Year of the Easy Tiger

With hits including Colin from Accounts, The Twelve, Scrublands and more in production, producers Ian Collie & Rob Gibson are leading the way in premium drama.

By any measure 2023 has been the year of the Easy Tiger in terms of premium drama.

The company founded in 2017 by producer Ian Collie (pictured left), joined by former Stan Originals exec Rob Gibson (pictured right) in 2019, has been pumping out premium titles attracting audiences and rave reviews, with more on the way.

Led by Binge comedy Colin From Accounts, their recent slate has included Scrublands (Stan), The Twelve (Foxtel), One Night (Paramount+), with Desert King coming to Netflix and Four Years coming to SBS.

New 4 part docu-drama The Hunt for the Family Court Killer also premieres tonight on 10.

Centering around homegrown terrorism, domestic violence and the upsurge of conservative men’s rights groups the series exposes a shocking chapter of Australian social history through the eyes and experiences of those that lived it.

Rob Gibson: “My father was a Family Court judge in the ’80s and saw a bunch of his mates get killed and threatened. There were bombs going off in the courthouse, and we had 24 hour police protection outside our home for a number of years when all of that was going on. It’s a remarkable story of the guy that got away with this for 40 years.”

Gibson and Collie attribute their success to working with talented Australian writers and directors, but also acknowledge creative producers who will oversee production, some of which are happening simultaneously.

Ian Collie: “We’re covering the streamers which is nice, because back in the olden days you had three commercial networks, maybe two public broadcasters. Now it’s great to have so much more variety.

“We do take a real pride in working with creators and being fair amount. I’m sure all production companies do, but I suppose, also backing their vision. Then it’s (having) all the support people from cast and crew and increasingly, we’ve got a lot of third party or independent producers,we’re bringing in on all these, particularly interstate projects, because we just can’t be across it all. They’re all doing a fantastic job.

“Then there’s the trust. I suppose we have that sixth sense, where we feel a person’s going to do a good job for us. Touch wood so far, it’s been great.”

Colin From Accounts starring its creators Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall has become a global hit for Easy Tiger, winning international awards and critical acclaim in both the UK and USA.

IC: “It’s a Certified Fresh Tomato. We have no idea what that is!”

RG: “Harriet and Paddy are just such incredibly talented and funny people. So it’s been a lovely journey. It worked brilliantly here, went to the UK and BBC and sort of became a cultural phenomenon over there in a way that we could never have expected, really….. and it’s lovely seeing a poster for one of your shows on Sunset Boulevard and Times Square.”

Filming on a second season is due to begin this month in Sydney.

Shooting has also completed in Western Australia on a second season of The Twelve, coming to Foxtel / Binge in 2024 with a new crime and cast including Sam Neill reprising his role as Brett Colby, SC alongside Frances O’Connor, Tasma Walton, Kris McQuade, Amy Mathews, Erroll Shand, Fayssal Bazzi, Luke Pegler and more.

IC: “It’s very different. It’s set in a country town. There’s not just one, but two former lovers accused of shooting the mother, a harridan who runs a rural property and who has either fallen down the well accidentally or has been murdered and shoved down the well on the farm.

“There’s no witnesses, so a lot of it relies on forensic and circumstantial evidence. The two co-accused played by Amy Matthews and Errol Shand, who was in One Night with us, are terrific. Also you’ve got about four juror stories, which I think is just enough… in contrast to Season One, this is more strictly a jury of your peers, because it’s a small country town. So a lot of the jurors either know each other, because they’re all from a fairly small region, unlike Season One in Sydney. It’s got a more provincial, slightly more insular feel to it.”

Crime drama Scrublands recently launched on Stan. Based on the novel by Chris Hammer, the 4 part series stars Luke Arnold Bella Heathcote and Jay Ryan. Filming for the fictional Riversend took place in Castlemaine, Victoria. Collie and Gibson are hopeful it may proceed to a second season.

IC: “It’s semi-arid and the title kind of sells itself… there’s scrubby sort of eucalypts, not full desert Outback… we used to call it dry sclerophyll.

