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Making documentary in Australia

In this video series, we speak to six documentary makers at varying stages of their career and creative backgrounds, about the realities of making content in Australia.

Screen Australia is currently revising its documentary funding programs, and industry are invited to provide feedback here

Daniel Joyce

Daniel is a leading Australian producer of international feature documentaries. His most recent feature Barbecue was released globally by Netflix in 2017 and his current international production Martha is set to release nationally in Australia from 28 November 2019 after rave reviews from Tribeca and Sydney Film Festivals.

Previously he has shepherded broadcast documentaries through challenging production on topical issues such as sex work, abortion, animal slaughter and domestic violence – producing Maddie Parry: Tough Jobs, Meatwork and Big Bad Love for the ABC. His projects have consistently elevated emerging Australian directors to their first successful long-form projects, in particular female creatives, with four of his last five projects led by women. Via his production company Projector Films, Daniel is also a supporter of AIDC’s Leading Lights program for new filmmakers.

Yaara Bou Melhem

Yaara Bou Melhem is an intrepid journalist and filmmaker. Her films include exclusive reports where she crawls through Syrian rebel-held tunnels, films in lawless Libyan jails after the fall of Gaddafi, explored taboo subjects like youth suicide in remote Aboriginal communities and more uplifting stories about doctors giving free health care in Nepal and conservation efforts in New Zealand.

Her observational documentaries include gaining intimate access to Time Person of the Year, Maria Ressa in the War on Truth, a film about the Filipino editor’s campaign against disinformation and the undermining of democracies worldwide. In 2019, she was named the Australian Freelance Journalist of the Year for this film. It is now being developed into a feature documentary.

Yaara is also currently directing and co-producing a feature documentary film, Dark Arts, a part human, part artificial intelligence driven journey into the visualizations of Trevor Paglen, one of the world’s leading contemporary artists as he reveals the invisible forces and dangers shaping our lives and future.

Her films have received a number of accolades including two UN Media Peace Awards, New York Film & TV Festival Awards, a Hong Kong Human Rights Press Award and Walkley Awards.

Maya Newell

Maya Donna Newell is a director/producer/editor with a strong focus on social justice. She has made award-winning short documentaries including Two (2009), which screened at AFI Docs, Slamdance and was the winner of AIDC emerging documentarist prize.

She directed Growin Up Gayby (2013) for ABC Opening Shot and Gayby Baby (2015), made with Charlotte Mars. Gayby Baby screened at festivals internationally including Hotdocs, London BFI, Doc NYC and Doc Liepzig, was selected for GoodPitch² Australia 2014, broke cinema-on-demand records, was nominated for an ACCTA, an AWGIE and won an ATOM award. The film sparked a national debate after it was banned from being screened in Australian schools by then NSW Premier and was significant in the movement for marriage and adoption equality in Australia.

Her new doc feature, In My Blood It Runs, made with Closer Productions was selected for Good Pitch Australia, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and Music and Sound Labs. It premiered at Hot Docs, AFI Docs, Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals, has been nominated for an ACCTA, a Walkley Award and Atom Award thus far and is due for Australian theatrical release with a priority on social impact in February 2020.

Kate Pappas

Kate has produced, co-produced, series produced and line produced close to 30 hours of television and works regularly with Genepool Productions, WildBear Entertainment, Chemical Media and Renegade Films.

Kate is a hands-on creative producer whose dedication to understanding the world around her has led to a rewarding career in documentary filmmaking.

Since cutting her teeth in London in the wonderful world of kids’ science TV, she has worked across a diverse and award-winning slate. Recent credits include art/science documentary Deception By Design (ABC/OFT); feature documentary Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy (NiTV/MIFF Premier Fund/Madman Ent.) and 11 hours of blue chip wildlife films with Wild Bear Entertainment.

Most recently, she joined Genepool Productions as Creative Producer working on both Vitamania (SBS/CS/Arte) as well as across their current development slate. In 2018, Kate established Wilding Productions, where she will pursue her passion for telling stories that illuminate the wonders of our natural world.

Brodie Poole

Brodie Poole is a Queensland based documentary filmmaker with a focus on outsider stories. His films provide perspectives that encourage audiences to develop empathy for those where empathy may not have existed before. In recent years, Brodie directed a series for ABC Arts Bites with the help of Screen Australia titled Mirror. This series followed Australian artists as they returned to their hometowns to create self portrait work.

In 2018, Brodie directed a documentary titled Where the River Runs Red which was released by The Guardian. This film portrayed a mining community in Tasmania looking to new futures after the closure of their economic centrepiece, the Mt Lyell mine. Brodie then began work as a Director of Photography for a feature documentary in Papua New Guinea on the Etoa Battlefields and moreover the wars effect on the local people. After a stint with Dengue Fever, Brodie has now begun working in Kalgoorlie following the mayoral elections for a documentary that is yet to be released. 

Celia Tait

Celia is managing director of Artemis Media, based in Fremantle, WA. Artemis produces ‘stand out’ high quality factual TV and is renowned for stories that inspire, delight and inform.

Celia has worked as a writer, producer, director and Executive Producer. Artemis’s focus is on creating entertaining documentaries with social purpose, including seven seasons of the hit history series Who Do You Think You Are? (co-production with Serendipity Productions), ground breaking series The Dream House (ABC TV), Don’t Stop the Music – 3 x 1 hours and Social Impact Campaign (ABC TV), history series Every Family has a Secret for SBS and Storm in a Teacup for ABC Arts.

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