Creative Industries

NIDA opens graduate school

AUSTRALIAN creative industries received another shot in the arm in December with the opening of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) Graduate School in Sydney.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is also the Arts Minister, officially opened the NIDA facility, which he described as “a much needed creative and cultural hub for mid-career and upskilling artists”. 

“The Graduate School will lead Australia into a new era of training in performing arts ensuring we remain productive, creative and competitive in a global market,” Mr Turnbull said.

The Federal Government provided $6.8 million in capital works funding to NIDA, which included support for the Graduate School. This funding was complemented by business and philanthropic support leveraged by NIDA.

“NIDA is one of Australia’s seven national elite performing arts training institutions and is regarded as one of the world’s top 10 actor training schools,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We expect the best of our artists and arts organisations and to help them succeed and compete internationally we must ensure they have access to the infrastructure they need. The NIDA Graduate School directly ensures Australia invests in our artistic talent and helps develop our next generation of actors, policy makers, festival and artistic directors.

“NIDA has produced some of Australia’s most successful and recognised performing artists, whether on our screens and stages, or taking leading roles behind the scenes.”

For more see the Creative Industries section.


Google backs Skip Ahead screen initiative


GOOGLE and Screen Australia are to provide all five Australian Skip Ahead initiative winners with the funding and production resources to create unique online content to engage new audiences around the world.

Google has agreed to contribute funding and resources and will support the successful applicants to travel and work at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles in November.

“Considering that Skip Ahead is only in its second year, we were thrilled with the range and originality of content that Australian creatives pitched to us this year,” said Screen Australia’s investment manager Mike Cowap. 

“We’re really confident the 2015 recipients will not only deliver great content, but will demonstrate Australia’s creative ingenuity internationally.”

Comedy trio SketchShe will deliver Traffic Jam – The Musical, while French SungaAttack and The Roundabout Crew will collaborate on tongue-in-check series Australiana Hostel.

In factual programming, Draw with Jazza plans to create a documentary The Tale Teller about animated storytelling whilst How To Cook That’s Ann Reardon will go on tour to find (and make!) The Sweetest Thing – said to be Australia’s most extreme dessert.

The team from Aunty Donna will deliver absurdist webseries 1999 based on the computing Y2K panic of last century.

Skip Ahead fosters the next generation of Australian storytellers by providing funding, education and support for the production of new online content,” Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Maile Carnegie said.

“The first round winners created fantastic online series and we think that this second wave of funding will help even more Australian voices to reach global audiences.”

All Skip Ahead applicants had to satisfy the initiative’s criteria which included proof of existing audience, concept creative strength and the financial viability of the project.

“I am beyond ecstatic to have received the Skip Ahead,” said Josiah Brooks of Draw with Jazza.

“For me YouTube has been an incredible resource to deliver work directly to my fans, and Skip Ahead gives me the boost I need at this stage in my career to take my work to the next level.”


The 2015 selected projects are:



An old travelling storyteller enters a city with nothing to his name but the stories he has spent his life gathering, which he wishes to pass on before he dies – and a three-part documentary series about the past, present and future of animated storytelling.

Channel: Draw with Jazza (402,326 subscribers • 22,758,977 views)
Creators: Josiah Brooks
Genre: Animation & Documentary
Format: 4 x 10 mins



The SketchSHE girls inadvertently cause a frustrating fender bender on a busy freeway resulting in a frenzy of road rage. Through song and dance they teach commuters how to get along.

Channel: SketchShe (686,411 subscribers • 70,498,143 views)
Creators: Shae-Lee Shackleford, Madison Lloyd, Lana Kington
Genre: Musical comedy
Format: 4 x 6 mins



An absurdist sketch webseries loosely following a professional business in the lead up to New Year’s Eve 2000, as the employees prepare for the dreaded and unfathomable Y2K.

Channel: Aunty Donna (63,533 subscribers • 7,137,237 views)
Creators: Max Miller, Mark Samual Bonano, Zachary Ruane, Broden Kelly, Sam Lingham, Tom Armstrong.
Producer: Nel Minchin
Genre: Comedy
Format: 10 x 3-5 mins



From fabulous liquid nitrogen ice-cream, to gold-leaf chocolate bombs, to candy balloons filled with helium that literally float above the dinner table, food scientist and pastry chef Ann Reardon will uncover the weird, wild and wonderful world of extreme desserts and cakes as she travels around Australia.

Channel: How to Cook That (1,882,673 subscribers • 218,450,660 views)
Creators: Tom Maynard, Ann Reardon, Sophie McGill
Genre: Documentary
Format: 4 x 10 mins



A narrative comedy series featuring an ensemble cast of YouTube personalities who are working at a rundown Sydney hostel on the brink of closure due to a string of unbelievably bad online reviews.

Channel: Frenchy SungaAttack (174,914 subscribers • 28,274,291 views) and The Roundabout Crew (57,481 subscribers • 5,075,910 views)
Creators: Benjamin French, Tom Armstrong
Genre: Comedy
Format: 4 x 5 mins

Skip Ahead was first announced in 2013, with the inaugural funding awarded in March 2014 to five recipients who have since gone on to deliver their content:

Axis All Areas by Axis of Awesome (musical comedy);

Lend Us A Ride by Mighty Car Mods (doco-comedy);

Neighbours Zombie Edition by Louna Maroun (dramedy);

Fernando’s Legitimate Business Enterprise by Sexual Lobster (animation);

Reinventing Education (episodes 2 and 3 to come) by Veritasium (documentary).


