2018 Screen Forever charges into sight

David Tiley

The sessions at Screen Forever are pretty enticing. Here's a bunch that might make a difference to the Australian approach to satisfying an audience.
2018 Screen Forever charges into sight

Leah Purcell will deliver the Hector Crawford Lecture at Screen Forever. Image: Flickr, from a 2009 ABC TV image taken by RubyGoes.

Screen Forever is much more than three days of meet, greet and wheedle. There's a heap of cutting edge knowledge, panelists surprised by their compulsion to tell the truth, producers showing off their latest business moves, broadcasters remembering they deal with actual humans, small fry with big ideas and big fry realising they are pretty boring... 


For most of the year SPA is about politics, policy and bread-and-butter negotiations over agreements. Producing looks, rightly, like a basket of fiddly details with their own strange rules, tangled up with snakes and spiders that can turn dreams into nightmares. Or reduce imaginative people to creatures of the production value chain, content that their niche does actually make money.

But when it comes to conference time, SPA becomes Screen Forever and unleashes the fundamental identity of the producer class: I am world maker, hear me deal.

Screen Forever's website now reveals almost all of the whole 2018 event - the guests, the program, the social calendar, the dealmaking events, the overseas guests. 

Our favourite speakers?

This year the conference has done well in finding Australians working overseas at the coal face and putting them on stage. They are:

Eden Gaha - unscripted 

Started in front of the camera here, and became showrunner in the US on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice for five years, and then joined Endemol Shine America as unscripted president with shows like Masterchef and Masterchef Jnr. 

'Gaha has recently launched production company, Mother Media Group with Wynn Rees a former attorney for 20th Century Fox and fellow expat. MMG has inked deals with Amazon and earlier this year signed a deal with STXtv to create, produce and distribute unscripted and hybrid series for broadcast networks, new media and cable in the U.S., China, India and other international markets', according to the release. 

Tim King - Executive Vice-president Production for SF Studios in Sweden.

SF, known to film tragics as Svensk Filmindustrie and to Hollywood as Svensk, is the oldest production house in the country, and supported most of its major directors like Bergman and Troell, and now makes and handles what it calls 'popular and well-made films and TV series that speak to a wide audience'. 

The idea that one of the (many) creators of Scandinoir comes from Australia is very satisfying. 

Daniel Reisinger - director

An Australian comedy director with a bent to digital opportunities, whose first US Show, Sideswiped, has just been released. It is an eight ep comedy series about online dating for Youtube Red, starring Roseanna Arquette, Chelsea Frei and Carly Craig.

John Finemore - producer

He started in Australia with feature Summer Coda, followed by Blind Company and Crawlspace. Set up Maker Films with a US arm, Lost City Inc which made Sundance flick Newness and is now doing Buffaloed. They both joined Chris Hemsworth in setting up Thematic Entertainment to work out of both Melbourne and Los Angeles. Bet they don't confuse the two.

Our favourite sessions?

YOU CAN'T ASK THAT - 4:30 pm - 5:00 pm on Tuesday 20 November. 
Modelled on You Can’t Ask That, this session brings a group of diverse screen practitioners together to face some hard questions about their roles and representation in the industry. Australia’s screen landscape publicly supports inclusivity, but is it privately still struggling to resolve the tension between content creation for mainstream and niche audiences? 

This one looks like a tryout, because it is only half an hour and lacks major players to sweat. We like the smell of blood. 


Lauren Smith is responsible for acquiring content from independent studios and producers around the world, which makes her a significant force although only for completed works. Catch a glow from the Netflix volcano which is supposed to light us all up. 

MYSTICAL NOIR & THE GLOBAL ZEITGEIST - 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Wednesday 21 Nov 

Ghosts, ghouls, altered realities, and unearthly forces — high concept genre has long come out of the ghetto and placed itself front and centre of the international drama landscape. But what are the real challenges of writing, producing, and selling supernatural stories? When the concepts are so high how do you ground the drama? 

We are sending our special were-reporter Jacinta von Schnarlhund to cover this. 

ANIMATING THE NEXT GENERATION - 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Wednesday 21 November 

Gen Z’s relationship to screen and tech has prompted a revolution in the creation and distribution of animated content. The tech stakes are high, the processes rumbled, viewing patterns scrambled. 

IN CONVERSATION WITH DOMINIC MINGHELLA - 9:00 am - 10:00 am, Thursday 22 November

Screenwriter, producer and showrunner, the quieter and more sensible Minghella brother is British, and came from Hamish Macbeth to create Doc Martin. He went on to Robin Hood, and then  Knightfall for A&E Studios and the History Channel in the US. 

He has the skills and experience that everyone else wants - to create broadbrush shows for family entertainment that have longevity with a certain sustained character complexity. This is kin to our natural televisual tendencies. 

WHAT DON’T I KNOW? - 11.30 - 12.00pm, Thursday 22 November

A guide to the future skills that you need to survive the ever-changing media production landscape.

Three things you should know more about to get ahead: Understanding Data and why it’s important to you as a Producer in finding your audience; Design Thinking and its relevance to Content Creation and Connecting with audience; Doing global distribution deals and operating in our truly global business.

This had better be good because the content is really important. Only half an hour so we won't drown in new ideas. 

ADAPTING FAMILY CLASSICS FOR NEW AUDIENCES - 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Thursday 22 November

Finding new angles on classic family stories is a challenge for producers and a thrill for audiences. Adapting a classic book or film requires a respect for the material; the insight to find the contemporary resonance, the fresh point of view; and the vision to hold it all in balance.

This is also known as shaking the success tree, to satisfy broad brush networks while doing good work. Besides, adaptation is always a wonderful puzzle. 

LEAH PURCELL: THE HECTOR CRAWFORD MEMORIAL LECTURE - 12.00pm - 12.30, Thursday 22 November

This highpoint always benefits from an eminent practitioner who is not afraid to challenge received wisdom and has unique experience. It is often not a logical discursion but a call to respect our fundamental values, which is a great way of contextualising the state of play.

Leah will trace her successes and struggles, from the young Indigenous girl who dared to dream of a career in film, stage and television, to the Goa-Gunggari-Wakka Wakka Murri woman from the Queensland bush who has carved out a stellar career, taking control and steering the creation of her own intellectual property long before the term “showrunner” was part of the entertainment vernacular.

Should be really something. 

Cute factoids

The party and awards night has moved from Crown Casino to The Forum, an actual theatre/cinema/cabaret. This can mean a pleasant walk in the afternoon sun or a chaotic tumble of brollies and hair-dos if the weather turns. 

For the first time, Screen Forever has a creche. If your brain explodes, see if you can hold a kid for a while. You will need a certificate from the police. 

The Tonic Bar downstairs has been totally captured by Screen Forever so there is no risk that delegates will run into members of the public. This means any other meetings you may want to hold will occur further afield. 

We are now totally used to the idea that grown up producers have tatts. Next is skateboards and we suspect this is the year. 

There are sessions covering VR, bitcoin, regionalism, gender, and diversity. These tend to surface the capable younger people you may not have seen before. 

The Ones to Watch are ones to watch. 

The snap, crackle and pop of the program has been getting better each year and is now really classy. We hope speakers and panellists focus on the issue and are brave enough to take stands. This is one of those occasions where producers will be forgiven for thinking out loud.

There is not much politics. Isn't that a relief? 

Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia, has broken with tradition by not speaking this year. But Screen Aus does have a session on film marketing to specific audiences called SCREEN AUSTRALIA PRESENTS: CROWD FINDING. 



About the author

David Tiley is the editor of Screen Hub.