Arenamedia, a Melbourne-based producer, is on a roll. The filmmaker-driven independent, run by Australian producer, directorAnd writer Robert Connolly, has three films — Blueback, Emily and Sweet As — playing at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
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Connolly, Harry Cripps and Connolly directed the 2021 Australian box-office smash The DryEric Bana stars in, and his directing credits include his early social and political critiques. The Bank, Three dollars And BaliboThrough to family film Paper PlanesInternational Emmy-nominated TV Series The Slap And Deep StateFox Network Group. Connolly is also a producer and executive producers. He has worked on films and series like The Boys, Romulus, My Father, The Warriors, GallipoliAnd Chasing Asylum.
Arenamedia also has three full-timers who produce, executive produce, or direct Connolly’s writing schedule: Robert Patterson, Liz Kearney, and Tara Bilston, an emerging writer/producer. James Grandison — who runs the Western Australian office and produced Blueback alongside Connolly and Kearney — Kate Laurie (Petrol) and Chloe Brugale (Because we have each otherArenamedia has non-exclusive producers of ).
“We are lean but have a model that allows a diverse amount of work,”Connolly says that all Arenamedia producers, as well as key creatives, have a stake through partnership arrangements. “The whole producing team share an interest in deeply humanist stories, whether they be dramas, thrillers or comedies… We’re not trying to second-guess the market.”
Connolly believes that television has overtaken the middle ground of scripted material, causing a polarization of cinema. This partly explains Arenamedia’s slate being either bold, hard-to-finance films by new and emerging directors or films of scale, usually driven by Connolly himself.
Environmental drama Blueback — premiering as a special presentation at TIFF — is an example of the latter. It stars Mia Wasikowska, Radha Mitchell and Eric Bana, and is written and directed by Connolly based on Tim Winton’s novel. “It has this epic, dramatic scale but at its heart it is a profound film about saving the ocean, and a commercial film with big environmental ambition,”Connolly said. HanWay Films has presold Blueback to territories, including Germany’s Weltkino Filmverleih. Roadshow Films will then open Blueback locally on January 1, 2023.
Meanwhile, Emily is actress Frances O’Connor’s feature directing debut and opens TIFF’s Platform section. Emma Mackey plays author Emily Brontë, and the Tempo/Beaglepug production with Arenamedia has been pre-sold widely by Embankment Films, including to Bleecker Street for the US.
Jub Clerc’s directing debut Sweet As is playing in TIFF Discovery, anchored by emerging First Nations actor Shantae Barnes-Cowan’s performance. Investment from the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)’s Premiere Fund meant it received its world premiere there on August 13.
“The whole producing team share an interest in deeply humanist stories, which could be dramas, thrillers or comedies,”Connolly.
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Meanwhile, Force Of NatureIs in post. The sequel to The Dry isMadeUp Stories features five women who take a retreat to the Australian bush, but only four return. “We’re unafraid of making unashamedly Australian work with Australian talent,”Connolly.
Also, the works is Mike Hailwood Film, based on the UK motorcycle racing legend’s 1978 comeback. Connolly and Bana are writing the script. Bana will play Hailwood. “It will shoot on the Isle of Man, in Victoria and possibly in New Zealand but maybe not until 2024,”Patterson.
A pair of animated features are also available on the slate: stop motion and animation Memoir Of A Snail, Written and directed by Oscar winner Adam ElliotHarvey Krumpet), and Magic Beach, based on Alison Lester’s children’s book.
Kearney and Connolly will also be involved in Originate. This VicScreen/SBS initiative aims at championing new voices from traditionally marginalized backgrounds. They will be acting as mentors and executive producers for the project.
Patterson states that Arenamedia has ambitious theatrical ambitions for its projects. It has its own distribution arm CinemaPlus and sales arm North South East West, which makes it easier for the firm to access finance from government agency Screen Australia — whose eligibility criteria stipulates that local distributors and international sales agents must be attached prior to production.
Arenamedia will work with other media companies when necessary. Roadshow and Sphere Films have been acquired Sweet AsOn completion, for instance. Roadshow has been signed up for six Arenamedia theatrical releases. The Dry And Force Of Nature. Madman has Emily locally. “We’re all about the cinema experience for communal consumption,”Patterson. “We’re not purists and snobs but it’s what we all do and love.”
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