Simon Baker returns to make Tim Winton bestseller


SCREEN AUSTRALIA’s $13.4 million investment in 12 new feature film and television projects is helping to bring popular international screen star Simon Baker back to Australia.

Among the projects, having a combined production value of $64.3 million is Simon Baker’s (The MentalistMargin Call) return to Australia to make his directorial feature film debut. He will reimagine and star in the screen adaptation of Tim Winton’s bestselling novel, Breath

Making the announcement from Cannes, France, Mr Baker said, “When I first read Breath, I knew I had to somehow make the film. The gathering storm of the story, detailed and intimate against the power and scope of the rugged setting, struck me as incredibly cinematic. I’m beyond excited to be back in Australia realising this dream.”

Mr Baker has been living and working in Los Angeles for 18 years, and is known most recently for his starring role in The Mentalist. From 2009 to 2014, he directed numerous episodes of The Mentalist and was also a producer on the show. Mr Baker’s many film roles have seen him work with the likes of Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese and George Romero.

Award-winning author Tim Winton is notorious for his remarkable ability to tell exhilarating stories with courage. The screen version of the well-known Australian novel will bring to life teenagers, Pikelet and Loonie, hungry for discovery, who form an unlikely bond with a reclusive surfer and his mysterious wife. The film will transport audiences back to coastal Australian life in the 1970s.

See Pictures and Gran Via Productions will team up with Mr Baker, who will also produce the film. Hollywood luminary and Oscar and Emmy Award–winning producer Mark Johnson (Breaking BadThe NotebookRain Man) and Jamie Hilton (BacktrackThe Little DeathThe Waiting City) will also produce. Top of the Lake writer, Gerard Lee, will adapt the script for screen. Arclight Films will run international sales.

The latest Screen Australia Production Investment program round will see support given to two intense thrillers. 

Berlin Syndrome, the eagerly anticipated third film from multi-award winning filmmaker CateShortland (Somersault), is about a holiday romance that turns sinister. And Damien Power’s feature debut, Killing Ground, sees a young couple’s camping trip turn into a violent ordeal.

Two comedies that will have audiences in stitches will receive support. Doug Anthony All Star, Tim Ferguson, and Marc Gracie (producer of The Craic) will make comedy CircleWork (working title), which sees the shenanigans of two friends, Lucy and Billy, unfold at a wild Bachelors and Spinsters Ball.

Anupam Sharma’s cross-cultural romantic comedy starring Brett Lee, unINDIAN, will exemplify the heart of multicultural Australia, with Lee’s character falling for an Australian Indian woman with strict parents.

The program will support seven television projects – five adult and two children’s.

From the makers of The Slap TV series comes the screen adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ novel, Barracuda. The four-part series follows young Olympic hopeful Danny Kelly as he deals with the pressure of obsession.

Crime drama Deep Water is a gripping story that explores a world in which the threat of violence or death is only one encounter away.

Two biopics will receive support – nourishing Australian audiences’ healthy appetite and interest in real-life stories. Peter Brock is a two-part series about the loved and admired racing identity, who was a hero to a generation of Australians.

From the makers of Better Man, telemovie Mary: Making of a Princess will tell the celebrated love story of Mary Donaldson’s transformation from ordinary Australian working woman into the Crown Princess of Denmark.

John Edwards’ latest drama, Tips for Married Life, is a six-part series about a woman’s journey of survival from housewife to taking over her husband’s criminal empire.

Two popular live action children’s drama series will receive support. Top-rating television series Nowhere Boys: The Rise of Bear will be made into a telemovie that see the boys drawn together for one last spell.

Tomorrow When the War Began, based on the extremely popular book series, will be made into a six-part TV series. The story will see a group of teenagers fight for their family and homeland, when a large hostile force invades their country. In 2010, the film version of the same name was the number one Australian film at the local box office.

Screen Australia’s head of production, Sally Caplan, said, “It is exciting to announce this round out of Cannes, where there is a huge market response to Simon. It is especially gratifying that he is choosing to come back home to make this symbolic Australian story.

“We are equally delighted to support an excellent and diverse range of films from new and proven directors and more impressive stories for the small screen for both adult and younger audiences.”


Aquarius Films Pty Ltd

Producer Polly Staniford
Executive Producers Angie Fielder, Troy Lum, David Whealy
Director Cate Shortland
Writer Shaun Grant
Australian Distributor eOne
International Sales Memento Films International
Cast Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt
Synopsis A passionate holiday romance takes an unexpected and sinister turn when an Australian photographer wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.

See Pictures Pty Ltd, Gran Via Productions, Breath Productions Pty Ltd

Producers Mark Johnson, Simon Baker, Jamie Hilton
Director Simon Baker
Writer Gerard Lee
Australian Distributor Palace Films
International Sales Arclight Films
Synopsis Based on Tim Winton’s award-winning novel set in mid-70s coastal Australia. Two teenage boys, hungry for discovery, form an unlikely bond with a reclusive surfer and his mysterious wife. The boys are driven to take risks that will have a profound and lasting impact on their lives.

