Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox’s legacy continues with a new team, but the same commitment to quality and diversity, including their latest film, Christmas Ransom.
Established in 2009 by leading screen industry creatives, Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox, and now led by CEO Drew Grove, Head of Content Mike Jones and Operations Manager Mary Pettigrove, Every Cloud Productions has grown to be one of Australia’s most successful independent production companies.
The company’s projects have included the mystery series Eden, all of Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher Mysteries including the feature film Miss Fisher and The Crypt of Tears, the continuation of Australian classic drama Seachange, and now they’re creating home grown Christmas stories with A Sunburnt Christmas, and the upcoming Christmas Ransom.
Drew Grove [left] takes us through the importance of equality in the screen industry, how Every Cloud Productions respects diversity quotas, and the importance of showing an inclusive Australia.
As the CEO of Every Cloud Productions, can you tell us a little about what it was like stepping into the celebrated shoes of Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger?
“Taking over the reins of Every Cloud was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. Fiona and Deb have built such a legacy over decades of producing great work. It’s such an honour to lead the team who have been passed the baton to propel the company legacy forward. Since taking on the role of CEO twelve months ago, I have been in the very fortunate position to have both Fiona and Deb provide mentorship and guidance every step of the way, which has made the transition into the role so much smoother and personally rewarding.”
ECP is not only committed to diversity on screen, but is also diverse in its management structure. How important is it to you that ECP both walk the walk and talk the talk?
“For over ten years as a company, Every Cloud has been passionate and dedicated advocates for redressing gender inequity in front and behind the camera and within our organisational structure. For the company, it hasn’t just been a good thing to do, it’s been a business imperative and part of the company DNA. In recent years, we have amplified the work we have done and broadened out to be focussed on representation and inclusion from all underrepresented groups. The results the company has achieved on this front has not just happened by accident, walking the talk means that this lens needs to be embedded into how we do business on all levels.”
Let’s talk Christmas, specifically ECP’s A Sunburnt Christmas (2020), and most recently Christmas Ransom. Both show diverse families in different environments. In A Sunburnt Christmas the main family is living in rural SA, in Christmas Ransom the action takes place in Western Sydney. How important is it to ECP to represent the many kinds of families in Australia and how their environments reflect their experiences?
“We have accidentally found ourselves as being experts in all things Christmas. We think it’s vitally important to tell stories from a broad range of Australian experiences and why shouldn’t this mean Christmas films? Each year, Australian audiences are inundated with Christmas content, these films are generally filled with snowy landscapes and stories which reflect a Northern Hemisphere experience, a stark contrast to our generally sweltering Christmas days. At the heart of our Christmas films is connection and family, whether that be blood or found. This universal theme means that we can explore these Christmas stories from diverse points of view or in different environments whilst being accessible for a broad audience.”
With Christmas Ransom, you have hired a first-time feature director, Adele Vuko. A lot of the people behind the production are also women. Does this exemplify ECP’s commitment to diversity in the industry?
“On each production, the company has internal minimum key performance indicators for inclusion and representation. This starts from the early development of a project through to delivery. On Christmas Ransom, 80% of all key creative and leadership positions had been female. This great result was spearheaded by producer Naomi Just and director Adele Vuko.”
Christmas Ransom not only stars the wonderful Miranda Tapsell, Matt Okine, screen legend Genevieve Lemon, and well-known young actor Ex Oxenbould, it also features some relative newcomers. One of the casting choices for Shez was an actor with a disability — Bridie McKim [below] gets some great action stuff to do. As well as highlighting Australia’s multi-ethnic population, the film also highlights and celebrates the strengths of people with disabilities. Is that kind of representation something that ECP is keen to continue?
“Yes absolutely, Bridie is a great example of authentic engagement of representation. Bridie was involved as a script consultant from a very early stage of development, and she helped shape the dialogue, story and jokes of her character from her perspective and her experiences of living with a disability. We believe that this perspective made the story so much richer. We are absolutely committed to finding opportunities to share more stories from this perspective.”
When ECP looks out over Australia, what are the aspects the company would most like to celebrate?
“Australians are optimistic people, as a company we have and will continue to tell stories that celebrate this optimism. With the fragmentation of audiences and where they consume their content, we actually have a great opportunity. You don’t have to win a timeslot in the same way, or find the biggest audience en masse, you have the chance to find the right audience, with a global reach. And that’s always good framework to produce fresh stories that resonate and stand out.”
With such a wealth of local talent, what excites you most about telling Australian stories?
“Australians have a genuinely unique sensibility that really stands out and apart on the world stage. Our humour, our sense of justice, our self-depreciating tone all make our screen stories special and distinct. Films like A Sunburnt Christmas and Christmas Ransom are certainly holiday genre films that deliver what you expect, but at the same time, no other country could or would make films like those. The mix of heart, humour, self-deprecation and slapstick makes for a style of movie that wouldn’t be made anywhere but here. We think that’s what people are really drawn to.”
A Sunburnt Christmas and Christmas Ransom are both streaming now on Stan.