Creative Industries

Lion roars into contention with six Oscar nominations

AUSTRALIAN movie Lion is set to become one of the most acclaimed Aussie films of all time, receiving six Academy Award nominations in late January, including for Best Picture.

Nicole Kidman was nominated for for best supporting actress, Dev Patel for supporting actor, Luke Davies for adapted screenplay, Greig Fraser for cinematography and Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann for original score. 

The news follows Lion’s record-breaking opening weekend in Australia.  The $5million weekend box office was the largest opening ever for an Australian independent film. Lion remained at number one on the Australian box office charts on Australia Day.

The film was adapted from the  true story A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.

We are humbled and grateful this morning for this fantastic honour," Lion producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, from See-Saw Films, and fellow producer Angie Fielder said in a released statement.

"It’s so wonderful that the Academy has connected with Lion, a film about hope, and one which portrays the best aspects of humanity. It is so exciting to see so many people who have worked so incredibly hard on this film nominated, and to be able to bring the true story of Saroo and his families to an international audience."

Lion is Nicole Kidman’s fourth Oscar nomination for a performance. She won the Best Actress Award for The Hours.

Ms Kidman said:  It is such as thrill to be part of a Australian film that has received such critical acclaim and been embraced by audiences around the world. My deep appreciation to the Brierley family for allowing us to tell their personal story and particularly Sue Brierley for trusting me to portray her life.”

Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie from Australian distributor Transmission Films said:  “What a perfect way to end the opening week at the Australian box office for this remarkable film.  Lion is truly a film that Australian and international audiences have fallen in love with and it is thrilling to see it getting the critical acclaim it deserves.   Our congratulations to the filmmaking team and amazing cast.”

Lion was directed by Garth Davis from a screenplay by Luke Davies. See-Saw Films produced the film in association with Aquarius Films and Sunstar Entertainment.

Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder are producers with Andrew Fraser, Shahen Mekertichian and Daniel Levin executive producing.

See Saw’s previous films include the Academy-Award winning The King’s Speech and Tracks, while Angie Fielder has just returned from the world premiere screening at the Sundance Film Festival of Aquarius Films’ new feature Berlin Syndrome.


Screen Australia announces more than $3 million in development

THE LATEST Screen Australia funding covers a diverse slate of projects including a true post-War story from the Oscar-winning team behind The King’s Speech, a Dreamtime virtual reality experience, to an online series about bipolar disorder that is being co-executive produced by British comedian Stephen Fry.

Two Indigenous television projects and eight multi-platform projects have received production funding. Eight feature film projects have received development funding, and two individuals and two companies have received talent and sector development funding, totalling more than $3 million in funding from Screen Australia. 

The two Indigenous television projects to have received production investment funding are ABC TV’s The Warriors and the NITV documentary Carry the Flag.

The Warriors is a new Indigenous comedy drama series from Arenamedia, set in the competitive world of Australian Rules Football, with major production investment from Screen Australia and funding support from Film Victoria.

NITV documentary Carry The Flag (working title) delves into the story behind the Torres Strait Island flag designed by Bernard Namok, from Tamarind Tree Pictures with Screen Queensland and Screen Territory support.

Eight multiplatform projects have received production investment funding.

Virtual reality project The Buried  is a 3D immersive experience that plunges the viewer into a magical Dreamtime world, from Indigenous writer/director Tyson Mowarin, creative director Stuart Campbell and producer Justin McArdle, with funding support from Screenwest.

Conspiracy thriller Event Zero is a hybrid-format SVOD feature film and TV series based on the 2012 web series of the same name, from producer/director Enzo Tedeschi (AirlockThe Tunnel).

Australian Irish co-production teen comedy series Drop Dead Weird, for Seven Network and RTE Ireland, follows an Australian family who move to rural Ireland to run the family B&B. Its producers are Monica O’Brien and Sally Browning and it has funding support from Screen NSW.

British comedian Stephen Fry and Gina Carter are executive producing the web series HighLife, a companion piece to the highly acclaimed series Low Life from creators Adam Dolman and Luke Eveabout 17-year-old Genevieve who experiences her first manic episode of bipolar disorder.

Meanwhile, the punk rockers from Newcastle return for another season of antics in YouTube mockumentary These New South Whalesfrom writer/director/producing team Jamie and Ben Timony and Todd Andrews, with Laura Waters (8MMM) joining Jeffrey Walker (Dance Academy) as executive producer.