CIRCLE WORK (working title)
Stella Rose Productions with Redman Entertainment
 Marc Gracie, David Redman
Executive Producers Stephen Basil-Jones, Bryce Menzies
Directors Tim Ferguson, Marc Gracie
Writers Edwina Exton, Tim Ferguson
Australian Distributor Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions
International Sales Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions
Synopsis At a wild Bachelors & Spinsters Ball two best mates, Lucy and Billy, have one night to discover their love for each other… Love is a Cattlefield.

Hypergiant Films Pty Ltd

Producer Joe Weatherstone
Executive Producer Lisa Shaunessy
Writer/Director Damien Power
Australian Distributor Mushroom Distribution
International Sales Films Distribution
Synopsis A young couple’s camping trip turns into a violent ordeal when they stumble across the scene of a shocking crime.

 Anupam Sharma, Lisa Duff
Executive Producers Mr Devendra Gupta, Mr Chandru Tolani
Director Anupam Sharma
Writer Thushy Sathi
Australian Distributor Friends India Entertaainment
Cast Tannishtha Chatterjee, Brett Lee, Supriya Pathak Kapur, John Howard, Adam Dunn, Arka Das, Tiriel Mora
Synopsis When beautiful divorcee Meera meets Will, she finds it hard to resist the tall blonde man with a charming smile… But her family has other ideas in mind, as falling in love with an Australian is not only scandalous – it’s unINDIAN! A cross-cultural comedy with heart and spice.


Matchbox Productions Pty Ltd

Producer Amanda Higgs, Tony Ayres
Writers Belinda Chayko, Blake Ayshford
Broadcaster ABC
Domestic/International Sales Universal Media Studios International Limited
Synopsis Based on the book of the same name by Christos Tsiolkas, Barracudafollows young Olympic hopeful, Danny Kelly, as he deals with the pressure of obsession.

Blackfella Films

Producers Miranda Dear, Darren Dale
Writers Kris Wyld, Kym Goldsworthy
Broadcaster SBS
International Sales DCD Rights
Synopsis A gripping crime drama that explores a world in which the threat of violence or death is only one encounter away.

FremantleMedia Australia Pty Ltd

Producer Antonia Barnard
Executive Producers Jo Porter, Anthony Ellis
Director Jennifer Leacey
Writer Samantha Strauss
Broadcaster Network Ten
Domestic/International Sales FremantleMedia International Ltd
Synopsis Twenty-eight-year-old Mary Donaldson has all but given up on love when one night she goes to the pub and meets a prince. But falling in love is the easy part, compared to what it takes for an Australian girl to become the future Crown Princess of Denmark.

PETER BROCK (working title)
Shine (Aust) Pty Ltd

Producer Kerrie Mainwaring
Executive Producer Rory Callaghan
Director Geoff Bennett
Writers Justin Monjo, Adam Todd
Broadcaster Network Ten
Domestic/International Sales Endemol Shine International
Synopsis This is the true story of a man who was a hero to a generation of Australians. Loved and admired by many, but few knew the real Peter Brock – what made him tick?

Endemol Australia Pty Ltd

Producer Mimi Butler
Executive Producers Janeen Faithfull, John Edwards
Writer Justin Monjo
Broadcaster Nine Network
Domestic/International Sales Endemol Shine International
Synopsis A grieving career wife has to wise up and fight for survival when she finds herself responsible for her dead husband’s criminal debts and wrongdoings.




Matchbox Productions Pty Ltd

Producer Beth Frey
Executive Producers Tony Ayres, Michael McMahon
Writers Tony Ayres, Rhys Graham, Craig Irvin
Broadcaster ABC TV
Domestic Sales Australian Children’s Television Foundation
International Sales Universal Pictures (Australasia), NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Cast Dougie Baldwin, Joel Lok, Rahart Adams, Matt Testro
Synopsis As a devastating magical being threatens to destroy the multiverse, the Nowhere Boys discover that to save everything and everyone that they love, they must make the ultimate sacrifice… themselves.

Ambience Entertainment Pty Ltd

Producers Michael Boughen, Tony Winley
Executive Producers Matthew Street, Kim Vecera, Christopher Mapp
Director Brendan Maher
Writers Blake Ayshford, Alice Addison, Justin Monjo, Josh Mapleston
Broadcaster ABC3
Australian Distributor ABC Commercial
International Sales Annapurna Pictures
Synopsis When their country is invaded by a large hostile force, a group of teenagers fight for their family and homeland. Based on the era-defining novels by John Marsden.


Seven edgy dramas backed by Screen Australia


SCREEN Australia is funding seven unconventional series through its Multiplatform Drama program. The program supports risky projects with unorthodox formats.

Screen Australia’s head of production, Sally Caplan said these productions utilise non-traditional platforms for distribution, making them accessible to global online audiences.

The innovative slate features stories from an Emmy Award–winning team, a popular cult comedian, an all-female comedy team, two YouTube stars and the return of the worst wine series ever made. The eclectic range delivers comedy entertainment with broad audience appeal.

“The online space is an extraordinarily rewarding growth area for Australian filmmakers; online videos made by creators we have supported through the program have been viewed over a billion times. How to Talk Australians and The Katering Show are viral hits and #7DaysLater has pushed the envelope of innovation, recognised internationally with a Digital Emmy win. The worldwide critical acclaim and festival success of shows like Wastelander Panda and Noirhouse continues to showcase the dynamic talent and fresh ideas coming out of Australia,” Ms Caplan said. 

