Sarah Lambert partners with Jane Manning and brother Andrew Lambert to launch Lantern Pictures

Jane Manning, Sarah Lambert and Andrew Lambert.

Bold, female-focused stories that have creators front and centre are the focus of a new production company led by writer and producer Sarah Lambert, director Jane Manning and television executive Andrew Lambert.

Unveiled at Screen Forever, Lantern Pictures has 10 projects in early-stage development, including three international co-productions.

Lambert, whose recent credits include The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, The Messenger, and Lambs of God, said the trio had begun talking about forming a company two years ago, with the window of opportunity presenting itself at the end of last year.

“From my perspective, I have been on back-to-back productions for about five years and things were just building with quite a lot of work overseas,” she said.

“We had been talking about various projects that had the potential to be brought to Australia and be run differently, rather than doing them over in the States.

“There were opportunities to have a production services company that could do them here and that started us talking about the potential of coming together and so we decided that, on the back of having done a lot of work and Andrew becoming available after leaving Foxtel, along with Jane coming off another show, that we had this real chance.”

Lantern’s development slate is a mix of original projects those based on existing IP, such as podcasts.

Lambert identified returnable series as an early focus for the Sydney-based company and was keen to harness the documentary experience of Manning, known for factual series Back to Nature and Deep Rising.

“There are some extraordinary true stories that we would love to turn into dramas and that are crying out to be turned into dramas,” she said.

“There are two in particular out of Jane’s stable that we’re incredibly excited about. They are Australian stories but we really feel they can travel and be sold all around the world.”

Central to the Sydney-based venture is employing the showrunner-driven production model more commonly seen in the US, where an individual, often the creator, guides the project through production, navigating the day-to-day challenges on set.

It’s a position Lambert held on the Lost Flowers on Alice Hart and is also set to learn more about as part of the cohort for Screen Australia and the Australian Writers’ Guild’s The Creators accelerator program, for which she will undergo training from Jeff Melvoin, founder and chair of Writers Guild of America’s Showrunner Training Program.

She said having the creative team at the heart of production tended to produce programming and drama that was “so compelling and different”.

“One of the problems is that a lot of people aren’t really trained [in being a showrunner],” she said.

“You might be a writer, or a creator, or a director that’s coming up with a show but [in terms of] of the real nuts and bolts of producing and controlling a vision all the way through and what that means, we haven’t really set ourselves up for success in that way in this market yet.

“So by creating a showrunner, creator-driven company, we want to empower our writers and our directors and support and nurture that talent to learn the job and set them up for success, so that vision is held all the way through a show.”

Manning said that despite a rise in premium female-driven storytelling, there was still huge scope to empower female and diverse creators in Australia.

“Through embracing the showrunner model we hope to nurture the groundswell of female-led and diverse talent that Australia has, to create inventive and ground-breaking premium drama,” she said.

However, Andrew Lambert added favouring the showrunner model would not come at the cost of harnessing their experience as producers.

“We don’t want to sound like we’re down on producers,” he said.

“We are producers and there are amazing opportunities for co-productions and to work collaboratively in the Australian, UK, and US industries, so that is a key focus for us.”