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Netflix backs Aussie outback drama Desert King with First Nations training scheme

L-R: Tim Lee, Ben Davies and chief minister Natasha Fyles at the launch of Desert King

Netflix has added further financing to Northern Territory-based drama Desert King from producers Ronde and Easy Tiger.

The six-part series is set on a working cattle station in the ‘Top End’ area of the Northern Territory, which provides the backdrop to erupting tensions between rival cattle family factions, desert gangsters, Indigenous elders and mining billionaires.

Production has begun and the project was officially launched today in Darwin by the Northern Territory government. The production has secured A$1.3m (US$800,000) from agency Screen Territory’s Production Attraction Incentive Program.

In the lead-up to production, Netflix provided additional funding to a training programme to upskill up to 10 First Nations screen practitioners for potential crew roles during the filming of this series.

Emerging Northern Territory Aboriginal filmmakers Samantha Laughton and Cian McCue have been engaged as associate producers on the series, which will be released worldwide on Netflix next year.

Northern Territory chief minister Natasha Fyles said more than A$5m in bookings for vehicles, accommodation and catering have already been made as cast and crew start filming.

“Filming what will be an iconic Netflix show that will broadcast the Northern Territory around the world and the flow-on effect from viewers watching the show and wanting to come to the territory will be worth millions,” she said.

Cinematographer Simon Duggan (The Great Gatsby) and art director Tuesday Stone (Elvis) have also joined the production.

Desert King is executive produced by Ben Davies (Bondi Rescue), Ian Collie and Rob Gibson, alongside producer Paul Ranford (Mad Max: Fury Road). It was created and written by Tim Lee and Davies and the director is Greg McLean (Wolf Creek).

The series is a joint production between Australian production companies Easy Tiger Production (Colin from Accounts, Jack Irish) and Ronde who have carved a niche in regional storytelling with factual projects Outback Ringer and The First Inventors.

Meanwhile, the new round of Screen Territory funding has been launched for 2023/24, with funding available to support local screen practitioners in story development, games development, industry partnerships, travel and career development and production finance.

The Production Attraction Incentive Program, which also opened today, is designed to attract big-budget interstate and international productions to film in the Northern Territory. The Australian industry is still lobbying the NSW government to reinstate the NSW Attraction Incentive Fund which was cut in last week’s budget.


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