Australias Stan Unveils Trio Of Originals Including Outback Drama From Bluey Studio, Projects With All3 & Banijay

EXCLUSIVE: Stan has ordered a trio of original drama series as part of its content boss Cailah Scobie has called “a massive week” for the Australian streamer.

We can reveal Stan has commissioned Bluey producer Ludo Studio to make eight-part road series Thou Shalt Not Steal, and also ordered coastal mystery thriller Exposure and Invisible Boys, a contemporary drama about a closeted gay teenager in small-town Western Australia. A trio of UK-based international distributors have signed on for the shows.

Stan has been working closely with international partners as it builds out its slate, with Deadline in the past year revealing comedy series C*A*U*G*H*T, which stars Sean Penn and Matthew Fox, and epic family drama Prosper, developed with Lionsgate.

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“The shows are representative of our entire slate,” Stan Chief Content Officer Scobie said of the new originals in an exclusive interview with Deadline. “We back distinctive voices and tell Australia stories that resonate with Australian audiences but also resonate internationally. We have international partners on each one, which is testament to the ambition of the shows.”

Thou Shalt Not Steal is set in barren parts of Central and South Australian in the 1980s and comes from Ludo, the studio behind the children’s mega-hit Bluey, which is made for the ABC in Australia and the BBC in the UK, and runs on Disney+ in the U.S.

The show follows young Aboriginal delinquent Robyn, who escapes detention and reluctantly teams up with awkward teenager Gidge as she searches for the truth behind a mysterious family secret. They begin a perilous journey across the Australian Outback, pursued by Maxine, a sex trafficker whose taxi Robyn stole, and Gidge’s domineering father, a fraudulent preacher called Robert.

Bluey producer Ludo is making it and DCD Rights, which has a reputation for backing Australian dramas such as The Slap, is distributing. The project has received significant production investment from Screen Australia with support from the South Australian Film Corporation, Screen Territory and by Screen Queensland’s Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Incentive.

It’s directed by Dylan River (Mystery Road: Origin, Robbie Hood) who also serves as co-creator alongside AACTA Award-winning executive producer Tanith Glynn-Maloney (Finding JeddaShe Who Must Be Loved). The series is executive produced Ludo’s Charlie Aspinwall and Daley Pearson, alongside producer Sam Moor). River worked with Glynn-Maloney and Ludo’s execs on Robbie Hood, a short-form series for Australian pubcaster SBS that is also about a troublemaking teenager with a heart of gold in the Outback.

Exposure follows photographer Jaco Gould, who following the death of her best friend, returns to her hometown to discover the hidden secrets of their relationship and the truth behind the tragedy. It runs to six episodes.

Thirdborn is producing, with All3Media attached as distributor. It also received significant investment from Screen Australia, with support from Screen NSW. Lucy Coleman (Hot Mess) is the writer and creator, with Bonnie Moir (Love Me season 2) the director. Thirdborn’s Nicole O’Donohue (Love Me, Frayed) is producing with Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant.

Invisible Boys is a 10-part drama based on Holden Shepperd’s novel, set in Geraldton. When a closeted gay teen’s hook up with a married man is revealed on social media, irreversible consequences impact a group of teenagers who have previously been invisible.

It has production investment from Screen Australia and support from Lotterywest and the WA Regional Screen Fund. Nicholas Verso, who made the Logie-winning kids series Crazy Fun Park, is creator and director. The writing team includes author Shepperd, Enoch Mailangi, Walkley Award-winner Alan Clarke and Declan Greene. Tania Chambers (How to Please a Woman) and Verso are producing.

The series was born out of a joint Stan and Screenwest development initiative designed to foster local talent in Western Australia.

“Each of these projects represents the rich tapestry of our local talent and narratives, and we are incredibly proud to support them,” said Screen Australia Head of Content Grain Brundson. “The collaboration between Stan, Screen Australia, and our state funding partners demonstrates a collective commitment to championing authentic and original storytelling. 

All three projects are now deep into casting, with names set to be revealed shortly. Production will commence once that’s sorted.

The orders come during what Scobie called a “crescendo” of program and commissioning announcements made towards the end of August for Nine Network-backed Stan, which competes locally against the likes of Binge, Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+, Paramount+ and Disney+.

These have included first-look images at C*A*U*G*H*T, which stars the likes of Penn, Fox and creator Kick Gurry and follows a group of soldiers who are captured by freedom fighters after being mistaken for Americans. Peacock co-pro Wolf Like Me‘s second season was given an October premiere date, while Stan also revealed it would be moving into live events broadcasting as the home of the 2023 ARIA Awards.

Love Triangle, the buzzy dating format from Endemol Shine Australia, has also been given a second season premiere date, as has investigative doc strand Revealed‘s latest project, Danielle LaidleyTwo Tribes.

“It’s a crescendo, which talks to the volume and variety of the Stan slate,” said Scobie.

‘Elevated and global’

Scobie said Stan is “by far the biggest streaming commissioner of scripted content in Australia, and we have a clear strategy of elevated storytelling which sets us apart.”

“Four out of our top six series last year were original commissions so we know the audience wants to watch Australian stories but Australian stories that are elevated and global — elevated through storytelling through the story, cast and ambition.”

She pointed to the likes of Penn in C*A*U*G*H*T, which also has Fremantle and ITVX attached, as key to Stan’s original content marketing strategy. “Obviously, cast helps to cut through, and we can promote our content through Nine’s channels,” she added.

Stan’s originals have seen it work with the likes of NBCUniversal and Lionsgate, but Scobie said she had not seen any “material change” in Australia since the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes were called. Though Sam Esmail’s big-budget Apple TV+ Metropolis series was cancelled and did not shoot in Australia as planned, Scobie said: “The time involved from development to production is probably part of the reason why we’ve not seen an immediate impact,” adding: “Ultimately, production is a long game. We have great international partners, with the interest in Australian content is absolutely gaining momentum. There is huge recognition of the talent that exists here in front of and behind the camera.”

Meanwhile, all streaming services in Australia are currently wrestling with the likelihood content quotas will be imposed by the government. Plans were included as part of a national cultural policy back in January and it is expected the level will be unveiled in the next few months. Streamers see the quotas as unnecessary and say they could “unintentionally” lead to a reduction in production in the long-term.

“We’ve been fairly clear in our position to date — our view is quotas aren’t required,” said Scobie. “We don’t believe there is a market failure and there is, in fact, more production year-on-year. Obviously, we are commissioning lots of content so we are concerned and have voiced the belief about the unintended consequences from a quotas regime, in terms of pressure on production and resources.”

Returning to the subject of today’s drama originals, Scobie said: “All three projects show we are backing new talent. This gives Lucy Coleman her first TV series and the director, Bonnie [Moir], is a second-time director. Dylan River and Nicholas Verso have been recognised recently as actors at the Logies, but both are on the earlier spectrum of their careers.”

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