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Podcast – Fires, Hardball and production in 20/21

Amid record-breaking numbers in the 2020/21 Drama Report, executive producers behind Fires, Hardball and Spreadsheet provide insights into what production has been like.

Splice of behind the scenes still from Hardball and a still from Fires.

Hardball S2, Fires

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

The latest Drama Report from Screen Australia shows record-breaking numbers, with 95 Australian titles that began production in 2020/21 generating $874 million dollars of spend. But what does that mean?

Each of those 95 Australian titles contains dozens of stories – about how it written, how it was made, how many hundreds of people it employed. On the Screen Australia Podcast, CEO Graeme Mason gives an overview of the data, before the episode zooms into the stories of two of those 95 titles from the Drama Report: Fires, the six-part anthology series which launched on the ABC in September 2021, and Hardball Season 2, the follow-up to the International Emmy-award winning kids’ TV series.

Andrea Denholm, Head of Development at Tony Ayres Productions and one of the executive producers on Fires, says the genesis of the series was in January 2020.

Fires was inspired by devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020… Tony Ayres [called] me saying we have to respond to this… and capture the stories of people who are living through this global catastrophe so we don’t forget what they have been through and remember our responsibility for change,” Denholm says.

Belinda Chayko came on board as co-creator and showrunner and research was underway immediately. Development started in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, transforming everything to virtual rooms, and by the beginning of 2021, Fires went into production before launching on ABC that September.

“It was extraordinarily fast,” admits Denholm, who explains how they managed the intense production and post-production schedule throughout the episode. Denholm also speaks to one of their biggest challenges outside of COVID-19 protocols: how to capture the scale of the fires, and how each of the three directors (Michael Rymer, Kim Mordaunt and Ana Kokkinos) went about that differently – some using an LED Dreamscreen, and others weaving in VFX and archival footage.

As Fires was going into production in early 2021, the International Emmy-award winning ABC Me kids’ TV series Hardball was in the midst of production on its second season.

Created and written by Matt Zeremes and Guy Edmonds, Hardball is the fish-out-of-water story of Mikey who moves from New Zealand to Australia, becomes mates with misfits Salwa and Jerry, and finds himself training with them to become the ‘sweetest-bestest-acest’ handball player in Western Sydney.

Catherine Nebauer, Head of Scripted at Northern Pictures and one of the executive producers on Hardball says there were numerous hurdles for the second season because of the pandemic, including crew availability, talent arriving from New Zealand, creating a safe and calm environment for the children on the set, and being impacted by the Northern Beaches shutdown over December 2020.

Nebauer says a big benefit has been the Australian crews.

“They really were completely on board with wearing masks, looking at social distancing, just being really conscious about all of the protocols and also just making sure the kids were in good shape, so they were really wonderful,” she says.

Throughout the episode, Nebauer also speaks to Hardball Season 1 winning an International Emmy award during production on Season 2, why Australian kids’ TV continues to resonate, advice for producers going forward, and what production was like for another Northern Pictures TV drama, the Paramount+ series Spreadsheet.

For more information on the Drama Report, click here

Fires is available on ABC iview, Hardball is on ABC ME, and watch Spreadsheet on Paramount+.

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast. I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the countries we meet on. Although you might be listening in from a geographically different place, we are all joining from unceded lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I'm joining from the lands of the Gadigal people who are of the larger Eora Nation and as a visitor on this land have great privilege to work on this country. Always was, always will be. On this episode of the podcast, we are looking at some of the big news coming out of the Australian screen industry, that being some record breaking numbers in the 2020/21 Drama Report, which is an annual report that tracks production across both foreign and local feature films, television and online drama titles, as well as post, digital and visual effects, or PDV, as it's otherwise known. How it works is that basically the industry provides Screen Australia data, which the agency pulls together, and that tells us how much was spent across that last financial year, as well as things like hours produced, the cost per hour, production of different formats and much more. So firstly, we're going to be joined by Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason to give us an overview, and then we'll be joined by two other guests. The first is Andrea Denholm, head of development at Tony Ayres Productions and one of the executive producers on the ABC series Fires. The second is Catherine Nebauer, the Head of Scripted at Northern Pictures and one of the executive producers on both the International Emmy Award-winning kids TV series Hardball and the Paramount+ TV drama Spreadsheet. Both Fires and Hardball went into production during the timeframe of the latest drama report, and Andrea and Catherine speak to some of the challenges unique to their particular projects and provide a real-world insight into what production was like during the 2020/21 year. As always, remember to subscribe to the podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes, where you can leave a rating and review. Any feedback, send to [email protected] . There's also our Screen Australia industry e-news where we'll send you all the latest funding announcements, opportunities, videos and more. Now here's Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason. 

