Screen Australia and Fremantle Media establish fund to develop content aimed at Netflix

screen australia

A new grant has been established by Screen Australia and Fremantle Media aimed at helping Australian writers develop drama concepts to sell to international streaming operations like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The latest round of funding for writers may also give birth to a film from the creators of the Bondi Hipsters brothers Connor and Christiaan Van Vuuren, who have been handed a share of $3.2m in funding to develop a feature length musical based on the Kiwi Assassins characters.

The Enterprise Industry Program has been spawned from the Enterprise Classic program, which Screen Australia chief operating officer Fiona Cameron told Mumbrella was moving on from being about a company’s business plan to people coming with “large scale development opportunities, or ideas for distribution, financing and how to get to the audience”.

She added: “It couldn’t be a project that just benefitted the individual company, it had to benefit the sector as a whole. When we did our consultation post the last round it was quite clear in talking to production companies around Australia there was a huge gap in skill sets.

And that gap really lay in creative producing, writing and story development and that was why Enterprise Stories grew. It should help fill that gap. This is about making sure we can regenerate the writing pool.”

Paper Planes writer Robert Connolly is amongst the other recipients of the cash, alongside the van Vuurens, who created the Bondi Hipsters as well as ABC comedy series Soul Mates. However, at last year’s BEFest conference Christiaan admitted they were struggling for money.

“The Van Vuurens now would like to take the next step and concentrate on making longer form content that they can better monetise and this allows them to have some head space to do just that,” Cameron said.

Under the Enterprise Stories stream, Screen Australia is set to partner with Fremantle Media Australia in a matched funding arrangement to develop up to four high-end drama concepts for “commission outside the traditional broadcast model”. This will not just be limited to local platforms such as Stan or Presto, with the partnership targeting international players.

“It’s for non-traditionals, SVODs like Amazon or Netflix and international broadcasters as well,” explained Cameron. “It’s deliberately not targeted at local broadcasters. Fremantle are looking to expand their pipeline and arguably the local production pipeline is contracting, you’ve got cuts to the ABC programming, you’ve got more NZ content counting as Australian on our local pipelines.

“There’s a huge  appetite for drama internationally and this initiative is about trying to tap into this appetite and trying to ensure Australian creatives can open doors in other countries.”

Jo Porter, FremantleMedia Australia’s director of drama said in a statement: “This is the most innovative and ambitious development model ever undertaken in Australia. We will partner with local writers to take Australian-led stories to the international stage.

“This significant investment is going to be a game changer for Australia’s creative community. It is a unique opportunity to connect the best local talent with the leading creatives in the world.”

Also through the Enterprise Growth stream, the Cinema Plus proposal will complement strategies to pique interest in more traditionally released feature films. Founder of Cinema Plus, Robert Connolly, the director/producer/writer of Australian film Paper Planes, will use its funding to look at the distribution model and develop new finance models for screen projects.

Screen Australia will partner with Jamie Hilton’s See Pictures to progress their development slate and low-budget production arm Ticket to Ride and to pilot a direct-to-digital distribution scheme.

The body will also support the Documentary Australian Foundation to bring philanthropists and filmakers together to create a new source of funding for the sector, and will also fund the Independent Cinemas Association of Australia to expand their marketing and promotion activities.

While also under the Enterprise Stories Stream, Every Cloud Productions, Werner Film Productions and screen resource organisation Open Channel have received funding to develop market-ready scripts for film, television and multiplatform projects.

Bogan Entertainment Solutions have also received funding to build skill sets in 2D animation and to create original IP to sell to the world market

Miranda Ward


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