Four features in VicScreen’s inaugural Originate Features initiative will be fully funded and approved through a $2.8 million investment, made in partnership with SBS, Arenamedia and Screen Australia.
And the questions are now open for the writers of subsequent television series.
Launching in 2021, Originate Features is designed to support the work of emerging writers and directors from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.
Each finalist’s design development has been supported from initial concept through to today, as they prepare to go into production and compete in the global marketplace.
Successful teams and their projects are:
• Into the blue From writer/director, Katie Found and screenwriter, Markella Kavenagh: Destined for the nursing home after a diagnosis of dementia, 80-year-old Iris enlists the help of her teenage niece Poppy to help her fake her own death.
• Sweet Milk Lake by writer/director, Harvey Zielinski and producer, Rosie Lourde: a soft-spoken trans man who, after being mistaken for his alpha, cis twin brother by his estranged and dying father, relishes the opportunity to be “one of the boys “.
• Faho Pass From writer/director, Kalu Oji and producers, Mimo Mukii and Ivy Mutuku: Troubled shoe store owner, Azubuike, attempts to reconnect with his 10-year-old son, Obinna.
• Leviticus by writer/director, Adrian Chiarella and producer, Hannah Ngo: Cursed by a supernatural being, two queer teenagers are forced to confront their own desires.
The investment will support two of the projects entering production by June 2024, with the following two projects starting production in the following financial year.
Participants were guided throughout the process by industry figures, including Arenamedia Producer Robert Connolly (The Dry) and Liz Kearney (Blueback), Head of Scripted at SBS, Julie Eckersley and Commissioning Editors of SBS Scripted, Loani Arman and Donna Chang.
Creative Industries Minister Steve Dimopoulous said: “Through VicScreen’s targeted initiatives, we are providing an important launch pad for new voices who will build their careers and help shape the future of our film industry.”
VicScreen chief executive Caroline Pitcher said: “Never before in Australia have we seen an advocate for the initiative bold new voices of this magnitude. This is a game-changer for our filmmakers, setting a new precedent in how we can support untapped Australian talent.”
Robert Connolly, founder and director of Arenamedia, said: “Arenamedia is thrilled to be working with SBS and the VicScreen team on this exciting initiative to bring new and diverse creative voices to our screen, supporting filmmaking teams with a bold and adventurous to cinema and unique stories to tell.”
SBS Scripted Head Julie Eckersley said: “Congratulations to these amazing creative teams! The projects developed through Originate embody contemporary Australian storytelling and showcase the wave of emerging talent in our industry who have historically been underrepresented in the stories being told on our screens. SBS is thrilled to be involved in the significant opportunity this initiative provides as part of our commitment to uplift new voices and champion sustainable pathways that will lead to a more inclusive future for our industry.”
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: “Screen Australia is incredibly proud to support the Originate Features programme, which is generating a really important opportunity for these untapped filmmakers to share their unique stories on the world stage. We are proud to support the Australian talent discovered through this initiative and can’t wait to see what this group will bring to our screens.”
The initiative is now focusing on television, with Originate Series as a new escalator in developing talents and skills for Victorian writers.
Eight aspiring early to mid-career writers will be selected to undertake masterclasses and paid professional development opportunities, mentored by experienced writers and TV series producers.
Participants will also complete an eight-month world-class television writing program offered by the professional programs of the University of California (UCLA) School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Throughout the program, participants will hone their craft by completing two original scripts and presentation materials. Towards the end of the initiative, all participants will be given the coveted opportunity to present their designs to Victorian producers and key market partners.
Applications for the Originate series are now open to Victorian writers, with applications closing on Tuesday, July 11.