[00:02:31] Caris Bizzaca First of all, Graeme, why is it important for the industry to have data from the Drama Report? 

[00:02:38] Graeme Mason I think it's really important, the Drama Report - for the industry, for us, for government in a range of different ways. It's a great snapshot of the level of production and what that means for us culturally and economically. 

[00:02:52] Caris Bizzaca Great. And so record-breaking expenditure on drama production this past financial year to the tune of 1.9 billion dollars, which is massive. What factors made it a record year? 

[00:03:06] Graeme Mason I think we all love saying 1.9 billion, don't we. It's just such a great big number. I think, as I had said last year, that we almost needed to look at the two years combined because we were on track for a record year, last year. So then if you look at this one, there's undoubtedly brilliant new things that have happened. But on top of that, of course, some projects that would have been in last year slipped into this. So you've got a combination of a bit of slippage, you've got our incredibly wonderful cast, crews, facilities, locations, which not only were amazing as always for our domestic industry, but also for a lot of offshore. And I particularly note how much of that offshore content was actually driven by Australians who really brought it home for us. 

[00:03:51] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, OK. And so we did mention the $1.9 billion, which, yes, is very nice to say. But how is that spend actually split up in the Drama Report? 

[00:04:03] Graeme Mason The Drama Report has a few headlines and then it has subsections. So the foreign-backed productions was just over a billion and the Australian "local-local" as I like to call it, was about 874 million. And then underneath that, you'll get split out for features, general TV drama, kids, online. And of course, there's PDV-Only as well, because that's a very important part of our sector. 

[00:04:29] Caris Bizzaca So then if we kind of look down into you said subsections, let's look into some of those subsections. So if we look at Australian production expenditure first and we look at feature film first, how did features fare? 

[00:04:46] Graeme Mason So as I said, it was a massive year, up 57 per cent for Australian expenditure total, so 874 million. Features were double the previous year, which is amazing, some 57 per cent above the five-year average. And so it was like $500 million, which is just amazing. Again, a few things of note there - by far and away the bulk of the titles, some 80 per cent of them are things made from under 10 million. Interestingly, again, however, very much declining level of those made under a million, but a lot of real successes. And you know, this has been such a great year for Australian film with The Dry, Penguin Bloom, High Ground, Bangarra, Firestarter. So, it's a lot to celebrate in the feature film land in Australia.

[00:05:33] Caris Bizzaca Mm-Hmm. And so then if we look at Australian general TV drama, how did that go? 

[00:05:38] Graeme Mason So in general TV, there was a seven per cent uplift on last year. Again, I'd note that in a lot of TV, great things had to bump or move because of COVID 1.0 as opposed to 2.0 (into the 20/21 financial year). And so it was really pleasing to see that it was up. And especially one thing that I was looking at was the volume of entirely local drama in Australia. So whilst we look at them separately, I think it will be worthwhile everyone who's listening to this to look at the online local drama and the general free to air local drama in tandem. 

[00:06:13] Caris Bizzaca OK. And so speaking of online. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the results that we've seen in that online section? 

[00:06:24] Graeme Mason Absolutely. So online is going up dramatically. I mean, year-on-year-on-year. So the report is showing that the spend this year hit some $125 million. And again, to be really clear to everybody, when we're talking about online, we're only talking about things of duration of 30 minutes or more. So not all the things that we back in our online team or of course, that generally get made by Australian creators are in there. This is just things of longer length that are comparable to the other ones on TV drama. So this area continues to grow. You know, you've had things like Stan obviously with Bump being such an enormous success for them. But you know, Recancelled on Facebook, Surviving Summer on Netflix, Iggy & Ace on SBS on Demand. Multiple platforms are really working in this space now in Australia. 

