Tegan Higginbotham.

Screen Australia is providing more than $400,000 in story development funding for 16 projects including feature films, television and online series, featuring such talent as Bruna Papandrea, Nick Verso, Priscilla Cameron, Lisa Shaunessy, Anthony Mullins, Kodie Bedford and Tegan Higginbotham.

The slate includes The Agency, a musical comedy about moral corruption in the advertising industry, comedic horror Gnomes centered on grudge-bearing garden gnomes in a fictional regional town, and the feature Misfit, which looks at a woman who suffers from an identity disorder.

Eleven projects were funded through the Generate fund, two via the Premium fund and three through the legacy development program which has been discontinued.

Head of development Nerida Moore said: “The new development guidelines have now been in action for five months. We drastically reduced eligibility barriers and will now fund projects for any screen platform. We’ve had a fantastic response from the industry and the number of applications we’re receiving per week is steadily increasing.

“As well as innovative and exciting projects from established practitioners, we are starting to see new and emerging voices from around Australia coming through. In this funding round I’m particularly delighted to see so many emerging female writers.”

Among the projects funded for development are:

Blood Sisters from Mad Dan Productions: An adventure/drama series for online set in Far North Queensland, which follows three teenage girls on the run, bonded by death and united by truth. The writing team is led by writer/story producer Anthony Mullins (The Strange Calls), along with Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road), Daniel Mulvihill and Madeleine Dyer. Stephen Corvini and Enzo Tedeschi are the executive producers.

Breathing Sea from Midwinter Films: A period melodrama feature set in a remote Australian coastal town in the 1930s and 40s, an unfolding mystery which shifts between two time periods and follows a couple of fifty years, Marta, a Jewish Immigrant and Jack, an Australian fisherman and solider, who are confronted by death and challenged by a past secret. Producer Bridget Callow-Wright and director Priscilla Cameron are teaming again after The Butterfly Tree.

Finding Sanity from Sandcastle Studios: A feature about the true story of Dr John Cade, who risked his life to discover the world’s first treatment for mental illness, based on the book of the same name by Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore. BAFTA-winning screenwriter Mike Bullen (Cold Feet) is attached as executive producer and AWGIE-winning screenwriter Chris Cudlipp will write and produce.

Gnomes from The Two Jons: A character driven comedy with a supernatural twist scripted by Tegan Higginbotham and Paul Verhoeven, with script editing by Marieke Hardy. Richard Kelly and John Molloy will produce alongside Joel Kohn, who will also direct. Kohn created the series inspired by his viral short film Gnomes Attack.

Misfit from Made Up Stories: A feature length drama written and directed by Luci Schroder, whose short film Slapper screened at Sundance Film Festival in 2017. The film follows Heidi, a woman who suffers intensely from trauma-triggered, dissociative identity disorder, and her experience navigating life as she falls through the cracks in a system that is not designed to support her. The producers are Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson and Steve Hutensky, who are preparing the film adaptation of Jane Harper’s The Dry, directed by Rob Connolly.

Splitters from Arcadia: A feminist conspiracy feature film exploring sexism within the cosmetics industry. The all-female creative team comprises producer Lisa Shaunessy, executive producer Alexandra Burke, script editor Joan Sauers and writer/director Brooke Goldfinch.

The Agency from Ambience Entertainment: An outrageous musical comedy set in a trendy advertising agency, focusing on an artistically-stifled jingle writer Sebastian, his eccentric co-workers and his seemingly endless client list, as he battles for authenticity in a world of facades. The writing team is led by co-creator Joel Slack-Smith (Orange is the New Brown) and includes Emmy Award-winning British writer Roger Drew (The Thick Of It, Veep).

The Gathering from Asphodel Films: A six-part teen drama series about a group of disillusioned teens who discover they have been chosen to battle a centuries-old evil simmering within their small town. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Isobelle Carmody, the series is written and will be directed by Nicholas Verso (Boys in the Trees) and co-written by Craig Irwin, who worked with Verso on the fourth series of Nowhere Boys. Kodie Bedford is on board as a writer.

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