Northern Pictures spotlights mental health, sex

Documentaries on mental health, artist Brett Whiteley, the environmental threat to our seas, the secret life of pearls and how to have better sex are in the works from Northern Pictures. Managing director Sue Clothier and head of factual Karina Holden are driving the eclectic slate for broadcasters including National Geographic Channels International and the ABC and distributor Transmission Films.

The second series of Changing Minds: The Inside Story will screen on three consecutive nights from October 6 as part of Mental As..., the ABC’s week-long initiative in support of Mental Health Week.

While last year’s series was filmed inside Western Sydney's Liverpool Hospital’s psychiatric ward, the sequel follows daily life in the locked mental health units of Campbelltown Hospital and in the homes of patients cared for by community mental health teams.

Good Pitch 2 Australia generated philanthropic funding for six projects including two Northern Pictures feature docs. Whiteley is a portrait of the life and legacy of the celebrated artist Brett Whiteley, funded in the first round of Screen Australia’s documentary producer program.

Produced by Clothier, the doc is being directed by James Bogle, who is co-writing with Victor Gentile. “We will tell the story in Brett’s own voice, using archival material, and there will be some dramatic re-enactments,” Clothier tells IF.

The late artist’s wife Wendy Whiteley is co-operating. Distributor Transmission will arrange event screenings and the release will be marketed via major arts institutions.

Blue will examine efforts to safeguard the waters surrounding the continent from industrial scale fishing, habitat destruction, species loss and pollution.

Filming is due to start in early 2016, with Holden as the director/writer and Sarah Beard as the “impact” producer, who will pursue various models of distribution.

Blue will tap into the 700 hours of underwater footage filmed in the past few years by Northern Pictures, most of it in 4K, including the 3-part series Life on the Reef which screened on ABC, PBS, Arte, Discovery UK and National Geographic Channels International (NGCI).

NGCI has commissioned Secret Life of Pearls, a one-off doc which explains how man and nature work together to forge the ocean’s most desired treasure. The director is Nick Robinson, whose credits include Life on the Reef and Kakadu.

Holden is producing Lukewarm Sex, a six-part doc for the ABC created by actor/writer Luke McGregor (now on screen in Working Dog’s Utopia) and the director Hayden Guppy.

The series will follow McGregor’s efforts to get better at sex with help from experts who aim to coach him to go from being lukewarm to red hot.

Clothier says viewers will have to watch the show on the ABC next year to see how that mission turns out.