The latest round of Story Development funding, from July to September 2016, saw eight feature film projects share in more than $250,000 worth of funding.

Among those funded is The Unknown Soldier, based on the inspiring true story of the British priest who created the first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to help a nation grieving after The Great War. Its acclaimed screenwriter Jan Sardi (The Secret RiverShine) is joined by the Oscar-winning team from See Saw ProductionsEmile Sherman, Rachel Gardner and Iain Canning.

High octane thriller Celestial Blue’s premise featured air hostess Avery faced with a deadly pandemic that breaks out on board mid-flight. Celestial Blue comes from These Final Hours writer/director Zak Hilditch and producer Liz Kearney (Paper PlanesSpear).

The Blue Tinis a powerful dramatisation of a death-in-custody tragedy and a family’s struggle for justice, from producer David Jowsey (GoldstoneMystery Road) and writer Stephen Sewell.

Sci-fi dystopian drama In Vitro from writer/director/producing team Will JaymesTom McKeith and Talia Zucker is the second outing for Jaymes and McKeith whose debut feature Beast with Sam McKeith was selected for TIFF in 2015.

Jirga, from writer Benjamin Gilmour and producer John Maynard (Sherpa),  is about a former Australian soldier who returns to Afghanistan to find the family of a man he killed in combat.


How $7.6m in arts funding worked for Australia

THE Australia Council for the Arts’ recent $5.7 million investment in 177 projects – spread among individual artists, groups and small to medium arts organisations – has been the catalyst for “an impressive level of diversity, innovation and collaboration” according to the council’s chief executive, Tony Grybowski.

Mr Grybowski said through the council’s June grants round – along with $640,000 through the annual Australia Council Fellowships program, $343,772 through Visual Arts and Craft Strategy (VACS) individual grants, and $929,928 through Playing Australia national regional touring grants – many landmark projects were developed.

Mr Grybowski said while the latest grants round had been highly competitive.

“Almost 1,200 applications were received for the June round from small to medium arts organisations, and individuals and groups,” he said. “Consistently strong and highly contested, 177 projects will be funded through the fourth round of the revised grants model.

“I continue to be inspired by the diversity and depth of artistic quality and cultural ambition across the applications which reflects the strength and vibrancy of the arts across all of Australia”, said Mr Grybowski.

“Of successful applicants to arts projects, 30 percent nominated audience engagement and access to and participation in the arts as their key project outcomes. The Australia Council is committed to supporting opportunities for Australians to access and participate in the arts as consumers or creators.

“Positive trends continue with the increased number of new applicants to the Australia Council grants model, and of those, an increased number of new successful applicants. 

“The new grants model was designed to be more accessible and flexible in response to feedback from the sector. These results continue to build on previous grant rounds,” Mr Grybowski said.

Eight of Australia’s most accomplished artists working across diverse art forms have been recognised with prestigious Australia Council Fellowships: Lisa Maza (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts); Rebecca Reid (community arts and cultural development); Brooke Stamp (dance); Sarah Jane Pell (emerging and experimental arts); Julia Leigh (literature); Sandy Evans (music); Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy (theatre); and Danie Mellor (visual arts).

Some of the successful new applicants in the round included Natasha Phillips through Community Arts and Cultural Development for her China AUS Arts project, aimed at strengthening cultural literacy and investigating creative exchanges between Australia and China within the independent contemporary arts.

Earlier this year, the ARIA Award winning band The Jezabels released their third studio album, Synthia, to excellent reviews and a number four spot on the Australian chart. The band has received funding to support their North American tour later this year, further building the momentum of exceptional international success currently enjoyed by a high number of Australian contemporary music artists.

In the Emerging and Experimental Arts space, Tammy Brennan, Josh Harle and PACT Centre for Emerging Artists will all receive funding across a variety of projects that use cross-disciplinary processes and forms. \

New Landscapes Institute will receive $50,000 for The Long Paddock, an expanded public program and design and construction of ‘The Plant’. This is an experimental and multi-disciplinary project exploring Australia's Travelling Stock Routes. The 12 artists, architects and designers involved have developed work which explore the historical, environmental and cultural significance of these pathways.

Express Media has been funded to deliver a national program to support young writers. Tracks: a pop-up program for young writers, will bring the best of Express Media’s workshops, networking opportunities and showcase events to five locations across Australia.

