Local screenwriter flooded with support

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It’s a geo-political thriller with global appeal that’s created quite a storm, and has been cultivated right here in Canberra.

Local screenwriter Claudia Cooney has received a deluge of local and international support for her first project, a political thriller TV series titled Monsoon Season.

Currently in development, Cooney describes Monsoon Season as a “high concept political thriller, which first appears to be a vibrant glimpse into the lives of privileged young ex-pats in South-East Asia”.

“However, they become enveloped in a dark geo-political crisis and need to work out how to survive,” she says.

One of the things Cooney says she’s been conscious of is incorporating and promoting Canberra in the work.

“The story I’m writing is very relevant because it’s about ex-pats, international development, aid and politics, and I think those issues are really real to Canberra.

“We have all the embassies here, the Department of Foreign Affairs, all of these decisions around global politics are made here in Parliament House so it’s a really Canberra story at its heart as well.”

Cooney says Monsoon Season will display the international connections Canberra has with the aid world, including through the Australian government, and the diverse communities who have moved here from overseas.

Having long held a passion for creative writing, television and cinema, Cooney was able to foster her project initially by way of Screen Canberra’s Accelerator Pod course, which not only helps participants to develop their ideas creatively, but also teaches them how to develop commercially viable projects and then pitch them to industry.

Once Cooney had emerged from Accelerator Pod with a formed concept, development producer at Easy Tiger Productions, Rachael Turk, agreed to mentor her through the process of taking her series to market, and facilitate the development of Monsoon Season with a network partner.

Following the partnership with Turk, Screen Canberra awarded Cooney a development grant to support a writer’s workshop where she got to work alongside a number of highly esteemed Australian screenwriters.

Cooney says Monsoon Season will display the international connections Canberra has with the aid world, and the diverse communities who have moved here from overseas.

From there, Cooney received the ACT Screen Arts Grant through Screen Canberra and the ACT Government, which enabled Easy Tiger to develop a co-production agreement with international production company, Fontaram.

Cooney then hopped a plane for Paris, where she worked to rewrite Monsoon Season in a style that’s more commercially viable in the competitive international video-streaming on-demand market.

“How do we cater for the demographic, say something in an intelligent way, and also make it fun? I really learnt a lot about how to adapt my writing to try and pitch that as well,” she says.

“We looked at a few of the Netflix original productions like Sense 8 … which are more high concept in that they’ve got a fictitious, fantasy element in them, which is something younger audiences enjoy.”

Cooney says Australian film and TV is something she’s long admired, and wanted to be a part of.

“I’ve always thought that Australia’s really very clever at writing good characters and looking into their experience, and not being afraid to show either the darker side of Australia or the fun side of our culture.”

She says she’s overwhelmingly grateful for the support she’s received from Screen Canberra, Easy Tiger and the ACT Government that’s allowed her to take the series to the advanced stage of development it is now.

“These programs are really wonderful at supporting local writers to achieve their ambition of having that foot in the door in industry, and in a really supportive environment learning how to craft a story and pitch it.

“I wouldn’t have had that opportunity otherwise, and I think it’s really great for Canberra to foster that talent, because there are such wonderful stories here waiting to be told.”

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