SBS takes Digital Originals ‘Moonbird’, ‘Moni’, ‘Warm Props’ into production

Jub Clerc filming 'Warm Props' in WA last week.

Production has begun in Western Australia, NSW, and Tasmania on three new short-form series to screen on SBS via the Digital Originals initiative.

Moonbird (Tasmania), Moni (NSW), and Warm Props (WA) are moving forward after being selected from seven titles to receive initial funding through the Screen Australia, SBS, and NITV program in August 2022, and further development funding in March last year.

Moonbird explores the relationship between a recently sober father and his son who attempt to reconnect through a traditional muttonbirding season on a remote Tasmanian island. It is the launch project for Tasmanian Aboriginal screen production company kutikina Productions, founded by Nathan Maynard and Adam Thompson, with the pair joined in the creative team by producers Catherine Pettman and Matthew Newton.

In Moni, the titular character is a closeted 39-year-old Samoan man haunted by the re-emergence of a deep secret harboured from childhood. On returning to his family and his hometown of Western Sydney, he is confronted with the cultural and community pressures he had escaped from – making his journey to healing a difficult one. Working on the production are creator, writer, and showrunner Taofia Pelesasa, director Alana Hicks, producer Nicole Coventry and executive producer Eliorah Malifa with Pelesasa Pics.

(L-R) ‘Moonbird’ director, co-creator, and co-writer Nathan Maynard, co-writer and co-creator Adam Thompson, and producer Catherine Pettman.

Completing the trio is Jub Clerc and co-writer/director Kimberly Benjamin’s Warm Props, which follows protagonist Charlie Flogim as she is thrust back to her remote hometown of Broome and forced to deal with a chaotic film shoot and face the one person she vowed never to see again. Jodie Bell produces the series for Ramu Productions.

SBS scripted commissioning editor Nakul Legha said the broadcaster was proud to be commissioning and developing “such bold and ambitious scripted series that continue to raise the bar for Australian storytelling”.

“The Digital Originals initiative consistently delivers award-winning, creatively brilliant series that have launched the careers of Australia’s most talented emerging and under-represented voices,” he said.

“We can’t wait for audiences to fall in love with Moni, Moonbird and Warm Props.”

NITV acting head of Indigenous commissioning and production, Adam Manovic said the program provided a unique platform for emerging First Nations creatives to showcase their innovation and share their stories.

“With incredible talent shining through in this latest announcement of commissions and development projects, we’re excited to see what new stories and voices will come through as applications open for 2024,” he said.

From left are ‘Moni’ 1st AD Tin Pang with creator/writer Taofia Pelesasa and director Alana Hicks.

Screen Australia’s head of online and games, Lee Naimo, agreed, describing Digital Originals as a “flagship partnership that supports emerging creatives”.

“It gives teams the tools to create online projects of scale in a way that isn’t seen anywhere else in the world and has uncovered talent from across Australia who have gone on to work on ground-breaking dramas,” he said.

Five projects have also been selected for further development from the 10 shortlisted teams who took part in an exclusive workshop hosted by Screen Australia, SBS and NITV in December 2023.

Up to three will later be chosen for production funding and commissioning. The creative teams, and their projects, selected for further development, are:

Boundary’s End (QLD)
Two Blak Queens living in Meanjin’s West End are thrust into the unknown when their landlord dabbles in witchcraft, sending the young women on a quest to unblur the lines between fantasy and reality.
Writer/Directors: Miriam Dynevor and Makisha Broome

DisMISSable (VIC)
Disabled activist Alana has always hated her family’s obsession with the local Miss Sultanah Beauty Pageant, but her able-bodied sister Nicky would do anything to save it… So when its financial backing is cut and Nicky makes it ‘disabled-only’ in a secret ploy for diversity funding, Alana enters to burn down this supposed family legacy once and for all.
Producer: Hannah Ngo (Lazy Susan Films)
Writers: Artemis Munoz and Rhian Wilson Ruge
Director: Alistair Baldwin

Fish Boi (NSW)
A disgraced sneaker hustler takes the leap to save his parents’ bankrupt Filipino mini-mart to reclaim his family’s respect – by going all-in on setting up the biggest underground fish delivery hustle in Western Sydney.
Producers: Robertino Zambrano, Dulce Aguilar, Gabrielle Joosten (KAPWA Studioworks)
Writer/Director: Robertino Zambrano

Lingered (NSW)
When trans man Darcy returns to his regional hometown to help his estranged mother Nora, he discovers that someone unexpected from his past has been living in his family home since the day he left.
Producer: Cyna Strachan,
Executive Producer: Liam Heyen (Mad Ones Films)
Writer: AP Pobjoy

Little Korea (QLD)
Two migrant Korean women spiral out of control when they become locked into a battle between their restaurants.
Producer: Lark Lee (Lark Films)
Writers/Directors: Lark Lee and Katrina Irawati Graham

Applications are now open for the next round of the initiative, with submissions closing 5pm AEST, Thursday 15 August 2024. To read the full guidelines, click here.