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7Wonder bolsters exec ranks

23 October 2014 10:03 PM, PDT

Former BBC executive Steve Condie has joined the Seven Network.s UK production co-venture 7Wonder as head of specialist factual.

Condie comes from Oxford Scientific Films where he executive produced series for the BBC and Channel 4 including the Philippa Gregory-presented The Real White Queen, Jimmy Doherty's Food Prices - The Shocking Truth and BBC Four's music and fashion series Oh You Pretty Things.

That follows last month's appointments of Chris Wilson as head of popular factual and Mish Mayer as head of development.

At the BBC Condie led the history development team in the factual division whose output included The Power of Art presented by Simon Schama,. The Seventies with Dominic Sandbrook and The British Family with Kirsty Young.

Wilson was commissioning editor for factual at Sky where he was responsible for projects including The Sun Set, Micky Flanagan.s Detour de France, Flintoff: From Lords to The Ring, »

- Don Groves

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Reality shows help arrest the slide in Fta ratings

23 October 2014 3:45 PM, PDT

Viewers are deserting the free-to-air broadcasters. primary channels but they.re not flocking to pay-tv.

While audiences continue to fragment viewers increasingly are turning to the networks. digital channels, according to Fusion Media.s Steve Allen.

Allen.s analysis of the 2014 ratings year-to-date shows MasterChef, House Rules and The Block - Fans vs Faves have gained viewers on last year, by 32%, 16.4% and 14.6% respectively in the 16-54 demographic.

The Block Glasshouse is down fractionally and there have been double-digit declines by The X Factor, The Voice and My Kitchen Rules.

Consolidated audiences for those seven shows collectively are down by 3% in 16-54s. .This is a very strong result in the face of all the challenges and the continuing fragmentation of the media market,. Allen said.

Overall live peak night 16-54 audiences for the year-to-date are down 2.17% on the three major commercial networks. The main channels are further down but audiences »

- Inside Film Correspondent

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Netflix readies Australasian service

23 October 2014 2:42 PM, PDT

After months of conjecture Netflix looks highly likely to launch in Australia and New Zealand in late March or early April.

That.s according to distributors who are negotiating film and TV content deals with the Us streaming giant.

The new season of House of Cards would be among the SVoD service.s first offerings Down Under, potentially a strong lure for subscribers.

The third series of the political drama, which stars Kevin Spacey, Law & Order.s Jenna Stern, Robin Wright and Nathan Darrow, is expected to launch in the Us in February, as did the earlier series.

Foxtel aired the first two series of the Netflix production licensed via Sony Pictures TV, but Netflix withheld the rights to the third season.

However Netflix's Australian feed will bear little similarity to the domestic service, at least for the first year or so, because Foxtel owns the SVoD rights to most of the desirable shows. »

- Inside Film Correspondent

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Us drama spending $11 million in Nsw

22 October 2014 6:49 PM, PDT

Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Elizabeth Moss lead the cast in Truth, a Us political drama now shooting in Sydney. The Nsw government confirmed its financial support via the State Investment Attraction Scheme and said the film would inject more than $11 million in direct production expenditure into the State's economy, creating 208 jobs. Most of the post will happen in Sydney.

Redford plays former CBS News anchor Dan Rather and Blanchett is his producer Mary Mapes in the tale of the scandal that ensued after Rather reported on 60 Minutes in 2004 that George W. Bush.s father arranged for him to serve in the National Guard to avoid the Vietnam War draft.

Subsequently CBS launched an investigation into whether the documents quoted in the story were forgeries and Mapes was fired for so-called lapses in judgment.

The film marks the directing debut of screenwriter James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man, »

- Don Groves

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First Australian-Italian co-pro funded

22 October 2014 3:05 PM, PDT

Writer-director Ruth Borgobello is casting her debut feature, a cross-cultural romantic drama set in northern Italy.

Remarkably, The Space Between will be the first official co-production between Italy and Australia since the two countries signed a treaty in 1996.

.We.ve worked really hard to develop this relationship and have created a very strong network here that we hope to carry into further projects,. the Melbourne-based Borgobello told If via email from Italy, where she is scouting locations.

Flavio Parenti (To Rome with Love, I am Love ) will play the lead, Marco, a 35-year-old who has a dispiriting job at a factory in Udine despite his skill as a chef, amid the deepening economic crisis in Italy.

