Indigenous drama, new priority at ABC TV

Sally RileyThe newly-appointed head of the ABC’s Indigenous department, Sally Riley, says there is no budget for her area just yet, but an Indigenous primetime drama series will be one of her first priorities.

“It’s an area that we haven’t explored, and something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, to get Indigenous faces on television,” Riley told Encore. “For the ABC this is big move into actually having dedicated funding for commissioning Indigenous filmmakers to make primetime content.”

Riley said the budget for the Indigenous department is yet to be finalised, but there will be funds allocated for commissioning material from independent filmmakers. These projects higher budget long-form documentaries, as well as comedy series.

“Narrative comedy is something we could do really well. Look at Bran Nue Dae; there’s a great sense of humour in the Indigenous community, and we have great comedians around,” said Riley.

Message Stick will continue, but at this state, Riley doesn’t know if the program will undergo any changes. The main focus will be on new content.

“I’ll be commissioning across all genres and right across the ABC. The aim is to get new programs that can penetrate new audiences, and they get to see black faces.”

Riley will continue has the head of the Indigenous Unit at Screen Australia until the end of April. Having worked with both public broadcasters over the last nine years in this role, Riley believes that while both SBS and the ABC have always had a commitment to Indigenous content, supporting short films and documentaries, there is currently a shift in audiences.

“People want to see this content, and whether it could have happened without [Samson & Delilah, Stone Bros. and Bran Nue Dae], I don’t know, but there’s definitely a shift happening at the moment.

“In  the future,  in another ten years, it will be customary to see Indigenous faces on the screen, that’s what we want to happen, and by having this dedicated role and this dedicated head of department, we’re going to make it happen,” she said.

As for Screen Australia, Erica Glynn will take over the role in an acting capacity. Riley says Glynn, with whom she’s worked closely the last six years, has “a huge amount of respect from Indigenous filmmakers and from the mainstream industry”, and will facilitate the continuity of the work the unit has done – such as the upcoming feature The Place Between, directed by Beck Cole and produced by Kath Shelper, which was funded through the Long Blacks program and will start shooting in Adelaide in May.


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