Screen Australia invests $4 million in six projects

Sigrid Thornton and Aaron Pedersen.

Screen Australia has announced $4 million worth of production investment for one film, two television series and three online projects. They include a film adaptation of book Penguin Bloom, starring Naomi Watts and produced by Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories; a second season of ABC series Mystery Road; Nine’s Seachange reboot; and Roborovski, a VR project from Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Dev Patel.

Penguin Bloom, to be directed by Glendyn Ivin, is based on the book by Bradley Trevor Greive and has been adapted for the screen by Shaun Grant and Harry Cripps. It follows the true story of a family from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Watts is Sam Bloom, a young mother who has a near-fatal accident that leaves her unable to walk. As her family struggles to come to terms with their new situation, an injured magpie chick dubbed “Penguin” enters their lives and helps them to cope.

Wayne Blair will be the set-up director of Seachange – Paradise Reclaimed (working title), from Every Cloud Productions and ITV Studios Australia. It sees Sigrid Thornton reprise her role as Laura Gibson, returning to the beachside paradise of Pearl Bay to attend the birth of her estranged daughter’s baby. To be produced by Lois Randall and executive produced by Deb Cox, Fiona Eagger, Thornton and ITV’s David Mott, the series will span eight episodes. Cox, who co-created the original show with Andrew Knight, leads the writing team working with script producer Kym Goldsworthy.

The second season of Bunya Productions’ Mystery Road has been backed via Screen Australia’s Indigenous department, with support from Create NSW. Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns to solve a grisly murder in a coastal town whose laid back demeanour harbours dark secrets. Jay’s investigation will lead him into a shadow world of carpetbaggers and smugglers, of lore and deep lore, pushing him to his very limits and forcing him face to face with his greatest enemy.

Among the online projects is 8 x 5 mockumentary series Australia’s Best Street Racer, created by Michael O’Neill and Dylan Hesp and produced by Plonk’s Georgie Lewin. It follows 18 year old  Taylor James as he attempts to infiltrate Launceston’s late night street racing scene in his mum’s 1994 Holden Barina.

Cobham-Hervey and Patel have co-written Roborovski with John Collee and will co-direct the a 12 minute animated short/VR project together. The title character is an adorable thimble sized hamster that spends his days in Marvin’s Pet Shop, hoping to find a family. When he is constantly overlooked by the people and animals around him his seething resentment and intense jealousy soon takes hold and a murderous side of little Roborovski is released. It will be produced by Jomon Thomas, Patel, and Cobham-Hervey and co-produced by Mark Grentell (The Merger), and Elaine Beckett.

The federal agency has also backed The Listies Work for Peanuts, a 6 x 8 minute comedy series from kids comedy duo Matthew Kelly and Richard Higgins, aka ‘The Listies’. This family series will follow the pair as they cycle through a variety of bizarre jobs in order to pay their 10-year-old landlord Abernathy Peanuts. Judi McCrossin (Time Of Our Lives) and Kate Keegan will produce the series alongside Kelly and Higgins. The series will be directed by Darren Ashton.

Screen Australia head of content Sally Caplan said: “Screen Australia is committed to funding projects that tell uniquely Australian stories and it’s fantastic to see such a diversity of projects being green lit.”

“We’re particularly pleased to support our content creators to take on new challenges. Tilda Cobham-Hervey, off the back of her directorial debut A Field Guide To Being a 12-Year-Old winning the Crystal Bear for Best Short Film at Berlinale, is now taking creative risks in the VR space. The producers of Plonk, Nathan Earl and Georgie Lewin are moving further into scripted comedy with mockumentary Australia’s Best Street Racer.”

“Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox from Every Cloud productions are the top of their game and we’re delighted to be supporting them in bringing the beloved Pearl Bay into the 21st century rebooting popular series Seachange with a new generation of characters and community issues.”

Head of Indigenous Penny Smallacombe said: “It’s fantastic to be supporting the return of popular television series Mystery RoadMystery Road was Bunya Productions’ first television drama production and became the highest ranking non-children’s show in ABC iview history. The team are poised to build on the success of the first series and we can’t wait to see where they take it next.”


Made Up Stories Pty Ltd
Genre Drama, Family
Producers Bruna Papandrea, Naomi Watts, Emma Cooper
Executive Producers Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky, Cameron Bloom, Bradley Trevor Greive, Samantha Bloom
Director Glendyn Ivin
Writers Shaun Grant, Harry Cripps
Australian Distributor Roadshow Films
International Sales Endeavor Content (worldwide)
Synopsis Penguin Bloom tells the heart-warming true story of a family’s extraordinary friendship with a unique little bird.


Bunya Productions Pty Ltd
Producers David Jowsey, Greer Simpkin
Executive Producer Ivan Sen
Directors TBC
Writers Blake Ayshford, Steven McGregor, Tim Lee, Kodie Bedford, Danielle MacLean
Broadcaster ABCc
International Sales all3Media International
Synopsis A mangrove swamp. An endless sky. A headless body. Detective Jay Swan takes on a grisly case in order to be closer to his family, but has he left it too late? Set in a small coastal community where the desert meets the ocean, secrets past and present run deep and dark.

Every Cloud Productions & ITV Studios Australia
Drama, Comedy
Producer Lois Randall
Executive Producers Fiona Eagger, Deb Cox, David Mott, Sigrid Thornton
Director Wayne Blair (set up director)
Writers Deb Cox, Elizabeth Coleman, Jo Martino, Michael Millar, Jaime Marc Browne, Ian Meadows, Joshua Mapleston
Broadcaster Nine Network
International Sales ITV Global Entertainment Ltd
Synopsis Twenty years on – when Laura Gibson returns to the beachside paradise of Pearl Bay to attend the birth of her estranged daughter’s baby – rising seas levels, community cover-ups and some very stormy weather conspire to convince her this town now needs her as much as she needs it.


8 x 5mins
One Stone Pictures Pty Ltd
Producer Georgie Lewin
Executive Producer Nathan Earl
Director Michael O’Neill
Writer Dylan Hesp
Platform Online
Synopsis In the hopes of finding a community to belong to, eager 18 year old Taylor James attempts to infiltrate Launceston’s late night street racing scene in his mum’s 1994 Holden Barina.

1 x 12mins
S’YA Concept
Animation/VR, Comedy
Producers Jomon Thomas, Dev Patel, Tilda Cobham-Hervey
Co-producers Mark Grentell, Elaine Beckett
Executive Producers Natalya Pavchinskaya, John Collee
Directors Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Dev Patel
Technical Director Rick Pearce
Writers Dev Patel, John Collee, Tilda Cobham-Hervey
Platform TBC
Synopsis Roborovski tells the tale of an adorable, thimble sized hamster that spends his days in Marvin’s Pet Shop longing to be adopted by a loving family. After many weeks of excruciating rejection we start to question just how far this little hamster will go to make sure he is picked next.

6 x 8mins
Bob Pictures Pty Ltd
Producers Judi McCrossin, Kate Keegan, Richard Higgins, Matt Kelly
Director Darren Ashton
Platform Online