Robert Connolly’s adaptation of Winton’s The Turning gets Screen Australia funding

A Robert Connolly-produced film – which features a range of big-name Australian filmmakers and actors directing different chapters of the film – has received funding from Screen Australia.

The Turning, an adaptation Tim Winton’s book of 17 short stories of the same name, is to be directed by Snowtown director Justin Kurzel, Van Diemen’s Land director Jonathan Auf Der Heide, The Slap show runner Tony Ayres, actors Cate Blanchett, David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska, Connolly and others.

Connolly’s multi-director project comes a few months after the announcement that the screen agency was investing in John Polson’s film Sydney Unplugged featuring short films by prominent Australian filmmakers.

Connolly, producer of The Boys, Romulus and My Father and director of The Bank, Three Dollars and Balibo, is a board member of Screen Australia.

A Screen Australia spokesperson told Encore: “We have a clear working conflict of interest policy that works. We don’t exclude working film-makers from our board as we need that expertise. But we have a system in place that works.”

Connolly recently had another producing project, Paper Planes receive funding from Screen Australia.

See-Saw Films’ producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, who made The King’s Speech, have also received funding for film Tracks, co-produced by Julie Ryan, producer of Red Dog with Nelson Woss. The film will be directed by John Curran.

Philippa Campey, producer of Bastardy and Murandak: Songs of Freedom will produce Galore, written and directed by Rhys Graham, while Causeway Films producers Kristina Ceyton and Kristian Moliere have received funding for The Babadook, written and directed by Jennifer Kent, with actor Essie Davis cast.

List of funded films

Production company: Causeway Films Pty Ltd
Producers: Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere
Executive Producers: Jonathan Page, Michael Tear, Jeff Harrison
Writer/Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis
International Sales: eOne Entertainment
Australian Distributor: Umbrella Entertainment
Synopsis: A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

Production company: Film Camp Pty Ltd
Producer: Philippa Campey
Executive Producers Sue Murray, Victoria Treole
Writer/Director: Rhys Graham
International Sales: eOne Entertainment
Australian Distributor: Hopscotch
Synopsis: Billie and Laura, two reckless teenage best friends, share everything, except for Billie’s biggest secret; she’s crazy in love with Laura’s boyfriend.

See-Saw Productions Pty Ltd
Producers: Emile Sherman, Iain Canning
Co-Producer: Julie Ryan
Writer: Based on the current draft written by John Curran
Director: John Curran
International Sales: Hanway Films, Cross City Sales
Australian Distributor: Transmission
Synopsis: The inspirational true story of Robyn Davidson’s solo camel trek through the harsh centre of Australia, aided only by her faithful canine companion Diggity and the National Geographic photographer who chronicled this epic modern adventure.

Arenamedia Pty Ltd
Producer: Robert Connolly
Co-Producer: Maggie Miles
Executive Producers: Andrew Myer, Paul Wiegard
Directors: Including Benedict Andrews, Jonathan auf der Heide, Tony Ayres, Cate Blanchett, Robert Connolly, Shaun Gladwell, Rhys Graham, Justin Kurzel, Ian Meadows, Yaron Lifschitz, Claire McCarthy, Ashlee Page, Stephen Page, Mia Wasikowska, David Wenham.
International Sales: Maze Film Sales, LevelK ApS Film Sales
Australian Distributor: Footprint Films
Synopsis: A diverse range of Australian directors each create a chapter of this hauntingly beautiful novel by Tim Winton. The linking and overlapping stories explore the extraordinary turning points in ordinary people’s lives. As characters face second thoughts and mid-life regret, relationships irretrievably alter, resolves are made or broken and lives change direction forever.


  1. Simon
    22 Mar 12
    4:38 pm

  2. Keep everyone happy by employing everyone – great use of Tax dollars…

    What a mess of a movie this will turn out to be…

  3. Bob
    23 Mar 12
    5:06 am

  4. Victoria Treole, one of Screen Australia’s “Industry Specialists” along with (edited under our comment moderation policy) Matthew Dabner, also received funding from Screen Australia — she’s listed above as executive producer of GALORE.

    The conflict of interest here is appalling — surely anyone involved with Screen Australia such as Connolly or Treole should be excluded from receiving funding from the same body!

    (Edited under our content moderation policy)

    There is no fair way SA can manage these kinds of conflicts other than mandating that producers who work for SA or are on its Board cannot apply for funding. That would be clear, simple, transparent and fair.

  5. Doug
    23 Mar 12
    3:57 pm

  6. There is no such thing as “conflict of interest”..its called “Standard Operating Procedure” or “Networking”. The sad thing is, this continued use of S.O.P only feeds the careers of a few. So what you end up with is a stagnant pond, a kind of sad looking water feature that sometimes flickers into life at the bottom of our cultural garden. There’s simply too much talent being neglected in this country for those that have cemented careers to be continually given ease of access. There’s a few interesting names in that line up that deserve a break, and some that make you scratch your head and say “ you need that…or should it go to somebody else?” The Turning is a book that would suit adapting for the of luck to them.

  7. Networkedq
    23 Mar 12
    5:49 pm

  8. I ll happily let you know that it was infinitesimally easier for Rob to get SA funding before he sat on the board. This project has huge talent attached on top of Rob Connolly. Quite apart from that he is held by everyone who have the pleasure of meeting him as quite possibly the finest example of a Director and gentleman working in Australia today. Doesn’t the fact that he has been critique publicly of funding bodies and the Australian industry make him a reasonably credible and fair candidate?

  9. Aloysia
    23 Mar 12
    7:25 pm

  10. Oh dear. Only in Australia. The only time such a conflict of interest is justifiable is if the films those people were involved with were such that they deserved more funding, but that isn’t the case by any stretch of the imagination.