[00:07:14] Caris Bizzaca Hmm. And so just to clarify, because a lot of people might hear online and just automatically think of something like YouTube, but online includes the streaming platforms as well and say, an SBS on Demand? 

[00:07:29] Graeme Mason Correct. I mean, as I say, so online is not just Facebook and Tik Tok, which we're delighted to be working with them and YouTube. But it does include things where we put them there if they premiere on the online service. So that be ABC iView, for example, or Stan, then even if it ended up going onto the main channels ABC or their partner in Stan's case, Channel Nine. If it premieres on that online streaming platform, then we count it there. 

[00:08:00] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, great. And so a lot of great results coming through, lots of record-breaking numbers and things, but if we look at children's TV, it didn't fare quite so well. What happened in that part of the sector? 

[00:08:15] Graeme Mason I think in children's TV, there's always a bit of peaks and troughs, because obviously normally, even more than other areas, it's slightly cyclical. Obviously, there were some changes to the rules and regulations about children's content. But what we have seen was enormous take up still on the primary places that kids watch kids content, which in our experience has been largely the ABC and online services. And not just Bluey, which as everyone knows, I love to talk about - projects like Hardball on First Day, both of which won International Emmys. You know, we've got more coming through, whether it be MaveriX or Dive Club with Network Ten and Netflix and many other people operating in this space now. So there is still an enormous amount of content being made there and devoured by kids here and around the world. 

[00:09:12] Caris Bizzaca And so that's obviously Australian production expenditure, as we spoke about before, it's broken into Australian and foreign expenditure. So what's the overall picture with foreign expenditure? 

[00:09:25] Graeme Mason As people know, I think it's incredible that we had this extraordinary result: over a billion dollars of foreign-backed production coming in. I think a few really interesting things there, that we normally think of those monster films being made here. And of course, there were some of those. Thor: Love and Thunder, for example. But what we saw is that that was about circa 300 million, whereas the foreign TV and online drama being made here was half a billion. So much, much bigger. And also what I want to note on that is how many of them were spread around the country, but also the Australian involvement in them. When you have Ms Kidman and Ms Papandrea bringing Nine Perfect Strangers down here with a couple of weeks notice from America, obviously based on Liane Moriarty's book, that is just a fantastic result to see these huge films and TV coming down here, employing all the cast, crew, using our facilities. But again, with Mr Hemsworth and Nicole, it was a great year. 

[00:10:26] Caris Bizzaca And that was talking a little bit about foreign production expenditure. Can you talk specifically to post-production expenditure, otherwise known as PDV spend? 

[00:10:40] Graeme Mason Really good, strong year again for PDV-only expenditure down here, circa 240 million. And many of those shows were shows that, again, we didn't touch in any other way at home down here. So fair dues to our remarkable PDV community and those companies who shine so brightly out into the international market. 

[00:11:02] Caris Bizzaca Mm-Hmm. And so Australia's low COVID-19 numbers are attributed as part of the reason that the country was attractive as a filming location and led to this foreign spend being high, particularly in the foreign production spend. But now that the world is opening back up, are we likely to see those numbers drop off a bit going forward? 

[00:11:27] Graeme Mason I think obviously this has been a spectacular year, but it was a very unusual year for all of us and we recognise that. So we're going to have a little hiatus because again, off a huge high like this, there was nowhere to film other stuff. So there's going to be a little bit of a swings and roundabout. But we already know of many productions shooting, going ahead or planning to shoot. And they're local, they're local with foreign backing, they're foreign with huge local elements and they're foreign-foreign, so it's across the whole spectrum. So yes, I'd see a little downswing, but I think the numbers next year will be pretty big too. 

[00:12:04] Caris Bizzaca And the pandemic is still impacting the local industry. You know, in the last six months, we've seen lockdowns bring states and territories to a standstill. What advice do you have for the industry going forward into 2022? 

[00:12:21] Graeme Mason I think what our sector has done spectacularly is shown resilience and adaptability. We've also, we have to acknowledge we've been very lucky compared to all our friends who work in live performing arts, theatre, music, pubs, all that kind of stuff. It's been a disaster for them. With us, with the exception of our friends in cinema exhibition, we've all kept going. I think we've got to keep doing that. We have to continue thinking about what are the ways to work with COVID rather than just avoiding it. So take that same collaborative and resilient and adaptable spirit and take it with you into 2022. 

