Australian TV Veterans Launch Lantern Pictures to Implant Creative Showrunner System Down Under

A trio of seasoned Australian television industry figures are launching a new production company, Lantern Pictures. They aim to produce a slate of independent TV content and to help implant the U.S. system of creative showrunners into the Australian scene.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by prominent writer and showrunner Sarah Lambert, director Jane Manning and former Foxtel media executive Andrew Lambert. They unveiled the new company at a seminar held during the ongoing Screen Forever convention in Queensland’s Gold Coast.

The company is understood to be working on close to a dozen new projects, many with a significant female leaning, some flowing from Manning’s pen, others in partnership arrangements. The first are likely to be announced in the coming two months.

Sarah Lambert says that her recent experience producing the Sigourney Weaver-starring miniseries “The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart” for Amazon and Fifth Season, and her previous work in Europe and the U.S., motivated her to take a new approach.

“Looking at the scale of projects that were being offered, in terms of writing and show-running… incredible pieces that you could do as genre pieces, bigger sorts of television, really exciting things … I wanted to bring those productions back here [to Australia]. Why weren’t we doing these productions?” she tells Variety.

“It felt like this was the time to create a company which really put writer-creators and director-creators in the heart of production. It is not only about developing those projects here with our production partners, but also creating a system here where we take the writer-creator all the way through to the end of production, really honoring that authorial voice, and being really bold about the vision that we were doing.”

Manning says that the startup company can make a difference. “Sarah has been both an amazing screenwriter and also an amazing showrunner. ‘Flowers’ and ‘Lambs of God,” they involve being across casting and design, tone and the whole range of skillsets that not many people have. Sarah is the person that can really help embed and develop this model in Australia,” Manning told Variety.

Andrew Lambert says that Lantern will operate as an independent producer without a specific major backer, at the moment, and that it expects to work with the familiar array of commissioning broadcasters, government agencies and industry distributors. “We’ll be putting our own money in and forming partnerships. It is an important role that producers play in the production ecosystem, especially in incubating new ideas. That’s why we are not averse to co-productions,” he says.

“Retention of rights and buyouts by streamers are issues we’re going to have to address, like everybody else. It is a commercial negotiation. We understand the pitfalls of that scenario and we’re confident we can find a way,” he adds.

In addition to “Flowers,” Sarah Lambert previously achieved acclaim with “The Messenger” for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and “Lambs of God” for Foxtel. She was also the creator, writer and producer of the hit series “Love Child,” which ran for four seasons on the Nine Network. Before returning to work in Australia in 2006, she worked for 12 years in New York as a partner of production company Babelfish, producing, directing and writing documentaries, children’s television and drama, running its post-production business and attending markets and financing series that were shot all over the world.

Manning is best known for the “Back to Nature” documentary series. She also won top prizes at the Berlin, Locarno and Palm Springs festivals for narrative short film “Delivery Day.”

Andrew Lambert was a career lawyer based in Sydney and New York before moving to the commercial side of the TV business. In that guise, he headed commercial operations at ABC. As head of business affairs at Foxtel, he negotiated the pay-TV group’s major content deals and the business side of its local content production.

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