Screen business is thriving in the Northern Territory with record results driven by a raft of new initiatives.
The Territorian screen industry is experiencing record levels of production with a wide range of projects reaching a huge international viewership. The introduction of a new program to attract large-scale international productions will ensure this trend continues.
A new record was set for NT screen production as filming continued almost uninterrupted through the covid-19 health measures and border lockdowns. In total, four high-end scripted series – MaveriX, Barrumbi Kids, True Colours, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart – and two premium observational documentary series, Matt Wright’s Wild Territory and Outback Ringer Series 2, filmed in the Northern Territory in the last calendar year. These productions saw $13.4 million of direct spend injected into the local economy.
“The Territorian screen sector is thriving,” says Jennie Hughes, Director of Screen Territory, the Northern Territory Government’s Screen Agency. “We’re seeing more projects of scale being undertaken in the NT and that means more spend being invested in the Territorian economy and more opportunities for Territorians.”
The large-scale scripted Amazon Studios series The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart injected $1.53 million into the Alice Springs region in 23 days of filming, while the landmark NITV children’s series Barrumbi Kids spent $3.2 million in the Big Rivers region during its production period.
The opportunities for Territorians are more than apparent in series such as Barrumbi Kids, with both lead actors cast from Katherine, production filmed on location in the communities of Barunga and Beswick and employment opportunities actively created for at least one local Indigenous employee in each of the series’ production departments.
“Building a sustainable industry is about growing the capacity of our local crews, creatives and talent,” says Ms Hughes.
Screen Territory is driving opportunities to increase the Territory’s skills base and capacity including a recently announced training partnership with sister agency Arts NT and the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). The partnership is delivering a series of subsidised workshops in Darwin to boost skills and professional development for Territorians across the creative industries, both in front of and behind the camera, and provides access and travel support across the Territory.
“It’s about employment, exposure and expenditure. Screen productions provide quick, direct injections of capital into whatever region they’re filming in, with flow on effects through the promotion of the Northern Territory to Australian and international audiences through the content.”
According to the Australian Government’s agency Screen Australia, approximately 250 000 tourists visit or extend their stay in Australia each year as a result of viewing Australian content. Showcasing the glorious landscapes and locations of the Northern Territory through screen production has a direct positive impact for the Tourism sector.
Both the adventure-filled observational doco series for the Nine Network, Matt Wright’s Wild Territory, and the home-grown ABC teen focused motocross series MaveriX are being distributed across the world to Netflix’s 220 million strong subscriber base. And what’s more – they’re a hit. MaveriX ranked in the global Top 10 for kids content on Netflix in 33 countries and was particularly popular in France and Italy.
Similarly, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, starring A-list Hollywood talent Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Avatar, Ghostbusters) and Alycia Debnam- Carey (Fear the Walking Dead, The 100) was the first international production to make use of the NT Government’s new Production Attraction Incentive Program, and will launch next year on Prime Video in more than 240 countries.
The calibre of locally made productions is evident with three Territory projects selected for the 69th Sydney Film Festival in June. The prestigious opening night screening was ground-breaking First Nations anthology We Are Still Here while the Central Australian documentary feature Audrey Napanangka was in competition for the festival’s Documentary Australia Award.
The festival world premiered the “unmissable” TV thriller True Colours, a high-end premium SBS/NITV drama series created by Arrernte singer-songwriter Warren Williams, with co-creator, writer, director Erica Glynn and starring the Territory’s own Rarriwuy Hick (Wentworth) in the lead role.
The 4 x 1 hour series is wholly written and directed by Territorians, with episodes written by Danielle MacLean, Erica Glynn and Steven McGregor and filmed around Alice Springs and on Amoonguna community, and is produced by the award-winning Bunya Productions (Mystery Road, The Drover’s Wife, High Ground, Sweet Country).
The series was co-commissioned by SBS and NITV to premiere as a 2022 flagship show and recently sold in the USA to the AMC network whose studios produce The Walking Dead. Importantly, production of the series injected $2.8 million into the NT economy.
“The NT is rich with storytellers and content creators, while boasting the most unique and breathtaking locations. Developing our local capacity, and amplifying our new Production Attraction Incentive Program is the key to growing the local industry, and drive direct and indirect benefits for the Territory economy,” Ms Hughes says.