[00:13:01] Caris Bizzaca And what is on the horizon that you're looking forward to? 

[00:13:06] Graeme Mason Well, if you look ahead and obviously I shouldn't have favourites and I don't, but I'm just talking about a few things that we're well aware of. I mean, obviously, we've got George Miller about to start Furiosa, the latest instalment in his Mad Max brilliant series, which is going to be one of the largest things to ever film in Australia. So that's incredibly exciting. We've got a slew of amazing broadcast projects going from After the Verdict, The Twelve, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Mystery Road: Origin, and again, the list of things to look forward goes on and on. So in children's, of course, season three of my favourite Bluey, You've got MaveriX, an amazing show which was made in Alice Springs, Barrumbi Kids, 100% Wolf. Online we've got Bump returning to all our screens, Surviving Summer, you know so many amazing things for people to consume in 2022 and beyond. 

[00:14:04] Caris Bizzaca And so obviously, there's been a big change - some news that has come through about the Producer Offset. Is there anything you'd like to kind of say on that point to the industry? 

[00:14:19] Graeme Mason Obviously, the industry has got an enormous amount of positive news going into Christmas, with the small screen rebate going up to 30 per cent now official. And many of the changes that some of the sector we're concerned about, no longer coming into force. So we look forward to working with the sector in 2022 on the implementation of this and we'll get thoughts and guidelines out in the new year. 

[00:14:49] Caris Bizzaca As Graeme noted, 1.9 billion is a lot of fun to say, but sometimes it's easy to get lost in the numbers. We can say something like 95 Australian titles began production in 2020/21, generating 874 million dollars of spend, which is incredible. But also think about it. Every one of those 95 titles contains dozens and dozens of stories about how it was written, how it was made, how many hundreds of people it employed. On this podcast episode, we're going to zoom into two of those 95 Australian titles. The first of these is Fires, the six-part anthology series, which launched on the ABC in September 2021 and is available to watch on ABC iview. Here's Andrea Denholm, head of development at Tony Ayres Productions and executive producer of Fires with more. 

[00:15:42] Andrea Denholm Fires was inspired by the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020, and the genesis of it was Tony Ayres calling me in January 2020, saying we have to respond to this devastation and these tragedies and capture the stories of people who are living through this global catastrophe, so we don't forget what they have been through and remember our responsibility for change. And Belinda Chayko came on board very early and was a co-creator with Tony, and we were very committed to Tony, Belinda and the other creatives were very committed to honouring the experiences of the people that went through the fires and the losses they suffered. So it is a fictionalised series, but it was very much inspired by an enormous amount of research that we did very early on. So we started the research in January of 2020 and that research fed into the development process, which we started in March 2020, that was obviously COVID had hit by then. So all of our development was done virtually using Zoom, so all of the writers' rooms were virtual and the development process was very fast. We developed and wrote all six scripts throughout 2020 and went into production at the beginning of 2021. 

[00:17:33] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, wow. I mean, I've heard about TV being fast, but that seems like faster than usual. Is that accurate? 

[00:17:42] Andrea Denholm It was extraordinarily fast and we had a magnificent showrunner in Belinda Chayko and everyone was very focused on it. So Belinda wrote the first episode and the last episode, and we had other writers, fabulous writers involved in writing the other four episodes so we could write. We had all the scripts at different stages, at different times with the other writers involved. So that did allow us to move very, very quickly. And we felt an urgency to tell this story as other countries around the world were experiencing awful wildfires and catastrophic fires in Greece, California, everywhere. So we did feel an urgency because of that. And you know, we didn't know that COVID would be what it was. But as it became apparent that lockdowns would impact on the connection and the communities and the healing process, we felt that there was a sense of urgency to sort of recognise those stories and not forget about them. Not forget what had happened that summer. And also as a call to arms around the climate emergency and around climate change and the increasing regularity and ferocity of fires that is happening because of climate change. So we do hope that it carries that with it, as well as the acknowledgement of the experience and losses that people suffered and the need to stay focused on their recovery. They were very strong drivers for Tony and Belinda and the rest of us that were involved in the show. 