“The Multiplatform Drama program has been instrumental in propelling Australian talent to a global arena and has played a vital role in supporting the screen industry to find a new pathway to audiences in phenomenal numbers. We look forward to presenting some of our killer talent at a select showcase in April at MIP Digital Fronts at MIPTV in Cannes.”

Filmmaker Michael Shanks has multiple YouTube mega-hits under his handle TimTimFed – most recently with his parody of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. With almost 11.5 million hits to date, the George Lucas Special Edition has spawned dozens of YouTube responses.

Working with LateNite Films, Mr Shanks will write and direct the six-part online comedy series The Wizards of Aus, a fish-out-of-water story about a Gandalf-esque wizard who decides to turn his back on the magical realm and settle down in Footscray – with disastrous results.

Known as the RackaRacka, Adelaide’s Philippou brothers have built a vast, dedicated online audience, with 806,000 YouTube subscribers. Screen Australia will support them to make three episodes of their trademark stunt-laden, high-octane comedy, Versus, allowing them to deliver action-packed content on the next level. 

Julie Byrne of Triptych (The Babadook) will produce the series with Danny and Michael Philippou on board to write and direct. The South Australian Film Corporation will also support the project.

From producer/director Nathan Earl, the second series of Plonk will bring the team back together to pick up where the first series left off. This time the incompetent wine series host, Chris Taylor (The Chaser’s War on Everything), will wreak havoc in South Australia’s renowned wine country. With distribution across the Nine Network, Stan and YouTube, Plonk series 2 will be highly accessible to audiences across multiple platforms.

Paul Fenech has delivered striking comedy to Australian audiences with Fat Pizza and Housos. Screen Australia will support his web series debut, Dumb Criminals Motorcycle Club, to deliver his clever Australian humour to the world. The 10-part, short-form comedy follows a group of new characters, who are the most inept criminals ever to ride on two wheels.

Endemol is collaborating with an emerging all-female comedy team onFragments of Friday, a short-form online series. The comedy sees a group of friends in an all-too-frequent scenario – trying to piece together their Friday night after waking in a haze of overindulgence. Writer/director Kacie Anning is currently causing waves with her online series Minister for Men starring Gretel Killeen.

From the comedy powerhouse of Princess Pictures (Summer Heights HighIt’s a Date), comes an original opera crafted for a contemporary on-screen experience. Screen Australia will support The Divorce, a witty ‘soap opera’ in collaboration with Opera Australia and with support from Film Victoria. The opera will be broadcast on ABC TV and iview, with Universal Pictures set to distribute theatrically. The broadcast/online format is four half hours and the theatrical format will screen as a 90-minute film.

Before their Digital Emmy win for #7DaysLater, Queensland’s Ludo Studio received support to create animated comedy series Doodles, which brought to life the artistic contributions of their social media audience. Screen Australia will support the team to make a second series of 24 x 30-second episodes, this time with ABC TV and YouTube giant Frederator (Adventure Time).

Now an open-ended program, accepting applications at any time throughout the year, the Multiplatform Drama program continues to approach creative content in a flexible and open manner.


Multiplatform TV and theatrical
Princess Pictures Holding Pty Ltd
Producer Andrea Denholm
Executive Producers Emma Fitzsimons (Princess Pictures), Lyndon Terracini (Opera Australia)
Director Dean Murphy
Writer Joanna Murray-Smith
Composer Elena Kats-Chernin
Synopsis The Divorce is an opera written specifically for the screen, rethinking the operatic art form for a contemporary film and television audience. Iris and Jed, rich and urbane, are happily getting divorced and are throwing an elaborate party at their elegant home to celebrate. By the end of the evening, Iris and Jed’s divorce has triggered a renegotiation of all certainties. Humorous, witty and complex, this ‘soap opera’ is a light-hearted exploration of the universal themes of love, passion, regret, greed and longing: a celebration of the profound in the shallow. 

Animated series
Ludo Studio Pty Ltd
Producer Charlie Aspinwall
Director Daley Pearson
Director/Animator Benjamin Zaugg
Synopsis Doodles is an interactive, animated multiplatform comedy series that takes real children’s drawings and turns them into hilarious micro movies featuring a cast of adorable, absurd and amazing coloured-in characters surrounded by insanity. Doodles is produced for ABC3 by the Emmy® Award-winning, Ludo Studio. Ludo will be collaborating with the US production company Frederator (Adventure Time) to distribute the series online.

Online video
Antichocko Productions Pty Ltd
Producers Paul Fenech, Joe Weatherstone
Executive Producer Andrew Taylor
Writer/Director Paul Fenech
Synopsis The story of two hopeless crims, Rabbit and Rongo. Out of jail they regroup and battle old girlfriends, bikie gangs and their own stupid plans and schemes. They team up with other petty criminals, Jimmy Speed, Pothead and Droptank. This series is based on true dumb crimes from around the world only the names have been changed to expose the guilty. The old saying goes, crime doesn’t pay... Well, it pays less if you’re a DUMB CRIMINAL.

