‘Safe Home’ and new Digital Originals on SBS drama slate

Warren H Williams and Rarriwuy Hick in 'True Colours'.

SBS will bring more new voices to the forefront in its upcoming drama slate, which includes four short-form productions from its Digital Originals initiative, as well as the series Safe Home, from producer Imogen Banks.

The commissions joined Bunya Productions’ True Colours in the scripted lineup unveiled at the broadcaster’s upfronts today, with the online event offering the first look at the SBS and NITV co-commission.

There was also an emphasis on fresh perspectives in factual, highlighted by the return of Australia Uncovered and the previously announced one-off documentary initiative, Curious Australia.

SBS managing director James Taylor said the programming for the year ahead was designed to be “natively multilingual, digital-first, truly innovative, and trusted by a growing audience”.

“Come to us on any platform and you’ll find stories that give a voice to communities otherwise unheard, perspectives that break down barriers, entertainment and sporting moments that unite us, news that Australians turn to, and programs that are capturing the hearts and minds of people around the world,” he said.

“Our distinctive content and world-class services are underpinned by the incredibly diverse creative talent that exists in Australia.”

Created by Anna Barnes, Safe Home tells the story of Phoebe, a woman whose life is turned upside down when she begins working at a family violence legal centre. Within the twists and turns of the plot is an exploration of the stories told about family violence and its refusal to discriminate regardless of race, age, class, or gender.

Producer Imogen Banks.

The series, which will premiere in 2023, is the first to be produced by Imogen Banks’ Kindling Pictures, with Barnes writing alongside Jean Tong and Michelle Law.

There is a major production investment from Screen Australia, in association with SBS, while Banijay is managing international sales.

Screen Australia has also partnered with SBS and NITV on the four Digital Original dramas to debut on SBS On Demand this year.

Following the premiere of queer dramedy Iggy & Ace, another project from the 2019 program, A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, is set to screen in 2022.

As IF has reported, the series is written by and stars Anna Lindner, the series follows Harriet (Harry) Wylde, who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her two terminally ill parents within the same week and forced to face her ultimate fear: absolute aloneness. But when she stumbles across her dysfunctional foster sister, Daisy, camping in the cemetery, she discovers that grief doesn’t play by any rules, and soon, neither will she.

The Kojo Studios production is being directed by Renée Mao, with Linda Ujuk as executive producer and creative producer, and Kate Butler as series producer, together with Julie Byrne.

From the Digital Originals class of 2020 comes mystery series Appetite, which is about an unlikely trio of food delivery riders who find themselves entangled in a quest to uncover the truth after one of their fellow riders dies on the streets of Sydney.

Creator, writer, director and producer Mohini Herse teams up with writers Neilesh Verma and Grace Tan, director Neil Sharma, and producer Karen Radzyner, as well as executive producers Sleena Wilson, Elise McCredie, and Jomon Thomas.

Elsewhere, dark tales from the Korean diaspora will be delivered via Night Bloomers, where the protagonists experience a world of fractured identities and unresolved yearnings in their encounters with a goblin stowaway and monsters hunting in the night. The horror anthology comes from creator, writer, director, and producer Andrew Lee with writers Ra Chapman, Jacob Holmes-Brown, and Suzanne Kim, who will also direct an episode. Producing is Turnabout Entertainment’s Ashlea Ritchie, while Michael McMahon and Information & Cultural Exchange’s (I.C.E) Barry Gamba executive produce.

There is a lighter tone to the fourth Digital Originals production, Latecomers, in which two strangers with cerebral palsy become determined to explore their own relationships with sex, and each other, after watching their carers hook up at a bar.

Written and created by Emma Myers, Angus Thompson, and Nina Oyama, the comedy/drama will be directed by Madeleine Gottlieb and Alistair Baldwin, and produced by Hannah Ngo and Liam Heyen.

Outside of drama, factual will also be front and centre for the broadcaster this year as it welcomes four new Australian documentary commissions – Blackfella Films’ The Australian Wars, Northern Pictures’ Yes, No, Maybe, and ITV Studios Australia series’ Alone Australia and Life on the Outside.

‘Life on the Outside’ host Danielle Cormack.

Set to premiere next month, Life on the Outside examines whether placing prisoners into ordinary households for the first 100 days of their release will change their long-term outcomes. Wentworth’s Danielle Cormack will host the 3 x 1-hour series.

It will be followed by The Australian Wars in the middle of the year, in which host Rachel Perkins will look at how more than 100 years of conflict between colonial settlers and Indigenous Australians has often been buried, whitewashed, or ignored. The series received major production investment from SBS, in association with Screen Australia.