[00:19:28] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, so did you say the beginning of 2021, it goes into production and then, you can already watch it. It's already on ABC. 

[00:19:42] Andrea Denholm It's been on air. It's been broadcast. Because our production schedule was so intense and our post-production schedule was so fast, the episodes went to air as we were delivering them, but now they're all available on iview and each episode is very different because it is an anthology. Because we wanted to capture the scale and the scope of those fires over that summer, the story starts in September, actually, when the first fires happened in Queensland, and then we track the progress of the fire or the sort of march of the fire down the coast, you know, through Queensland, through New South Wales and into Victoria. And each episode is set in a different place and captures a different aspect of the fire, different stories that emerged from our research. But they are connected by the overarching story of two young firefighters who we meet in episode one, played by Hunter Page-Lochard and Eliza Scanlen. And we meet them in episode one, and that episode is very focused on their story. And then as they then decide to spend the summer helping other firefighters, other volunteers. And so they travel down the country and they intersect with different characters and different communities. So that's the sort of linking device, but each episode is set in a different place. 

[00:21:17] Caris Bizzaca And what do you feel with some of the biggest challenges with this project? 

[00:21:23] Andrea Denholm Well they were many and varied. But the obvious one and probably the most interesting one, was how to capture the scale of the fires and how to how to depict the fires. And interestingly, each director - we had three directors Michael Rymer, Kim Mordaunt and Ana Kokkinos - and each of them approached it differently. Actually, in Kim's episode, we didn't ever see fire. We just felt its presence because we didn't want there to be fire in every episode, and that to be the thing. We wanted to sort of feel the experience of the threat of it or the not-knowingness of it, but the first episode depicts a terrible burn over, and Michael Rymer directed that episode, and he used the Dream Screen, the LED technology, which was absolutely amazing and that was a fantastic way for the actors to be literally surrounded by fire that wasn't real fire - that was on the LED screens, but also we use special effects as well. So we had real flames and real embers in the studio with the Dream Screen behind. So that was one approach. We used that same technology for the sixth episode, which was inspired by obviously the Mallacoota and the Gippsland experience, so the sky turning red and black and so Dream Screen, we used for that as well. We also incorporated stock footage. So Ana's episode has massive fire depicted, like the fury, the height of the fires, and she did a magnificent job of incorporating stock footage as well as visual effects. So we had the LED tech, visual effects, special effects and archival footage. So all of those four things merged together. 

[00:23:36] Caris Bizzaca Yeah wow. All compressed into the speedy time frame and then COVID it on top - that's a lot. 

[00:23:42] Andrea Denholm It was a lot. It was a lot. And our directors, our crew, our writers, they were just so magnificent. We aimed high. We were very ambitious. And an amazing crew and directors and heads of department who were able to to pull that off. And because all through the development and all through the production, Belinda the showrunner's mantra was authenticity and immersiveness. We wanted the audience to feel what the experience was like, to generate a sense of empathy for those who hadn't necessarily been through it, but to know what it was really like. So I think we achieved that. 

[00:24:28] Caris Bizzaca And just for anyone that maybe hasn't read about the Dream Screen that you used on the set. So basically correct me if I'm wrong, so there's the set, let's say there's like a fire truck on the set or something like that, but surrounding the set is LED screens that are wrapping around that. And so it makes it look like and for the actors a very real experience of seeing when there's fire projected onto those screens that it's almost like surrounding them on the set. Is that correct? 

[00:25:00] Andrea Denholm That's right. So we one I think it was 16 metres by four metres big screen and then slightly smaller, but the same height screens to the side and then screens above. So also LED screens above. And what we were able to do was shoot plates on location. And then that footage was put into the computer, into the Unreal Engine, and that software was able to sort of turn that forest on fire. So yeah, there were like 14 computers driving the backgrounds. It's absolutely amazing, the tech.

[00:25:42] Caris Bizzaca Yeah incredible. And so I suppose just lastly, just kind of looking back on the past year, year-and-a-half. What's your kind of feeling looking back on it and some of the projects that you've either worked on in production or that you're in development on in the moment? What's your kind of feeling at this point in time? 

