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INTRO TO… THE ONLINE & GAMES TEAM

Hear from Screen Australia’s Online & Games Unit about what’s happening in the sector, what they’re looking for in applications, and what they’re watching (and playing) right now.

Superwog, The Formal

Also listen to the Online episode of the Screen Australia Podcast here and Games Funding episode here, and check out a list of titles funded by the team at the end of the article.

LEE NAIMO
Head of Online

Lee Naimo

As Screen Australia’s first Head of Online, Lee oversees production funding for emerging Australian scripted and documentary creators for online platforms, as well as initiatives such as Skip Ahead with YouTube, Digital Originals with SBS and NITV, and Every Voice with TikTok and NZ On Air. Lee played a pivotal role in launching Screen Australia’s Games: Expansion Pack funding in early 2022 and has so far committed more than $4 million to 30 Australian games. Before joining Screen Australia, Lee was best known for his work in musical comedy trio The Axis of Awesome, who have over 150 million views online and a legacy of 10 years touring worldwide and seven studio albums.

 

AMELIA LAUGHLAN
Games Investment Manger

Lee Naimo

Amelia is a game producer from Melbourne, Australia. After writing about tabletop games while finishing her Japanese/history degree, Amelia joined the industry full-time in 2017 with Tin Man Games. She spent time at Nintendo Australia as a business development specialist and worked for indie studio Snowman as Project Manager. She’s worked on titles across genres and platforms, including Fighting Fantasy Classics, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Table of Tales, Warhammer Underworlds: Online, Skate City, Where Cards Fall, Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City and Lucky Luna. In 2022, Amelia was appointed Games Investment Manager for Screen Australia, marking the return to video game funding for the national agency.



ALYCE ADAMS
Investment and Development Manager, Online

Lee Naimo

Alyce Adams is an Investment and Development Manager at Screen Australia in the Online & Games Unit. Her role includes managing development, production and completion funding for multiple online projects across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, ABC iview, SBS On Demand, Netflix and Stan, as well as several VR projects that have been accepted into Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals. Alyce deals with creators, writers, producers, platforms, broadcasters and other humans every day, using her years of experience working in the online sector to give guidance on the best way to create unique content that will reach a global audience.




LOUISE COCKS
Investment and Development Manager, Online

Lee Naimo

Louise Cocks is an Investment and Development Manager at Screen Australia in the Online & Games Unit. Louise joined the Online team in 2019 having previously worked as a Film Programmer for Village Cinemas Australia and as a creator/actor in web series, theatre shows and more. Louise manages development, production and completion funding for online projects across YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, ABC iview, SBS On Demand and more. Series she has managed have been selected for SXSW, MIFF and Canneseries. She has worked on initiatives with SBS, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat including Digital Originals, Every Voice and Skip Ahead. Louise is passionate about supporting creators to get their start in the industry and produce work that resonates with international audiences. She loves everything about film, television and all things screen and is most at home in the dark auditorium of a cinema eating popcorn.

PHOEBE WILLEMS
Development and Production Officer, Online

Lee Naimo


Phoebe Willems is a Development and Production Officer in Screen Australia’s online team, assessing production and development funding applications for short and long form projects. In the past, Phoebe has worked as a script report writer and was a co-writer on Season 3 of the online queer series Flunk. Phoebe has a Masters of Film and Television from the Victorian College of the Arts and in a past life was a gymnastics coach.



A CAREER HIGHLIGHT?

Lee Naimo: A career highlight is being one of the founders of Digital Originals with SBS and now NITV - seeing how far it’s come in such a short amount of time and the quality of the projects coming out of that partnership, not to mention the phenomenal talent we’re fortunate enough to support. Being able to announce that Screen Australia is funding digital games again earlier this year is up there too!

Amelia Laughlan: In early October 2022 a game I helped work on in 2018 received an Australian Game Developer Award! It’s called Table of Tales: The Crooked Crown and is a virtual reality tabletop roleplaying game developed by Tin Man Games.

