Tony Ayres. 

Matchbox Pictures co-founder Tony Ayres has launched his own TV drama and film production company with the backing of Matchbox and NBCUniversal International Studios.

Ayres has decided to go solo to devote more time to writing and directing and to embark on more internationally-aimed projects, all based on original ideas.

Tony Ayres Productions (TAP) will produce high-end dramas with NBCUniversal International Studios and Matchbox and it has a first-look deal with NBCUniversal for feature films.

So TAP is well placed to produce shows with NBCU’s UK production companies including Working Title Television, Carnival Films and Heyday TV and with Universal Television in the US.

He envisions a 70/30 split between TV projects and features, the latter including The Actresses, a comedy he conceived about four actresses vying for the same role, which he is co-writing with Rebecca Rigg.

“I wanted to change the way I work and to focus on more international-facing drama so I started discussions with Matchbox and NBCUniversal a year ago,” he tells IF. “The options were to go out with my own entity or to find a way of continuing to work with Matchbox and NBCUniversal. The latter is preferable.

“I want to do more writing and directing, based on original ideas, with a smaller slate. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work with NBCU International Studios to develop a new slate of global projects with my key collaborators. I’m also very pleased to continue working with the super-talented people at Matchbox.”

Matchbox interim MD Matt Vitins said: “Australian television is becoming more international and we have been looking at how we develop and finance shows. In creating TAP Tony gets a lot of creative control. The really cool part of the deal is that we keep him close to Matchbox. We are really excited to embark on this new chapter with him and extend our partnership further.”

Ayres will start small, working with two development assistants who are yet to be named. He will continue to serve as executive producer on season four of children’s drama Nowhere Boys (ABC/Netflix)  and two other series that are under wraps.

He has created, produced or executive produced a raft of Matchbox shows including The Slap, Glitch, Barracuda, Seven Types of Ambiguity, The Family Law and Wanted. He also directed the features Cut Snake, The Home Song Stories and Walking on Water.

Jeff Wachtel, NBCUniversal International Studios president, said: “Tony is one of the most inspirational and talented creatives this industry has to offer. His commitment and dedication to Matchbox over the past decade has been invaluable. We’re delighted to be able to support him on his new venture and to work with him to bring his vision directly to the global market.”

Vitins sees no need to hire a producer to replace Ayres, noting Glitch producer and showrunner Louise Fox recently joined the company to work across a range of scripted projects in Australia and abroad.

Among the shows in production are The Heights, a 30-episode serial drama co-produced with For Pete’s Sake Productions for the ABC, the second series of Mustangs FC (ABC) and the third of Wanted, produced with R&R Productions (Seven Network), while Secret City: Under the Eagle (Foxtel) is in post.

The company soon expects to announce a new director of unscripted, succeeding Kylie Washington, who joined BBC Studios as head of production in Australia, which will lead to a step-up in unscripted output. Currently Matchbox is producing Everyone’s a Critic, which captures the reactions of everyday Aussies when they visit the nation’s art galleries, for the ABC.


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