Richard Lowenstein, Mark Fennessy team up on Dustin Martin, Billy Thorpe projects

(L-R) Richard Lowenstein, his frequent Italian collaborator Domenico Procacci, Laura Paolucci and Sue Murray.

Richard Lowenstein’s Ghost Pictures is collaborating with independent producer Mark Fennessy on a feature documentary on AFL star Dustin Martin and a miniseries based on Billy Thorpe’s first book.

Fennessy acquired the rights to both projects and approached Lowenstein after they worked together on Mystify: Michael Hutchence. Fennessy served as a producer on that film and helped acquire the rights to INXS’s music.

Both are being developed as co-productions between Fennessy’s production company and Ghost Pictures, in which Lowenstein is partnered with Andrew de Groot and Lynn-Maree Milburn.

Milburn is working on the treatment on the feature doc on the colourful Richmond footballer whose New Zealand-based father Shane Martin, a former high-ranking member of the Rebels motorcycle gang, was refused entry to Australia in February.

“It will be a fascinating story; the treatment reads beautifully,” Richard says. Screen Australia provided development funding to the project which has the working title Gold Dust.

Planned as visceral, dark six-hour miniseries, Sex & Thugs & Rock ā€˜nā€™ Roll is set in Kings Cross in 1963, when 17-year-old muso Billy Thorpe moved to Sydney from Brisbane.

“There is a multi-perspective narrative of the lives of four main protagonists as they try to move forward in the tawdry and decadent world they inhabit,” says Lowenstein, who believes it’s best suited to a streaming platform.

“It’s full of misogyny, murder, mayhem and the beginnings of a worldwide revolution in politics, culture, civil rights, feminism and rock ā€˜nā€™ roll music.”

Michael Hutchence and Richard Lowenstein in Cannes in 1986 for ‘Dogs in Space.’

By sheer coincidence, in the 1990s Roadshow’s Alan Finney sent the director an early manuscript of Thorpe’s novel. He loved the idea but Finney subsequently moved to the Walt Disney Co. so it didn’t proceed.

After focusing on feature docs for the past 10 years, he is keen to return to his drama roots. He made his feature debut in 1984 with Strikebound, followed by Dogs in Space and He Died With a Falafel in His Hand.

The director confirmed he has shelved the idea of making Chrissy Amphlett: Lay My Body Down, a feature doc on the lead singer of rock band Divinyls, which Screen Australia had funded.

Potentially it’s a great story but he had trouble securing the rights to the band’s music and there is a dearth of behind-the-scenes archival material.

Lowenstein was happy with the exposure for Mystify: Michael Hutchence, which grossed $1.14 million in Australia, distributed by Madman, and was pre-sold to the ABC and the BBC.

After the Tribeca debut, the international distributor Dogwoof turned down offers from Netflix and Amazon Prime, figuring they would get better deals by selling territory by territory. Subsequently Netflix acquired the rights to Central and South America.