[00:26:02] Andrea Denholm It's quite a big question, because I think there's a lot of projects, because everyone was in development, there was such a focus on development while we were sort of dealing with the pandemic and people were in lockdown and productions couldn't start, there was a big focus on development, which was a very good thing. But it also means now that all of those projects are now ready. So there's a lot of things out there, and that's international - that's everywhere. Like, there's sort of a bit of a glut of projects that were developed during that time and that will take some time for I think buyers to sort of make their way through all of that. I think there's a lot of uncertainty around sort of filming, like being in production now. Vaccination rates are really high in parts of Australia. That's a really good thing, that makes us a very appealing place to shoot, which is good. The other thing I think I can say is that I think, you know, certainly our crew and our cast were magnificent last year, like we were filming through lockdowns with really strict protocols. And, it puts a considerable additional layer of pressure on people. People really, really was so magnificent in the way that they coped. 

[00:27:41] Caris Bizzaca A person who you'll hear seconds that opinion is Catherine Nebauer, head of scripted at Northern Pictures and Hardball Executive Producer. Hardball is an ABC Me series whose first season launched in 2019 and follows the fish-out-of-water story of Mikey, who moves from New Zealand to Australia, becomes mates with misfits Salwa and Jerry and finds himself training with them to become the sweetest, bestest ace-est handball player in western Sydney and win the Ultimate Handball Championship. It's created and written by Matt Zeremes and Guy Edmonds and distributed by Australian Children's Television Foundation internationally, where it has resonated just as strongly as it has at home, selling to broadcasters such as the BBC Kids channel in the UK and winning an International Emmy Award in late 2020. But production on the second season came with its challenges, as Catherine reveals here. 

[00:28:37] Catherine Nebauer So we went into production beginning of October 2020 and we ended January 2021, so we were supposed to start earlier than that. And of course, like many companies, I'm sure, sort of encountered the issues of lockdowns. So we sort of stalled a couple of times and we had to work on the numerous COVID plans, and we were actually, I think, the second company, I think, to go into production after COVID. I think there been one company that had been producing and then they were hit by it halfway through. But we were then sort of one of the first companies to sort of go back into production right after sort of the COVID pandemic issues of lockdowns and border closures and all sorts of things. But yeah, so that was pretty, pretty stressful. 

[00:29:29] Caris Bizzaca And so what were the biggest challenges with this project? Was it kind of adapting with COVID-19? 

[00:29:38] Catherine Nebauer Yes, there were a couple of challenges. It was crew availability just because well most of the crew were coming from New South Wales, so that was good. But we did have a few issues in terms of actually getting people here. We also had talent that was coming in from New Zealand and we encountered issues whereby there was sort of closures between countries and states and things like that as we were shooting. And I think things that no one had sort of really anticipated. You know, we were also working with kids, so we had a duty of care to keep them safe, but also provide an environment that was not anxious or concerned. And so those were some of the challenges that we encountered. I think by and large, though, the crews across Australia I have to say have been wonderful. They really were completely on board with wearing masks, looking at social distancing, just being really concerned about all of the protocols. And also just making sure the kids were in good shape and checking in with them. So they were really wonderful. We did have, we were sort of coming out of a lockdown and we were looking like we're having an absolute dream run. And then we had the Northern Beaches shutdown over Christmas, so we were on tenterhooks as we sort of shut down at Christmas time. We had to replace a couple of people. We had to organise people to work from home, that sort of thing, where they could. So we had somebody that was on a really important role. So we just had to find work arounds in terms of how we could still keep that person involved, but making sure that we were also adhering to all of the requirements by the New South Wales government. 

[00:31:31] Caris Bizzaca And so with that timing of season two, does that mean that you won the International Emmy Award for season one while you were in production on season two? 

[00:31:43] Catherine Nebauer It did. We actually won the Emmy I think the second week of pre. Because we delayed so many times, the start. Yeah, I think we were sort of in second (week) and we also had to, you know, finding locations in Sydney as well was interesting, because we had booked a warehouse and then because of the fact that we were delayed and then there was sort of no visibility about when we would actually physically go, we had to let that go because, it didn't look like we were going to be able to shoot there the whole time, et cetera. So we'd just moved into new premises. I think we were sort of doing another another sort of additional clean to the deep clean that had sort of gone there. And we got the news that we had won the Emmy and I actually got the news because I'd stayed up all night. So no trip to New York for me. 