Eschewing real love, he passes his time in an empty relationship. After his best friend Claudio is killed in a car accident, he tries to keep Claudio.s struggling bookshop business alive. Then he encounters Olivia, »

- Don Groves

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Immersive audio in the pipeline for Ahl

21 October 2014 10:32 PM, PDT

The roll-out of immersive audio in Australia has been given a new boost with the news Amalgamated Holdings Limited (Ahl) has committed to install Dolby Atmos into around 20 if its cinemas in next few years.

A significant investment from Ahl, the installation is part of the company.s future expansion plans and will take place in premium cinema screens at yet undisclosed locations.

Curt Behlmer, Senior Vice President, Content Solutions & Industry Relations, Dolby Laboratories, took some time to sit down with If at the Australian International Movie Convention to talk about the new development.

.For one, I.m very excited about it. I.ve known the guys at Ahl for a number of years and obviously they are very important cinemas. I think obviously the importance of a lot of their locations and the number of screens. It.s great for us to be able to work with them to »

- Emily Blatchford

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New crusades to boost awareness of Oz films

21 October 2014 10:11 PM, PDT

Producer Annie Kinnane expresses a common complaint in the industry: Often by the time she and her friends hear about a new Australian film it.s been yanked off screens before they had a chance to see it.

Instead of just griping, she.s doing her bit to increase awareness by launching a Facebook page this week, entitled Australian Films You Will Want to See.

She.s encouraging her Fb friends and the wider industry to post an item as soon as they.ve seen a film they can recommend.

That initiative is in a similar vein to When Did You Last Pay to See an Australian Film at the Cinema?, a Fb page created earlier this month by My Mistress producer Leanne Tonkes.

Tonkes is asking her industry peers to nominate the last Aussie film they paid to see, as opposed to freebie previews, Aacta, funding body or post house screenings, »

- Don Groves

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New crusade to boost awareness of Oz films

21 October 2014 10:11 PM, PDT

Producer Annie Kinnane expresses a common complaint in the industry: Often by the time she and her friends hear about a new Australian film it.s been yanked off screens before they had a chance to see it.

Instead of just griping, she.s doing her bit to increase awareness by launching a Facebook page this week, entitled Australian Films You Will Want to See.

She.s encouraging her Fb friends and the wider industry to post an item as soon as they.ve seen a film they can recommend.

That initiative is not unlike When Did You Last Pay to See an Australian Film at the Cinema?, a Fb page created earlier this month by My Mistress producer Leanne Tonkes.

Tonkes is asking her industry peers to nominate the last Aussie film they paid to see, as opposed to freebie previews, Aacta, funding body or post house screenings, and »

- Don Groves

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Aussie producer options Us young adult novel

21 October 2014 7:10 PM, PDT

American author Abbi Glines is showing a lot of faith in neophyte Australian producer/writer Gary O.Toole.

Glines has just sold an option on her novel While It Lasts to O.Toole, who recently launched production banner Red Rock Pictures after splitting with his producing partner at Three Kings Pictures.

O.Toole was alerted to the novel in 2013 by young Aussie actor Addam Bramich, who was keen to get the rights as he saw the project as a potential starring vehicle for himself.

At the time the novel was in The New York Times young adult best-seller list behind The Fault in our Stars, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Divergent. The producer initiated negotiations with the Alabama-based author and her New York agent and clinched the deal overnight.

.Abbi has taken a punt on us,. O.Toole told If. .I don.t think she wanted the rights »

- Don Groves

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Australian cinema in crisis

21 October 2014 1:58 PM, PDT

Australian cinema is facing a crisis because the distribution model for most Oz films is no longer viable, according to Troy Lum.

The EntertainmentOne Australia MD is calling for a summit where funding agencies, producers, distributors and exhibitors can address the vexing issues of release windows, how films are financed and how best to reach audiences across the spectrum.

.We are at a crisis point in our industry; we have to change the model,. Lum told If. His comments followed the launch of Julius Avery.s Son of a Gun, which took $65,000 in its first four days on 53 screens, released by eOne.

.We are absolutely devastated by the result,. said Lum. .I'm gutted for the filmmakers who worked really hard and made a really fine film.

.We worked very hard on the release with a big marketing campaign and a publicity tour. We booked it into a mixture of art »

- Don Groves

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Screen Aus simplifies co-pro guidelines

21 October 2014 1:28 PM, PDT

Screen Australia has responded to industry concerns that the rules for official co-productions are overly complex and inflexible.

CEO Graeme Mason has unveiled revised Australian International Co-production Program guidelines which he described as simpler and more streamlined.

