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Four sets of Australian producers talk about how they raised the money to tell a story using the documentary form.

THE Quick Read

Just as each story is unique, so too is the financing path they each took – and also the path to audiences.

The most detailed case study grew out of an interview with the three very experienced producers of Tyke: Elephant Outlaw, a feature-length documentary that explores the story of a circus elephant who killed her trainer in front of thousands of people in Honolulu in 1994. It starkly illustrates the kinds of challenges and risks filmmakers face to get their work made and seen – and the sheer persistence and self-belief that is almost always necessary. The film turned out to be a festival favourite around the world and has sold like hotcakes.

Call Me Dad is a call out to men to step up and take responsibility for family violence. From a financing point of view the production is a lesson in the value of staying alert to opportunities as they arise – in this case a public broadcaster wanting to put together a season of one-off documentaries about family – and from a distribution point of view it shows that it can take just as much time, effort and money to attract audiences as it does to create content in the first place.

The third documentary, the two-part science and technology show Bushfires – Inside the Inferno, would not have been made if a UK production company had not reached out to Australia. The result was two very different productions in content and style being filmed at the same time using different pots of money to satisfy two very different screening schedules and audiences. It was dangerous out in the field on this one, but everything worked out in the end.

And, finally, production company Wildbear didn’t so much leverage its international contacts as spark off one of those many contacts to get the ball rolling on the observational travel program Making Tracks, an exploration of aspects of Australia through the prism of three great train journeys. Wildbear produces more than 100 hours of factual programming a year and 75 per cent of the slate is driven by the international marketplace so it’s also fascinating to hear how the producers work – alone and together.