Screen Australia and VICE have named Searching for the Tassie Tiger as the winner of annual pitching competition Pitch Australiana, held at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) in Melbourne in early March.
The creative team – director Naomi Ball and producers David Elliot-Jones and Louis Dai – will receive $50,000 in production funding and their short documentary will be released through VICE’s global digital network, and broadcast on SBS VICELAND.
Searching for the Tassie Tiger will explore new evidence and a growing civilian movement that are challenging the long-held belief that Tasmanian tigers are extinct. The documentary will follow Neil Waters, a middle-aged gardener in remote north-east Tasmania, as he quits his day job and commits his life’s savings to search for the ancient animal. Waters is the impassioned creator of the ‘Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia’ Facebook page which is leading an Australia-wide grassroots effort to rediscover the tiger.
Ball said: “We’re thrilled that VICE and Screen Australia have made it possible for this story to become part of the Australiana canon. Searching for the Tassie Tiger will be an absorbing adventure through remote and rugged landscapes led by Australia’s most dedicated tiger believers. Within the trail cam footage and beneath the scat samples, we’ll be looking not only for this ancient marsupial beast, but also for the hope we all need, as we face up to our destruction of the environment.”
Pitch Australiana is focused on stories that have been overlooked by mainstream media. Previous winners include Burlesque Boys, an ob doc following a group of male erotic entertainers and Shooting Cats, which explored the impact of feral cats on Australian wildlife.
Screen Australia head of documentary Bernadine Lim said: “Naomi Ball and David Elliot-Jones’ pitch at this year’s competition really stood out to us. Whilst the mystery around the Tassie tiger knows no bounds, their promise of a special insight into the grassroots community of Tassie tiger believers with great characters was very compelling. I look forward to seeing this project on VICE.”