Screen Australia invests more than $17 million in 23 projects

‘Playing for Keeps’.

Feature films directed by Robert Connolly, Jeremy Sims, Kriv Stenders and first-time directors Maziar Lahooti and Natalie Erika James have received production investment from Screen Australia.

In its largest ever single funding round for adult TV drama, the agency is supporting new series from Closer Productions, Screentime, Guesswork Television and Playmaker Media, plus a further four projects to be announced,

The slate also includes Aquarius Films’ first move into children’s TV with the ABC tween series The Unlisted, and online series from Ludo Studio, the Wyrmwood team of Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner and Robot Army.

In total, Screen Australia is investing more than $17 million in six features, 10 TV series and seven online productions, which collectively  represent more than $142 million in production.

CEO Graeme Mason said: “This slate represents the most money we have ever invested in adult TV drama in a single round. Indeed in the ten years Screen Australia has been operating, the near $20 million we have invested in adult TV drama in the 2017/18 financial year is an all-time record.

“It truly is a remarkable time for Australian television, and it is clear local broadcasters and streaming services see our local stories as their point of difference in an incredibly crowded marketplace. Many of the titles in this round have the makings of returnable series, representing potentially years of work for not only the creative teams, but for the hundreds of cast and crew that it takes to get these stories to screens.”

Connolly will direct The Dry, an adaptation by Harry Cripps of Jane Harper’s debut novel of the same name about a cop who returns to his country hometown after an apparent murder-suicide committed by his childhood friend. The producers are  Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies), Jodi Matterson (Down Under) and Steve Hutensky (The Nightingale). Roadshow will distribute; Cornerstone Films internationally.

Sims is directing Rams, as an English-language adaptation of the Icelandic film Hrútar, the story of two feuding brothers on adjoining sheep farms who must find a way to work together to save their small town and their family’s legacy. Jules Duncan wrote the screenplay and WMBC’s Janelle Landers and Aidan O’Bryan are producing. Roadshow; WestEnd Films.

Lahooti will direct Below, a thriller set in a near-future Australia which follows  Dougie, a darknet grifter who enters a world of corruption and blackmail in a detention centre. Australian playwright Ian Wilding wrote the screenplay for the producers, Good Thing Productions’ Nick Batzias, Veronica Gleeson and Kate Neylon. Screenwest and MIFF Premiere Fund are co-investing.  Madman Entertainment; Seville International.

Natalie Erika James will direct and co-write with Christian White Relic, a psychological horror about three generations of women – daughter, mother and grandmother – who are haunted by a manifestation of aged dementia that takes over their family home. Carver Films’ Sarah Shaw and Anna McLeish are producing with two US partners to be announced along with the cast. Umbrella Entertainment; Endeavour Content.

The other films are Kriv Stenders’ Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, which has just wrapped, and Steven Vidler’s Standing Up for Sunny, which gets completion funding.

Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music, a drama based on the Tim Winton novel, also received funding but was not included in the announcement. The film is due to shoot in Western Australia later this year, produced by Aquarius Films.

The TV projects include  The Hunt, Closer Productions’ first long form drama with Sophie Hyde directing, commissioned by SBS. Scripted by Matthew Cormack (52 Tuesdays) and Niki Aken (ANZAC GIRLS, Janet King), the 4 x 54′ female-centric drama centres on two high school teachers who discover students are sharing explicit photos of their underage friends and peers – a revelation that puts unbearable stress on the lives of four teenagers and their families. The SAFC is also investing.

Guesswork Television is producing a second series of Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan’s Get Krack!n for the ABC. Produced by Tamasin Simpkin and Antje Kulpe, the show will  continue to build on its commitment to encourage diversity in the writers room. Film Victoria is also on board.

Now shooting in Melbourne, there will be guest appearances from a host of well-known faces including Matt Day, Elaine Crombie, John Howard, Genevieve Morris, Adam Hills, Michala Banas, Denise Scott and Justine Clarke. The returning cast includes Nakkiah Lui, Miranda Tapsell, Anne Edmonds, Michelle Lim Davidson, Adam Briggs, Charlotte Nicdao, Ming-Zhu Hii, Wes Snelling and Dave Thornton.

