Children’s TV series Bluey, created by Brisbane-based Ludo Studios, further cemented its status as the most-watched series in ABC iview history, with series 1 ending 2019/20 with 106 million program plays. Meanwhile, series 2 had pulled in 63 million program plays by the end of 2019/20, just three months after its launch. Disney also reported that Bluey had reached 16 million US viewers in the last quarter of 2019 since its launch on Disney Junior in October.
The highest-rating Screen Australia-supported adult TV dramas in 2019/20 were Mystery Road series 2 (ABC) which averaged 1.2 million viewers, TotalControl (ABC) which averaged 1 million viewers and Seachange (Nine) which averaged 997,000 viewers1.
Rachel Griffiths’ feature directorial debut Ride Like a Girl became the highest-grossing Australian film of 2019 at the local box office, earning more than $11.8 million after its 26 September release through Transmission Films2. It was the first feature film that received Gender Matters funding to release theatrically.
Foxtel’s Lambs of God was the most nominated show in AACTA history, receiving nine awards including Best Telefeature or Miniseries.
The first-ever Australian scripted vertical series Content was released by the ABC, and a clip of a fictional car crash went viral with 3 million views on Twitter alone.
10-part online series Meta Runner, which was released in July 2019, raked in over 12 million views in less than a year.
Three series funded through the Online Production program were created and aired in the midst of lockdown: Facebook series Cancelled, and ABC series At Home Alone Together and Retrograde.
The Snapchat + Screen Australia initiative was launched with the aim of developing and producing premium mobile series for a global audience on Snapchat. The murder mystery series Apollo was selected to be developed.
Screen Australia received 534 Story Development applications across the Premium and Generate funding programs in 2019/20, up 41% from the 378 applications received in 2018/19. And in the last 12 months, Screen Australia provided funds to a total of 110 projects out of a pool of 508 projects that were creatively assessed. An additional 17 projects were supported through the special-purpose Premium Plus program, introduced in response to COVID-19.
See Appendix 3 for a full list of funding provided through the Content Department in 2019/20.
Series 2 of Mystery Road, which received development and production support from the Indigenous Department, was a ratings hit in Australia with an average of 1.2 million views3. It and fellow ABC series Stateless were two of just eight television projects selected from around the globe to make their world premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The short film Elders from the 2018 Short Blacks initiative was selected to screen at Berlin International Film Festival.
The Indigenous Producers Program facilitated 10 emerging and mid-career Indigenous producers from around the country to attend development workshops and industry markets, in partnership with the state agencies and Inkey Media.
In July 2019, the Indigenous Department published TheNext25 Years, a new strategy following extensive consultation during the department’s 25th anniversary year (2018) and into 2019. It was followed by a nationwide roadshow where Screen Australia, AFTRS Indigenous, ABC Indigenous and NITV visited towns and cities from September to December 2019 to meet emerging and established Indigenous creatives.
The Indigenous Department partnered with Netflix Australia and Bunya Entertainment on the Bunya Talent Indigenous Hub, a five-day talent incubator aimed at mid-career Indigenous writers, showrunners, directors and producers. The event was postponed due to COVID-19 but will be rescheduled when it is safe to do so.
ABC series Total Control, from Blackfella Films, became Australia’s first television series to be selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, and was one of just six series chosen to screen at the prestigious event. The series also received local acclaim, winning three AACTA Awards including Best Drama Series.
See Appendix 3, for a full list of funding provided through the Indigenous Department in 2019/20.
The highest-rating Screen Australia-supported television documentary projects in 2019/20 were Miriam Margolyes… AlmostAustralian (ABC), which averaged 1 million viewers, Love on the Spectrum (ABC), which averaged 798,000 viewers and is now being streamed on Netflix, and Maralinga Tjarutja (ABC), which averaged 785,000 viewers4.
The highest-grossing theatrical documentaries at the local box office in 2019/20 were Mystify: Michael Hutchence with $1.1 million, The Australian Dream with $1.1 million and In My Blood It Runs with $355,6765. All three were supported by Screen Australia, and The Australian Dream was also selected to screen at Toronto International Film Festival.
Documentaries supported through the Producer Equity Program (PEP) included feature Miguelito, which won Best Australian Documentary at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival; and Le Champion, which was awarded Best Documentary at the London International Film Festival 2020.
Three projects – Alone Out Here, Belonging and Rainbow Passage – premiered at the 2020 Mardi Gras Film Festival before airing on 10 Play, with Alone Out Here winning the audience award for Best Short Film. The projects had been funded in 2018/19 through OUT HERE, an initiative with Network Ten, which put a spotlight on the LGBTQI+ experience in rural and regional communities.
Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF) received Enterprise Business & Ideas funding to enhance its digital platform to better connect filmmakers and supporters online.
Screen Australia and VICE announced Searching for the Tassie Tiger as the winner of the annual pitching competition Pitch Australiana at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC).
Also at AIDC, Screen Australia and Al Jazeera English (AJE) announced the three winners of the Witness pitching competition; each will make a 25-minute documentary to be released on AJE Witness platforms.
The 3 x 1-hour ABC TV series Employable Me, made by Northern Pictures and supported through the Commissioned Program, was nominated for an international Rose d’Or award in 2019.
When The Beach aired as a three-hour TV event in May 2020, it achieved the highest ratings for an NITV commissioned documentary simulcast with SBS. Directed by Warwick Thornton (Sweet Country) it received production support through the Commissioned program.
Two short-form documentary series were selected for Webfest Berlin 2020: Youth on Strike, which was released by Junkee on YouTube; and Visible Farmer, which was released on Facebook with Instagram as a secondary platform.
See Appendix 3, for a full list of funding provided through the Documentary Unit in 2019/20.
