Filmmaker Dena Curtis on bridging the gap

The ABC’s Libbie Doherty (L) and Dena Curtis.

When Dena Curtis turned to writing and directing a dozen years ago after years as a film editor, she was confronted by a recurring problem.

“The challenge was convincing people, mostly broadcasters, to commission Indigenous stories when they said no one would watch them,” Curtis tells If.

Since then, as she acknowledges, there has been a “huge shift,” which she credits in part to the support and advocacy by ABC head of scripted production Sally Riley and Screen Australia’s Indigenous department headed by Penny Smallacombe.

Curtis, who founded Inkey Media in 2015, is in a sweet spot in her career. Currently she is crafting ideas for her segment of the anthology feature Cook 2020: Our Right of Reply, co-funded by Screen Australia and the New Zealand Film Commission.

The shorts from eight Indigenous teams from Australia and New Zealand will each
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Huw Higginson enjoys venturing to the dark side

Huw Higginson.

Huw Higginson often plays admirable, upstanding characters but sometimes he gets more of a kick out of tackling villains.

In the past year the English-born actor has portrayed a brutish magistrate in Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale and a serial killer truck driver in Playmaker Media’s Mandarin series Chosen directed by Tony Tilse.

He played more nuanced characters including the abandoned husband and father of Miranda Tapsell’s bride-to-be in Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding; a lawyer who represents the family of a missing priest (Sam Reid) in Lingo Pictures/Foxtel’s drama Lambs of God; and a wealthy gentleman who sends his ward to boarding school in Fremantle/Foxtel’s Picnic at Hanging Rock.

“Unpleasant characters are often more interesting to play,” says the actor who played the well-meaning Constable George Garfield in The Bill for 10 years. “You have to try to find something to
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Bo Report: ‘Avengers’ beats ‘Pokémon’ movie, ‘Top End Wedding’ holds strong

‘Top End Wedding.’

Pokémon fans flocked to the franchise’s second movie in 20 years last weekend but even more people were keen to see Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, which reigned again in its third frame.

Meanwhile word-of-mouth is paying off for Universal’s Top End Wedding, which eased by just 22 per cent in its second weekend.

Universal’s comedy The Hustle, a female reboot of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, over-indexed its Us opening, probably due to co-star Rebel Wilson.

Roadshow’s Poms, an ensemble comedy about seniors in a retirement home who form a cheer-leading squad, had little to cheer about, unwisely scheduled against The Hustle.

A passion project for Kenneth Branagh, Sony’s Shakespearean drama All is True had a respectable debut on limited screens. Of the two new Indian releases, Maharshi proved far more appealing than Student Of The Year 2.

The top 20 titles generated $16.5 million, down 9 per cent
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Sally Riley explains why the ABC is happy to take commissioning risks

‘Diary of an Uber Driver.’

Sally Riley is bemused when people use this line when they are pitching projects to her: “This is definitely an ABC show.”

The ABC’s head of scripted production, Riley usually replies: “What is that? What is an ABC show?”

Interviewed in her Ultimo office for a two-part story, she tells If: “If it’s a great show, we’ll do it. I don’t think it must fit in the parameters of what is supposed to be an ABC show.

“We want to not only hold our audiences but also bring in new and younger audiences and we have a broad slate to try to meet both. We will definitely take a calculated risk when we believe in a show.”

As an example of a program which she thinks most people would not expect to see on the public broadcaster, she points to Les Norton,
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Bo Report: ‘Top End Wedding’ charms audiences as ‘Avengers: Endgame’ soars

‘Top End Wedding.’

Released in the slipstream of the Disney/Marvel Studios’ juggernaut Avengers: Endgame, Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding proved effective counter-programming last weekend.

The romantic comedy starring Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Kerry Fox, Huw Higginson and Shari Sebbens wooed $1.1 million at 287 locations and $1.588 million with paid previews for Universal Pictures.

The opening was slightly behind that of Jeremy SimsLast Cab to Darwin’s $1.14 million, which finished with $7.4 million.

So, given the largely positive reviews and favourable word-of-mouth, the film co-written by Tapsell and Joshua Tyler and produced by Goalpost PicturesRosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne and Kojo’s Kate Croser could well reach $7 million.

The launch date was locked in before Universal took over eOne’s theatrical releases and before anyone knew the latest Marvel title would smash industry records in Australia and globally.

The superhero action adventure directed by the Russo brothers scored $13.6 million in Oz,
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Screen Australia provides $600,000 in story development for 16 projects

Imogen Banks and Asher Keddie, who will produce ‘The Sisters Antipodes’.