ABC head of comedy Rick Kalowski quipped that the first season drew all four key demographics: fans of great satire; young people delighted to learn the ABC existed; angry old guys who just got Facebook; and people who only watch shows that offend them. Series 2, he added, “will give all something to love/find deeply problematic.”

The other TV projects include the previously announced Bloom, produced by Playmaker Media for Stan, and Screentime’s Playing for Keeps for Network Ten. The latter follows the male-dominated world of a football club where the real power is with the women and features Madeleine West, Cece Peters, Annie Maynard, Olympia Valance and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor. The creative team includes writers Claire Phillips and Christine Bartlett.

Aquarius Films’ The Unlisted  (15 x 30‘) centres on 12-year-old identical twins who discover  the government is secretly manipulating Australia’s youth via electronic tracking devices and with a group of underground vigilante kids set out to stop  the evil authorities from creating an army of young soldiers. Rhys Graham and Corrie Chen are among the directors. The writers include Mithila Gupta, Timothy Lee, Tristram Baumber, Jane Allen and Greg Waters.

In addition, Cheeky Little Media’s ABC children’s series Spongo, Fuzz and Jalapeña received completion funding.

In the online sphere Ludo Studio and Indigenous Media Company Since 1788 will collaborate on Robbie Hood for SBS, a re-imagination of the classic tale Robin Hood, Indigenous style. Set in  Alice Springs, the 6 x 10′ series will follow Robbie and his gang of preteen mischief masters. Dylan Rivers is writing and directing with Tanith Glynn producing. Screen Queensland and Screen Territory are also investors.

Director Kiah Roache-Turner and producer Tristan Roache-Turner are teaming with Spectre Studios for Wyrmwood VR, a one-off 15 minute short form virtual reality experience which will allow audiences to immerse themselves in the Wyrmwood zombie narrative.

The concept: The viewer is trapped in an underground bunker with a psychotically evil doctor and a group of zombie-blending soldiers and so must orchestrate a daring escape before his or her brains are sucked out of the skull.

Robot Army will produce 10 Year Beached Aziversary (10 x 5’) for the ABC. Written and directed by Nick Boshier, Jarod Green and Anthony MacFarlane, the show will reunite the Whale (Boshier) and the Seagull (Macfarlane) in addition to a new set of seafaring, human-ish and mythical-creature friends.

The Big Nothing (5 x 7’) is a sci-fi detective thriller co-directed by Lucy Campbell and Peter Ninos, produced by Sharptooth Pictures with Sophie Morgan and Adam Camporeale. The online series will follow Detective Lennox as he investigates a murder on an isolated mining outpost near Saturn.

Created by writers and performers Fiona Harris (The Beautiful Lie) and Mike McLeish (Utopia, Keating the Musical), online comedy The Drop Off (6 x 8’) will explore that strange bubble of time each school morning between when parents and carers drop the kids off and when the school bell tolls.

Writer/director Tonnette Stanford and Opening Act Films will deliver the second season of online series Romp (6 x 14’). Originally launched as Love Bytes in 2014 and generating more than 9 million views online, the sitcom style series will continue following Jade, Stacey and Michael as they seek love and romance but instead find misadventure in Sydney’s hetero-flexible dating scene.



Made Up Stories Pty Ltd

Genre Drama, Thriller

Producers Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky

Director Robert Connolly

Writer Harry Cripps

Australian Distributor Roadshow

International Sales Cornerstone

Synopsis After an absence of twenty years, Aaron Falk returns to his drought-stricken hometown to investigate an apparent murder-suicide committed by his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. But when Aaron’s investigation opens a decades old wound – the unsolved death of 16-year-old Ellie Deacon – Aaron must struggle to prove not only Luke’s innocence but his own.


Good Thing Productions Pty Ltd

Genre Action, Drama, Comedy

Producers Veronica Gleeson, Nick Batzias, Kate Neylon

Executive Producers Paul Wiegard, Annick Poirier, Virginia Whitwell

Director Maziar Lahooti

Writer Ian Wilding

Australian Distributor Madman Entertainment

International Sales Seville International

Synopsis In a near-future, darknet grifter Dougie is recruited to work security at a refugee detention centre. There, he is drawn into an underground operation blackmailing detainees to fight for profit. When tragedy strikes courageous fighter Azad, Dougie locates his hitherto dormant conscience and takes a stand.


