IN an effort to source a programming gem from the growing independent production industry down under, Nickelodeon Australia’s ‘Land a Pilot’ contest awarded a winner US$20,000 to develop a pilot and has plans to give more indie producers a financial boost. The pilot contest, held at the SPAA (Screen Producers Association of Australia) Conference on the Gold Coast in November, gave eight shortlisted producers a 10-minute pitch session. ‘The finalists were mostly small innovative creators and producers, rather than larger production companies, so it was a unique experience for all involved,’ says director of programming Deirdre Brennan.
The winning project is Bridget the Goddess, a series in early development at Adelaide-based Monkeystack Animation Studio. It’s about a teenaged dung beetle who believes she’s a descendant of Egyptian royalty and is infatuated with a handsome praying mantis. Bridget’s angst-ridden life is played out on a reality television show. The quirky treatment was a perfect fit with Nick’s Heart + Smart + Fart profile for shows with an original look and a playful and irreverent sense of humor that seven- to 13-year-olds can relate to.
Brennan says Nick Oz may hold another ‘Land a Pilot’ effort in the future, but right now the focus is on working with indie producers through the Nick Shorts program that launched in May to help small studios create 10 x three-minute animated shorts for Nick platforms including TV, Turbo Nick and mobile.
‘Interstitial formats or pilots are a relatively low-cost way to explore the potential of children’s concepts,’ says Brennan. Nick has budgeted roughly US$26,000 each to nine short films from various Aussie producers. The New South Wales Film and TV Office and the South Australian Finance Corporation have also kicked in to help fund the program, and Brennan says Nick is in talks with Screenwest to launch a similar scheme for animators and creators in Western Australia this year.