Michael Carrington has one of the biggest portfolios in Entertainment.
As ABC’s Acting Director Entertainment & Specialist his brief encompasses content for Television, Radio & Online including iview.
Carrington was appointed as Acting Head of Content & Distribution in June following the departure of Rebecca Heap before a promotion when David Anderson stepped up following the departure of Michelle Guthrie.
He joined ABC as Head of Childrens’ in 2016 after beginning at Channel 10 nearly 30 years ago on shows surrounded by shows such as Ridgey Didge.
“I met a producer at Channel 10 and she gave me a job making roneos. I used to have purple hands a lot,” he recalls.
“In those days, and probably even today, Australia is such a small place that you end up doing everything. So as a production coordinator I became a production manager, line producer, a producer and learned to edit and do studio shows.
“The amazing thing about Children’s television, and I actually keep it secret, is that you get to do everything. You do Drama, Entertainment, Factual, Animation, every genre,” he explains.
“You don’t have to specialise and that is an amazing foundation for what I’m doing now.
“All of those things are in my remit. They might be for primetime with more sophisticated narratives, but essentially it’s the same mechanism, same model: you need to develop an idea, fund, produce and distribute the idea.”
In contrast to his current executive role, Carrington jokes that a different path may nearly have been a world of magic. Staging shows as a child was his introduction to storytelling and audiences.
“I was an amazing magician. You can ask the entire neighbourhood. They still remember it by the way! ” he laughs.
“My parents dragged me from (his home town) Campbelltown to Parkes when I was 12, so I ended up out in the bush with the sheep which is a bit horrifying.
“In any case I ended up in radio there right after my HSC I became a radio announcer at 2PK. I was the voice of the golden west! And having done that for three or four years I got scared that I would be trapped there for the rest of my life in this box.
“So I joined the Royal Australian Navy which was very exciting and literally circumnavigated Australia.
I was a Communications Sailor. Morse codes and typing. I can still do it. I learnt leadership skills and competence and all of those things that they teach you in regimented way.”
At 10 he produced Double Dare with host Gerry Sont, and the infamous Family Double Dare when US executive Bob Shanks ordered a primetime version with Larry Emdur.
“Can I refuse to comment?” Carrington quips.
“Channel 10 was sold to somebody for three dollars and I moved to London and it was there that I got into Children’s television at the BBC and stayed.”
In his current role Carrington now has oversight for the Television slate and the 2019 slate which has just been announced. He cites Frayed with comedian Sarah Kendall (pictured above) and Black B*tch (no longer just a working title) as amongst his personal highlights, although his personal stamp on the slate is yet be fully realised.
“What an extraordinary story that will be with some extraordinary performers and talent behind the camera with Rachel Perkins directing. Set in Canberra, a place we’re all familiar with but with a twist,” he teases.
“Having been in this role for four months, I’ve inherited everything, but being on the TV Executive for two and a half years, I’m very well aware of the content that’s coming through and in fact part of the greenlight team.
“I’ve known the strategy behind those projects because when they’re presented they come with a strategy behind them… having spoken to Audiences, the Distribution team, Finances etc.
“As far as putting my own mark on it as as Head of Content & Distribution I was able to very quickly move things in the schedule, finesse some things which worked. In terms of commissioning, I’ve already had one commissioning round, I’ve got another round next week.”
Another 2019 highlight is the Jenna Coleman / Ewen Leslie drama The Cry, produced by BBC in association with the ABC. Expected to screen in early 2019, the drama has already screened in New Zealand, raising questions about ABC fast-tracking.
“Well that’s okay. They’re neighbours and friends,” Carrington suggests.
“It’s project by project. The Cry we were involved in very early on and it became a minority co-production between us and the BBC and Synchronicity, which is the producer. That delivered to the BBC in October and it launched brilliantly well there, but we’re not launching until early next year, because that was the right thing to do for Australian audiences.
“It’s slightly different timing on what primetime is for different audiences: them going into winter, us coming out of summer.
“We look at each project on an audience-basis. What’s the gap for the audience? Doctor Who is slightly different. The day it delivers and broadcasts on the BBC, we transmit it almost immediately and that’s because that’s the audience expectation.
“There’s no point in having The Cry competing with something else that’s in our schedule. We have to manage a portfolio across the year and The Cry is coming into the schedule at a perfect time when audiences will be able to watch it.
“The Cry is a very intense drama that needs a special place, in a special time of year for us.”