Red Dune Productions Pty Ltd and Deeper Water Films Pty Ltd

Genre Drama, War

Producers Martin Walsh, John Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Stuart Beattie

Executive Producers Tony Noun, Silvio Salom, James Costas, Alistair Birmingham, Gabriel Carey

Director Kriv Stenders

Writer Stuart Beattie

Story by Jack Brislee, James Nicholas, Karel Segers, Paul Sullivan

Australian Distributor Transmission

International Sales Saboteur

Synopsis The true story of how Major Harry Smith and his company of 108 young and mostly inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers hold off an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 battle hardened North Vietnamese and Main Force Viet Cong soldiers in The Battle of Long Tan.


Carver Films Pty Ltd

Genre Psychological horror

Producers Sarah Shaw, Anna McLeish

Director Natalie Erika-James

Writers Natalie Erika-James, Christian White

Australian Distributor Umbrella Entertainment

International Sales Endeavor Content

Synopsis Three generations of women – daughter, mother and grandmother – are haunted by a manifestation of aged dementia that is taking over their family home.



Genre Comedy, Drama

Producers Janelle Landers, Aidan O’Bryan

Director Jeremy Sims

Writer Jules Duncan

Australian Distributor Roadshow Films

International Sales Westend Films

Synopsis When a proud sheep town’s flocks are threatened by a rare disease, two feuding brothers struggle to preserve their family’s legacy by outsmarting a government plan that jeopardises the whole community.



6 x 60mins


Genre Drama

Producer Sue Seeary

Executive Producers Nick Forward, Rob Gibson, Glen Dolman, David Maher, David Taylor

Director John Curran

Writers Glen Dolman

Broadcaster Stan

Synopsis One year after a devastating flood kills five locals in an idyllic country town, a mysterious new plant appears with the power to restore youth.


8 x 46mins

Screentime Pty Ltd

Genre Drama

Producers Kerrie Mainwaring, Paul Moloney

Directors Sian Davies, Tori Garrett, Scott Major

Writers Claire Phillips, Christine Bartlett, Ian Meadows, Ainslie Coulston

Broadcaster Network Ten

International Sales Screentime Commercial Pty Ltd

Synopsis In the male-dominated world of a football club the real power is with the women. In a fresh, contemporary voice this female-skewed, heightened, telenovela style drama takes no prisoners. Foregrounding five very different women, Playing for Keeps explores this unique world from their perspective. From the grand-stands and the locker rooms to the red carpets and the bedrooms. Is it infatuation or love, power or relevance? What makes these women tick? This is lifestyles of the rich and famous writ large. Bold, brassy, funny and dangerous.  Playing for Keeps will be addictive, must-see TV. When you fly high you sometimes feel the heat.


4 x 54mins

Closer Productions Pty Ltd

Genre Drama

Creators Sophie Hyde, Matthew Cormack

Producers Rebecca Summerton, Sophie Hyde

Director Sophie Hyde

Writers Matthew Cormack, Niki Aken

Broadcaster SBS

International Sales DCD Media

Synopsis Two idealistic high school teachers discover students are sharing explicit photos of their underage friends and peers – a revelation that puts unbearable stress on the tightly woven lives of four teenagers and their families.


8 x 25mins

Guesswork Television Pty Ltd

Genre Comedy

Producers Tamasin Simpkin, Antje Kulpe

Executive Producers Kevin Whyte, Kate McCartney, Kate McLennan

Director Hayden Guppy

Writers Kate McCartney, Kate McLennan

Broadcaster ABC

International Sales Guesswork Distribution

Synopsis Get Krack!n is the highly anticipated new series from the stars of The Katering Show (Australian TV’s all time most viewed digital series).


8 x 60mins

Jungle FTV Pty Ltd

Genre Drama

Producers Chloe Rickard, Steven Zanoksi

Executive Producers Rachel Lang, Chloe Rickard, Gavin Strawhan, Phil Lloyd, Steven Zanoksi

Writers Gavin Strawhan, Rachel Lang, Phil Lloyd, Sarah Walker, Tim Lee

Broadcaster Nine Network

Synopsis Bad Mothers is a fresh ensemble drama about four very different friends negotiating the perils and joys of being a modern mum: from parties to play dates, hangovers to homework, mishaps to murder.




