The more local drama, the merrier: Nine

According to the Nine’s head of drama Jo Horsburgh, the network’s slate is one of its busiest ever, even in the face of increasing production costs.

“The question from both [CEO] David Gyngell and [director of programming] Michael Healy has been ‘Can we make more and more Australian drama?’ Certainly the sense within Nine is the more, the merrier, but the reality is how long it takes to get it on to the screen, to find the projects, to get the finance together,” Horsburgh told Encore.

“We’d love to be like Hollywood but we’re not quite there yet. Ideally, we’d like to make more because Australian audiences are interested in Australian drama, and that’s been demonstrated,” she said. “Generally speaking, there have been increases in salaries and equipment, and rightly so, in the cost of scripts, which was long overdue.”

Nine launches its new police drama Cops L.A.C. this Thursday (September 2); a show that Horsburgh says is “fresh” and offers “great production values: “Cop shows are universal and there’s always a challenge when you’re doing one, because they always have to bring something that’s a bit different, without reinventing the wheel. Cops L.A.C. brings a bit of freshness and great characters.”

Horsburgh denied that the show was set in Sydney because of incentives offered by New South Wales:  “You’ve got [Seven’s] City Homicide in Melbourne, and this is something that’s based on the local area command in Sydney, which lends itself to this kind of story.  It looks terrific; we’re shooting in and around Sydney and NSW.”

The network committed $60m for drama production this year, including new series for Underbelly (4), Sea Patrol (5), Rescue: Special Ops (3), Cops L.A.C.and a number of telemovies.

Most of Nine’s Australian productions are crime/action-based, but Horsburgh says this doesn’t mean that the channel is trying to specialise in this genre. If anything, it’s been a coincidence.

“We haven’t’ always totally been action-based. We had McLeod’s Daughters, which had those fantastic landscapes, and Sea Patrol also brings that element. Looking at the slate on air now, there’s a lot of action and crime, and certainly landscapes and action look terrific on people’s new big screens. That kind of storytelling is something that Nine does very well, and we’ll continue to do that, but equally, there are many other projects in development.

“At the moment, our slate is very varied, with projects coming from all different directions.  We have relationships with Screentime, Southern Star, Fremantle Media and independents producers, we speak to everybody. There are working relationships and you have ongoing conversations; there are always projects that we’re taking to treatments, bibles, scripts – things that may hit the sweet spot, but a lot of this is subject to what’s happening on screen,” said Horsburgh.

The slate of telemovies includes the three Underbelly Files, and Panic at Rock Mountain.

“Audiences like telemovies, and if they’re promoted well they can do great, like Wicked Love – The Maria Korp Story. We’ve got many in development, so the amount of stories coming through the door and the amount of different producers behind them is quite eclectic.

“Creatively, they’re always very fulfilling and they can be terrific for a programmer, because they can deliver a very entertaining night’s viewing, and can be worked on and promoted. Also, they’re good for directors, actors, writers and everyone really; they’re the training ground for feature films, and often they’re so much better [than feature films],” she explained.

This slate, however, is exclusively for Nine’s main channel, as there are no plans for projects for the digital channel Go!: “Quite often we find projects that would be fantastic for the secondary channel, but we’ve got to put out our energy and finances into our primary drama. If that changes, it would be terrific, because there would be lots of things waiting in the wings.”


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