Screen Australia has announced more than $600,000 of story development funding for seven feature films, four television dramas and five online series.

The slate includes a currently untitled feature film from Little MonstersAbe Forsythe, Jodi Matterson and Bruna Papandrea, based on a real missing person case in a remote Northern Territory town; TV series The Sisters Antipodes, produced by Asher Keddie and Imogen Banks, about estranged families who are pushed to opposite sides of the world; and an online series from writer/director Kauthar Abdulalim, Salma and the City, about a mother who sets her sights on winning the Australian Open

Screen Australia’s head of development Nerida Moore said: “It’s fantastic to see such strong applications coming through, and in this round we’ve noticed an increase in series as well as a lot of female writers attached to projects.
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Dame Changer to host panel of leading female creatives

Women’s collective Dame Changer will host an International Women’s Day event tomorrow evening in Sydney, to mark the organisation’s first anniversary.

The event aims to “celebrate successful women from all areas of professional screen activity who make us feel empowered every day”, and will see a range of panelists share insights on the industry and tackle stereotypes of successful women.

Speaking will be director Gillian Armstrong, cinematographer Bonnie Elliott, actress Shari Sebbens, editor Dany Cooper, composer Caitlin Yeo and executive producer Que Minh Luu. The event will be Mc’d by actress and writer Megan Wilding.

Dame Changer advisory board member and Ausfilm CEO Debra Richards said: “We are more powerful together each and every day and we need to celebrate women who empower, inspire and keep us going each of those every days.”

Dame Changer was formed on International Women’s Day in 2018 to run programs
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Adelaide Film Festival to hold pop-up screenings of ‘Top End Wedding’, ‘Animals’


Adelaide Film Festival will hold pop up screenings of Top End Wedding and Animals in early April, marking each film’s official Australian premiere.

Both films – which each made their world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January to critical acclaim – were made with the support of the Adelaide Film Festival investment fund. Each will premiere with a red carpet gala screening and after party, with a screening and Q&A the following day.

Adelaide Film Festival CEO and creative director Mat Kesting said: “Adelaide Film Festival is thrilled to present the Australian premieres of Sophie Hyde’s Animals and Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding, giving audiences the chance to be among the first in the world to see these fine works. Diverse in their nature, both films are immensely compelling and entertaining films we encourage Adelaide audiences to embrace at the Adl Film Fest April Pop Up.
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Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions push new talent on ‘The Heights’

The cast of ‘The Heights’.

With the exception of flagship serials Home and Away and Neighbours, for the last few years, long-form adult drama has all but disappeared from our screens, replaced by high budget, short-run shows.

With that has also come a reduced number of training opportunities for emerging writers and directors, something that producers, writers and directors alike have lamented.

Given the landscape, it was somewhat of a surprise to see the ABC announce last June that it had commissioned a 30 x 30” serial drama in The Heights.

Produced by Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions, The Heights is set in the fictional suburb of Arcadia Heights and explores the relationships, work lives and everyday challenges of six families living in a social housing tower and the rapidly gentrifying inner-city community that surrounds it.

The diverse ensemble cast includes Marcus Graham, Shari Sebbens, Roz Hammond, Fiona Press, Dan Paris,
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‘The Heights’ marks a career pinnacle for Roz Hammond

Roz Hammond and Bridie McKim in ‘The Heights’ (Photo: Ben King).

Roz Hammond rates her role in The Heights, the ABC drama serial from Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions, as the best she’s ever had.

That’s a big call for the Waapa graduate who broke through as Cheryl, one of the “bitchy” bridesmaids in Paul J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding in 1994.

Perhaps best known as a founding member of the cast in Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, she has featured in a raft of comedies including Please Like Me, The Librarians, It’s a Date and Upper Middle Bogan. She has shown her dramatic chops in Jack Irish, Offspring and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Co-created by Warren Clarke and Que Minh Luu and set in the fictional inner-city neighbourhood of Arcadia Heights, The Heights explores the relationships between a public housing tower
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Shari Sebbens rises to the challenge of ‘The Heights’

(L-r) Shari Sebbens, Calen Tassone, Siria Kickett and Marcus Graham in ‘The Heights’ (Photo: Ben King)

When Shari Sebbens graduated from Nida and Waapa she expected her fair complexion would mean she would be cast mostly as white characters in shows about Indigenous people.

