View Full Version : New Zealand and Australian Screenwriters

03-10-2005, 05:30 PM
Are there any screenwriters in New Zealand and Australia on this message board? If so...

How did you get into the industry and what did you study at university/polytechnic/other?
Have you made any script sales yet and how long did that first one take?
What sort of difficulties have you had living so far from Hollywood?
What is the state of Screenwriting in these countries?
Would you shift to LA?

It would be really good to hear some successful and non-successful stories from you. Feel free not to stick to just these questions.

03-11-2005, 07:47 AM

How did you get into the industry and what did you study at university/polytechnic/other?

I'm not in the industry... not yet, at any rate. But I've been writing in various forms all my life. A few years ago, my wife suggested I try writing a screenplay... and I haven't been able to look back.

I studied art education (practical and theoretical) for a couple of years majoring in sculpture (with an arc welder). Then I swapped over and got a degree in information technology. Not a film-related subject in sight... oh hang on, we did shoot a short film in my second year IM tech class. I was the incompetent sword-wielding mugger who gets clobbered by a pool cue. And I edited it... and wrote most of the script. Should have known then where I was headed.

Have you made any script sales yet and how long did that first one take?

No, although I did have a short script optioned. That didn't take too long.

What sort of difficulties have you had living so far from Hollywood?

None yet, although the better I get the more frustrated I'm sure I'll be with the distance thing.

What is the state of Screenwriting in these countries?

We don't have as many screenwriters, percentage wise, as the US... but then again, no one does. Still, I've been able to bump into quite a few fellow Aussies who were either writers or running their own indie companies.

The thing is that film-making as a local industry is very different here in Oz. The concept of writing a spec and querying isn't so prevalent. Mostly, Australian films are written, directed and produced by teams of people. You have much more chance, as a writer, of getting your film made if you find like-minded people to work with you. It's a kind of mainstream-indie workplace.

Would you shift to LA?

I would certainly consider it. Actually, I have thought about this a lot. I love living in Melbourne and, having lived in other cities (and not having enjoyed the experience), I'd probably stick to my comfort zone in that respect. I find I write better when I'm happy.

03-13-2005, 12:47 AM
I didn't study writing, I just wrote short stories and other bits and pieces for years. I couldn't find a publisher for my novel, so a friend suggested adapting it into a screenplay a couple of years ago. I got some immediate interest from the States and I've been hooked on writing scripts ever since.

I haven't sold anything yet, though I have had a couple of offers from the UK. My work has been read by lots of producers, managers & agents in the States and in Europe. I also found it relatively easy to arrange some meetings in LA before a trip a while ago and I'm now developing a story with a producer over there.

I've found that US producers, managers and agents are very open to approaches from writers, regardless of where they are from. Email communication makes things very easy, so I can't see distance stopping anyone from getting their foot in the door. Nobody cares where a good script comes from.

Australia, on the other hand, seems to be a closed shop (see phoenixwriting's comments) and it doesn't surprise me the local industry is in the doldrums. I've queried almost every movie producer here with various projects over the last couple of years and I'm yet to have one of them request so much as a synopsis, never mind a script! The industry doesn't seem interested (as far as I know) in nurturing or encouraging local writers. Instead it seems to be driving anyone with talent offshore.

My goal is to live in LA for a while, get established and then work from here in Sydney and commute when necessary (John Collee lives close by and apparently does this, so there is a precedent!). Time will tell!

03-21-2005, 02:16 AM
Surely, there is more than two?

03-21-2005, 04:41 AM
Well, there have been a few others, past and present.

Gbarlow and Ozfade, I believe, are Aussie or Kiwi, and I'm sure there are a few others floating around.

Characters such as wowserbiter and green integer used to frequent these boards regularly but have been MIA for a while now.

But honestly, the predominant mix on these boards is American and British. It's up to us to prove that the antipodeans can mix it in the big bad world. :D

The Amazing J
03-21-2005, 04:59 AM
I guess you can mark me down as number three, as long as being an ex-pat from the UK living in Melbourne counts.

In terms of actually getting into the industry, I'm yet to make that happen even though I've settled on this writing lark for a few years now. I like to think that I am honing my craft firstly before exploding onto the scene.

