The signing of the first major backer for a new Papua New Guinea television drama series paves the way to develop a local TV production industry, according to the show’s producers.
This week, telecommunications company Telikom PNG entered a sponsorship deal to part-underwrite the first series of the show, Central Giants.
Central Giants tells the story of an ethnically diverse, Port Moresby-based rugby league team fighting their way through a competition season, in spite of health scares, internal rivalries and love affairs.
The drama aims to entertain, while exploring some of the most relevant and important issues facing Papua New Guinea today: maternal health, domestic violence, drugs and HIV, but also love, friendship and, most of all, rugby league.
Telikom PNG Chief Executive Michael Donnelly said this was a new frontier for PNG which the company was ‘proud to support through its sponsorship’.
”Telikom PNG operates in a dynamic and evolving industry and as long as we see opportunities to create value for our customers, we will explore such opportunities,’ he told Business Advantage PNG.
‘However, what is more important for Telikom PNG is that such initiatives go a long way to creating awareness in the community about the many challenges confronting our communities.’
‘PNG has never had a television drama like this before,’ says Muffy Potter, Series Producer and Director of series producer, Put It Out There Pictures.
‘It helps develop cultural identity. It helps to shape ideas and growth in terms of inspiration and aspiration.
Potter spent three years in Afghanistan making television dramas, and says the experience proved the social value of drama.
‘We did dramas that looked at various issues like corruption, police, women’s rights and narcotics. And the independent research that was done after the broadcast of those productions showed genuine shifts in attitudes on some of these issues.’
The concept came from ABC International, the international arm of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, based on research about people’s access to media and what their viewing preferences were.
‘Drama is a great way to deliver entertaining content, while offering an opportunity to focus on some of key issues challenging Papua New Guinea today,’ says Domenic Friguglietti, head of ABC International’s Pacific and Mekong branch.
‘The ABC has paid for all the of the development costs,’ says Muffy Potter. ‘We [Put It Out There Pictures and the ABC] are partners on this series and they’ve been incredibly supportive in getting the series financed.’
Potter says research by ABC International shows people are more interested in content about sport and television drama than anything else.
‘A lot of people don’t have broadcast television but they have a TV and a DVD player. And you’ll find the DVDs they’re watching are movies and television drama.
‘Filipino dramas are very popular because there’s a similarity in their family cultures.’
Produced through a partnership between PNG and Australian film crews, producers are intending to build local production skills and a sustainable local screen industry, by mentoring writers, directors, and actors.
‘Where I see this as being a real opportunity for business is that this will be a really successful, highly discussed programme and to be a partner at the beginning is a great opportunity for visionary companies.’
‘And so through the project, we’re really concentrating on one-on-one, one-on-two mentoring in these really complex roles like screen writing, story-telling or directing so that people can get a really good experience in learning how to make television,’ says Potter.
Now that Telikom is on board, Potter is preparing to start filming during the dry season (and the footy season) from May to August 2015, with the aim of getting the show on air by the end of 2015.
‘We’d like to bring a couple more investors to the table,’ she says.
‘Where I see this as being a real opportunity for business is that this will be a really successful, highly discussed program. To be a partner at the beginning is a great opportunity for visionary companies.
‘And it can drive a lot of interactivity between the show’s content and advertisers, investors, and aid messages.
The US State Department has also given the producers a grant to develop digital media associated with the series.
‘But it’s not just an investment in a new and emerging industry, but also it’ll be a wonderful news story about PNG, and will showcase PNG as a tourism destination,’ says Potter.