SBS and Screen Australia have announced production funding for A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, the next successful project from the Digital Originals initiative, in addition to six new projects chosen for further development.
Digital Originals is a joint initiative of Screen Australia and SBS created to develop exciting and innovative scripted short form projects to premiere on SBS On Demand, providing opportunities for screen creatives who are currently under-represented in the sector.
A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, is a drama comedy series exploring themes of death, grief and identity. Written by and starring South Australian Anna Lindner, directed by Renee Mao, executive and creative produced by Linda Ujuk and produced by South Australian Kate Butler, both of KOJO Studios, and also produced by South Australian Julie Byrne, the story follows 31-year-old Harriet Wylde as she returns to her hometown in remote South Australia to care for two terminally ill parents. When both pass away within weeks of each other, she’s forced to face her ultimate fear: absolute aloneness. After reconnecting with her dysfunctional childhood friend Daisy, Harriet discovers that grief doesn’t play by any rules and soon, neither will she. Principal funding is being provided by Screen Australia in association with SBS, and it is financed with support from the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC).
The series emerged from the Digital Originals initiative in 2019, which also included the outrageous and heartfelt drama comedy series, Iggy & Ace, exploring friendship, addiction and recovery through a queer lens and premiering on SBS On Demand on 9 September.
Six new series have also been chosen for further development from a shortlist of 12 projects from the 2020 Digital Originals initiative candidates. All 12 teams took part in exclusive development workshops held virtually in May, run by Screen Australia, SBS and NITV, which included international and local guest speakers, as well as developing the projects to align with the SBS Charter and SBS platforms, including NITV, and culminated in a pitch.
Commissioning Editor, SBS Scripted, Donna Chang, said: “We’re thrilled to see more incredible talent and surprising stories unearthed through the Digital Originals initiative. It’s fantastic to be taking A Beginner’s Guide to Grief into production and we can’t wait to bring it to screens on SBS On Demand next year. It’s also exciting to see the dynamic mix of projects from this year’s submissions being developed, reflecting more genres – from comedy, crime and even horror – showcasing unique Australian stories, and challenging us to think about what a digital series can be.”
Screen Australia Senior Online Investment Manager, Lee Naimo, said: “From the moment we heard the pitch for A Beginner’s Guide to Grief from creator Anna Lindner, we knew we wanted to see this project through, and we’re delighted to support Lindner and the talented creative team bring it to life. And the exciting talent keeps coming – we’re so impressed with the calibre of projects in our next crop of Digital Originals and look forward to seeing them develop their projects further.”
On A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, SAFC CEO Kate Croser added: “The SAFC is really pleased to support writer Anna Lindner, and producers Kate Butler and Linda Ujuk from KOJO Studios with Julie Byrne to take their series to the screen. The SAFC has long been committed to supporting greater participation by women and female-identifying practitioners in the screen industry as part of our mission to boost diversity and inclusion across the entire sector, and it is wonderful to see that come to light in this fully South Australian produced and post-produced series.”
On the Digital Originals projects selected for further development, Head of Programming and Commissioning at NITV, Kyas Hepworth, also added: “Digital Originals provides an important platform for emerging creatives from backgrounds so often underrepresented in our sector to shine, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives with powerful First Nations stories and perspectives to collaborate and share with all Australians. It’s been great to get to know the teams and see their creativity and innovation come to life through the short form format.”
The six Digital Originals projects from 2020 being funded for further development, are:
Three penniless delivery riders must battle the multinational food delivery company, Appetite, after becoming personally entangled in a conspiracy surrounding the death of a rider on the streets of Sydney.
Creatives: Mohini Herse (Writer/Director/Producer), Neilesh Verma (Writer), Neil Sharma (Director), Sleena Wilson (Executive Producer).
When his truck happens across a police raid, a young garbage collector becomes entangled in a drug deal that goes terribly wrong. If he’s to escape he must not only face down a dangerous criminal syndicate, but his own fear of failure amidst a profound family crisis.
Creatives: Hunter Page-Lochard (Writer/Director/Producer), Luke Bouchier (Writer/Director/Producer), Kobie Duncan (Writer).
Let Me Help
After watching their care workers hook up at a bar, two strangers with cerebral palsy are determined to explore their relationships with sex and each other.
Creatives: Emma Myers (Writer/Creator), Nina Oyama (Writer/Creator), Angus Thompson (Writer/Creator), Hannah Ngo (Producer).
Dark tales from the Korean diaspora that bloom in the night and move you.
Creatives: Andrew Lee (Writer/Director/Producer), Ashlea Ritchie (Producer), Michael McMahon (Executive Producer), Barry Gamba (Executive Producer).
DIVA (previously known as ‘SONNY’)
Inspired by a true story, ‘DIVA’ follows the journey of a young queer Samoan man who discovers himself through the world of professional wrestling.
Creatives: Jason Dewhurst (Writer), Taofia Pelesasa (Writer), Jessica Magro (Producer).
Sick of being hunted on Tinder to fulfil straight people’s fantasies, Sunny decides to catfish “straight girl” Elise, but instead starts to fall for her, before realising she’s also not who she claims to be.
Creatives: Rachel Perks (Writer), Jean Tong (Writer), Tessa Mansfield-Hung (Producer).
An evolution of SBS’s Short-Form Content Initiative, Digital Originals aims to support practitioners and projects that reflect gender equity and/or the diversity of people and experiences from around Australia. This includes those who identify as First Nations Australians; are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds; those who are living with a disability; are female or trans/gender diverse; identify as LGBTQIA+; and those who are located in regional and remote areas.
Earlier this year, SBS successfully premiered Digital Originals project The Tailings on SBS On Demand. The 6 x 10 minute murder mystery series, set against the fragile and beautiful landscapes of the remote west coast of Tasmania, celebrates the tenacity and pride of regional communities and provides an intimate portrayal of the human experience with grief, guilt and loss.