And Mason signalled he will initiate discussions at next month.s Screen Forever Conference Open Policy Forum to make further improvements to the guidelines, including the best way for the agency to assess Australian creative contribution.

At present those elements are measured in two ways: a points test of Australian personnel, and by calculating the Australian spends. Mason said, .We are exploring ways to do this better, but changing our approach to assessing creative contribution will have many implications so we will need to take more time and consult with industry about the options..

Among the major revisions, the application requirements for provisional approval have been relaxed, enabling projects to be submitted for »

- Don Groves

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Imported actors issue rumbles on

20 October 2014 10:20 PM, PDT

Actor Roy Billing launched the campaign calling for the relaxation of restrictions on casting overseas actors in Australian screen productions, and he.s not giving up.

Billing has received support from all sectors of the screen industry, including fellow actors, since his op-ed piece ran on If on September 17.

.Five weeks on and the support continues unabated,. he said today. .Initially I received many emails and phone calls and now as I interact with my colleagues as a working actor I am getting face-to-face support. The issue is still very much alive in the screen sector..

Billing questions why his union Actors Equity appears to be ignoring the issue, apart from an op-ed article from newly appointed Equity director Zoe Angus, which, he says, failed to address the issues he raised.

.There has not been one mention of my stance in Equity e-bulletins so the majority of rank and file »

- Don Groves

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Australia's film industry owes a debt to Gough Whitlam

20 October 2014 9:41 PM, PDT

Filmmakers and audiences . indeed Australian arts and screen culture more broadly . owe a deep debt of gratitude to Gough Whitlam and the government he led.

Although the foundations had been laid by Whitlam.s predecessors John Gorton and Billy McMahon, the Australian film revival of the 1970s only really took shape after Whitlam became Prime Minister in 1972. Whitlam.s government established the Australian Film and Television School (Aftrs) in 1973; included a Film and Television Board as one of the initial specialist panels in the new Australia Council for the Arts; and replaced Gorton.s film support agency, the Australian Film Development Corporation (Afdc), with the Australian Film Commission (Afc) in 1975.

In contrast to the Afdc, the new Commission prioritised cultural and artistic merit over the prospect of economic success in their funding decisions. For the first time, filmmakers were provided with substantial financial backing. In keeping with Whitlam.s broader embrace of the arts, »

- Ben Goldsmith, QUT

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The Dressmaker rolls

20 October 2014 8:50 PM, PDT

Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving star in The Dressmaker, a tale of love, revenge and haute couture now shooting at Docklands Studios..

The ensemble cast includes Caroline Goodall, Shane Bourne, Kerry Fox, Rebecca Gibney, Sacha Horler, Shane Jacobson, Alison Whyte, Genevieve Lemon and Sarah Snook.

There have been two changes in the cast since it was first anounced in Cannes. Elizabeth Debicki dropped out to play the lead in the Foxtel drama The Kettering Incident, replaced by Sacha Horler. And Isla Fisher dropped out and Sarah Snook took her role. .

Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker is a bittersweet comedy set in 1950s Australia.

Tilly Dunnage (Winslet) is a beautiful and talented misfit who after many years working as a dressmaker in Parisian fashion houses returns home to Dungatar - a fictional rural town - to right some wrongs of the past. »

- Don Groves

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Waiting for August named best international feature doc

20 October 2014 6:31 PM, PDT

Romanian director Teodora Ana Mihai.s Waiting for August won the best international feature doc prize at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival.

Christopher Houghton.s Sons & Mothers was named best Australian doc with an honourable mention to David Fedele.s The Land Between.

Ghost Train took the prize for best Australian short with an honourable mention for Jilli Rose.s Sticky.

Waiting for August follows Georgiana Halmac, who lives with her six siblings in a social housing block on the outskirts of Bacău, Romania.

Turning 15, she has no time for teenage dreams when her mother Liliana is forced to leave her family to find work in Torino and will not be back until summer.

As the eldest Georgiana is left in charge of her siblings. Caught between puberty and responsibilities, she improvises parenting advice gathered from the television and the occasional phone call from her mother.