Slingsby Theatre Company, Arena Theatre Company, Brink Productions and Gravity and Other Myths will each receive funding across a variety of projects that engage young people, create theatrical installations and develop future touring opportunities.

The Australia Council’s grant model enables applicants to select the practice area panel of expert peers they would like to assess their application. Panel options included: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts; Community Arts and Cultural Development; Dance; Emerging and Experimental Arts; Literature; Multi-art form; Music; Theatre; Visual Arts; and Artists with Disabilities.


The Odd Angry Shot restored for Long Tan battle 50th commemoration

THE National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has been digitally restored the acclaimed Vietnam War movie. The Odd Angry Shot, to commemoration the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.

Directed by Tom Jeffrey, the 1979 film featured an all-star cast including Graham Kennedy, Bryan Brown, John Jarratt and John Hargreaves.

“Producer Sue Milliken and I are honoured that the NFSA selected The Odd Angry Shot for restoration in time for the Battle of Long Tan anniversary on 18th August 2016,” writer/director Tom Jeffrey said.

“The new digital print is fantastic and it has given a new lease of life to this 1979 movie. It remains the only Australian motion picture dealing with our participation in the Vietnam War, and is a tribute to the professionalism of our soldiers serving in extremely difficult circumstances.” 

The Odd Angry Shot follows a single tour of duty of an Australia Special Air Service Regiment reconnaissance team in Vietnam, and their daily life in camp. Less about the politics of Australia’s involvement in the war, this film was more about the men, the conflict and their adjustment to life back home.

The restoration is the latest to come from the NFSA Restores program to digitise and restore classic and cult Australian films, so they can be seen in today’s digital cinemas.

Creative industries can ‘robot-proof’ future jobs

CAN YOU protect your job from going to a robot or automated system? You most likely can if you are in the creative industries, according to QUT Professor Stuart Cunningham.

He can show that as the workforce becomes increasingly automated, jobs requiring creative and emotional intelligence will be the most robot-proof. 

“Parents once worried about what use an arts degree was for their kids,” Prof. Cunningham said. “Now the digital creative economy is a growth area for Australia and the rest of the world. Even the usually staid Australian Bureau of Statistics claims culture is big business.

“In what some are terming a ‘rise of the machines’ era, a degree in one of the creative industries is an intelligent choice. Creative services like design, social media management and digital content have experienced much faster employment growth than the broader workforce.

“Yet the arts appear to be under siege, with the Federal Government hardly bothering to issue an arts policy at the recent election, and only minor tweaks to the dramatic downsizing of the budget of the Australia Council.”

QUT is going the other way, he said, “pinning its colours to the mast” with the unveiling of an $88 million second stage of its Creative Industries Precinct on August 28.

“QUT has taken a leadership role in modernising arts and humanities education, creating the world’s first Creative Industries Faculty in 2001, followed by a major investment in an innovative creative industries precinct in 2004 combining education, research and development, creative business enterprise development, and performance venue.

“Economics strategist Andrew Charlton from AlphaBeta has been collecting online statistics and was recently quoted on his analysis of 4.2 million job advertisements in the past three years. He found a 212 percent increase in jobs demanding digital literacy, a 158 percent rise in jobs demanding critical thinking and a 65 percent rise in jobs demanding creativity,” Prof. Cunningham said.

“Many unskilled and repetitive jobs are under threat, as are some in the engineering, accountancy and science disciplines. However jobs that require the human touch – creative and emotional intelligence – are much less vulnerable.

“Being so resilient in the face of automation they will be the jobs that will grow over the next 20-plus years.”
Prof. Cunningham said the Creative Industries Innovation Centre report, Valuing Australia’s Creative Industries – 2013, stated the total revenue generated from the creative economy in Australia each year amounts to $91 billion.

“Employment in creative industries has been growing much faster than the Australian economy as a whole,” he said. “At this stage the total creative workforce amounts to more than 600,000 people with industry growth driven by the digital revolution and demand for digital and design services across the whole economy.

“And we look forward to seeing what August’s Census will tell us about creative activity in Australia.

“Australia mirrors an international trend. In December 2015 the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers released a study concluding the global cultural and creative industries revenue amounted to $US2,250 billion – three percent of the world’s GDP.

“It also reported that, globally, the cultural and creative industries sector accounted for 29.5 million jobs, which is more than the combined jobs of the automotive industry in Europe, Japan, and US.”

