/News 25.10.21


First Nation story telling is having a fantastic year as three high-end scripted projects roll cameras in the Northern Territory; making use of its iconic vistas and the depth of its Indigenous talent.

The three projects represent a new wave of production activity in northern Australia, with Screen Territory having just announced the introduction of a Production Attraction Incentive Program for productions contributing more than $2 million to the local Territorian economy.

Director Grant Brown and local school kids watching filming.

Bunya Productions produced True Colours, a 4 x 1 hour mystery thriller centred around the underground Indigenous art trade in the Red Centre, and Barrumbi Kids, a charming adventure-filled 10 x 30 minute children’s series based on bestselling books by NT author Leonie Norrington, were both filmed on Indigenous land and in Indigenous community – a unique element of their artistic authenticity.

Esther Bullumbarra, Beswick (Wugularr) Traditional Owner of Jawoyn Country, said:

“It is really good having Barrumbi Kids in our community of Beswick. I’m really excited to see our kids making this series, changing it from a book into a television series. The books were published a long time ago now and we will be the first community to make a television series here. People, especially the kids, will be able to see our culture.”

On location with Barrumbi Kids.

The Territory has always boasted strong Indigenous creatives and as such Darwin based production company Tamarind Tree Pictures features heavily in both of the projects.  Danielle MacLean wrote episodes for both series and co-produced  Barrumbi Kids with  Sydney-based Ambience Entertainment, whilst her creative business partner Steven MacGregor wrote and directed  episodes on True Colours.

Looking down onto Bitter Springs as visitors relax the hot springs and visit heritage sites at the Elsey National Park in the Northern Territory. The setting for the Australian novel We of the Never Never.

Individually, Danielle and Steven are both highly respected Indigenous storytellers. Steven McGregor is an AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) winning screenwriter – with both creatives boasting a track record for delivering edgy, relevant and authentic screen content across a range of genres.

MacGregor is joined in co-directing True Colours by Erica Glynn, a fellow alumni of the Alice Springs based Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) – the home of many well-known talents such as award-winning auteur Warwick Thornton and acclaimed director Rachel Perkins.

Rarriwuy Hick as Toni in True Colours. Photo by Bradley Patrick.

The increased level of production has also seen opportunities presented for First Nations cast and crew with Territorians employed in a range of departments as well as in-front of the camera. Emerging filmmakers such as Rachel Chisholm have been given opportunities as dramaturg for Barrumbi Kids alongside Joshua Tranter who has had the opportunity to move into the AD department following on from earlier attachments.

Crew working on location at Barrumbi Kids in Northern Territory.

Barrumbi Kids has been a great experience for me, not only because this opportunity of being the dramaturg on the show has opened a potential career path door for me and expanded my connections with local and interstate industry professionals, but because I get to help Territory kids tell their stories in their own communities and on their own county,” said Rachel Chisholm, “Supporting them in finding their voices and the courage to tell their stories.”

These two series follow on from MaveriX, a high-end children’s series for ABC and Netflix which is expected to inject $5 million into the local economy. Set in the world of motocross, the adrenaline fuelled program which saw investment from Screen Australia, Screen Territory, ABC, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and the South Australia Film Corporation, features two Indigenous leads and was produced by Alice Springs based Brindle Films, the co-owner of which is talented producer/actor Trisha Morton-Thomas. Morton-Thomas is perhaps best known for her acting work including Radiance (1998) opposite Deborah Mailman and more recently in ABC’s hit series Total Control (2019) alongside Rachel Griffiths.

The Northern Territory Government is very keen to attract more production to the Territory. Minister for Mining and Industry, Nicole Manison said:

“We are strengthening the local screen industry and in turn providing hundreds of jobs for Territorians. We recognise the importance of our local screen industry – telling unique Territory stories to the world while supporting a range of Territory businesses and jobs.”

Barrumbi Kids and MaveriX are being sold internationally by The Australian Children’s Television Foundation while True Colours is being represented by About Premium Content. All three series are expected to go to air in 2022.

Top feature image: Nitmiluk National Park – Cruise Katherine Gorge at Sunset