“It’s got an amazingly beautiful, authentic look and the performances across the board are really strong. We’ll see how it plays. It’s sold quite well overseas, to BBC, Sundance, Paramount+ in Germany, RTA in Ireland set… fingers crossed, there may be a second season.

“The next book is called Silver and involves Martin (Arnold) and Mandy (Heathcote). They leave Riversend for a coastal setting and lo and behold, a murder happens. So Martin’s back on the investigatory thing…. hopefully something that will get up. Obviously it depends how well it performs but we remain quitely confident.”

Filming has also been underway on Desert King (working title) for Netflix in the Northern Territory and South Australia. When the world’s largest cattle station is left without a clear successor, generational clashes threaten to tear the Lawson family apart. Sensing this once great dynasty is in decline, the outback’s most powerful factions – rival cattle barons, desert gangsters, Indigenous elders and billionaire miners – move in for the kill.

RG: “The vast bulk of our exteriors are shot (in the NT) and it’s just astonishing-looking, in a remarkable place to shoot. We’re doing the rest down in South Australia, which is obviously a slightly easier place to produce a television show.

“We’ve got 10s of 1000s of head of cattle, bull catches, helicopters, airplanes, a giant cattle station, which is, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the world… these places are the size of small countries. I think this one has been compared to Wales.

“To be given the opportunity to do something of that scale by Netflix has just been wonderful.”

Four Years, recently announced by SBS, will film in both India and Australia.  The series explores love, yearning and miscommunication and will shoot in India and Australia. Created by Mithila Gupta (Five Bedrooms, Bump) it features a writing team all with South Asian heritage: Mithila, Nicole Reddy and S. Shakthidharan and will be directed by Mohini Herse (Appetite) and Fadia Abboud (Year Of, Five

IC: “The shorthand is it’s an Indian Normal People. We’re doing our chemistry tests in India. We’ve got a shortlist of roughly about four of each gender, and so we’re seeing if the sparks fly between the two.

“It’s great to know that we’re bringing through the next generation of talent.”

Given their raft of hits, what is it that draws Collie and Gibson to new projects and is there room for more?

RG: “We’re genre agnostic for sure, and that’s probably only increased, since there’s now two of us. We have, remarkably, very similar tastes in a lot of ways, but also go out into different directions as well. If we were ever going to do a sci fi, it’s probably going to be something that I would be bringing in, as opposed to Collie. Likewise, if we were going to do something like a true biography or corporate thriller Collie is very well read in nonfiction.

IC: “In many ways, we’re often not looking for stuff. Obviously, we know certain genres, Crime Drama, family drama, comedy, especially in light of Colin From Accounts, can work. So when we do receive a pitch we review it from a number of angles.

“First, it’s just that gut response. It’s something where we feel, ‘This is a great story.’ I’m really engaged, laughing or crying, whatever that emotion might be. Secondly, is it a really well written? Does this person know how to write or do we need to bring in additional creatives to get it to a standard? Thirdly, is there a market for it?

RG: “Ultimately you’re looking for something that’s just going to be eye catchingly different or special in some way. We’ve all read enough scripts to last a lifetime so you get a gut feeling for the ones that feel like you haven’t seen them before. Something that will excite buyers, because there’s just nothing else like it out there.”

The Hunt for the Family Court Killer airs 9:30pm tonight on 10.

3 Responses

  1. A few years ago Scrublands would have been shown for free on Channel 9.
    So we haven’t actually gained anything (i.e. great dramas, comedies, etc), they are now just behind a paywall. That’s nothing to celebrate.

    1. Would you say the same of a Game Of Thrones or Breaking Bad? Just because it is behind a paywall doesn’t take away from the fact that it great content. We should celebrate the fact that we have a very healthy industry making exceptional shows that are celebrated around the world. Free or pay, doesn’t really matter.

    2. Nine is one of the worst stations for Australian scripted content. Always filling their schedules with late night NZ scripted content which counted as Australian drama points for some weird reason. Scrublands probably wouldn’t have been made ‘a few years ago’.

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