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Local TV Production Is no ‘Picnic’ for Fremantle in Australia

Variety logo Variety 12/23/2016 Patrick Frater
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FremantleMedia Australia has bowed to lobbying pressure and says it will hire a local woman to direct one episode of the upcoming series “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” that it is producing for pay-TV network Foxtel.

The show is a TV adaptation of the Australian mystery drama film directed by Peter Weir in 1975, based on a 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay. The film is considered an Australian classic and the hiring of Canadian director Larysa Kondracki to direct three of the episodes alongside Australian Michael Rymer outraged Australian industry groups.

The Australian Directors Guild said it was “appalled” by the hiring of Kondracki and said that she should be refused a work visa. It used the recent AACTA Awards presentation to show its displeasure. The new South Wales branch of Women in Film and Television staged a demonstration outside Fremantle’s offices in Sydney and shot a protest video.

“Fremantle Media acknowledges the sensitivity around the selection of the creative team and as a consequence, we have engaged with Screen Australia, Film Victoria, the Australian Director’s Guild and the commissioning broadcaster, Foxtel, to move forward in a productive manner,” Jo Porter, FremantleMedia Australia director of drama said.

“We assembled two directors who will bring this iconic story to life and honor the incredible legacy of the Joan Lindsay novel. We now welcome the engagement of a third, Australian female director to work with Michael and Larysa on this landmark project.”

The ADG claims that it had forced Fremantle to “rescind” its creative decision concerning the iconic Australian story, and that it has caused federal funding body Screen Australia to change its policies.

“Screen Australia has also committed to changing their program guidelines and propose to make it an expectation that applicants for direct funding of television productions guarantee their project is written and directed by Australian citizens or residents,” the ADG said.

“Given the disproportionately low instance of female directorship of significant works of dramatic film and television, WIFT NSW welcomes the addition of a third female director to the upcoming Foxtel and Fremantle production of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Through a united effort with the ADG we are pleased with this outcome that will provide a meaningful credit on a (Australian) project of scale,” said Sophie Mathisen, WIFT NSW President said in a statement.

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