Nick Batzias ramps up Good Thing Productions

Nick Batzias.

Former Madman Production Company head Nick Batzias is developing 16 film and TV projects after launching Good Thing Productions.

Batzias is partnered with former MPC head of production Virginia Whitwell in the new entity and is collaborating on several projects with Veronica Gleeson, former head of creative at MPC.

It was an amicable separation from Madman Entertainment, which has a first-look deal with Good Thing. “We are absolutely strategic partners with Madman,” says Batzias, who took with him MPC’s unfinished productions and development slate and has an office next door to Madman.

“I had been thinking of the move for some time. Having a production company inside a distributor has its advantages but they are different sorts of businesses. Development and production need a lot of time and patience.”

Screenwest has provided production funding for Good Thing’s Below, the debut feature from WA director Maziar Lahooti. The script by Ian Wilding is set in a detention centre in the near future, where people are sent for disciplinary reasons after committing transgressions. The males are forced to take part in cage fighting.

The protagonist is darknet grifter Dougie, who is recruited to work as a security guard at the centre, where he is drawn into an underground operation to blackmail detainees into fighting for profit. When tragedy strikes courageous fighter Azad, Dougie locates his hitherto dormant conscience and takes a stand.

The aim is to shoot in WA later this year with Madman distributing and Seville International handling the rights for the rest of the world. Gleeson and Batzias will produce with WA-based Kate Neylon (Hotel Coolgardie).

Gleeson is writing Sixteen, a TV drama series which looks at 16 schoolgirls who disappear on a three-night hike in the bush. When they return, dishevelled and with hazy memories of what happened, they discover they are pregnant – carrying a new species.

Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories initiative funded the development and Amy Gebhardt is attached to direct.

Also on the slate is Nude Tuesday, a co-production with New Zealander Emma Slade’s Firefly Films, to be directed by Armagan Ballantyne, who made her feature film debut with 2009 drama The Strength of Water.

The script is by Jackie van Beek, who co-wrote and co-directed with Madeleine Sami The Breaker Upperers, which opened the Sydney Film Festival and will be distributed by Madman.

The plot follows a couple in their mid-40s who are sent away by the wife’s parents for a weekend of relationships counselling. The twist is that the dialogue will be a fake language, with subtitles for various territories.

“We think the benefits of the sub-titling will outweigh the risks,” says Batzias, who pitched the project to sales companies at the Cannes Market and got enthusiastic responses.

As announced, Good Thing and Passion Pictures’ John Battsek are co-producing The Australian Dream, a biopic on former Sydney Swans star and leading Indigenous advocate Adam Goodes.

Stan Grant is writing the screenplay and Brit Dan Gordon (George Best: All By Himself; Hillsborough, an account of Britain’s worst sporting disaster; Don’t Look Down, which chronicles Richard Branson’s attempts to break world records flying in a hot air balloon) will direct.

Batzias believes his project will be complementary to filmmaker and philanthropist Ian Darling’s planned one-hour film for TV and 37-minute film on Goodes, and they will work together on outreach programs for their films.

Damon Gameau’s innovative feature doc 2040, in which he explores what the world might look like by that year if solutions were adopted to tackle issues such as food security, the environment and education, is in rough cut.

Batzias, who produced with Anna Kaplan and Whitwell, was thrilled by the reactions at two test screenings, one for a panel of experts to check the factual basis of the scenarios, the other for a more film savvy audience. Madman will launch the doc, Gameau’s follow-up to That Sugar Film, next year.