Alyce Adams: Before I started at Screen Australia, I was (and still am!) an avid watcher of Youtube. As a teen I watched on the Vlogbrothers channel as John and Hank Green came up with and subsequently ran their first in-person online video conference – better known as VidCon – a jam-packed weekend full of learning and all your favourite internet personalities in one spot! As it happened in California every year, I thought the closest I would ever get to experiencing it was through other people’s vlogs. I still remember in my very first week at Screen Australia pitching the idea to my then-boss to take some Australian creators there to learn from the experts of the digital landscape. Next thing I knew an Australian delegation was formed. Along with them, I got to be amongst the more than 25,000 people who attended that year. It’s a real hub of excitement and hard-to-find knowledge, and it will always be a special memory for me.

Louise Cocks: It’s hard to pick one to be totally honest. My favourite thing about working at Screen Australia is meeting emerging creators and working with them, usually on the first big thing they’ve done, and then watching them grow their professional practise and unlock bigger opportunities. It’s really exciting to be a small part of helping Australian filmmakers get their start.

Phoebe Willems:
Prior to working at Screen Australia, I had the chance to write for the successful online series Flunk. I loved working with the team in the writers’ room and then having the chance to go away and write an episode. Even better – I got to work on a series that I was already a fan of.

WHAT ARE YOU NOTICING ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE SECTOR RIGHT NOW?

Lee Naimo: In the online space, it feels like there’s a real excitement about the opportunities that are available right now, and where they can lead – I was just speaking to someone about Koala Man, which started life as a Fresh Blood short form series, then became a pilot, and is now in production as a 20th Television Animated series for Hulu, with the likes of Hugh Jackman, Sarah Snook and Jermaine Clement as voice talent. What a journey! On the games front, there are more funding opportunities than ever, with support announced from different state and territory agencies every week at the moment (this might be a slight exaggeration but it definitely feels like it). That, along with Screen Australia’s Games: Expansion Pack fund open now and the incoming Digital Games Tax Offset, shows there’s a real recognition of the scope and potential of the Australian games industry right now.

Amelia Laughlan: Unlike many industries, videogame development boomed over the past few years with people spending more time at home during COVID. This emphasised the importance of games as a social tool for keeping us together. So that’s strengthened interest in multiplayer games. There’s also a noticeable interest in developing more sustainable work practices. ‘Crunch’ or overworking to the point of burnout has been a hot topic in the games industry for many years and as mental health awareness improves, the number of studios interested in developing healthier work pipelines is increasing. 

Alyce Adams: The internet is getting smaller. More and more hours may be uploaded every minute, but the places we visit have narrowed down to three to four apps we check regularly – we don’t like to go to websites and explore anymore. We expect the content to find us, instead of us searching. For creators it means you shouldn’t expect people to watch your series just because it’s good. If it’s not easily served up to them, they won’t necessarily look for it.

Louise Cocks: It’s difficult to pinpoint a trend in the online space because the internet moves so fast. I would say the biggest thing in the online space right now is TikTok – the style of content means there is a lower barrier to entry for creators and a real potential to find a large audience relatively quickly. It’s a very creative space.

Phoebe Willems: The overall quality of online series just keeps going up. The online sector has been growing for a number of years now and people have had time to learn from their own and each other’s mistakes. It is a form of storytelling that is being taken seriously, and content is being written specifically for these platforms.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN APPLICATIONS?

Lee Naimo: Achievable ambition. By that I mean projects that are ambitious, but that are aware of their scope and aware of the capacity of the team to deliver. We don’t need a game to release on every platform under the sun, or a web series to be released on all social media platforms and marketed for months in advance. Proposals like that, that aren’t based in reality, don’t give us confidence that a team is aware of how much work is involved in that level of campaign or production. Keep the scope of your project achievable.

Amelia Laughlan: Games that tell stories we haven’t heard before! This doesn’t just mean story-driven games, it could mean any genre of game that puts a fresh spin on an established trope or genre. We look for applications that have strong internal consistency and a good self-awareness about the game they want to make and who they are making that for.

Alyce Adams: Teams that are fans of the type of content they’re wanting to make. We have found from the many different projects we have supported, the ones that have successfully connected with an audience are in part because the team are that same audience and they therefore know where to go and what to do to help promote the series. There are many different pockets of the internet, and it’s hard to find them if you’re not already in them.

Louise Cocks: We’re looking for teams who know who their project is for. To cut through in the online space audience can never be an afterthought, you need to know who your audience is, what they’re watching and where they live online. We’re also looking for ideas we haven’t seen before or stories told in new or innovative ways.