  11. Bruce
    24 Mar 12
    12:05 am

  12. There is certainly an argument to mandate that current boardmembers should not be allowed to apply for funding…however, to extend that further would seem to me, detrimental to film making teams. Victoria Treoele, for example, was a free lance expert consultant who according to recent story I read, is not renewing her contract. Therefore why would it be a conflict for her to act as executive producer? And surely, even if she was still consulting, it seems unworkable to extend conflict of interest to those kinds of roles. No actual practitioners would ever do these jobs which would be even worse.
    I’m not sure that Tim Winton has ever been easily adaptable and having ‘cast’ a sexy director list will only make it more difficult. Robert Connelley won’t have a minute to spare to sit on the board of SA, I predict his resignation shortly!!

  13. Doug
    24 Mar 12
    11:54 pm

  14. I agree Rob Connolly is a great filmmaker, passionate and full of innovative views with regard to exploring new funding methods for feature films and I sincerely wish The Turning all the best..I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with a great book. But I think its also fair to say, with regard to accessing government funding, that there is an obvious pattern in this industry, which can seem like a continuous flow of funding to people who have either sat on boards or worked as freelance consultants. There’s nothing wrong with making note of this and asking for a little more scrutiny and public debate. i think the distribution of public funds is improving and we are moving away from the “dark old days” of careers built on a king tide of producing continuous crap to some degree ( fingers crossed). People who work hard in this industry to also build careers and projects towards reality need to feel confident that they can express concern and that this concern can be listened to and considered. it is after all our money and funding bodies should see feedback (even if it is a little cynical) as a means by which to gain a pulse of the industry and to always be looking to improve programs that can support a diverse percentage of filmmakers, not just those that have had a fair smack of the success stick. We’ll only continue to improve this industry via innovation and pragmatic risk taking, this risk taking also means doing the research to back the careers of a few dark horses, not those that have “experience” making suspect and unsuccessful productions. A tired and boring nepotistic approach to innovation which was the SOP for a lot of funding bodies for at least the last twenty years and was extremely frustrating for the vast majority to witness and did real and lasting damage to the local reputation of the industry. Hopefully we can keep improving.

  15. Bob
    26 Mar 12
    12:13 pm

  16. In response to Bruce above, and his comments re Victoria Treole:

    Treole was a designated Screen Australia “Industry Specialist” who read scripts, “interviewed” filmmakers and then decided whether she would recommend the project receive further consideration from SA. If she and the other two Industry Specialists didn’t support the project, it had ZERO chance of receive funding from SA.

    The fact that she did this on a freelance basis rather than full-time employment in no way mitigates the conflict of interest that then arises when she simultaneously seeks funding for her own projects from the same funding body!

    How are the filmmakers whose projects she rejected supposed to feel when they see that their “Industry Specialist” received funding for her own project??

  17. Harry
    27 Mar 12
    2:09 pm

  18. What people are forgetting here is that it is only under CEO Ruth Harley that there is 100% creative scrutiny of feature films by Screen Australia. Brian Rosen, the CEO of its predeccessor, The Film Finance Corporation introduced this creative intervention to 50% of the slate, the other 50% was based upon marketplace attachments. And prior to his appointment for 20 years the system was purely market place based. Although the market place attachments were often weak, as one would expect for a business dominated by Hollywood studios it meant films got made if they could cross this threshold and there was some certainty for producers. No bureaucratic intervention prevented a film being made. There were many failures but some absolute gems. Under the new regime the Australian box office hasn’t improved, extra bureaucrats are employed and nobody is accountable. A number of high profile people have been rejected including Lynda La Plante, Bruce Beresford and Fred Schepisi and have to suffer the humiliation of being interviewed by film specialists who have little or no track record. It was obvious this new system would lead to tears and much resentment but the Federal government has done nothing about, just believing the spin from a very well performing PR department at Screen Australia.

  19. Michael Bourchier
    27 Mar 12
    2:38 pm

  20. This is always going to be a tricky issue for which there is no easy answer. From a practitioners perspective, it is always better that we have some practicing producers on the Board of Screen Australia, as well as in other advisory capacities, in the mix of people who make these decisions.

    I have no idea how much Board members are paid for their work but certainly not a living wage. As the primary funding source in the country (outside of the Tax Offset ), it is difficult if not impossible for filmmakers to raise the necessary funds without Screen Australia funding. It would be unfair – if not ridiculous – for Robert Connolly, a filmmaker of considerable merit, to be excluded during his term on the Board. It is the process as to how that happens that matters, something about which Screen Australia is transparent.

    Accusations of bias are inevitable with such limited funding available, whether or not the recipients are associated with Screen Australia. To my knowledge, Screen Australia are very aware of this and their processes are as careful as they can be to avoid accusations of favouritism.

    You hear it all the time: “They only got it because…” and here you can fill in… “a favourite of Screen Australia, a woman, indigenous, politically correct, disabled, a migrant, West Australian, a man, a friend of the Labor Party, a friend of the Liberal Party….”

    One can never say with certainty why the Board favoured one project over another as those details are not released but for the most part Board members take the advice of the investment officers and other relevant staff who have intricately gone through the viability of a project. Some may have gotten through without that level of due diligence but it is hard to imagine how it would happen. An application for a film project amounts to huge volume of paper that is forensically examined.

    Program makers are regularly asked to review projects for State funding bodies as well. It would be impossible for them to exclude themselves from that source of public funding. They do not make financing decisions about their own shows.

    We all feel aggrieved by the unfairness of decisions made in this industry from time to time – and with good reason. It is wrong, however, to see a conspiracy in every project that a funding body, distributor or broadcaster rejects.

    Having said this, a semi-regular evaluation of process is well worth doing (in every area). Keeps everyone on their toes.