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Global media giant Netflix has announced four new locally made titles, as the federal government prepares to implement regulation forcing streaming companies to invest in Australian-made content,
The announcement comes as streamers including the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Stan face an important inflection point, forcing them to seek out long-term sustainable revenue streams as subscriber growth slows down.
Delta Goodrem plays a sassy seaplane pilot in Love Is In The Air.Credit: Netflix
Netflix’s Australia and New Zealand director of content Que Minh Luu said the streaming giant’s local strategy was driven by audience demand. She declined to reveal full details of Netflix’s total investment into the four new titles, those being a feature film, documentary and two new series.
Premium content, according to Luu, ranges from kids’ content through to expensive productions such as Desert King, Netflix’s new outback epic series announced today which features “cowboys, helicopters, guns and cows.”
“We’re going to do all of it, or we’re going to die trying.”
Other newly announced productions include Love is in the Air, a feature film about a “sassy seaplane pilot” played by Delta Goodrem. The film will be produced by Jaggi Entertainment and Kylie Pascoe. In addition, there’s Onefour: Against All Odds, a documentary premiering later this year following high-profile Sydney drill group Onefour, whose meteoric rise has been marred with controversy. The documentary is directed by Gabriel Gasparinatos, and produced by Entropico and Stranger Than Fiction.
The Survivors is a Tony Ayres Productions series based on the Jane Harper novel of the same name. It centres around inhabitants of Evelyn Bay 15 years after a disastrous storm, the protagonists being forced to face their pasts after the murder of young woman.
Desert King is a working title for the new outback epic series, co-produced by Easy Tiger and Ronde set on the world’s largest cattle station, with a fight for the property’s ownership leading to a breakdown in family relations.
There will be a new series of Heartbreak High on Netflix.Credit: Lisa Tomasetti/Netflix
The new productions add to a number of previously announced Netflix series and films, Boy Swallows Universe, Eddie’s Lil Homies, Heartbreak High S2, and Surviving Summer. Heartbreak High, which is returning for a second season became one of Netflix’s most successful Australian exports to date in 2022.
Luu recently celebrated three years at Netflix, joining from the ABC in 2020 where she was an executive producer for drama, comedy and Indigenous content. The ABC’s chief content officer, Chris Oliver-Taylor recently went the other way, Luu saying she “doesn’t see much of a difference” between the two businesses.
“We’re all sort of trying to do the same thing. We’re trying to figure out how to reflect Australian culture on screen in a way that an audience loves.”
“Speaking at both as someone who works for Netflix, but also speaking as an Australian, I’m really motivated by like proving that it works, proving to the audience that you come to Netflix for our Australian shows.”
Netflix’s new Onefour: Against All Odds documentary.Credit: Netflix
Luu is unfazed by the recent commentary on the streaming sector, with strikes across both the actors and writers unions in the United States having shut down major overseas productions on Australian shores. Some in the local industry are also standing themselves down, so as not to cross the picket line in solidarity.
While acknowledging the ongoing industrial issues, none of the programming announced by Netflix will be affected by them, she said.
“There is an aspect of just making sure that we are checking all the boxes correctly because it’s an evolving conversation, but by and large it’s business as usual for us. When you are local, and not in Hollywood, it’s kind of happening over there.”
Screen Producers Australia, which was contacted ahead of this article’s publication, noted in July the strikes would only affect a few non-Australian productions, with all local productions and those controlled by Australian companies that have engaged Australian and imported SAG members to continue, provided they engage all cast and crew under Australian Industry Contracts.
Industry union the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) was also contacted for comment.
Luu added that she and Netflix aren’t motivated by making content with a view to export it, rather ensuring the final product is an authentic representation of the audience it is speaking to.
“There can be the perception an Aussie show needs to show the Harbour Bridge and neutralise the accent to be appealing internationally.”
Leaning into the hyper-local approach has resulted in global hits such as Money Heist (Spain), Squid Game (South Korea), and Lupin (France).
“That’s what we did with Heartbreak High. Lean into the slang, say ‘eshay’ then try to watch the language experts figure out how to translate it into Dutch and Bahasa.”
Finer details around the Albanese government’s local streaming quota bill set to be ironed out towards the end of the year, with Screen Producers Australia pushing for 20 per cent of gross revenue to be spent on local commissions.
In the 2021-22 financial year, ACMA reported Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Netflix, Paramount+ and Stan collectively spent $335.1 million on 718 commissioned, co-commissioned or acquired “Australian programs”, a further $333.4 million spent on acquiring, producing or investing in Australian-related programs.
Netflix maintains it is not opposed to regulation, however wants it to “be sustainable, equitable and evidence-based”.
The key to a sustainable future for Netflix and its counterparts, Luu said, is to continue producing quality content, but to do so responsibly. “Don’t go crazy, but have a bit of fun.”
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