Significant 7: Television creatives

From drama to reality and factual – meet the production house powerhouses responsible for Australia’s greatest television.

Andrew Denton
Owner/ Creative guy
Zapruder’s Other Films
The Gruen Transfer, Hungry Beast, Country Town Rescue, Randling

With producers Anita Jacoby and Peter Thompson, Andrew Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films is known for intelligent and often funny television.
Denton came to prominence as the host of ABC’s 1988 comedy show Blah Blah Blah and was quick to get involved behind the scenes. His first executive producing credit came in 2001 when he gave The Chaser team their break with The Election Chaser.
Denton is responsible for adland favourite The Gruen Transfer, with five series including Gruen Planet and Nation under its belt. The show is one of the ABC’s highest rating formats attracting international interest.
Denton’s great skill is fostering young talent with his 2008 Project Next experiment resulting in Hungry Beast. Denton says: “The show won a Walkley and, with just 15 hours of TV, they achieved an amazing amount for a group of newcomers.”
Zapruder’s 2012 slate includes more Gruen as well as Country Town Rescue and game show Randling which sees Denton return to front of camera for the first time in four years.

Des Monaghan
Executive chairman
Underbelly, Brothers in Arms, Crownies, Cloudstreet

Des Monaghan is a multi-award-winning television producer with more than 35 years experience.
He started at New Zealand network TVNZ, “I literally swept the floors”, before working his way to director of programming and production for channels TV1 and TV2. Monaghan then set up his own production company South Pacific Pictures which he sold in the early 1990s. Bob Campbell, Seven’s one time managing director then lured him to Australia where he headed up program development for the channel.
In 1996 Campbell suggested they form their own production entity and Screentime was born. The company’s first work included an adaptation of Bryce Courtney’s much loved novel The Potato Factory and one of the earliest reality offerings, Popstars. More recent programs include the highly successful Underbelly franchise for Nine, Showcase miniseries Cloudstreet and ABC’s Crownies.
Next for Monaghan, a contemporary Underbelly and six-part bikie series, Brothers In Arms.

Penny Chapman
Creative director
Matchbox Pictures
The Slap, My Place, The Straits, RAN: Remote Area Nurse

Penny Chapman is the creative director of the award-winning production company Matchbox Pictures, responsible for such drama hits as The Slap and My Place.
Chapman was head of TV drama before becoming head of TV at the ABC during the 1990s where she produced acclaimed miniseries Brides of Christ, and the classic Australian crime drama Blue Murder.
Chapman went on to write and produce The Cooks before the 2006 miniseries RAN: Remote Area Nurse won her three AFI Awards including best miniseries or telemovie.
In 2008 Chapman created Matchbox Pictures with fellow producers Helen Panckhurst, Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden and Michael McMahon, producing powerhouses themselves with credits including Bogan Pride, He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, and The Home Song Stories.
“We have a very detailed business plan for the next three to five years,” Chapman says. “We will be doing a range of programming for as many of the Australian broadcasters as we can.”

Michael Cordell
Executive producer
Cordell Jigsaw
Go Back To Where You Came From, Bondi Rescue

Alongside producing partner Nick Murray, Michael Cordell is the creative force of production company Cordell Jigsaw. The pair made their mark with the successful Ten series Bondi Rescue, now in its seventh series, and the Walkley award-nominated SBS offering, Go Back to Where You Came From, which has been seen by more than two million Australians on SBS and its online platforms.
“I made my first TV doco when I was 19. It was a couple of mates following Bob Brown down the Franklin River in the height of the ’80s Franklin Dam dispute,” Cordell says. He then worked as a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald before The 7:30 Report honed his storytelling skills. In 1997 Cordell made Year of the Dogs – a season in the life of AFL’s Western Bulldogs – one of Australia’s highest grossing theatrical docos.
Cordell has clearly found his calling in television with recent factual series Recruits – Paramedics for Ten, SBS’s Living The End as well as Bondi Rescue, an international export that has won four Logies.

Jason Stephens
Creative director
FremantleMedia Australia
The X Factor, Australia’s Got Talent, Celebrity Apprentice

As Fremantle Media Australia’s creative director, Jason Stephens is responsible for the re-invigoration of The X Factor and the launch of Australia’s Got Talent, two of the highest rating shows on Australian TV.
Reality has been the feather in Fremantle’s cap. Alongside The X Factor and Australia’s Got Talent, Fremantle hit ratings gold with the original series of MasterChef Australia.
In 2011, Stephens and Fremantle’s Celebrity Apprentice drew solid ratings with more expected this year in light of the casting of David Hasselhoff. Likewise, celebrity weight-loss series Excess Baggage on Nine hopes to give Ten and The Biggest Loser a run for its money in the 7pm time slot.
In 2012, Stephens says: “We are looking to push the foot down on drama.” While Australia’s longest running soap, Neighbours, is a Fremantle mainstay, Stephens says: “It’s one genre that we haven’t exploited as much as the factual and reality.” He has previously produced well-received Foxtel dramas Killing Time and The King: Graham Kennedy.

John Edwards
Executive producer
Southern Star
Secret Life of Us, Paper Giants: Birth of Cleo, Offspring

With more than 600 hours of television to his name, John Edwards is synonymous with Australian drama. The producing guru has been with Southern Star since 1989 delivering Police Rescue, The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way, Rush, Tangle, Offspring and Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. “I realised fairly early I would not be a terrific writer but could be a producer,” Edwards says.
His achievements with drama are unparalleled with his shows both critically and commercially well received. His work has scored more than 19 Logies, 30 AFIs, and eight ASTRA awards. Despite his success, Edwards shows no signs of slowing down. Upcoming projects include Beaconsfield: The Telemovie, as well as Paper Giants spin offs The Magazine Wars and Howzat, and a miniseries remake of ’70s teen film Puberty Blues.
The Edwards legacy is likely to live on for years to come as he passes on his knowledge to collaborators including Mimi Butler, producer of Rush and Imogen Banks, creator of Tangle, Offspring and Paper Giants.

Paul Franklin
Director of programming
The Biggest Loser, MasterChef, The Voice, Class of 2012

Paul Franklin is one of Australia’s leading creators of reality television. Shine’s director of programming came from small beginnings as a cameraman at Hobart’s TVT6 station before producing news and factual programs. Relocating to the UK, Franklin worked on BBC1’s Changing Rooms and The Biggest Loser.
Franklin was brought back to Australia in 2006 by Mark and Carl Fennessy, then owners of production company Crackerjack, to help create the first series of The Biggest Loser. When Crackerjack and Grundy Television merged in 2006 to form FremantleMedia, Franklin stayed on to mastermind the first series of MasterChef. During his time at Fremantle, Franklin was instrumental in the development of Foxtel’s Project Runway Australia. After departing Fremantle in 2009, Franklin joined Shine and in 2012 he will oversee the latest series of The Biggest Loser and MasterChef, with singing competition The Voice expected later in the year.
“We’re excited about The Voice, it’s a great show,” Franklin says.

This article first appeared in February’s issue of Encore Magazine.


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