“We’ve got plans to shoot in almost every state.”

ABC Drama boss Sally Riley talks through the broadcaster's upcoming varied slate.

EXCLUSIVE: Despite the challenges of COVID, ABC Drama is forging ahead with a slate of new projects in production and post-production.

After recently announcing Mystery Road: Origin for Western Australia, and with The Newsreader currently on air, Sally Riley, ABC Head of Drama, Entertainment and Indigenous told TV Tonight there was plenty more on the way.

Surf drama Barons is currently filming in Sydney.

“The producers put a bit of a clip of rushes together for cast and crew, mid shoot. It looks amazing. A lot of hair and beards, ’70s style. There are jumpers that you’ll recognise!” she said.

“Troppo is shooting, they’re probably about the third or fourth week, in Queen Queensland, with Thomas Jane and Nicole Chamoun who are the lead cast. That’s looking beautiful as well, but more tropical. So we’ve got plans to shoot in almost every state.”

Still to screen later this year is anthology drama Fires and S2 of Total Control.

“We’re up to editing ep 4 of Total Control. It’s as good if not better than the first series.”

Fires is an anthology series based on true stories. We’re just mixing that at the moment, getting the sound done. It’s pretty special. It’s moving but heartfelt. When Tony Ayres and Belinda Chayko brought it to us, they said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’

“It’s really about the hope and communities coming together and looking after each other. It’s a beautiful show, hard in places, but it really captures the spirit of the communities that were affected, and also the love from everywhere else that went to those people.”

Here Out West, an anthology feature film from Co-Curious and Emerald Productions is set in Western Sydney, penned by eight writers from the region. The story begins when a baby is kidnapped from a hospital by a desperate grandmother.

“It’s really good. That’s all finished. We’re hoping it will do a theatrical release in one of the local film festivals, but everything’s up in the air with those at the moment,” Riley added.

12 Responses

  1. Who’s this “we”. The ABC doesn’t shoot or produce any of these shows and hasn’t for over 20 years. They are produced by commercial TV producers with massive government tax subsidies, art body funding and are increasingly part of the chain of global production, distribution, broadcasting and streaming empires. The ABC just kicks in a bit of funding and pays a low fee for the exclusive first run FTA rights in Australia.

    Or The Heights was turgid soap opera with some of the most boring characters and stories I have seen that rehashed 6 basic storylines, episode after episode, until all 60 episodes that were contracted for were made. It was never going to get a large audience, which was why the ABC burnt it of on Friday night where it wouldn’t damage their audience share. Shortland Street, Neighbours and Home and Away are all globally successful and profitable to the extent that none of them would survive on their local network alone.

  2. Sally Riley says “We’ve got plans to shoot in almost every state” … sadly we’ve heard this line from the ABC many times before, but it tends to mean “we’ll bring a cast and crew from Sydney or Melbourne to shoot in your state” … the result is that the only local people to benefit are the owners of the hotels and transportation companies …

    1. A few points…. you wouldn’t be able to bring too many from NSW or Vic right now. Secondly, let’s acknowledge The Heights set up a complete WA production output for local crew / personnel. That was half the reason it existed. We should be applauding TV for getting out of Syd / Melb backdrops.

      1. … absolutely agree about The Heights … so may I quote you, David? “If The Heights becomes a legacy of Michelle Guthrie’s abrupt term helming ABC, it may serve as a sign of what could have been.”

        … and there you have the problem, Guthrie tried to take money away from the all-powerful, Sydney-centric news department set up under Mark Scott and spend it in other states, regional areas and other departments … the result was that she was the subject of leaks and a destabilisation campaign and when she was finally pushed out, Sally Neighbour’s exultant tweet “good riddance” spoke volumes as to how and why … now the ABC under David Anderson has returned to its bad old ways and “what could have been” probably won’t ever be again …

          1. … again agreed because, as I commented once before, the interim ABC management wanted to see it buried so there was no chance that an idea born of the Guthrie administration could be successful … and the “freeze” had been conveyed to ABC management prior to the production commencing and could easily have been accommodated if there was a will to do so, which there wasn’t …

          2. I’ve checked with Heights exec… dev started in 2017, announced in June 2018 when David Anderson was Director of TV, so he was a big supporter. But programming changes re The Drum knocked it around. I think unless you can link to evidence management wanted it “buried” we should halt the conspiracy theories.

  3. A real shame The Heights is no longer produced. A brilliant production that was launched in an end-of-week timeslot and never recovered. A case of a brilliant program failing due to a couple of shocking programming decisions.

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