Online video
Endemol Australia Pty Ltd
Producer Courtney Wise
Executive Producer Michael Horrocks
Writer/Director Kacie Anning
Synopsis Fragments of Friday is a comedy about piecing together the night before, with your best mates by your side. Season 1 saw Alex and Sophie haphazardly grapple with the perils of the ‘day after’, navigating everything from waking up in bed with a cab driver, the accidental theft of a yacht, a healthy dose of bodily waxing and an adrenalin-induced punch-up. Season 2 picks up where Season 1 left off, with Alex and Sophie being joined by their mutual friend Maddie on many misadventures – from misinterpreting the term ‘pool party’ to playing Russian roulette with magic mushrooms through to the much anticipated annual ‘Church Wine Drunk Day’. Told with humour, poignancy and a generous injection of physical comedy, the story of Fragments of Friday speaks to the great tradition of female friendship through the scope of hazy memories, drunken honesty and, above all, affection.

Online video
One Stone Pictures Pty Ltd
Producer Georgie Lewin
Executive Producers Nathan Earl (One Stone Pictures), Ben Ulm (ITV Studios Australia)
Director Nathan Earl
Writers Nathan Earl, Joshua Tyler, Nicholas McDougall
Synopsis Plonk follows the trials and tribulations of a small television crew as they travel through South Australia’s rich and diverse wine regions, trying to produce a unique, engaging and credible wine program… and failing miserably along the way. Plonk is a love letter to Australian wine and its people… just with the spell check function turned off. It’s Getaway meets Heart of Darkness,Sydney Weekender meets Lost in La Mancha. It’s Plonk.

Online video
Triptych Pictures Pty Ltd
Producer Julie Byrne
Executive Producer Jennifer Jones
Writer/Directors Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Synopsis Three videos that parody teams of popular comic book, game and movie super heroes pitted against each other in riotous, action-packed rivalry. 

Online video
LateNite Films Pty Ltd
Producers Chris Hocking, Nicholas Colla
Director Michael Shanks
Writers Michael Shanks, Nicholas Issell
Synopsis With an almighty sneeze, Jack accidentally transformed Flinders Street Station into a giant fish monster. Unintentionally ousting the existence of Wizards in suburban Australia was not Jack’s plan and now a nationwide ballot threatens to deport his people back to their treacherous magical realm. We follow Jack as he tries to rally his local community (Footscray) around rights for the previously clandestine magical beings – whilst simultaneously trying to dissuade other members of the Wizard community to stop making such arses of themselves.





Authenticating innovation

EXTRA >> KEEPING it ‘real’ is a popular modern catchphrase that fits the ethos of Authentic Entertainment – but this innovative Australian creative company is more likely to be making it for real.

What Authentic Entertainment really does is connect brands with consumers in genuine ways. 

Authentic Entertainment is a versatile trailblazer in music programming, content creation, advertising, special events and creative marketing that has so many strings to its bow that it is difficult to easily tag. Best known for its music and entertainment assets – including Vevo, Take 40 and My Generation – Authentic has a multi-faceted yet single-minded approach to creating precisely what its client brands require, at the right time and in the right places.

It is difficult to describe Authentic Entertainment’s business system – which ranges from radio programming to video hits shows, creative advertising campaigns, marketing strategy development and execution, print advertising, video advertising, special events management and translating all of it through multi-screen platforms – unless you happen to be the man who put this intricate web of marketing offerings and creative teams together: John Wardley.

Mr Wardley created Authentic Entertainment by amalgamating two well-regarded and complementary businesses working across the advertising, marketing, digital and entertainment fields: Igloo Media and MCM Media.

He had worked periodically and successfully with both companies as a client, particularly during his stint with Coca-Cola in Australia that kicked off his career journey with the company that eventually led him to become Coke’s global advertising director, based in Atlanta.

“I’d known this business as the music marketing resource of the Coca-Cola Company for quite a few years. So I knew the business well and I’d watched it as it grew over the years,” said Mr Wardley, who is now Authentic Entertainment’s chief executive officer.

“I got involved (in 2013) in a consulting capacity and I was on the board. I had the idea that these two businesses, the media business and the digital agency, would be a lot stronger combined rather than separate.

“To me, looking at it through the lens of a client, which is how I currently help to do things, I felt not only was it a more holistic offer but if you combined the content creation capability of the media business with the digital smarts of the agency, that becomes a much more powerful offer to clients,” he said.

Mr Wardley can speak with great authority about the needs of clients, having not only spent 14 years marketing Coca-Cola in Australia and internationally, but also following that stint as global consumer marketing director for Reebok during the early 2000s when it developed unprecedented brand recognition and Reebok’s share price rose more than 400 percent. Before developing Authentic Entertainment, Mr Wardley also held marketing leadership roles with Dairy Farmers and George Weston Foods.

“When I got involved in the business, my first focus was to combine the two businesses and then, of course, we launched the new brand, Authentic.”

The first hurdle that decision overcame was confusion in the marketplace about the brand MCM Media, which was often mistaken for other advertising industry companies.

“That was a conscious decision because with the MCM Media name, while we had lived with it for 28 years, it was actually quite confusing in the market … so, Marketing-101, your name should be an asset, not a liability,” Mr Wardley said.

“So I thought we should own this business and come up with a name that we can identify with and should be proud of – Authentic was born out of that.