DIVERSITY & INCLUSIVITY
Eleven creatives were selected to take part in the third iteration of the Developing the Developer workshop in November 2019, aimed at diversifying the pool of professionals developing stories for the screen.
Attagirl – a narrative feature film lab from Sophie Mathisen, Executive Director of advocacy organisation For Film’s Sake – received funding through Enterprise Business & Ideas. The lab will enable creative teams that are mostly women, female identifying or non-binary to learn from industry experts, with a focus on getting their feature slate market-ready.
Screen Australia and SBS teamed up to present Digital Originals, a workshop initiative aimed at developing online projects that, through the creatives behind them and/or the stories they tell, reflect gender equity and/or the diversity of people and experiences around Australia. Ten projects were selected for the initiative, with three chosen for further development and the intention that at least one will go to SBS On Demand.
In August 2019, Screen Australia announced it had exceeded its long-term Gender Matters KPI, with 56% of projects receiving production funding having at least half the key creative roles occupied by women, based on a three-year average. The KPI was set in December 2015, originally aiming for 50%.
In 2019/20, 13 varied Business & Ideas proposals were funded from across Australia representing everything from children’s programming and documentary, to Indigenous practitioners and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) concepts. Additionally, 19 Enterprise People applications received support.
The American Film Institute (AFI) announced that Eleanora Steiner, an Australian-Peruvian production designer, would be the 2020 recipient of the Screen Australia Onbass Fellowship, a full- tuition scholarship to attend the AFI Conservatory.
Through Enterprise People, animator Amara Gantz and puppeteer/ fabricator Jhess Knight undertook a six-month placement with Wooden Boy Productions in Portland, USA, training on Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion feature Pinocchio.
Twelve Australian creatives were funded to travel to Los Angeles as part of Talent USA for a bespoke week-long program of targeted and curated meetings, workshops and networking opportunities.
See appendix 3, for a full list of enterprise funding and industry assistance provided through the Content Department in 2019/20.
Screen Australia’s annual Drama Report, produced by the Strategic Policy and Industry Insights (SPII) Unit, showed 2018/19 expenditure on Australian scripted titles was a record-breaking $768 million, driven by an all-time record spend on Australian television and a five-year-high spend on Australian features.
The Supporting Australian stories on our screens–options paper, co-authored for the Australian Government by the SPII Unit and the Australian Communications and Media Authority, was released for comment in April 2020. Responses will help inform how the government can best support local, original and risk-taking Australian content in a modern media landscape.
SPII’s Marketplace team supported the sector by providing advice, assessing the complex deals that underpin screen content financing and tracking sales and recoupment of funded projects. In 2019/20 Screen Australia’s net recoupment was $5.98 million.
Australian programs continued to find audiences overseas with international sales responsible for 81% of Screen Australia’s net recoupment, while 19% was attributed to domestic sales. The international sales increased 14% from 2018/19 data. The highest proportion of these international sales came from children’s TV and features including titles such as Mako Island series 2, Cargo and I Am Mother. In total across 2019/20, there were 452 international sales of Screen Australia–funded features, adult and children’s TV titles that equated to $64.2 million.
The Screen Australia website had more than 2.7 million unique views, which represents more than a 3% increase on 2018/196.
The agency grew its social media following by more than 20% finishing the financial year with a combined audience of 151,062.
The Communications Unit published 38 written articles, 23 podcasts, and 32 videos on Screen News, which provided promotional support and free market intelligence to the industry.
Screen News video content reached more than 1.34 million views of video content across YouTube and Facebook7.
The Screen Australia podcast had more than 40,000 streams, a 163% increase on 2018/198.
The Communications Unit published 75 media releases and backgrounders profiling the industry on the media centre, which were viewed more than 160,000 times.
Nine articles written by Australian creatives were published for the Advice from Isolation series as an industry resource from April to June when the sector was most impacted by COVID-19. The series totalled 14,935 views.
International Emmy® Awards
SBS series SafeHarbour was awarded the International Emmy® for Best TV Movie/Miniseries in November 2019.
Beloved ABC series Bluey won an International Emmy® Kids Award in April 2020 for the Kids: Preschool category.
Six Australian projects were selected for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) including television series Total Control, documentary The Australian Dream and features I Am Woman, True History of the Kelly Gang, Dirt Music and Hearts and Bones.
Babyteeth, the feature film debut of director Shannon Murphy, was selected to make its world premiere in competition at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. One of its stars, Toby Wallace, won the prestigious Marcello Mastroianni prize for Best Young Actor.
At the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Australian feature Relic made its world premiere and short film Backpedal was also selected. Relic marked director and co-writer Natalie Erika James’ feature debut, and the project received support from Screen Australia through Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories, as well as development and production funding.
Eight Australian projects were selected to screen at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) in February 2020, including two features (H is for Happiness, High Ground), two television series (Mystery Road series 2 and Stateless) and four short films (Elders, The Flame, Girl and Body and Grevillea).
See appendix 3, for a full list of international marketing support provided in 2019/20.
PRODUCER OFFSET & CO-PRODUCTION
Producer Offset Final Certificates were issued to 151 projects, worth a total of $196 million.
Provisional Co-production approval was granted to six projects from four countries. Final Co-production approval was granted to nine projects, from four countries.
Seeappendix5, for detailed statistics.
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28. Metro viewers: Mystery Road: 778,000; Total Control: 693,000; Seachange: 695,000.↩
Ride Like a Girl earned $11,777,405. Source: MPDAA as at 3/7/2020.↩
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28.↩
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28. Metro viewers: Miriam Margolyes… Almost Australian: 718,000; Love on the Spectrum: 561,000; Maralinga Tjarutja: 489,000.↩