Prof. Cunningham said the British Government recognised the value of creative industries when it started branding ‘Cool Brittania’ in the late 1990s and QUT was quick to follow in linking the arts to the broader economy.

“From the jobs of the future perspective we continue to push ahead,” Prof Cunningham said. “In 2012, for example, QUT brought its design and architecture disciplines from science and engineering into the Creative Industries faculty.

“It’s all about fashioning synergies between the disciplines,” he said.

The expansion of QUT’s Creative Industries Precinct makes it the most sophisticated and technically advanced creative education space in Australia, he said.

The centrepiece of the new development is a six-storey building accommodating QUT’s dance, drama, music, visual art, creative writing and animation and research programs.

It pulses with a state-of-the-art digital backbone and its design principles celebrate transparency, connectivity and a transdisciplinary approach.
The space was publically opened during the CreateX Festival on Sunday, August 28.

Billed as a collision of creativity and technology, CreateX offered a day of dazzling interactive performances and events, immersive games, workshops, films, robotics displays, talks, panels and more.




Bold Mentor LA program to boost careers

SCREEN Australia and Australians in Film have launched their inaugural Mentor LA film industry career development program with the help of Hollywood-based mentors Bruna Papandrea, Stuart Beattie, Deborah Riley and Eden Gaha.

Mentor LA matches four early-to-mid-level practitioners who currently work in the Australian industry with the dedicated mentors, giving them the opportunity to gain international industry knowledge from people who have excelled in their field.

The inaugural mentors list is exceptional: producer Bruna Papandrea (Gone Girl, Wild); writer/director Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Collateral); Emmy award-winning production designer Deborah Riley(Game of Thrones); and the president of unscripted television at Endemol Shine USA, Eden Gaha, who has been named one of the most influential unscripted executives by Variety.

The pairs will be matched for a 12 month structured program specific to their area of work, allowing the mentees to continue to develop their careers in Australia and build on their existing knowledge with their mentor.

Over the year, the mentors and mentees will meet on four occasions – three times online and once in person during a week of meetings in Los Angeles at the culmination of the program.

“AiF is in the perfect position to connect the Australian industry with the international market,” AiF president Simonne Overend said.

“Supported by Screen Australia, Mentor LA was created in the spirit of helping and supporting the next generation of Australian talent. It is all about investing information, ideas and experience back into the Australian market to make it more robust.”

Screen Australia’s head of business and audience Richard Harris said: “Mentor LA is a fantastic opportunity for up-and-coming talent to be guided by some of the most experienced and successful Australians in the industry. Working with these mentors is an invaluable experience, and we look forward to following the trajectory of the successful mentees and seeing the impact of the very first Mentor LA program.”

The successful mentees will be selected based on their work experience, career trajectory in their chosen field, and their statement of purpose and goals.  The mentees must reside in Australia and have professional experience in a field of endeavour that is shared with a mentor. AiF will manage and coordinate the program and applications.


The Mentors:

Born in South Australia, Bruna Papandrea launched production banner Pacific Standard with Reese Witherspoon in 2012. Since its launch, Pacific Standard has acquired and produced bestselling books into films, including Wild by Cheryl Strayed which starred Reese Witherspoon and was directed by Jean Marc Vallee, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which was directed by David Fincher. 

Pacific Standard is currently producing Big Little Lies starring Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley for HBO. Papandrea also produced the Summit Entertainment box office hit Warm Bodies through her company Make Movies. Her producing credits also include Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things,Noam Murro’s Smart People and Jonathan Teplitzky’s Better than Sex.Papandrea was also the executive producer on the highly acclaimed Milk from director Gus Van Sant.

Stuart Beattie began his career writing screenplays for Australian independent films, including the hit family film, Joey and the much-admired romantic comedy, Kick. He branched into Hollywood with the Oscar-nominated Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, which went on to become one of the most successful franchises in movie history. 

Then came the Michael Mann thriller, Collateral, which he wrote as a ‘spec’ script. The movie starred Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx and became the highest grossing film Michael Mann ever directed. It was also nominated for two Oscars and won a host of other awards around the world.

A graduate from Queensland University and NIDA, Deborah Riley started her career as a set designer for The Matrix and later as assistant art director on Moulin Rouge. Riley was herself mentored by the production designer Brigitte Broch, for whom she worked as art director on Real Women Have Curves in Los Angeles and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams in Tennessee and New Mexico. 