“My focus over the past five months has been in rebranding the business as Authentic and getting people to understand that we are providing an offer that is very different in the market. What that offer is all about is – as our mission statement says – we connect brands and consumers better than anyone else.”


John Wardley realised, from day one, that Authentic had the advantage over other company mergers in that it could self-transform, utilising the innovative talents of its own creative teams.

“Coming into the business, I realised I had a very strong media content producer, strong digital assets and a very strong sales team,” Mr Wardley said. “But the creativity and the innovation, in my mind, had taken a bit of a back seat here, so one of the things I was very intent on doing was dialling up our creative team into our innovation capability.

“So to that end I’ve been focused on developing a leadership team here, rebuilding our creative capability, and infusing innovation in the business. How we’ve done that is, we’ve actually created an innovation team – and we are very focused on developing new product and improving the current product that we have.”

That innovation team has been effectively integrated into the business systems of Authentic, Mr Wardley said.

An early example of its success came from an adaptation of Authentic’s technologies that introduced new levels of advertising segmentation for clients.

“Part of the attraction this business had with national advertisers in the past was that we truly offered a national audience, both metropolitan and regional, and we did that very cost effectively,” Mr Wardley said. “One of the limitations, though, was that it was one piece of material running nationally.

“And, of course, we found that more and more advertisers were looking to change their advertising copy state by state. Quick service restaurants are a great example of that and your major retailers, Coles and Woolworths, are others.

“So we invested in a technology that allowed us to change the copy by state, which has taken the shackles off and allowed us to take bookings from some of these larger advertisers.

“That is a technology change that has obviously helped us to interconnect with some of the larger advertisers. Advertising copy is also something that can benefit by being localised. Offering our clients the opportunity to do that, at the end of the day, makes it easier for them to spend money with you.”

Bespoke content creation is certainly a growth area for Authentic, with demand increasing from existing major clients. Interestingly, Fairfax Media has recently created a content creation division, named Made, in response to similar customer trends, while APN News and Media has invested in a similar venture, Emotive.

“For some of our larger clients, like Telstra for example, we do a lot of content creation, bespoke content creation, that could run in our shows and could run outside of our shows,” Mr Wardley said. “We are absolutely looking to do more of that, because we have got some great facilities here, with studios in Melbourne and in Sydney.

“Plus, while producing the shows that we do, we are in constant contact with record labels and the touring artists, so we are talking to these people day-in-day-out. We have the opportunity, through talking to these people, to come up with some pretty cool content, and we’ve got the facilities to produce that.”

It is a trend that is also seeing Authentic Entertainment return to how the business began: special event creation.

“This is very much the roots of this business,” Mr Wardley said. “If you go way back to earlier times in the business, one of the things I think we did really well was to pull off major events.

“Before the ARIA awards were running, there was a Coca-Cola sponsored national music awards show back in the early 90s. It used to run up at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, funnily enough, in 1990, 91, 92 and 93.

“We had large international talent and it was produced by (former brand) Igloo Media. So they definitely have some history of producing some spectacular events – we did the Lady Gaga thing in the (Sydney) Town Hall a few years back, you might have heard about that. It is absolutely something that we want to keep doing.”


Mr Wardley said one of the key challenges for marketers in the modern world was in coping with audiences and niches that were becoming more ‘fragmented’.

“The struggle is all to do with audience fragmentation. I can tell you from a marketer’s perspective, of course it gets frustrating and it costs you more and more money to reach the same consumer. Therefore, you have to make sure that how you are talking to them is in the most relevant possible way and that obviously helps you get your brand to them in a personal way.”

Difficult as it is to keep pace, Mr Wardley sees this as an area of competitive advantage for Authentic.

“I think one of the great things we do is operate in the entertainment space and, obviously, we are quite skewed towards music – and that tends to have a very powerful emotional connection with the consumer,” he said.

“We find ways to bring that to life through our content for our clients and it becomes a very effective way of connecting brands to that consumer.

“Of course, it has to be played out on a variety of devices today. But entertainment is entertainment is entertainment. I don’t think that’s changed fundamentally. They all just want to be entertained and music absolutely serves to do that.

“The way it’s digested is what’s changed. Maintaining relevance in an ever-changing technology environment, I think that’s really tricky.”

To cover the ground, Authentic operates in a collaborative environment with the client that can include other media agencies and creative agencies.

“I suppose I come from a school that says no-one has a monopoly on good ideas,” Mr Wardley said. “I will take a great idea wherever we can find it, and I guess that’s the spirit in which we talk to creative agencies and media agencies and clients.

“We can come up with a cracker idea and collectively bring it to life. If we can facilitate someone else’s great idea, then that’s great too. At the end of the day we are all working towards the same goal, which is meaningful connection with consumers. That’s what it’s all about.”

Mr Wardley said Authentic was organised in such a way that it could pursue alliances and collaboration, to both benefit and attract clients.

“I think there are opportunities for companies like ours to form much deeper strategic alliances,” he said, “either with other like-minded companies or even with clients. One of the things I am looking to do moving forward is to foster some of those very deep strategic alliances. I see it as a natural extension of what we did anyway.

“We’ll never purport to be experts in everything – and I don’t think anyone should.  We can service our clients best if we are in close partnership with, potentially, some other providers who are rounding out what we do and maybe putting another dimension on what we do. Similarly, we can put another dimension on what they do.

