Return to the Devil’s Playground among Screen Australia funding recipients

The Devil’s Playground

A series which picks up the story of classic feature film The Devil’s Playground 35 years on, is among 11 productions to receive Screen Australia funding.

Return to the Devil’s Playground is a six-part series produced by Matchbox Pictures’ Helen Bowden and Blake Ayshford and directed by The Strait’s Rachel Ward and Dead Europe’s Tony Krawitz.

Writers on the production are Ayshford, Cate Shortland, Alice Addison and Tommy Murphy.

The series picks up the story in 1988, 35 years after Fred Schepisi’s The Devil’s Playground, where main character Tom Allen, a psychiatrist and a secular confessor to the Catholic clergy, becomes entangled in political and theological intrigue.

The series is executive produced by Penny Chapman, Simon Burke, who played the original character of Tom Allen and is the current Actor’s Equity president, and Penny Win.

Screen Australia’s overall investment across the 11 productions is $11.4m and expected to trigger $64m worth of production.

Matchbox Pictures have also received funding for feature film Cut Snake, written by Ayshford and to be directed by Tony Ayres with Sullivan Stapleton and Ryan Kwanten to play the lead roles. Michael McMahon and Trevor Blainey are to produce with Hopscotch eOne Films signed on to distribute and eOne Entertainment take on international sales.

Warwick Thornton, director of Samson and Delilah, and his producing partner Kath Shelper, have received funding for The Darkside, which gives an indigenous perspective to the afterlife and ghost stories, to be broadcast on ABC1.

Also on the list is a new film from Red Dog director Kriv Stenders, Kill Me Three Times and writer James McFarlane.

Screen Australia’s Chief Executive Ruth Harley said: “It’s great to end the year investing in such a dynamic range of feature films from a good mix of experienced practitioners and emerging talent.

“I’m thrilled to announce Warwick Thornton’s highly creative and resonant Indigenous story, The Darkside. The smart and stylish thriller Cut Snake comes from a talented and experienced team and Kill Me Three Times is a well-told tale that knows its genre and audience from one of Australia’s most renowned and respected film directors, Kriv Stenders.”

The full list:
Matchbox Pictures
Producers Michael McMahon, Trevor Blainey
Writer Blake Ayshford
Director Tony Ayres
International Sales eOne Entertainment
Australian Distributor Hopscotch eOne Films
Synopsis ‘Sparra’ Farrell has left his secret prison past behind, with a new fiancée and a new life. But he finds it’s a door that is never closed when his newly released cell mate turns up with other ideas.

Felix Media Pty Ltd
Producers John Maynard, Mary Minas
Executive Producer Bridget Ikin
Story by Kasimir Burgess, Natasha Pincus
Writer Natasha Pincus
Director Kasimir Burgess
International Sales Maze Film Sales, The Yellow Affair
Australian Distributor Footprint Films
Synopsis Set in the primal darkness of the forest, Fell is a fable of revenge, redemption and renewal.

KM3T Pty Ltd
Producers Tania Chambers, Laurence Malkin, Share Stallings
Executive Producer Jack Drewe
Writer James McFarland
Director Kriv Stenders
International Sales Cargo Entertainment Ltd, William Morris Endeavor (WME)
Australian Distributor Hopscotch eOne Films
Synopsis In a sun-drenched Australian surfing town, a young woman is the thread that binds three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge.

Gristmill Pty Ltd
Producers Wayne Hope, Robyn Butler, Louisa Kors
Executive Producers Greg Sitch, Geoff Porz, Robyn Butler, Wayne Hope
Writer Robyn Butler
Director Wayne Hope
International Sales Lightning Entertainment Group
Australian Distributor Roadshow Films
Synopsis Normal life implodes for a suburban family when their popstar cousin comes to stay.


Scarlett Pictures
Producer Kath Shelper
Writer/Director Warwick Thornton
Australian Distributor Transmission Films
International Sales TBC
Broadcaster ABC1
Synopsis Aboriginal people live on the threshold of two worlds – one of everyday reality and the other of spirits, demons and entities. Although they might seem stoic and complacent, with the clash of these two worlds the reality is we should all be scared shitless. Director Warwick Thornton has assembled a collection of poignant, sad, funny and absurd ghost tales from across the country and will bring them to life with some of Australia’s most iconic actors being the storytellers. The Darkside gives a black perspective on the afterlife.


6 x 60 mins
Playmaker Media Pty Ltd
Producers David Maher, David Taylor, Shelley Birse
Writers Shelley Birse, Blake Ayshford, Justin Monjo
Director Shawn Seet
International Sales FremantleMedia Limited
Broadcaster ABC1
Synopsis The Code is a fictional thriller set between the remote Australian desert and the corridors of power in Canberra. A murder in the Outback thrusts two unlikely brothers into an international political conspiracy.

Shine Australia
2 x 120 mins
Producers Rory Callaghan, Mark Fennessy
Director Daina Reid
Writers Justin Monjo, Dave Warner
International Sales Shine International
Broadcaster Seven Network
Synopsis Never Tear Us Apart tells the uncensored story of Australia’s most successful band, INXS. This big, brash and colourful TV drama will chart the rise of six Sydney boys who became the biggest band in the world. A story of mateship, a story of success and excess, talent and sheer bloody will, set to a pulsating soundtrack including all of INXS’s greatest hits.

Southern Star Entertainment
2 x 120 mins
Producers John Edwards, Mimi Butler
Writers David Caesar, Samantha Winston
Director David Caesar
International Sales Endemol Worldwide Distribution
Broadcaster Nine Network Australia
Synopsis Boy publisher Rupert Murdoch comes to Sydney to take on the Packers in a war for control of newspapers and television.

Matchbox Pictures
6 x 47 mins
Producers Helen Bowden, Blake Ayshford
Executive Producers Penny Chapman, Simon Burke, Penny Win
Writers Blake Ayshford, Cate Shortland, Alice Addison, Tommy Murphy
Directors Rachel Ward, Tony Krawitz
International Sales NBCUniversal
Broadcaster FOXTEL
Synopsis 1988. Thirty-five years after Fred Schepisi’s film The Devil’s Playground, Tom Allen, now a psychiatrist, becomes a secular confessor to the Catholic clergy, and is soon embroiled in political and theological intrigue.

Hoodlum Active Pty Ltd
6 x 43 mins
Producers Tracey Robertson, Nathan Mayfield, Leigh McGrath
Writer Stephen Irwin
Director TBA
International Sales Cineflix
Broadcaster Network Ten
Synopsis Ben is an innocent man who becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a four-year-old boy. As his world falls apart, he desperately tries to find the real killer… at stake is his marriage, his kids, his reputation and his sanity.


Buzz Studios
52 x 11 mins
Producers Jim Ballantine, Barbara Stephen
Writers Fin Edquist, David Evans, Cleon Prineas
Directors Serg Delfino, Marc Wasik
International Sales Wavery Productions BV
Broadcasters Seven Network (first run), ABC (shared runs)
Synopsis When young Jack is bundled off and sent to stay with distant relatives in a far off land, he has no idea quite how much his life is about to change.


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