Australians Return From Hollywood To Develop Local Projects

By April 23, 2015 Industry News

Screen Australia has announced development funding of over $620,000 for 16 feature films and professional development opportunities for two emerging filmmakers. This round will see some talented Australian writers, directors and producers heading home for a while.

Hollywood is awash with Australians doing great things behind the camera. Less visible but in high regard, they represent some stellar creative talent, which was nurtured in the local industry before hitting the big time. Many are now splitting their careers between Australia and the US, making time to return and develop new projects on home ground. Below is some exceptional Australian talent doing just that.

Bruna Papandrea (Wild and Milk) will produce Addition with Cristina Pozzan (Return Home). Papandrea is the executive producer of Gone Girl and co-founder of production company, Pacific Standard, with Reese Witherspoon. Harry Cripps will write and Kate Dennis (Offspring and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) will direct the romantic comedy.

Academy Award® nominee/winner Ben Lewin (The Sessions) is developing a biopic about notorious Australian composer and pianist, Percy Grainger, titled Blue Rose. In addition to directing, Lewin will write the film with Wain Fimeri, and Chryssy Tintner, Jan Eymann, Judi Levine (The Sessions), Mark Lazarus and Gary Hamilton (Bait 3D) will produce.

Jeffrey Walker (Banished–four episodes) will return to Australia to direct Dance Academy: The Comeback. Walker was working on Amy Poehler’s new comedy, Difficult People, for Hulu in the US. International Emmy® nominee, producer Joanna Werner (Dance Academy), will adapt the popular ABC family TV series into film. Young ballerina, Tara, will return to screens pursuing her dream to be a star. AWGIE winner for Best Children’s TV, Sam Strauss (Dance Academy), will write.

Other exciting development grants include:

Support for the Academy Award®–winning producers of The King’s Speech and Emmy® nominees for Top of the Lake, Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, who will work on a political thriller with producer Rachel Gardner (Slow West). Los Alamos, set in the 1940s, follows a disgraced intelligence operative, thrown into a world of political espionage when he investigates a murder at Los Alamos—a high-security military base. Joining the team again is Lion writer Luke Davies. The same production team will also develop The North Wind with Alice Addison, one of the writers on feature film The Hunter and TV mini-series Devil’s Playground.

Venice Film Festival winner, Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Ruin and Hail), will write, produce and direct thriller drama, Hawkwood. The visceral story, set in the backwaters of Africa, tells the tale of an ageing mercenary’s transcendental journey from chaos to grace.

Australian novelists and playwrights will also get a chance to shine in this new slate of feature films. Works by Joanna Murray-Smith, Peter Robb and Peter Carey will all be adapted for the silver screen.

Dirty Deeds producers, Bryan Brown (Gods of Egypt, Deadline Gallipoli) and Deb Balderstone, will continue to develop Joanna Murray-Smith’s dramatic comedy, Palm Beach.

Peter Robb’s novella is the basis of Pig’s Blood, about a young man from Naples sent to Australia to settle an old family score. When he arrives, a young, fun suburban girl distracts him and his original plan with a scheme of her own—to kill her stepfather. Jannine Barnes will produce the film and Grant Scicluna, winner of two Berlin International Film Festival awards for his short, The Wildling, will write and direct.

Top of the Lake writer, Gerard Lee, will adapt Peter Carey’s novel, Theft: A Love Story, in which a man leaves jail and tries to revive his former life as a famous artist. He faces the challenge of changing times, which drives him to swindle and forge. Alicia Brown, Melanie Coombs and Mish Armstrong will produce Theft.

The Talent Escalator program will offer emerging directors Corrie Chen and Billie Pleffer an opportunity to work with industry experts to gain firsthand practical experience. Corrie will work as a director’s attachment to Shawn Seet on the Channel 7 mini-series Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door. Billie will be attached to director Glendyn Ivin (Gallipoli, Puberty Blues, Last Ride) on the six-part miniseries The Beautiful Lie.

“Today’s funding announcement sees internationally based, award-winning Australian talent returning home to develop bold and original local stories. It’s an exciting range of films that will draw interest from all ages, celebrate Australian icons and tell unique Australian stories. It is also fabulous to have two very talented emerging directors placed with leading productions and experts in the industry, allowing them the opportunity to nurture their professional development,” said Nerida Moore, Screen Australia’s Senior Development Executive.

Below is the full funding list and further information about each project and placement.


Genre: Drama, Romantic Comedy
Producers: Bruna Papandrea, Cristina Pozzan
Director: Kate Dennis
Writer: Harry Cripps
Synopsis: A romantic comedy about an extraordinary woman and an ordinary man.