I think, like all (2) of the others writing from this side of the globe that we'd all like to make a comfortable living in the US and that seems like the only place that would have us since the local industry isn't exactly vibrant. Witness the last local success story of the guys behind Saw; only Lions Gate in the US stepped up and gave them a modest budget (about US$1m) despite both having worked a few years in TV and stuff over here. Because of this our two newest stars are now working hard in the US. In fact, in a Q&A with Leigh and James after a showing of Saw in Melbourne last December, James told us he'd been offered a killer Koala script since he'd got back from the US. I am hoping that was a joke, but I would be far from surprised if it wasn't.

Personally I think it is my failing that, perhaps like other writers over here, I have a tendency to write for an American market. Not in terms of dialect or setting, but in scope. We watch the US stuff - and like some of it - and therefore that influences our writing. When most of the stuff you are exposed to is blockbuster material then even when we pare it down it's still, well, a bit too big for Australian backers.

It is the Australian film industry's fault that nothing is made here. There was room for Saw to be made here, with Aussie talent both in cast and crew. The fact that it wasn't is a crying shame.

So my advice is this: unless you want to write for TV and have an uncle who runs a major network, look overseas. It's an old chestnut, but good writing will always draw interest. The addendum seems to be that it will always draw interest, but not locally.

So; write that masterpiece, get it to the US and then hope the celestial alignment is correct for it to make it to the screen (or at least make it to the people that write the checks!)

Good luck.


P.S. And while you're at it, get a script into Channel 9 for their new series called Two Twisted, deadline April 22nd. I'll see you there!

03-21-2005, 07:22 AM
G'day J!

Strewth (heh heh heh)... man, it sounds like you're in a very similar place to where I am, and I don't just mean geographically.

I very quickly realised that my best chances, perversely enough, were overseas. And yes, I find my scope, my ideas, translate best into the kind of films I see coming out of the US rather than our home-grown product. That's sad, but realistic as well.

Mind you, I've been advised more than once that the "Aussie flavour" I can bring to a script would go a long way towards setting it apart from the run of the mill, when it reaches the desks of LA. I've yet to get that far but I always keep an eye on the tone of my work, making sure it stays true to where it's coming from as well as where it's (hopefully) going.

Good to have you on board!

03-21-2005, 08:10 AM

IfI were you guys, I would not dismiss your location film industries. Yes, Hollywood is the ultimate goal. Yes, LA is the biggest film market.

With that said, every waiter, bus driver, gasoline attendant, starbucks worker, janitor, and half the homeless people in LA have scripts. And the vast majority do not make it.

And so many of them get rejected in part because it is very hard to get a spec deal on a big blockbuster type script.

A lot of the foriegn screenwriters who broke into the industry here had made films in their native countries. I mean, if it's that hard for people living in Los Angeles, think how hard it would be for other people in other countries trying to break in.

A lot of people who have spec scripts essentially have to produce and/or direct them on the indie scene. It's that hard to break into Hollywood.

I think you guys should start connecting with people in Australia and New Zealand.

03-21-2005, 01:45 PM
Some good points, Justino. But the sad fact is, it's easier to connect with the the industry people in LA than it is to connect with anyone here (unless you are already an insider).

I believe there's genuine interest and curiosity in new people and fresh ideas in the US, while the industry people in Australia seem close-minded and insular. Their automatic response is, "sorry, my slate is full." I think anyone who has watched the local industry for the last few years knows exactly what their slate is full of.

03-21-2005, 01:55 PM
I'm working for an Aussie producer at the moment...does that make me an honorary Australian Screenwriter? :D

03-21-2005, 04:08 PM
MacG, your Akubra is in the mail! ;)

I agree with hscope... I think it goes without saying that we all keep a close eye on our own industry, close enough to know its shortcomings. Most of the people who can get your film made down here will want to write and direct their own ideas instead... only most of them aren't writers, and it shows.

Having said all of this: there has been a small shift recently, with some US-style companies moving down or starting up in Australia (Queensland seems to be the focus for many of them). Pictures in Paradise is one such company, headed by Chris Brown (formerly of Hammer Films); they've made some films (which weren't terribly good) and actively seek new work. But right now companies like this are the exception.

03-21-2005, 05:15 PM
MacG, your Akubra is in the mail!



03-21-2005, 06:44 PM
I'm a Kiwi.