26 x 11mins

Cheeky Little Media Pty Ltd

Genre Children’s, Animation

Producers Patrick Egerton, Isla Curtis

Executive Producers Patrick Egerton, David Webster

Director David Webster

Writers Bruce Griffiths, Tim Bain, Charlotte Rose-Hamlyn, Joel Slack-Smith, Bruce Griffiths, Cleon Prineas, Dan Mansour, Simon Dodd, Zoe Harrington, David Breen, Thomas Duncan-Watt

Broadcaster ABC

International Sales DHX International

Synopsis Three best buds, a town full of crazy contests and a friendship that breaks all the rules!





15 x 30mins

Aquarius Films Pty Ltd

Genre Action adventure, Thriller, Drama

Producers Polly Staniford, Angie Fielder

Executive Producer /creator Justine Flynn

Directors Rhys Graham, Corrie Chen

Writers Mithila Gupta, Timothy Lee, Tristram Baumber, Jane Allen, Greg Waters, Natesha Somasundaram, Chris Kunz

Broadcaster ABC

International Sales Sinking Ship

Synopsis Twelve-year-old identical twins Dru and Kal discover that the government is secretly tracking and manipulating Australia’s youth via electronic tracking devices. Together with a group of underground vigilante kids – The Unlisted – they must stop the evil authorities from creating an army of young soldiers who can be manipulated to serve the wealthiest citizens.




6 x 14mins

Opening Act Films Pty Ltd

Genre Comedy

Producer Pete Ireland

Executive Producer Zayn Buksh

Director / Writer Tonnette Stanford

Platform YouTube

Synopsis Three housemates – Jade, Stacey and Michael – refuse to grow up. Now in their thirties, and with reality closing in on all sides, can they find happiness in Sydney’s hetero-flexible dating scene…without killing each other first?


6 x 8mins

Kiss & Go Productions Pty Ltd

Genre Comedy

Producers Mike McLeish, Fiona Harris

Executive Producer Paul Walton

Director Tori Garrett

Writers Mike McLeish, Fiona Harris

Platform YouTube

Synopsis A short-form comedy exploring that strange bubble of time every school morning known as The Drop Off.


6 x 10mins

Ludo Studio Pty Ltd, Since1788 Productions Pty Ltd

Genre Comedy

Producers Tanith Glynn-Maloney, Meg O’Connell

Executive Producers Charlie Aspinwall, Daley Pearson

Director Dylan River

Writers Dylan River, Kodie Bedford

Platform SBS

Synopsis Robbie is a troublemaker with a heart of gold living in a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia, wreaking havoc with his gang of merry boys. They’re in their mid-teens, young enough to get a slap on the wrist by the law, but old enough to know better.


5 x 7mins

Sharptooth Pictures

Genre Sci-fi, Drama

Created by Claire Bishop, Lucy Campbell, Sophie Morgan and Peter Ninos

Producers Adam Camporeale, Sophie Morgan

Directors Lucy Campbell, Peter Ninos

Writers Lucy Campbell, Sophie Morgan

Platform YouTube

Synopsis After a brutal murder on a space station, Detective Lennox is sent to investigate the three remaining crew members.


10 x 5mins

Robot Army Productions Pty Ltd

Genre Comedy

Producers Nicholas Boshier, Jordana Johnson

Director Nicholas Boshier

Writers Nicholas Boshier, Jarod Green, Anthony Macfarlane

Animator Benjamin Zaugg

Platform ABC

Synopsis The 10 year anniversary of the seminal very short cartoon, Beached Az.


1 x 15mins

Guerilla Films Pty Ltd

Genre Action/Horror

Producer Tristan Roache-Turner

Director Kiah Roache-Turner

Writers Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner

Platforms STEAM, VIVEPORT, Oculus Home

Synopsis You are trapped in an underground bunker with a psychotically evil doctor and a group of zombie-blending soldiers, and must orchestrate a fantastically daring escape before your brains are sucked out of your skull.