Earlier this week Screen Australia announced their latest round of funding for 2015. One of the names that came up in the various reports about what was being funded was one Marieke Hardy, co-writer and creator of the memorable sitcom Laid. Being always inclined to keep track of perhaps this country’s only non-acting sitcom writer to get her face on the cover of The Green Guide, we googled the title of this project – which was receiving an as yet undisclosed amount of “story development” funding for 2015 – to try and find out a little more.
As it turns out we found out two things. This is the first:
DEATH IS FOR THE LIVING
Jungleboys FTV Pty Ltd
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romantic comedy
Producer Linda Micsko
Executive Producer Jason Burrows
Director Trent O’Donnell
Writers Kirsty Fisher, Marieke Hardy
Synopsis In search of pain relief from her terminal illness, Sara encounters Dan, a psychotherapist who, through hypnosis, gives her a way to ‘live’ her ‘future’ in her subconscious – but things get complicated when Dan, enamoured by Sara, begins to write himself into her dream future.
It’s a film about a guy who gets a woman unconscious and then sexually exploits her. So we’re guessing it’s basically the Bill Cosby story.
The second thing we found out was that there seemed to be a lot of hits for “Death is for the Living” dated 2014. Which seemed kind of odd, considering these hits also seemed to be about funding. Had we messed up the dates somehow?
Well, no: it turns out that this is Hardy’s second bite at the Screen Australia cherry for this particular project, having already received $38,500 in “feature development” funding in the Dec 2013 – March 2014 period for Death is for the Living. Guess $38,500 – or half of that, as Hardy’s teamed up with her Laid co-writer Kirsty Fisher – doesn’t get you a finished film script from the author of You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead. Fingers crossed this second bundle of cash is enough to get it over the line.
We don’t pretend to be experts in how film funding works. Which clearly sets us apart from Hardy, who’s received funding from Film Victoria for various projects every year since 2011:
* 2011: Laid season two
* 2012: Laid season three ($18,208)
* 2013: Corp ($8000)
* 2014: The National Standard ($9000)
Nothing so far for 2015, but there’s still plenty of time. Presumably there’s also still plenty of time for those last three shows to turn up somewhere, as none of them are yet to appear on our screens. Though the Laid Facebook page says the first two episodes of season three were scripted before they finally figured out the ABC weren’t going to make their low-rating show the first ABC sitcom since Kath & Kim to get a third season.
(we all know The Librarians only got a third season because the ABC didn’t want Gristmill to deliver a contracted second series of Very Small Business, right? Let’s move on)
As previously stated, we know next to nothing about film and television funding. But one thing we can tell from looking at these various documents is that Hardy is hardly alone when it comes to hitting up the funding bodies multiple times. Clearly once you know the secret handshake, these guys are happy to toss sacks of cash your way.
The thing that seems to stand out to us is that most of these people tend to fall into one of two categories: proven performers like, say, Stephan Elliott, and up-and-comers like, say, the guys behind the Stevo and Mel Project (let’s take a guess… Stevo and Mel?). And this is exactly what we want our funding bodies to do with their cash: give it to proven performers to help them take another crack (if you made Priscilla, Queen of the Desert you deserve funding no matter how many Welcome to Woop Woops you have on your resume), or hand it out to newcomers to give them a shot at the big time.
Hardy – and we’re talking here about projects where she’s chief creative; she’s also involved as a staff writer on recent funding winners The Family Law and Secret City – doesn’t really fit either category. She’s had her shot at the big time with Laid – two shots if you count her earlier dramedy Last Man Standing, which aired on Channel Seven back in 2005. Neither of them could be counted as success stories, especially as far as ratings are concerned. To be blunt, Death is for the Living sounds a lot like more of the same. So why are government funding bodies throwing good money after bad?
At a guess, it’s because Hardy knows how to fill out the right forms and – thanks to her previous two shots at the big time – she technically qualifies as the kind of experienced television producer they want to encourage. As people who have seen pretty much all of her television output to date, may we respectfully suggest they reconsider.