But I have to say, I largely ignore the local industry - mainly because the genres/concepts I work with lend themselves to Hollywood production.

Besides...there's only a finite number of people who want to write a movie about whales or Maori gang culture.


English Dave
03-21-2005, 06:48 PM
Is there a difference between Moirii gang culture and LA gang culture?

03-21-2005, 07:29 PM
The New Zealand film industry always plays itself down and relegates itself to low budget art-house or cultural indie films (with a few exceptions). The entertainment culture here seems to be more theatrically based (hence the types of films NZ makes). If you don't want to write these, then you're out of luck.

You could always make the movie yourself, but funding is near on impossible to get in New Zealand, considering the Film Commission only give out about $12M a year and NZ businesses aren't too interested. So, you end up looking overseas anyway.

That said, the industry is growing...


03-21-2005, 10:41 PM
Kia ora koutou katoa! Gidday! Haha!

Kiwi here.

How did you get into the industry and what did you study at university/polytechnic/other?
I currently work as a freelance film/tv editor. Been doing it for the last five years. Went to film school and studied for three years and immediately found employment at a post-production house. Besides editing, I have in the last few years focussed on screenwriting as i'm trying to get some projects up and running.

Have you made any script sales yet and how long did that first one take?
No sales, but I am currently awaiting decisions on two project submissions - one is a short film (via the NZ Film Commission Innovation Screen Production Fund) and the other a feature (via Headstrong Digital Feature Film Fund Consortium).

What sort of difficulties have you had living so far from Hollywood?None, if anything, maybe a slight inconvenience for the fact that we are so far away. Long haul flights ain't fun.

What is the state of Screenwriting in these countries?
Same as Australia. See above.

Would you shift to LA? I guess so.

03-22-2005, 01:40 AM
English Dave,

There are vast differences between Maori gang culture and LA gang culture (just check out Once Were Warriors). However, the younger generation of 'gang-bangers' tend to copy what they see on TV or at the movies, a lot of which comes from the US.

I guess the biggest difference would be the use of firearms. New Zealand's culture is not as rooted in the use of such weapons as the US.

03-22-2005, 05:13 AM
Why don't you guys at least do 10 minute shorts?

If you've got strong actors, directing, etc, that in and of itself would help you.

A lot of the times people are lazy and don't want to read scripts. A good short may very well them a reason to read your script.

If your short can win awards at some decent festivals, who knows, maybe people will start calling you (rather than you having to pursue them).

I also want to say that I didn't mean to sound discouraging to the Australian and New Zealand writers here. Just point out that Los Angeles is no walk in the park for most writers there, and don't categorically dismiss your native film industries, no matter how small they maybe. There is a foriegn film market in the US, and though these may not be major blockbusters, any distributed film is a start. Hey, it's a step above the homeless person sleeping on the third street promenade (he has his screenplays saved in yahoo briefcase)>: )

English Dave
03-22-2005, 06:44 AM
'' There are vast differences between Maori gang culture and LA gang culture (just check out Once Were Warriors). However, the younger generation of 'gang-bangers' tend to copy what they see on TV or at the movies, a lot of which comes from the US. ''

There's your movie right there curious.

03-22-2005, 07:05 AM
That would be interesting. A Maori imitating Puff Daddy or Lil Kim.

I agree with English Dave. That's a good movie right there.

Movies like this get a lot of acclaim on the US indie scene.:)

03-22-2005, 08:50 PM
Yeah, but why build a rocket in your backyard if you're only gonna launch it to the corner store...

...might as well aim for the moon.

Besides, there isn't to much call in these parts for a script about a psychic assassin that lives in New York City and talks to the dead.....;)

03-22-2005, 10:17 PM
" Yeah, but why build a rocket in your backyard if you're only gonna launch it to the corner store...

...might as well aim for the moon."

Aiming for the biggest isn't always the best idea. Men had to learn how to fly airplanes before we flew to the moon.:)

03-23-2005, 02:13 AM
Look at Yeager for the answer to that one.

You have a point, but my philosophy is;

"better to aim high and miss than to aim low and achieve mediocrity"...

03-23-2005, 08:52 AM
"better to aim high and miss than to aim low and achieve mediocrity"..."

That's also quite true. If one path does work, one can always adjust one's claim.

03-24-2005, 10:33 PM
What is the state of Screenwriting in these countries?

