“Monumental works will be born of this moment…”
Exclusive: Some of Australia's top industry names share their thoughts on how creativity will come from adversity.
Pilgrim’s Progress, Don Quixote and The Travels of Marco Polo
were all written during hardship.
TV Tonight has asked some of Australia’s leading industry voices
whether from our current adversity we might eventually find creative enterprise?
Rachel Griffiths, actor / director / producer. Total Control, Ride Like a Girl, Six Feet Under, Muriel’s Wedding.
“Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the second plague of London. Van Dyck, Titian, Holbein the Younger made amazing works while Europe was ravaged. I think the work that follows plagues makes sense of our trauma and shines a light on our hope. While we are escaping with Tiger King now, I have no doubt that profound and monumental works will be born of this moment acknowledging our collective vulnerability and need for meaning.”
Graeme Blundell, actor / critic / director. Alvin Purple, Don’s Party, Dimboola, Screen.
“Yes, culture seems dead, well the official variety anyway. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Artists though, working from home, from their lounge rooms and makeshift studios continue to entertain and enlighten us. And they are doing it without subsidy or grants of any kind.
“There is, in fact, a strange lively energy in the air.”
“There is, in fact, a strange lively energy in the air. It’s easy for some of us to think back to when we began and there was nothing doing culturally in this country. I can remember back to when the Melbourne film industry consisted of one decaying laboratory, two or three small film companies with half a dozen stalwart pioneers grinding out a living making sponsored documentaries. When Hector Crawford’s Homicide went to air in 1964, my first paid gig, local production comprised ads for Mortein flay spray, Kia-Ora soups and du Maurier cigarettes. As Phillip Adams was fond of pointing out, it was as stuffed as Phar Lap. But Phillip and Tim Burstall started making their own movies, at first to a mixture of disdain and derision and the revolution was born. And it will be again – and may it be as rough and gutsy and politically confronting as it was back then.”
Rob Sitch, actor, writer, director. Utopia, Frontline, The Castle.
“There’s a lot to be said for ‘artistic’ isolation. My favourite example is the writing of Frankenstein. The facts seem to back up most of the legend. Mary Shelley was visiting Lord Byron in Geneva during the terrible summer of 1816. Stuck inside they invented a challenge; to come up with the best ghost story. I assume she won. The great poem Ozymandius was written in a similar challenge. Newton did his best work while isolated from the plague. Montaigne wrote his famous essays while self-isolating in a tower.
“Great ideas will emerge from our current isolation.”
“Great ideas will emerge from our current isolation. One tip though, if your idea starts with ‘It’s about a group of friends who catch up every day on Zoom’…. It’s probably not one of them.”
John Edwards, producer. Love My Way, The Secret Life of Us, Offspring, Paper Giants.
“All but one of the most successful shows I’ve worked on had to survive the adversity of not being wanted, or even liked, by the networks that spawned them. No Darwinism here though, bad shows survive as frequently as good ones. And viruses are even less discriminating than networks often are. I’m glad to hope though that the pressure and rub of this time of weirdness and adversity can force us to focus on stuff that matters and we make something good.”
Mark Fennessy, Chief Executive Officer, Endemol Shine Australia.
“If it’s true that great minds find inspiration in isolation then we will definitely see a burst of creativity beyond the present darkness (at least by those who are not home schooling)! In my experience there has never been a lack of great ideas in Australia – but simply the courage of those needed to bring them to life. In the words of Winston Churchill – ‘an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’
Marta Dusseldorp, actor. A Place to Call Home, Janet King, Stateless, Jack Irish.
“The question that will be asked is what will people want to watch after this is all over. My hope is anything, everything and most importantly that it is Australian. Our stories. Our voices. Our identity examined and nurtured through film and television.
“Australian drama will see you stronger than ever in 2021.”
“New voices developed during this time of no production and well-established writers ready to burst out of the blocks. Developed and commissioned with little fuss and enough financial backing to make it world class. Like we always do. Australian drama will see you stronger than ever in 2021.”
Bevan Lee, screenwriter. Packed to the Rafters, A Place to Call Home, Between Two Worlds, All Saints.
“It will be interesting to see what is produced, in this period of downtime, by those writers normally beavering at the coalface of the demands of high output television drama. These are talented practitioners usually too busy to let their creativity roam free on other projects. When their creative field has lain fallow for a time, not constantly harvested for the demands of high volume script turnaround, I think some very interesting scripts might emerge. I personally am shutting my head down for a number of months, to allow repair and renewal. All I know is, it will be impossible for me to write in the same way again in post-COVID times, if I wish to reflect any sort of current reality.”
Kevin Whyte, managing director. Token Group.
“Great work and new voices are already emerging just as great works were created in prisons and plagues, but we can’t allow that to obscure the destruction that is being wrought on the lives of the creators, performers and crews who often slip between the definitions and find themselves at Centrelink.
“We are already seeing surprising ideas and finding ways to make new work in a lockdown”
“Our artists are using the time well and we are already seeing surprising ideas and finding ways to make new work in a lockdown, but we are focussed on how we keep people working, engaged and crucially paid while Corona continues on its world tour.”
Imogen Banks, producer. Offspring, The Beautiful Lie, Puberty Blues, Tangle.
“Most of the industry is busy working out how to cling on and survive the blows – but if you happen to fall into the category of ‘funded, motivated, introverted creator, without children to home school’ then now is your time to shine! There are people who need time alone and silence to quiet their noisy brains and focus thought, and they now have it in spades.
“I’m excited to see surprising projects generated in response to these conditions”
“I’m excited to see surprising projects generated in response to these conditions, from those people. And the comedy. I’m looking forward to that, too.”
Jo Porter, Director of Scripted, Fremantle.
“As we gain our bearings, in what I hope is a temporary new world, there is no us versus them – we are all in this together. There is also a palpable sense of responsibility and determination to push through and ensure we are doing all what we can to be ready to come out the other side with as many opportunities for as many people as possible. We are all looking at ways to innovate through this time and not let distance stand in the way of the normal intimacy of writers rooms, script meetings, picture edits and the like. We are continuing to work to set up new shows with local and international commissioners and deliver projects to meet on air deadlines.
“I marvel at both technology but also the human ability to adapt.”
“I marvel at both technology but also the human ability to adapt. Australia’s creative community have always been proud of our capacity to improvise and innovate and I am seeing this in the way we are thinking about both the new stories we want to tell, and also how the current challenges are forcing a real subversion of the form itself. It’s too soon to say for sure but my hope is we will look back at this time as a pause that enabled us to focus on the real essence of what we do which is continue to tell stories that entertain, provoke and make sense of ourselves and time we now find ourselves in.”