The film, TV and streaming world came to Lennox Head late last week, both in person and virtually, for the Screenworks Regional to Global Screen Forum.
Over 200 participants benefited from the knowledge and expertise of a who’s who of producers, funding body representatives, showrunners, distributors, commissioners and other industry professionals who came together to discuss the future prospects of rural and regional screen creators in a global marketplace.
Screenworks CEO Ken Crouch said the opening keynote with Rhoda Roberts in conversation with Penny Smallacombe was ‘a standout example of the real conversations that are taking place in the industry’, both in terms of the evolution of audiences and the embrace of real diversity.
Another great session featured the very funny screenwriter Vanessa Alexander, who’s based in Newcastle and running international writers’ rooms, working on award-winning hit shows across genre and geography.
Other participants included key people behind shows such as Bluey, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Great, Dirtgirl, The Sapphires, Top End Wedding and Eden.
Mr Crouch spoke about the live participation of commissioning executives from the Australian divisions of Netflix and Amazon Prime, saying it was wonderful ‘to have an honest and true conversation about how our regional practitioners and storytellers and content creators can actually get access to them, to share their stories.’
Was it difficult to attract such an impressive line-up to a regional event?
Ken Crouch said, ‘A lot of work goes into events like this, especially when you want to get the tone of the conference right, and the program right.
‘You want it to be appealing not just to locals. You want people coming here and actually experiencing what the region is like.
‘There were amazing people who our local practitioners were able to have conversations with, at our networking events,’ he said.
Another innovation was an early morning walk up to beautiful Lennox Headland each morning for conference participants. ‘That was a great way for people to connect casually, and in our industry, that’s the most important thing. Those connections and relationships is what our industry is built on.’
Mr Crouch said there was nothing else like the Screenworks event happening elsewhere in regional Australia. ‘We’re very lucky to be able to do it here.’
‘A lot of people say that might not last, but there are always opportunities and ways to leverage these types of experiences we’re going through at the moment.
‘There’s so much production right across Australia, not just in our region.’
Conference participants heard that sound studio space and crews were in very high demand, with facilities like Byron Studios being booked as fast as they can be built, and the temporary studio at Alstonville already being used for a Netflix production.
‘We have proven our industry can support multiple productions on an ongoing basis,’ said Mr Crouch, ‘and that can only be a good thing for our reputation. Even domestic productions are seeing our region as an ideal location.
‘After the international productions go, we’ve demonstrated what we can do here, and that’s great. I’m very positive about the future,’ he said.
Bigger and better
The conference was the biggest of its kind hosted by Screenworks, and went off without a hitch, despite the technical complexity associated with mixing live and virtual speakers.
The new, improved Lennox Head Cultural Centre proved its worth as a venue for this large event, with breakout rooms for workshops and enough space for everyone to be COVID-safe (marshals were in attendance).
‘It’s only been positive feedback right across the board,’ Ken Crouch told The Echo.
‘I was at a restaurant yesterday and there were professional producers leading in their industry, CEOs of Ausfilm, distributors and sales agents, all in Lennox Head. It blew my mind really.
‘I thought, the industry has come to Lennox Head. Luckily the rain cleared and we had three days of perfect weather. People have really loved it being here.
‘Because people are out of Sydney it’s almost like they’re on holidays, and that makes them more open. It’s not just that we’re more casual in the Northern Rivers, it’s because they’re here and they’re happy to relax,’ said Mr Crouch.
All three days of the conference was switched and livestreamed to the world, on demand (and to the big screen behind the participants) by an entirely local team led by Andy Bambach of In Your Face Productions. Conference participants can access the playback of the livestream for another week via Screenworks.