Ratshit. You cant just sell a script in Australia. The best way to get it made is to

* Get a producer who has produced at least two short films. *Get a Director who has at least made one short film.(may be you)
*Get them interested in your completed script.

OK, now you have the tools to get this thing made but don't expect to see a dime from the deal so far.

You need money. It will be very hard to get private investors as no one has faith in Australian film.So you and your credited Producer and Directer need to head over to the film commission where in turn your producer will fill out allot of complicated paperwork.

Hopefully the commission gave you the cash to make the film. So it's time to get the b!tch made.

Some things you may need to know

*The script has to be the final draft when you submit to the commission
*Get a lawyer
*The commission will give out at most only two million

Thats the only way you will get any financial reward from writing screenplays professionally in Australia.

If you don't know any Producers or directors there is a list of working producers here

EzCode Parsing Error:=www.afc.gov.au/filmingina...ge_80.aspx (http://www.afc.gov.au/filminginaustralia/producer_list/fiapage_80.aspx) newwin

03-25-2005, 04:57 AM
Sounds right adamfly.

It's the same in NZ, except even less money to go around. You can forget about getting paid till you've made the movie and sold it internationally.

03-25-2005, 06:10 PM
Forget the Film Commission. The chances of getting funding is zilch unless you can attract some sort of co-production with an offshore funder.

The Film Commission here in NZ has a large number of projects in 'development hell' so to speak; and only a very small number of these scripts will make it into production.

Screenwriters downunder need to consider looking beyond the shores.

03-26-2005, 05:37 AM
Curious and S1eve,

Where in NZ are you from? Perhaps we should organise a DD New Zealand get-together...

03-27-2005, 05:09 AM
Certainly interested. I'm in Wellington.

03-27-2005, 10:48 AM
This just in: 'Hating Alison Ashley' flops

Australia is just a filmmaking sweatshop for US studios. Truth, justice, and the American way - as filmed down under.

03-27-2005, 08:53 PM
Slightly off-topic, but just have to say that you guys grow the best actors and actresses on the planet! (Kidman, Blanchett, Rush, Crowe, amazing!!!)


04-01-2005, 06:41 PM
Yes, there is at least one more Aussie here.
I just noticed this thread, since I rarely visit the 'Business' section. (I figure I should learn how to write a decent script first...)

Q: How did you get into the industry and what did you study at university/polytechnic/other?

A: Like most people here, I'm not in the industry. I write as a hobby, and am slowly learning the ropes. I've had some good responses, and I'm 1000% better than I was a couple of years ago, but am still fairly raw.

Q: Have you made any script sales yet..
A: No.

Q: Would you shift to LA?
A: Probably not

I've had some pretty 'aghast' responses to that last one. I know, LA is THE 'place to be'. And if a project of mine took off and they wanted me there for a specific reason, then sure.

But ...

For a start, I'm making a pretty comfortable living here in Australia. And while the industry here may be small (and half dead), it does have advantages. I see writers on message boards in the US ask about how to contact producers. Here in Australia, it is a lot easier. If, for example, I want to contact one of the Australian producers of Moulin Rougue (say, Martin Brown) then I just look up his phone number. His mobile phone number ('cell phone number' for the Americans) is on the web!

How could I equal that kind of access in the USA?

Ok, it's not having the phone number, it's having contacts. Fine. The industry here is small enough that I'm bound to have know someone vaguely who's worked with him. (I'm not much of a networker, as you can guess.)

To be frank, as a foreigner I can't see why the USA would give me a green card. There are thousands of starving screenwriters in LA now. Why should the US government give work visas to foreigners to make it even harder for the US citizens to get jobs ?
(OK, if it's for one of my projects then I would get one easily. But certainly not if I was just shilling for work..)

Here in Oz, I can join the AWG as an associate member, and benefit from their regular seminars, contacts etc.

Here in Oz, I can have a shot at having a 22min script on a recognised TV series (2Twisted). Even if the pay for the script is below standard, would I get that option in the US?


04-01-2005, 11:41 PM
On the topic of foreigners being able to live and work in the US, is it true Canadians can do it without a green card/visa/etc? Apparently, Canada is a lot easier to get into these days than the US (which is next to impossible). After 2 years you can apply for residency there. Could be worth looking into.