Premiering in 2023 will be an Australian version of Alone, a US reality series that has clocked up 18-million-chapter-views on SBS Demand, second only to The Handmaid’s Tale. Ten individuals with expert survival skills are dropped off, alone into separate parts of a remote wilderness location and must survive for as long as possible. Each confronts the forces of nature, hunger, and the toughest challenge of all: loneliness.

Also coming next year is a follow up to 2021’s domestic violence documentary series See What You Made Me Do, with investigative journalist Jess Hill and the team from Northern Pictures turning their attention to consent for Yes, No, Maybe. In the series, which received principal production funding from Screen Australia, in association with SBS, Hill will use first-person testimony to explore the status of consent in Australia, following an explosive year of this issue in the headlines.

Factual series returning to the network include Every Family Has a Secret (season three) and Who Do You Think You Are? (season 13).

There are also four new documentaries from season two of the Australia Uncovered documentary strandThe Cleaning Company, Kids Raising Kids, Inconceivable, and Me and My Tourette’s.

The Cleaning Company is fly-on-the-wall insight into the world of trauma cleaning through the journey of charming transgendered business owner Sandra Pankhurst and the lives of a motley crew of workers at Frankston’s Specialised Trauma Cleaning Services (STC). The documentary is a Walking Fish Productions and Good Things Productions production for SBS, with principal production funding from Screen Australia in association with Film Victoria.

The film will premiere next month at SXSW under the title Clean.

‘Kids Raising Kids’.

For Only Human’s Kids Raising Kids, audiences are inside Canberra College (CC) – a unique school for teen parents – while also following the characters at home, the women’s refuge, the birthing clinic, support groups, or wherever their journeys take them.

Parenting is also at the centre of Sam Content’s Inconceivable, a documentary about investigative journalist Sarah Dingle’s discovery at the age of 27 that mother was impregnated with anonymous donor sperm to have her and that the man who brought her up was not her biological father.

Rounding out the Australia Uncovered strand is Joined Up Films’ Me and My Tourette’s, a detailed account of how three people experience one of Australia’s biggest Tourette’s camps. The personal stories reflect the difficulties faced by them and their families, as well as the spectrum of this disorder.

Over on NITV, which celebrates 10 years of being free-to-air on SBS, standalone half-hour documentaries Black Empire, Sista’s in Mining (working title), andUnlocked will premiere as part of the Curious Australia initiative, which was created to support screen practitioners from under-represented backgrounds in the sector.

The network will also screen shorts Blackfellas Who Can’t Dance, Finding Jedda, Mudskipper, Shiny One, and The Lost Crystal of Jessica’s Room from the No Ordinary Black initiative.

Other NITV commissions include factual series Off Country, a four-part journey that follows seven Indigenous students over the course of a year as they leave home and become boarders at one of the most elite schools in the country, Geelong
Grammar School. Producing are Brown Cabs Productions, Letterbox Films, and Goodthing Productions. The feature-length version premiered last year at Melbourne International Film Festival.

‘Off Country’

Feature documentary Kindred will offer an insight into the friendship of producer Gillian Moody and director Adrian Russell Wills. Produced by Kalori Productions, the story focuses on their connection and the bond that brought them together- being adopted.

They join previously announced NITV titles, children’s series Barrumbi Kids, and documentary series’ Larapinta and Our Law.

SBS director of Indigenous content Tanya Denning-Orman said First Nations storytelling would be “loud and proud across SBS channels and platforms in 2022”.

“With NITV at its heart, SBS is bringing more First Nations voices and perspectives to all Australians with programs celebrating culture and Country, sharing knowledges, and acknowledging truths,” she said.

As is the case with factual, food programming is an integral part of the SBS stable, with The Cook Up becoming the network’s largest-ever commission in 2021 at 200 episodes.

For the coming year, it will be joined by new commissions, The Precinct’s Dishing It Up, HSquared’s The Streets with Dan Hong, and BlinkTV’s Guillaume In Paris.

In sport, SBS will screen 64 games of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ live; more than 800 hours of cycling content, including Tour De France, Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España, and the inaugural Tour De France Femmes; and the 50th Koori Knockout on NITV.

Coinciding with the programming announcements was the unveiling of the SBS Commissioning Equity and Inclusion Guidelines, which outline genre-specific targets for on- and off-screen roles for SBS-commissioned content and internal productions across its scripted and unscripted programming.

In 2022, SBS will also launch its next Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – an Elevate RAP, the highest status available from Reconciliation Australia – that will see the network initiatives to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and create societal change.