Townsville’s emerging film industry is about to get a big leg-up with the city’s first narrative-based full-service production company moving in and two North Queensland-based shoots already in the pipeline.
Mad Dan Productions, run by Townsville’s Madeleine Dyer and partner Daniel Mulvihill, has relocated from Melbourne and will continue the development of web series Blood Sisters and feature film All Kinds of Violence with the view to shoot both in and around Townsville. Another Townsville export, Actor Jana Wilkes, will also return home as part of the production team, and the trio hopes their work will contribute to up-skilling local film makers in all elements of pre- and post-production.
Blood Sisters was one of only 23 projects nationwide to secure development funding through Screen Australia in February, and Dan said the funding sets Mad Dan Productions up as a credible force in Australia’s film industry.
“It’s definitely opened up the chance for colleagues we’ve wanted to work with for a long time,” said Daniel. “Blood Sisters has strengthened our ability to get more funding and our ability to stamp our ground as North Queensland film makers that are telling stories that are pertinent and timely to movements [like #TimesUp and #MeToo]. That’s what Blood Sisters represented – a bit more of a ‘we’ve arrived’ as more of a legitimate, narrative-based company, obviously aligned with big players in the industry.”
While Daniel and Madeleine are yet to fully flesh-out the episodes and key details of Blood Sisters, the web series will revolve around a man who dies a violent death and three high school girls from different worlds on the run in the Far North Queensland outback. The development phase will see the pair work with Matchbox Pictures’ Executive Producer Stephen Corvini and BAFTA Award-winning screen-writer Anthony Mullins to outline episodes, finalise characters and prepare a pitch bible in order to move the project into the production stage of funding.
“I’ve already had communication with the top of Screen Queensland, so I know that we’re very much on the radar and they’ll be expecting an application [for production funding] from us imminently,” Dan said.
While many artists choose to leave North Queensland to follow their chosen career path, Dan said he and Madeleine were excited at the prospect of bringing the film industry to a place where there isn’t one.
“I think there’s a tendency for people to get worried about Townsville’s isolation from the industry. If you’re looking for a thriving industry for narrative-based film and TV, it is non-existent. So that’s also a really exciting space for Maddie and I to want to fill and I guess that’s our objective: to build it and people will come. And I think then funding bodies will not only see what we’re doing, but it opens up a whole swagger of opportunities for our projects and to collaborate with other really talented people to tell stories that largely remain untold.”
Dan estimates that each project will create employment for 70 to 120 people across all stages of production, marketing and distribution.
“I always try to remind people that every project is a small business or a medium business – depending how much funding you get – in and of itself,” Dan said. “But then you get to teach people about the chain of command, it’s quite a militant process, just like any business.
“Hopefully down the track, if everything goes to plan, it will require us to bring in some really talented Heads of Department, but what I always wanted to do and Maddie has always tried to do is build the skill-sets of the people under them. So if people are working under these Heads of Department, they’re not only getting a credit on that series, but the next time a project comes along, they can step up into the Head of Department role if they prove themselves on set or during pre-production. So there’s so many opportunities I see for skill-set building.”
Dan and Madeleine have already established themselves as legitimate film and television creators, with their first web series Sexy Herpes securing national distribution through Channel Nine and Virgin In Flight Entertainment; and Madeleine appointed as Director’s Attachment to Rachel Griffiths for the upcoming biopic Ride Like A Girl about Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne.
“Maddie was hand-selected from a field of 100 emerging directors, and she got the nod through Screen Australia and Rachel herself,” Dan said. “It’s going to be huge what she learns – it’s a massive, multi-million-dollar film and it’s got stars like Sam Neill and Teresa Palmer. It’s actually our [country’s] first real, bonafide female sporting film, which is exciting.”
Mad Dan Productions has already secured $100,000 in private investments for All Kinds of Violence, with another $50,000 required to begin attracting Federal and State Funding for the film.