The film won the »

- Don Groves

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Fest prizes for Canopy, Healing, Galore

20 October 2014 1:30 PM, PDT

Aaron Wilson.s WW2 drama Canopy won the jury grand prize and Craig Monahan.s Healing took the audience award at the 16th annual St Tropez Antipodes Film Festival. Rhys Graham.s Galore collected the prize for best female talent for Ashleigh Cummings and Lily Sullivan. Brett Stewart was named best male talent for Everything We Loved, the debut feature from Kiwi writer-director Max Currie. The drama revolves around a magician and his wife who look for a replacement child after their young son dies suddenly. There was a special mention for Galore.s Toby Wallace. The jury headed by Fred Schepisi awarded the best short prize to Miranda Edmonds and Khrob Edmonds. Tango Underpants. Stephen Lance.s My Mistress and Zak Hilditch.s These Final Hours also screened in competition. Wilson has been hosting Q&A screenings of Canopy in Us cinemas. The film is released on home entertainment in Australia this week. »

- Don Groves

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Son of a Gun misfires at Oz cinemas

19 October 2014 9:08 PM, PDT

Margaret Pomeranz thoroughly enjoyed Son of a Gun while David Stratton reckoned it was competent and mostly well shot but highly improbable, peopled with uniformly unlikable characters.

To the extent that At the Movies influences moviegoing, it seems viewers took far more notice of Stratton.s 2½ stars than Pomeranz.s 3½ stars judging by the opening weekend results.

The debut film from writer-director Julius Avery fetched nearly $65,000 on 53 screens and $69,000 with previews. That suggests there wasn.t a lot of awareness for the crime thriller starring Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites (rightly hailed by Pomeranz as a .great talent.) and Alicia Vikander.

Either that or audiences are not interested in dark, depressing stories with no-good or shady characters after four or five Oz films in that vein underperformed at Australian cinemas this year.

Another possible factor, as If.s commentators have canvassed, is the Australian cinema brand has been tarnished to the »

- Don Groves

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Kidman and Firth a mismatch

19 October 2014 8:01 PM, PDT

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman were terrific as a long-married couple who overcame adversity in The Railway Man but Australian audiences aren.t buying their latest on-screen pairing.

Before I Go to Sleep casts Kidman as a 40-year-old woman who wakes up every day with a blank memory. Firth is her husband who tells her they.ve been married for 14 years and Mark Strong is her neuro-psychologist who encourages her to keep a daily video diary so she can help rebuild her life.

The thriller directed by Rowan Joffe, adapted from S. J. Watson.s best-selling novel, may not have sent audiences to sleep but relatively few bothered to turn up as the film fetched $418,000 on a very wide 194 screens.

Nationwide takings dropped by 16% to $9.7 million as none of the other newcomers much enthused cinemagoers, according to Rentrak.s weekend estimates. Distributors say the market is soft and especially shallow below the top three titles. »

- Don Groves

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New date for Interactive, Multiplatform, Narrative Games Lab

19 October 2014 6:19 PM, PDT

The Platform X 2014: Interactive, Multiplatform & Narrative Games Development Lab will be held in Sydney on December 4. As part of the 2014 Platform X Initiative, the Australian Writers. Guild in partnership with Storycode: Sydney, will give five writers a one-day intensive story lab to develop their ideas into coherent, focused, effective pitch presentations and short documents to take forward for further development.

At the end of the lab, each participant will have a pitch, a succinct and compelling concept synopsis, a plan for next steps and developed ideas for concept art.

The Awg is looking for exciting and dramatically engaging storyworlds that have the potential to manifest across platforms old, new and interactive.

The lab will be run by experienced digital media practitioners:

. Mike Jones - a writer and creative producer working across screen, page and digital media. . Ester Harding - a multiplatform producer with experience across film, broadcast, interactive and transmedia productions. »

- Press release

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Cinema-on-demand takes off

19 October 2014 5:30 PM, PDT

The initial results on films pitched to Australian moviegoers via cinema-on-demand platform Tugg, either as an exclusive offering or in combination with conventional distribution, have been encouraging. The co-venture between the Us-based Tugg and David Doepel.s Leap Frog Films has been holding screenings in Australia since March at Event Cinemas, Hoyts, Reading and independent cinemas around the country. Pinnacle will utilise the scheme, which enables moviegoers to select a title from a library and organise screenings at participating cinemas, for the release of Decoding Annie Parker.. Steven Bernstein.s drama is based on true events which chronicles two remarkable women: Annie Parker, a three time cancer survivor, and geneticist Mary-Claire King, whose discovery of the breast cancer Brca gene mutation was one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century. Louise Wadley.s All About E (formerly The Trouble With E), a lesbian love story/ road trip/ thriller that follows a beautiful, »

- Don Groves

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