“That’s exciting. Staying nimble, making sure we are focused on the right things, and can move quickly – I think that’s important as well.”

Exporting services had been part of Authentic’s distant past – more than a decade ago when it created programs for 12 European markets as well as Australia for Coca-Cola – and now Mr Wardley can again see it on the horizon. Authentic represents Vevo in New Zealand and has just set up a resource there. Radio is also a new opportunity internationally.

“I would love to think that many of our radio brands and a lot of the content we are producing could have a life outside of Australia. Definitely,” Mr Wardley said, seeing existing demand from expatriates.

“I was an expat myself for 10 years and I used to regularly listen to Australian radio in the States for that exact reason.

“Ultimately what we are coming out with is content that is right for an age demographic, not necessarily a geography. Coming from global marketing roles and seeing how consumers are different around the world, I can tell you there is a lot more commonality than there is difference. And one of the things that unifies them of course is music, which is one of the things that we have a lot of experience with.”


Connecting brands with consumers is the bread and butter of Authentic Entertainment. According to John Wardley, that connection is being bridged best by appealing content.

“A lot of folk talk about content creation and talk about duration of content,” he said. “I think there is a lot of energy around it.

“How much money is being spent on it, relative to traditional media, I think that’s what’s likely to change. I think at the moment traditional media is still really dominant in clients’ minds, as it should be, but I think the creation of bespoke content and using appropriate media vehicles to place it in the hands of the right consumer – that is becoming more and more important.”

He was uncertain of the long term impact of moves by some organisations – including the Australian Tourist Commission – to establish their own content creation and publishing systems.

“Some organisation, and maybe the Australian Tourist Commission is one of them, may have the internal resources to do this and, if so, good luck to them,” Mr Wardley said. “But I think a lot of organisations don’t, and I think that’s where a lot of organisations like ours have an opportunity.

“Even if you have the capability to produce content, do you know what is the right content to produce? Ultimately that comes from an understanding of the consumer, and what are the emotional connections the consumer needs to have … with music or whatever. It’s how you can use those as drivers to connect with consumers and brands.

“A company like ours, we are producing a number of radio shows, week-in-week-out, and representing the Vevo community, which is reaching millions and millions of consumers all the time, we know the audience, we know what the audience is looking at or listening to … because that is our stock in trade.

“Why would someone use (Authentic Entertainment)? That’s why. We get to the audience you are looking for.”

Importantly, Authentic is well accomplished at producing across the various media and technologies consumers prefer to use.

“What the technology is doing is really just giving the audience different ways of digesting content,” he said. “Technology will continue to do that.

“Does that necessarily change the content itself? For the most part, I’d say not. There might be some examples where it does.

“So, if people start using more content via their watch …terrific – we just have to make sure we have content that is relevant on a one inch screen.”

Authentic Entertainment not only has the systems in place to deliver that multi-various content, it has the spice of innovation built in.

Mr Wardley said the Authentic approach was now clearly powered by “a huge focus on innovation and creativity”.

“We have an absolute desire to partner with like-minded, synergistic businesses, and connecting brands to consumers better than anyone else,” he said.

“That’s what we want to do – and it’s a pretty lofty goal. Authentic Entertainment is the real deal, genuinely linking consumers with brands.”



Asia Pacific Screen Awards triumph in Brisbane

EXTRA >> BRISBANE has moved a step closer to becoming one of the world’s recognised screen entertainment hubs, with the successful staging of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) in late 2014.

The APSAs recognise and promote cinematic excellence in the world’s fastest-growing film region, made up of 70 countries and regions, 4.5 billion people, and half of the world’s film output. In 2014, 36 films from 21 Asia-Pacific countries and areas received APSA nominations. Over 250 films were considered in competition from 42 countries. 

Russian film Leviathan won the APSA for Best Feature Film, the region’s highest accolade in film, presented at the Brisbane City Hall-staged event. Leviathan was produced by Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov and co-produced by Marianna Sardarova.

The APSA for Achievement in Directing, for the third time in the history of the event, went to Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for his already Palme d’Or winning film Winter Sleep (Turkey, France and Germany). The award was accepted by producer Zeynep Özbatur Atakan.

The five feature craft awards were determined by the six member International Jury of Oscar-nominated and APSA-winning cinematographer Lu Yue; Palestinian actress, writer and director Hiam Abbass; award winning actor, producer and director Rajit Kapur: EFA representative Maciej Stuhr; award winning Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen; and Jury president the internationally renowned Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi.

Best Performance by an Actor went to New Zealand’s Cliff Curtis for The Dark Horse. Iconic Australian actor David Gulpilil received a Special Mention for Charlie’s Country.

Best Performance by an Actress was awarded to Lü Zhong for Red Amnesia (People’s Republic of China). A Special Mention went to Iran’s Merila Zareie for her role in Track 143.

APSA International Jury member Lu Yue presented the APSA for Achievement in Cinematography to winner Dong Jinsong for Black Coal, Thin Ice (People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong).

From the Islamic Republic of Iran, Best Screenplay was awarded to Iranian Nima Javidi for his film Melbourne, starring APSA Academy members Payman Maadi and Negar Javaherian.

The UNESCO award for outstanding contribution to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film was awarded to Shawkat Amin Korki for directing Memories on Stone (Iraqi Kurdistan, Germany).