Happily she was wrong. After making her screen debut in Wayne Blair’s 2012 hit The Sapphires she starred in a bunch of series including Redfern Now, The Gods of Wheat Street, 8Mmm Aboriginal Radio and Black Comedy, all true to her cultural identity.

“I think The Sapphires confused the hell out of everybody as they thought, ‘She looks white but she says she’s Aboriginal,’ she tells If. “It’s something our community has known since colonisation: our people come in very different shades. I call it the Fifty Shades of Black.”

The actress will next be seen in the Matchbox Pictures/For Pete’s Sake Productions 30-episode drama serial The Heights,
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Phoenix Raei reaches for ‘The Heights’

L-r: Amir Rahimzadeh, Phoenix Raei, Ze Winters, Jasmine Sadati, Yazeed Daher and Rasta Karami in ‘The Heights’ (Photo: Ben King)

After breaking through in Kriv Stenders’ Australia Day, Phoenix Raei landed roles in Mustangs Fc, Romper Stomper and Wentworth.

The Iranian-born actor who came to Australia when he was a kid still feels he is a relative unknown in the wider screen industry – but that could change this month after The Heights premieres on the ABC.

Raei plays Ash, who lives with his uncle Hamid (Amir Rahimzadeh) and his brother Kam (Yazeed Daher) in a social housing tower in the 30-episode serial produced by Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions.

Co-created by Warren Clarke and Que Minh Luu and set in the fictional inner-city neighbourhood of Arcadia Heights, the drama explores the relationships between the tower’s residents and those who live in the adjoining, rapidly gentrifying community.
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Gwilym Lee and Miranda Tapsell star in trailer for Top End Wedding

Coinciding with its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, a trailer has arrived online for director Wayne Blair’s (The Sapphires) romantic comedy Top End Wedding which stars Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Miranda Tapsell (Love Child); watch it here…

Lauren and Ned are engaged. They are in love. And they have just 10 days to find Lauren’s mother (who has gone Awol somewhere in Australia’s remote far north), reunite her parents, and pull off their dream wedding. In this delightful romance, director Wayne Blair takes viewers on a sweeping journey from the big city to the Top End of Australia, culminating in a beautiful story about returning home.

Immediately after her engagement, Lauren rushes home to learn her mother has left her father and disappeared. Following a hilarious trail of evidence, she soon finds herself on a path that will not only reveal where her mother has
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Miranda Tapsell & Gwilym Lee in Australia's 'Top End Wedding' Trailer

"I can't get married if my mum isn't here." Universal Australia has debuted the first official trailer for an indie comedy titled Top End Wedding, an Australian film that is premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival this week. This "heartwarming, feel-good comedy" is set against the spectacular natural beauty of the Northern Territory. The story follows a newly engaged couple, Lauren and Ned. They are in love, and they have just ten days to find Lauren's mother who has gone Awol somewhere in the remote far north of Australia, in order to reunite her parents and pull off their dream wedding. This stars Miranda Tapsell (from The Sapphires) and Gwilym Lee (from Bohemian Rhapsody) as the couple, with Huw Higginson, Ursula Yovich, Elaine Crombie, Shari Sebbens, Kerry Fox, and Dalara Williams. This looks like an enjoyable mainstream comedy with plenty of quirky Australian jokes and references. Still might be good.
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Films Boutique Boards Sundance-Bound ‘Top End Wedding,’ ‘Dolce Fine Giornata’ (Exclusive)

  • Variety
Berlin-based Films Boutique has acquired international sales rights to Wayne Blair’s “Tod End Wedding” and Jacek Borcuch’s “Dolce Fine Giornata,” which will have their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.

Set to play in the premieres section, “Top End Wedding” marks Blair’s first Australian feature film since his critically acclaimed period musical “The Sapphires” which opened out of competition at Cannes in 2012.

The film follows an engaged couple who embark on a road trip across Australia to find the future bride’s mother who disappeared somewhere in the remote far north of the country days before their planned dream wedding.

Top End Wedding” reunites Blair with Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens, who starred in “The Sapphires.” They star opposite Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody), Kerry Fox (“Cloudstreet”), Huw Higginson (“Home and Away”), Ursula Yovich (“The Code”) and Joshua Tyler (“Plonk”).

“It’s a great wedding comedy boasting
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Steve Baker’s ‘This is Desmondo Ray!’ crowned webseries world champ

‘This is Desmondo Ray!’

