Penguin Bloom. (Photo: Cameron Bloom) 

Screen Australia has announced $500,000 in story development funding for 14 features and three online series, in addition to an industry placement.

The slate includes three projects that came through the Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories initiative: writer-director Mirrah Foulkes’ debut feature Runaway, writer Liz Doran and producer Louise Smith’s feature Bondi Beach Breakfast Club and web series All Our Eggs, from director Martha Goddard and producer Dan Prichard.

Among the newly funded projects is the previously announced feature Penguin Bloom, produced by Bruna Papandrea, Reese Witherspoon, Emma Cooper and Naomi Watts, with Watts also attached to star as the lead. Shaun Grant is adapting the book by Bradley Trevor Grieve.

Papandrea and Witherspoon’s adaptation of Jane Harper novel The Dry has also received funding. Described as an “atmospheric thriller” Robert Connolly is attached to direct and Harry Cripps will pen the adaptation. While Papandrea departed the shingle she shared with Witherspoon, Pacific Standard, last September, both continue to produce projects together.

Comedy horror Croak is to set form the first feature for brothers Connor and Christiaan van Vuuren (Soul Mates), to be produced by Bridget Callow-Wright for Midwinter Films and Chloe Rickard for Jungle. Co-written by Shane Brady and Priscilla Cameron, the film will follow a misfit gang of teenagers who must band together to defeat a giant mutant cane toad plaguing their town, and the corrupt mining company that created it.

Other projects include sci-fi web series Changed World, to be produced by Cargo director Ben Howling for Established Media & Novel Pictures and directed by Dan Cooper.

The recipient of the industry placement is Jenevieve Chang, whohas secured two placements in development with Arclight and Felix Media. Chang is driving Arclight’s Chinalight initiative.

“It is impossible to overstate the value of having someone with the clout and experience of producer Bruna Papandrea return home to develop distinctly Australian stories with home-grown talent,” said Nerida Moore Screen Australia’s senior Manager of development.

“We are thrilled to see her partner with Harry Cripps who has carved out an impressive career overseas, award-winning director Robert Connolly and in-demand screenwriter Shaun Grant.”

Moore continued: “We’re delighted to be able to continue supporting the female-led teams behind All Our Eggs, Runaway and Bondi Beach Breakfast Club.

“Our intention with Gender Matters was always to flood the pipeline with projects and it is incredibly gratifying to see quite a number of these stories gain momentum as they move through the development phase towards production.”

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