The International Jury awarded two Jury Grand Prizes for 2014. The first to producers of Chinese film Blind Massage (PRC, France), Nai An, Li Ling, Kristina Larsen and Wang Yong. The second went to legendary Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Banietemad for directing Tales (Islamic Republic of Iran).

Turkish writer/director Kaan Müjdeci was awarded Best Youth Feature Film for Sivas (Turkey, Germany), produced by Yasin Müjdeci, co-produced by Nesra Gürbüz and Çiğdem Mater.

Best Documentary Feature Film was awarded to 1001 Apples, produced, written and directed by Taha Karimi. Sadly, Taha Karimi passed away shortly after completing the film. The award was accepted in Brisbane by his brother, Hawre Karimi.

Best Animated Feature Film was won by The Tale of Princess Kaguya, produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura and directed by Isao Takahata. Following multiple nominations, this marks the first APSA win for a film from Japan’s renowned Studio Ghibli.

The FIAPF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific region, won by Australian producer Emile Sherman, was presented by FIAPF representative Zeynep Özbatur Atakan, producer of the 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep.

Iranian writer, producer and director Reza Dormishian is the 2014 recipient of the APSA Academy NETPAC Development Prize for his second feature film I’m Not Angry! An award for emerging talent, the US$10,000 prize, supported by the Griffith Film School, Griffith University, is awarded to a first or second-time filmmaker in the narrative feature competition.

“This evening’s winners have displayed cinematic excellence through their films and they should be congratulated on their achievements,” Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said during the ceremony.

“The Asia Pacific Screen Awards are a unique testament to the vibrancy, diversity and divergence of the Asia Pacific region. This year’s winners are from a total of nine different countries and areas of the vast Asia Pacific region.

“The awards enrich Brisbane’s cultural relationship with our regional neighbours and strengthen our position in the Asia Pacific market.”

APSA was presented by Treasury Casino and Hotel is supported by Brisbane City Council and managed by economic development board Brisbane Marketing in a unique collaboration with Paris-based UNESCO and FIAPF.

In 2011, the European Film Academy formed an academy alliance with APSA, acknowledging the pan regional works of both organisations. An EFA Academy member sits on the APSA International Jury each year.




Leviafan (Leviathan) Russian Federation

Produced by Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov Co-Produced by Marianna Sardarova



Sivas Turkey, Germany Produced by Yasin Müjdeci

Co-Produced by Nesra Gürbüz and Çiğdem Mater



Hezar-oyek Siv (1001 Apples) Iraq Produced by Taha Karimi



Kaguya-himeno Monogatari (The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) Japan Produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura



Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Kiş Uykusu (Winter Sleep) Turkey, France, Germany



Nima Javidi for Melbourne Islamic Republic of Iran



Dong Jinsong for Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice) People's Republic of China, Hong Kong (PRC)



Cliff Curtis in The Dark Horse New Zealand



David Gulpilil in Charlie's Country Australia



Lü Zhong in Chuangru Zhe (Red Amnesia) People's Republic of China



Merila Zareie in Shiar-E 143 (Track 143) Islamic Republic of Iran



Shawkat Amin Korki

for directing Bîranînên li ser kevirî (Memories on Stone) Iraqi Kurdistan, Germany



Tui Na (Blind Massage)

Produced by Nai An, Li Ling, Kristina Larsen, Wang Yong People's Republic of China, France



Rakhshan Banietemad for directing Ghesseha (Tales) Islamic Republic of Iran


FIAPF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific region

Emile Sherman (Australia)


APSA Academy NETPAC Development Prize

Reza Dormishian (Islamic Republic of Iran)




Country Music Awards head for Queensland

TOURISM and Events Queensland (TEQ) has announced that the Country Music Channel (CMC) Music Awards will be staged in Brisbane this year, as part of a new multi-year partnership with Foxtel.

TEQ chief executive, Leanne Coddington, said the CMC Music Awards would attract country music’s biggest names to Queensland in March.

“The CMC Music Awards will be held alongside CMC Rocks QLD, Australia’s biggest international country and roots festival,” Ms Coddington said. 

“It is estimated the events will generate more than 38,000 visitor nights and deliver significant economic outcomes for Queensland’s economy through to 2017.

“The profile of CMC Music Awards, in addition to CMC Rocks Queensland, will position Queensland as the new home of country music in Australia.”

Ms Coddington said major events such as these help drive visitation to Queensland’s destinations, foster community pride, and showcase the state’s many destination experiences.

“Hosting the CMC Music Awards further enhances the state’s image as a premier events destination and will be promoted as part of Queensland’s world-class events calendar, It’s Live!,” she said. 

Foxtel general manager for music channels and digital, Rebecca Batties said, “We are proud to connect with Tourism and Events Queensland who recognise the importance of supporting music events.

“CMC, Australia’s only Country music channel, has a long standing commitment to broaden this genre of music in Australia,” Ms Batties said.

“We pride ourselves on delivering quality live entertainment and bringing the best of Country music to its ever growing fan base in Australia.”

The 5th Annual CMC Music Awards 2015 awards will be held at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and includes five live performances and eight awards categories. 

The CMC Music Awards will be held on March 12, 2015, while CMC Rocks QLD runs from March 13-15 at Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich.


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