Steve Baker’s This is Desmondo Ray!, a live action/animated series about a peculiar man who searches for love in a dark and troubling world, has been voted world champion at the Web Series World Cup.

Produced by Leanne Tonkes and backed by Screen Australia and Screen Queensland, the 6 x 7 minute drama is the second win for an Australian production after Luke Eve and Glen Dolman’s High Life was victorious last year.

The competition run by Mip TV collates results from web festivals around the world and publishes a table of the most awarded web series of the year. Desmondo Ray! was selected for 19 fests, garnered 26 nominations and 25 awards.

There are three Aussie titles in the top 10. Writer-director Blake Fraser and producer Chris Thompson’s dark drama Patricia Moore, a French-Australian co-production, came third with 31 nominations at eight festivals.

Starring Danielle Cormack, Les Hill,
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‘Little J and Big Cuz’ wins Sdin Award

‘Little J and Big Cuz’.

Ned Lander Media’s animated series Little J and Big Cuz is the winner of the inaugural Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network (Sdin) Award.

The Sdin Award was created to honour Australian producers and projects which have made a significant contribution to diversity and inclusion, on and off screen, within the Australian screen industry. Little J and Big Cuz, commissioned by Nitv, is the first animated series specifically targeted at Indigenous children aged 4-6.

The announcement was made at Screen Forever yesterday by Sdin chair Courtney Gibson.

“For decades Ned Lander has been producing screen works in complete creative collaboration with Indigenous screen practitioners, going right back to the feature Wrong Side of the Road, made with the bands No Fixed Address and Us Mob. The creation of the first-ever Australian animated series targeted to an Indigenous audience, Little J and Big Cuz, is a continuation of that collaborative approach,
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Kriv Stenders talks 'Wake in Fright' two-parter

(l-r): Jason Isaacs, Zen McGrath and director Kriv Stenders on the set of 'Red Dog: True Blue'.

Kriv Stenders might just be the busiest director in Australia.

The helmer's first sequel, Red Dog: True Blue, comes out on Boxing Day, he's got Foxtel TV movie Australia Day in the can, and he's currently in the thick of making a documentary on The Go-Betweens.

After that Stenders begins production on Ten's two-part adaptation of Kenneth Cook's Wake in Fright, previously the basis for Ted Kotcheff's 1971 film of the same name: considered by many the greatest Australian film of all time.

For now, the director is focused on True Blue, and admits to nerves in the run-up to its release.

"Look, of course, I'm anxious," Stenders told If. "I know I've made a really good film, I'm really proud of this film. My job is to make
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Kriv Stenders talks 'Wake in Fright' two-parter, Joel Jackson in mix for lead

(l-r): Jason Isaacs, Zen McGrath and director Kriv Stenders on the set of 'Red Dog: True Blue'.

Kriv Stenders might just be the busiest director in Australia.

The helmer's first sequel, Red Dog: True Blue, comes out on Boxing Day, he's got Foxtel TV movie Australia Day in the can, and he's currently in the thick of making a documentary on The Go-Betweens.

After that Stenders begins production on Ten's two-part adaptation of Kenneth Cook's Wake in Fright, previously the basis for Ted Kotcheff's 1971 film of the same name: considered by many the greatest Australian film of all time.

For now, the director is focused on True Blue, and admits to nerves in the run-up to its release.

"Look, of course, I'm anxious," Stenders told If. "I know I've made a really good film, I'm really proud of this film. My job is to make
See full article at »

LevelK’s 'Teenage Kicks' closes six major deals

  • ScreenDaily
LevelK’s 'Teenage Kicks' closes six major deals
Exclusive: Australian teenage drama has its European premiere this week in Tallinn.

LevelK has closed a number of deals on Australian drama Teenage Kicks, which will have its European premiere this week at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, in the Just Film youth programme.

The film has sold to the Us and Canada (Tla Releasing), UK and Ireland (Bounty Films), Germany and Austria (Salzgeber & Co), Hong Kong (Sundream), Australia and New Zealand (Umbrella Entertainment), as well as Belgium, Luxembourg, Andorra and Monaco (Optimale).

The film is about 17-year-old (played by Miles Szanto) who is grappling with his explosive sexuality as well as feeling guilty about his brother’s accidental death.

The cast also features Daniel Webber (11.22.63), Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires), Charlotte Best (Puberty Blues), Anni Finsterer, Lech Mackiewicz and former footballer Ian Roberts.

Craig Boreham writes and directs his debut feature; Annmaree J Bell produces for Sydney-based Azure Productions. John Frank executive
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