SPA announces Ones to Watch winners

Hayley Adams and Ljudan Michaelis-Thorpe.

Hayley Adams and Ljudan Michaelis-Thorpe are the winners of Screen Producers Australia’s (SPA) Ones to Watch program for 2020.

Adams will receive $15,000 from SBS to develop her unscripted project, I Could Make That, into a 1 x 30-minute program for SBS Viceland and SBS On Demand, while Michaelis-Thorpe of Zero Divide Productions will be given $10,000 to undertake a placement with Taxi Film Production in Brisbane.

The pair were among 12 producers that honed their skills through a series of webinars with industry experts across the past six months, while also undertaking one-on-one mentoring from among the SPA membership. 

In February, they put these skills to the test during a curated itinerary at Screen Forever, before preparing their applications for the SBS First Look Grant and Screen Australia-supported screen Internship.

Adams came into the Ones to Watch program having already co-produced and co-directed Love Songs, the world’s first narrative series for TikTok, which amassed over 12 million views on the app.

Her other narrative web series for TikTok, Scattered, received funding from Screen Australia and Film Victoria last month.

In I Could Make That, Adams aims to explore the art world in a way that is both accessible and insightful.

SBS head of documentaries Joseph Maxwell said the producer had demonstrated an “impressive ability to tell stories that really connect with people”.

“We’re looking forward to seeing her break down a world that can feel inaccessible for many and explore big issues that kick start important conversations about art, representation and identity,” he said.

Michaelis-Thorpe brought a wealth of experience to the program, via her role as managing director at Zero Divide Productions.

In undertaking the placement at Taxi Film Production in Brisbane, the Bidjara and Dhunghutti woman hopes to progress her Indigenous horror feature, Blood Dirt

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said paid tribute Michaelis-Thorpe for supporting Indigenous storytelling.

“Congratulations to Ljudan on receiving this year’s Screen Internship,” he said.

“We wish her all the best in this opportunity of working at Taxi Film Production, building on her already impressive experience as she takes the next steps in her career and continues to create and champion First Nations stories.“

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said the Ones to Watch program played a vital role in identifying producing talent and providing skill development opportunities.

“Many of our program alumni have gone on to produce award-winning projects and work for some of SPA’s biggest members,” he said.

“All 12 producers involved in the 2020 program should be exceptionally proud of what they have achieved during this first online edition of the program.”

Applications for the 2021 Ones to Watch program will open in the coming weeks.