Spotlight on Helium Pictures

Meet the company behind Paper Dolls and Last King of the Cross, helmed by Mark Fennessy.

Profiled today is Helium Pictures, the company behind Paper Dolls, which premieres next weekend, and Last King of the Cross. It was founded by seasoned industry creative, Mark Fennessy, formerly of Endemol Shine, Fremantle and Crackerjack Productions.

Production company name?
Helium Pictures

When was the company founded?
Helium launched October 3, 2021.

Where are you based and which states did you film in for 22 / 23 productions?
The company is based in Sydney. States in which we have filmed in 2022/2023 include NSW, Queensland and Victoria. We’ve also filmed in 9 x locations across NZ earlier this year.

How many full-time equivalent staff and how many does it expand to during production?
We have 15 full time staff. This expands quire quickly based upon the size of any given production. A scripted series such as Last King of The Cross involved 300 Crew, 350 Cast and 1800 Extras. A large unscripted series such as Ultimate Escape was over 300.

What is your ownership model and who are key principals?
The company is 100% independent. It’s financed by the key principal in Mark Fennessy, Founder and Chief Creative Officer.

Describe the genres you specialise in for production?
We are focused on Premium Scripted, Factual and Unscripted.

What have been some of your notable credits and with which broadcasters / streamers?
On the scripted side our credits include Last King of the Cross (Paramount+) and Paper Dolls (Paramount+). On the Unscripted side there’s sketch comedy We Interrupt This Broadcast (Seven), Australia’s Most Identical (Nine) and Ultimate Escape (Seven) – the latter 2 have yet to air.

What’s coming up on your slate and how many projects are in active development?
We have 3 x new scripted projects in fully funded development for Netflix, Stan and Paramount – all quite different in genre and scale. Beyond this our scripted slate is broad, exciting and diverse will the best part of 12 x projects in active development. In unscripted we have a new series coming for the ABC which will be announced next year and some announcements coming in Factual and Premium Documentary.

Do you receive unsolicited material, what are you looking for, how should people pitch projects?
We do receive selective unsolicited material however we’re a small label so can only take on a limited amount. We have several partnerships with highly talented creatives but otherwise our primary focus is what we are developing with our respective internal scripted and unscripted teams. Please don’t pitch us true crime, childrens or period. Ideas with a point of difference, irony, mystery, love / romance, aspiration and comedy are all of interest.

What change would you most like to see when it comes to commissions?
On the scripted side there is a wealth of talent in Australia with brilliant stories and production values by wonderful writers and producers. The market has always punched above it’s weight but recent projects such as The Artful Dodger, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Scrublands and Colin From Accounts reflects the depth of creative talent within the market. We’d just like to see more volume from the streamers given less and less drama is being commissioned by the broadcast networks.

On the unscripted side we’d like to see more measured risks in original commissions, even new and proven formats from abroad are being overlooked in favour of the same tired old brands. Also, it would be great to see the streamers making a genuine commitment to unscripted – offering a genuine alternative to what’s on free to air.

Paper Dolls premieres Sunday on Paramount+

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