In 2013, she was employed as production designer on season four on HBO’s epic medieval fantasy, Game of Thrones. Since then she has been awarded back-to-back Emmys and Art Directors Guild awards for her work on the show. She was invited to speak on Visual Storytelling at the Smithsonian Institute in 2015.

After starting his career as a presenter for Channel Nine in Australia, Eden Gaha is now president, Unscripted Television at Endemol Shine USA, one of world’s largest producers of unscripted television. 

Edemol Shine USA produces some of the top unscripted series in the US, including MasterChef (FOX), MasterChef Junior (FOX), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Restaurant Startup (CNBC), Hunted (CBS) and Billion Dollar Buyer (CNBC). Gaha was recently named one of the most influential unscripted executives in Variety’s Reality Impact special report. 


Aust. movie comedy to star Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce

IT SEEMS LIKE an odd title for an Australian feature film – Flammable Children – but in that respect it perhaps follows so many other quirky and cleverly scripted internationally successful feature length comedies, including Crocodile Dundee and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Flammable Children – collaboratively backed by Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Screen Queensland – happens to have the star of Priscilla, one of one of the most successful comedic features in Australia’s history, Guy Pearce, again teamed with that film’s writer and director, Stephan Elliott. With the recent announcements of popular actors Kylie Minogue and Radha Mitchell joining the cast, big things are anticipated for the film. 

“Comedies are more than just a successful genre in Australia’s box office history; they form part of our national identity,” Becker Film Group managing director Richard Becker said. “Films like Priscilla and The Castle are embedded in our culture and serve to remind us of the self-deprecating humour that is the essence of our basic character.

“We are absolutely delighted to be bringing Flammable Children to audiences nationally and are thrilled that iconic Australian, Kylie Minogue, is now attached alongside Guy Pearce and Radha Mitchell to this colourful satire.”

The film is written and directed by Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and produced by Al Clark (PriscillaChopperRed Hill) and Jamie Hilton (BreathThe Waiting CityBacktrack). 

The storyline has that peculiar Australian quirkiness embedded.

It is 1975: the sexual revolution is in full swing; Saigon will fall; the first sounds of 2JJ are hitting the airwaves; Australia is in constitutional crisis; and in a sleepy beachside suburb, an extraordinary event will set in motion a crucial, comical and revelatory week for a teenage boy and girl. Something is about to go spectacularly wrong, and their lives will change forever.

Flammable Children marks the first time Ms Minogue and Mr Pearce have appeared on screen together since starring in Neighbours, early in their careers. As well as acting as an onscreen reunion for the two stars, Flammable Children will reunite some of the award-winning cast and crew from Priscilla.

The team joining Mr Elliott and Mr Clark includes production designer Colin Gibson, who recently won an Oscar and BAFTA for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road; and costume designer Lizzy Gardiner (Mission: Impossible II), who won an Oscar and BAFTA for her work on Priscilla. Other Priscilla ‘graduates’ include the score composer Guy Gross, who was BAFTA-nominated for Priscilla and Emmy Award-nominated film editor SueBlainey (LostMozart in the Jungle).

“We are so excited to be able to support Flammable Children,” Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said.

“In Kylie, Guy and Radha, the team has been able to secure some of Australia’s most established and iconic talents. The powerhouse in front of the camera is matched by the award-winning team behind it, who will bring our memories of 1970s Australia to life. Flammable Children is going to be smart and funny, with a distinctly nostalgic flavour that I think people will really connect with. Screen Australia is very proud to work with Screen NSW and Screen Queensland to support this film.”

Cameras will roll on the south-east coast of Queensland from early October.

Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Viera said, “This production will benefit from Queensland’s depth of talented cast and crew and showcase our fantastic locations. It’s a great opportunity for the local industry and keeps the back-to-back production happening in Queensland. It is a winning outcome for our business in creating simultaneous stories and economic growth for the screen.”

Screen NSW CEO Courtney Gibson said: “We’re proud to support Flammable Children, a glorious romp through Australia’s beachside history, being brought to life by an absolute dream team – on the screen, behind the camera and in post.”

Cutting Edge will provide post-production facilities in both Queensland and New South Wales and are also investors in the film. The Becker Film Groupwill look after Australia and New Zealand distribution, with international sales by WestEnd Films.



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