Genre: Drama
Producers: Chryssy Tintner, Jan Eymann, Judi Levine, Mark Lazarus, Gary Hamilton
Executive Producer: Mike Gabrawy
Director Ben Lewin
Writers Ben Lewin, Wain Fimeri
Synopsis: Once regarded as the world’s greatest pianist, an elderly Percy Grainger reflects on his youth, when his young heart yearned for freedom and his Swedish love, Ella, while it was bound to his fragile mother, Rose.

Genre: Family
Producer: Joanna Werner
Director: Jeffrey Walker
Writer: Sam Strauss
Synopsis: Former ballet student Tara Webster needs to find the courage to return from a crippling injury in order to fulfil her destiny as a star ballerina.

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Crime
Writer/Director/Producer: Amiel Courtin-Wilson
Synopsis: Jack is an ageing mercenary at the end of his career—ricocheting from crime to crime in the backwaters of Africa. When he finds work as a domestic body guard for a young family in a gated community, Jack’s struggle with violence slowly begins to devour him. Hawkwood is a visceral, transcendental journey from chaos to grace.

Genre: Action Thriller
Producers: David Jowsey, Stephen Johnson, Witiyana Marika
Executive Producer: Jack Thompson
Director: Stephen Johnson
Writer: Chris Anastassiades

Genre: Thriller
Producers: Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Rachel Gardner
Writer: Luke Davies
Synopsis: Spring, 1945. Michael Connolly, a disgraced intelligence operative, enters a labyrinth of secrets and espionage when he arrives at the high security military base of Los Alamos. Sent to investigate a seemingly open-and-shut murder case, Connolly is thrown into the heart of the Manhattan Project and must navigate a path through military protocol, political intrigue and personal agendas in order to uncover the truth in the most secretive place in the world.

Genre: Comedy Romance
Producers: Julie Byrne, Andy Cox, Kristian Moliere
Writer: Andy Cox
Synopsis: When Katherine’s cat Tibby disappears and then returns sleeker and healthier than before, Katherine’s world is turned upside down sending her on a cat’s eye view-of-the-world adventure with new lover, Annie. Based on the comic memoir by Caroline Paul and illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton.

Genre: Drama
Producers: Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Rachel Gardner
Writer: Alice Addison

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Producers: Bryan Brown, Deborah Balderstone
Writer: Joanna Murray-Smith

Genre: Black Comedy
Producer: Jannine Barnes
Writer/Director: Grant Scicluna
Synopsis: Sent to Australia from Naples to settle a 22-year-old score, Salvatore’s plans get complicated by a trashy suburban girl who just wants to have a good time and kill her stepfather. Based on the novella by Peter Robb.

Genre: Animated action adventure
Producer: Martha Coleman
Director: Simon Rippingale
Writer: Erica Harrison

Genre: Romance, Action, Drama
Producer: Sylvia Wilczynski
Writer/Director: Kim Mordaunt
Synopsis: The lives of three people, from three corners of the world, collide in Africa.

Genre: Drama
Producer: Heather Ogilvie
Writer/Director: Megan Simpson Huberman
Synopsis: After her husband and brother die within days of each other, a woman throws in her job, sells her house and buys a rundown waterside shack in a tight-knit community on idyllic Pittwater. In a place that demands an open heart, she unexpectedly finds friendship and love. Based on Susan Duncan’s bestselling memoir.

Genre: Thriller
Producers: Alicia Brown, Melanie Coombs, Mish Armstrong
Writer: Gerard Lee
Synopsis: Theft: A Love Story, adapted from the novel by Peter Carey. Michael ‘Butcher’ Boone springs from jail and in an effort to rekindle his former reputation as a ‘famous artist’ immediately begins a new dark work, a painting based on one of his dead mother’s tea-towels. But times have changed and the only way forward now is scam and forgery.


Genre: Action Adventure
Producers: Ying Ye, Gary Hamilton, Mike Gabrawy, Mark Lazarus
Director: Kimble Rendall
Writers: Kimble Rendall, Nick Parsons
Synopsis: While a team of scientists desperately search for a colleague trapped in an ancient labyrinth, they must fight a swarm of deadly, man-eating funnel web spiders and discover the secret behind their power and intelligence—before it’s too late.


Genre: Drama, romantic comedy
Producer: Martha Coleman
Synopsis: Based on the novel by Anthony Capella.


Director Corrie Chen will be attached to director Shawn Seet during the pre-production, principal photography and post-production of the Channel 7 mini-series Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door.

Director Billie Pleffer will be attached to director Glendyn Ivin (Gallipoli, Puberty Blues, Last Ride) on the six-part mini-series The Beautiful Lie.