Yes, networks are now more open to LGBTQIA+ content -but it still needs broad appeal.

Trailblazing producer director Tony Ayres says after years of lip service, networks are open to queer content -but there's a challenge for the creatives.

Trailblazing producer / director / writer Tony Ayres, whose queer work dates back to 1992, was last week asked at the Australian International Documentary Conference whether network commissioners were now more open to LGBTQIA+ content.

Ayres extensive credits include The Slap, Nowhere Boys, Clickbait, Glitch, Stateless, Fires, Barracuda, The Devil’s Playground, Underground: The Julian Assange Story and The Family Law.

Speaking on a ‘Getting Queer-ious’ panel, he confirmed real change in the way people are open to queer pitches.

“Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been working in this business for over 30 years, and I would have said in the first 25, nothing really changed. It was all lip service to diversity,” he said.

“But I just think that there’s been such a big paradigm shift in the last five, six years, and this is the perfect opportunity to make the work, and make the approaches.

“The twist in it is that we, as makers, be challenged to make the work play to the broadest possible audience – because otherwise the economics don’t add up.

“I think the approach is that you treat it like any other subject, which is that you don’t make any assumptions that people are going to be on your side. You have to win them over in the work.

“People are open to subject now, but you then have to persuade the broadcaster, this subject can play.”

Comedian Zoe Coombs Marr also explained how she used Comedy to make the content of ABC’s Queerstralia more accessible.

“I think what drew me to it was the impossibility of the task, to be honest. That’s just something that I’m always kind of really (drawn to) … the comedy aspect of it is something that is something that people go ‘Comedy? That’s a bit weird.’ It’s a bit of a sell, but at the same time, it’s also a sugar coating on the pill,” she said.

“Comedy is this kind of thing that can both get you out of grimness -because a lot of the history is really grim- but it can also take you further into it. So that does make it more kind of accessible and mainstream in a way because it’s Comedy.

“But I’m a comedian so that’s my approach to everything. So I was just the, the person dumb enough to take this task on I suppose and that’s the way I’ve done it!”

Queerstralia is now available on ABC iview.

13 Responses

    1. Most of primetime is reality formats and news, with sport now rolling in and the number one show continues to be about fake straight marriages. ABC has spent a bit of time to celebrate World Pride as official broadcaster in between the UK dramas and current affairs.

    2. I wouldn’t say we’ve shifted to things being about ‘identity politics’, but rather that representation and visibility matters these days and with the volume of streaming services, these stories now get the airtime they deserve. Look at MAFS, Farmer, or any dating show, and it’s 99.999% heterosexual relationships. As a gay man growing up in Western Sydney in the 90’s/00’s, there was no representation of someone like me on tv (unless it was the butt of some joke). I’m so glad the younger generations these days can see someone like them on tv.

      1. I agree with everything you said. Most LGBT characters growing up in the 90s and 00s weren’t serious characters. Even Ellen’s coming out could’ve been sitcom serious. Funnily enough in Australia, it wasn’t until Neighbours bought in regular LGBTI characters that I could say there was a decent representation in Australia

  1. The content also needs to still be good.

    It doesn’t help anyone if it’s diverse and inclusive but ultimately is poorly written, performed and/or produced. It still needs to be quality and sometimes I feel like we have to settle for sub-par content.

    For me, Queerstralia was an example of this. I get what she was trying to do, but it just failed on all fronts for me. Again, just my opinion,

    1. I guess humour is subjective, but I thought it worked well in Queerstralia while still converying the seriousness of some of the “WTF” moments it covered. I’ve caught up on the 3 episodes now and thought it was an excellent series.

      1. Yeah, definitely horses for courses. I appreciate what she was trying to do, it just didn’t quite click for me. But that’s cool 🙂 Better to try something than nothing.

    1. As opposed to being ‘bombarded’ by the fake straight ‘marriages’ on tv or the straight farmers marrying a sheila. Representation and story telling matters.

  2. To me it’s more about common business sense than pushing socio-political agendas, film and TV production is an industry and like any industry it needs customers, if the majority of customers choose not to consume your product it is not sensible to continue to run that organisation or business in such a way that it isn’t making any money. Publicly owned organisations like the ABC and BBC can create edicts to develop more content featuring inclusion and sexual diversity, however if these edicts are also adopted by commercial film or TV studios any producer wanting to fund a 19th century period drama screenplay (for example), which has no diversity included, then face the prospect of having to modify their original creative intentions and potentially divide the audience the screenplay was originally being written for in the process; there have been numerous examples of this in recent months.

  3. It’s not exactly a twist that commercial FTA dramas have to be profitable or more likely lose as little as possible while gaining points. FTA is a small shrinking market with declining advertising rates.

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