Phoebe Willems: When we assess applications, we look for a clear knowledge of audience and platform, and how those intersect for the project. Does the target demographic use this platform? How do they use it? Does the applicant know the platform well? We’re also looking for a strong story that has a hook at the end of each episode.

WHAT’S An australian project people should WATCH/PLAY and why?

Lee Naimo: I’d recommend Finding Yeezus on YouTube, from Cameron James and Alexei Toliopolis. Part investigative doco, part comedy, it follows the two of them trying to uncover the mystery of the cult hidden in the KanyeQuest 3030 video game. I’ve also really gotten into Moving Out, from Aussie studio SMG – a ridiculous co-op game where you play as clumsy removalists, and you’re encouraged to smash furniture and objects as much as possible. It’s very cathartic! It also has great accessibility settings, so it’s one I can play with my son in easy mode, and I get the work done while he makes a mess.

Amelia Laughlan: That is a hard question. I have so many favourites! If I had to pick a recent success story it would be Unpacking by Witch Beam. It’s a beautiful and calming puzzle game about moving house, unpacking your possessions and the stories they tell over time. The creators are a couple from Queensland and they were inspired to make it after moving in together. It won 2 BAFTAs and has achieved impressive sales numbers despite its unconventional wordless story telling method. It has really broad appeal. My mum has played it through at least three times at last count.

Alyce Adams: I would recommend checking out #Matched on TikTok. It’s a fun romcom that follows Areema across a variety of dates as she tries to find the perfect guy who meets her exacting list, only for her waiter Mizra to catch her eye even though he meets none of the requirements on her list. Screen Australia supported the second season, and I’ll leave it up to the readers to draw their own conclusions as to what happens in that season.

Louise Cocks: I would recommend a series we funded in 2020 called Cancelled which was released on Facebook. The series was created by real-life couple Maria Albinana and Luke Eve who were supposed to get married in March 2020 in Valencia, Spain when the pandemic shut down the world. Luke’s mum Karen had just flown into Valencia from Sydney and the three were suddenly living together in a small apartment with no clear path forward. Luke and Maria decided to write a series based on their situation and reached out to us for funding. Once funded they shot the whole series on an iPhone, taking turns as crew and cast. The series is a poignant snapshot of the early pandemic and Luke’s mum Karen will steal your heart in her first acting credit! A totally different series I would recommend as an example of a team who knows their audience very well is 1 For All. This is a series from the YouTube channel Deerstalker Pictures and is a comedy series inspired by the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons.  

Phoebe Willems: The Formal is a great TikTok series we’ve funded. Not only is it serving a young queer audience on their platform of choice, but it’s funny and real. The team replies to every comment in a tone and style that reflects their teen and young adult followers. This makes the series more relatable and generates hype, which helps promote the series (every comment counts on TikTok).

Keen to watch some titles funded through the Online & Games Unit? Here’s a selection of titles to start you off (to see all funding approvals click here):

ABC iview

All My Friends are Racist here

Content here

First Day Season 2 here

Ginger & The Vegesaurs here

Retrograde here

Ronny Chieng: International Student here

Sarah’s Channel here

Superwog here

Why Are You Like This? (now on Netflix here)

Facebook

Cancelled and ReCancelled here

The Power of the Dream here

SBS On Demand

Cloudy River here

Homecoming Queens here

Iggy & Ace here

It’s Fine, I’m Fine here

Robbie Hood here

The Tailings here

A Beginners Guide to Grief here

Stan

The Other Guy S2 here

Dom and Adrian 2020 here

TikTok

Scattered here

SexTistics here

The Formal Seasons 2 and 3 here

The Monster With Me here

Transathletica here

YouTube

1 For All Season 3 and 4 here

Australia’s Best Street Racer Seasons 1 and 2 here

Bad River here

Ding Dong I’m Gay here

Finding Yeezus here

Finding X here

Flunk Season 3 here

Girl, Interpreted here

Hug the Sun here

Aunty Donna’s Glennridge Secondary College here

Metarunner S1 and S2 here

No Ordinary Love here

Over and Out here

Rebooted here

Small Footprint here

The Katering Show here