[00:32:39] Caris Bizzaca But congratulations - fantastic. 

[00:32:41] Catherine Nebauer Yeah, that was awesome. And I mean, I think there was a couple of awards that we won during the time that we're actually shooting. We might have even won, I think the Japan Prize was also announced during the time of production as well, which was just fantastic. 

[00:32:54] Caris Bizzaca And, you know, Australian kids TV has won a number of International Emmys, particularly over the past, like eight years or so. Why do you think kids TV continues to resonate so strongly, you know, not just locally, but globally as well? 

[00:33:13] Catherine Nebauer Yeah, I mean, I think obviously there's some fantastic animations and things like that. But I also, you know, because I come from the live action space, I can talk to that. But I think there are live actions being produced clearly globally. But there's not as many. And I think the thing is also a lot of the stories that we do are kind of about kids and sort of don't feel fantastical and sort of like a sitcom-esque style of the US. And I think so, you know, they're much more relatable. I think our comedy, you know, has a nice... I mean not all of its comedy, just look at things like Nowhere Boys that's done so well and also the series from Matchbox, Mustangs FC - that's got comedic elements to it, but sort of more drama. But you know, they're real situations and I feel like the kids are more attainable and recognisable. And they're great quality. We've got some great writers and we also are able to bring in some great writers from adult space as well, so they're really experienced. But yeah, so it's something that's relatable. And certainly I feel in the instance of Hardball, it's a local story, it's a small story, but it's got heart. And I think, it also has a beautiful family audience that it appeals to because of the relationship between Mikey and his Daddy. And I think that those those elements really have resonated. So it's been quite a special show for us. 

[00:34:50] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, definitely. And you know, for any producers that are listening to this podcast and you know, it is a podcast about the Drama Report, it does kind of look at like the impact of COVID and things like that. What advice would you give to producers going into 2022? You know, as we still work in a world that is impacted with the pandemic?

[00:35:12] Catherine Nebauer Yeah. And I mean, I think the thing is that, you know, we just produced Spreadsheet and we thought we were sort of going into a world that was quite different and quite sort of... I think we were all coming out of the lockdowns and going 'phew, we dodged a bullet'. Yeah, I think I might even had someone say to me, 'it's over'. And then it was like, 'oh, here's a rollercoaster' because we went through lockdown in Melbourne, lockdown in Sydney, reopen in Melbourne, another lockdown in Melbourne, border closures. And then having talent from the UK as well and talent from New Zealand who sort of seemed to be going to a lot of football games and all sorts of things where there was COVID alerts being sent left, right and centre. So it was quite stressful. I think, you know, unfortunately, you're just going to have to prepare and treat it like someone potentially is going to bring COVID onto the set. But I think communications absolutely critical. Being really clear with how we're managing it, really clear with if there's been any potential contact, just having a really clear pathway around how you're going to handle those sorts of things, you just sort of have to run through so many different scenarios. But I think communication is absolutely imperative and just making sure that everybody just knows what you're doing, the intention and how you are going to work through things because at the end of the day, they're really busy doing their jobs and they just want to make sure that there's a team that's in place that's looking after their health and welfare. I think also being kind to you, yourself, as well as also your team because there's a lot of people that are going through some mental hardships as well. And I think, so it does just mean your job as a producer does become a lot more onerous and difficult and stressful. And so you do need to take some time out for yourself and be good to yourself as well because it is quite stressful. But making sure that you're also thinking and looking out for the team because sometimes people react in different ways that you don't expect, so be mindful of that. But it's just being very clear. And you do have to be quite strict about how you run your set. So having a fantastic producer having a fantastic line producer that's working with you is absolutely imperative. 

[00:37:48] Caris Bizzaca That was Catherine Nebauer, and a big thanks for sharing insights from the production of Hardball, which you can watch on ABC Me and Spreadsheet, which is on Paramount+. Also a reminder that Fires is on ABC iview and thanks go out to our other guests on the episode today, Andrea Denholm and Graeme Mason. For more information on the Drama Report, click the link in the show notes and to keep up to date with new initiatives or opportunities remember to subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter. Thanks for listening.