crossing over to pure happiness. These two protectors are charged with the task of removing new arrivals who “don’t belong” in order to uphold what is good in The Between. But when Malcolm slips through their grasp the fate of the afterlife and everyone in it is at risk. Elizabeth Pine is the only person with any chance of saving them. Unfortunately, she is still alive on Earth.

VR series
Key creatives: Nathan Anderson (producer), Carolina Sorensen (executive producer), Wadooah Wali (executive producer), Reggie Ba-Pe (executive producer) Ellen Jurik (game designer)
Synopsis: In a high-stakes noir thriller, a down-and-out PI, Veronica Coltrane, uncovers a dark
conspiracy. Framed for murder, she is forced into a treacherous game to uncover the truth.


TV series
Key creatives: Eleanor Kirk (creator/writer), Victoria Zerbst (writer), Julia Moriarty (writer), Dan
Edwards (producer), John Edwards (producer)
Synopsis: Burn is a drama series about a disgraced athletics coach’s attempts to start his own squad, where training is coupled with unconventional lessons in philosophy, poetry, and grit.

Kill All Landlords!
TV series
Enoch Mailangi (Creator, Writer)
Synopsis: Kill All Landlords! is an intergenerational comedy-drama that follows the build-up to an
apartment complex fire that captivates the city. Soon, every tenant in the building becomes a suspect– of not only arson, but murder.

TV Series
Key creatives: Dan Edwards (producer)


Atomic Paradise
Factual series
Key creatives: John Harvey (writer, director), Aline Jacques (executive producer), Sally Aitken
(executive producer), Winnie Dunn (writer), Marianne Leitch (producer), Kirrilly Brentnall
(development producer)
Synopsis: In our lifetimes, the Pacific has lived through one of the most shocking chapters of modern human history: 315 nuclear bombs detonated over a period of 50 years, with devastating effect – and unforeseen, surprising consequences. For the first time, the full and epic story of the atomic era in the Pacific brings together previously unseen archive and firsthand testimony from those who understand and experienced the mushroom clouds in a First Nations-led contemporary take on one of our most unbelievable stories.

No Sex Required
Factual series
Key creatives: Patrick Abboud (writer, director), Marianne Leitch (series producer), Aline Jacques
(executive producer), Sally Aitken (executive producer)
Synopsis: This three-part docu-series tells the incredible trajectory of how in just one century
creating babies in the lab has gone from imagination to reality.

Feature documentary
Key creatives: Alana Valentine (writer), Sally Aitken (director), Rebecca Bennett (producer), Aline
Jacques (executive producer)
Synopsis: The story of Tana Douglas – the world’s first rock ‘n roll female roadie – who has shared
tour buses with Suzi Q, Leo Sayer, Neil Diamond, The Who, Elton John, Santana, Lenny Kravitz,
Whitesnake, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Status Quo, Ice Cube, The Police, and more.


The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer
TV series
Key creatives: Rebecca Greensill (writer/producer), Ilsa Evans (writer), Paige Montague (writer),
Romina Accurso (writer)
Synopsis: Based on the book from bestselling author, Ilsa Evans, The Unusual Abduction of Avery
follows two women who find themselves with no choice but to kidnap their 2-year-old
granddaughter. On the run from the police, a media frenzy, the public and their families, Beth and
Shirley, who have never seen eye to eye, will need to find a way to work together before they both
end up in prison.

Suburban Noir
TV series
Key creatives: Ellie Beaumont (writer/producer), Drew Proffitt (writer/producer), Angela McDonald (writer), Shane Salvador (writer), Chelsea Cassio (writer), Peter Doyle (story consultant)
Synopsis: Inspired by Peter Doyle’s acclaimed true crime book, Suburban Noir is a character-driven
series told through the original lens of a 1950s crime scene photographer and one of Sydney’s first female police investigators, as they try to find answers for the victims captured within the photographs.

Mothers of the Year
TV series
Key creatives: Ellie Beaumont (creator, writer, producer), Justine Clarke (writer), Lisa Matthews
(writer), Amy Stewart (writer)
Synopsis: When their teenagers go away on Schoolies, six mothers head to rural New South Wales
on their own voyage of self-discovery.


TV series
Key creatives: Nicole Sullivan (creator), Simmone Overend (executive producer), Chris Hilton
(executive producer)
Synopsis: A woman who suspects she might be a psychopath takes refuge in an Australian alpine
community over the winter. As snow starts to fall and winter guests arrive, her experiments with
what it means to be human – and her growing realisation that maybe she isn’t one – lead her and
the people around her into dangerous territory.

TV series
Key creatives: Melissa Lucashenko (co-creator), Nicole Sullivan (co-creator), Rhoda Roberts
(executive producer), Chris Hilton (executive producer), Simmone Overend (executive producer)
Synopsis: When a French teenager arrives in a small coastal Australian town looking for his biological father he accidentally discovers the body of a murdered Aboriginal baby, unearthing generations of family secrets and shining a light on the town’s most horrific historical crime.

The Fight
TV factual series
Key creatives: Mark Issac (writer), Catherine Scott (director), Sam Griffin (producer), Chris Hilton
(executive producer)
Synopsis: The Fight is a documentary series following a team of three rebel lawyers, led by Alison
Battisson, from ‘Human Rights for All’ over a single year as they work to free their clients from
detention in the aftermath of the High Court’s decision to overturn the 20-year precedent set by Al
Kateb v Godwin.