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Meet the performing arts alumni behind an upcoming crime drama series

Franz Docherty and Belinda Bradley

University graduates Franz Docherty (ADipArt in Drama ’90) and Belinda Bradley (ADipArt in Drama ’89) have cocreated a crime drama series, Savage River, to air on the ABC later this year.

Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse (Wakefield, Stateless and The Dressmaker) and starring Golden Globe-nominated actress Katherine Langford (Thirteen Reasons Why, Cursed, Knives Out), the six-part series will be produced by independent production company Aquarius Films (The Unusual Suspects, Lion). Worldwide distribution rights have been acquired by Dynamic Television.

It’s a career highlight for the couple who met during their studies in Tasmania. Originally from Sydney, but now based in Hobart, Franz and Belinda have enjoyed a long and varied career, creating their own work in theatre before branching out into feature film and radio, and most recently, television.

They are hoping their story will inspire current students to go out and chase their dreams.

“We appreciate that this is important because for eight and a half years, while developing our feature films and TV projects, we were running a drama academy for 300 students aged between 5 and 18, which promoted self-confidence and self-belief,” Belinda said.

“Sometimes we were taking drama classes in the afternoon after having skyped with Hollywood script editors and developers from our home office in Hobart during the day. It was a crazy time.

“This project started life in our home in Glenorchy and received very early development funding through Screen Tasmania. Over the last few years, we've travelled, when we could, to Aquarius's Office in Sydney for Writer's Rooms, which then transferred to Zoom once COVID hit.

“We've been over on set for pre-production and during production … We're very excited to see our work come to fruition, and we can't wait to share it with a national audience, particularly our friends and peers in Tassie.”

Other career highlights for the pair include producing radio documentaries for the ABC’s Hindsight program on Radio National. Black Tuesday, a documentary about the bushfires that swept across southern Tasmania in 1967, was nominated for the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

Belinda says she started working in theatre straight out of her studies. This included writing The Other Woman, which was nominated for two Green Room Awards in Victoria. Franz likewise went into theatre after his studies, acting in In Angel Gear, which was also nominated for a Green Room Award.

“The nominations, our writing, producing and acting all started with the course in Launceston, which taught us all the aspects of how to tell a story,” Franz said.

“It fuelled all that we’ve done since across all mediums – radio, stage and screen.”

Franz says that when he and Belinda finished their studies, they planned on becoming actors, but competition was high in Melbourne, where they had moved to, and they took the opportunity to create their own work, something the course prepared them well for.

“Now we are creating work for all these other people, which is very satisfying,” he said.

“We were looking around during production of Savage River and there were 150 people on set, with the most experienced and exciting people driving the project.”

Moving from Sydney to study in Tasmania, where they have lived for the last 20 years, provided the couple with some unique opportunities.

“That course did a good job of teaching us to have a go … In Tasmania we’re more resourceful and have a unique viewpoint,” Belinda said.

“Our previous work hasn’t been particularly Tasmanian focussed, but there’s still something very Tasmanian about it – an outlook on the world. It can be a benefit to come from here and to take your ideas to the world.”

Franz has another claim to fame. He worked with Richard Davey to establish Australia’s longest running play, The Ship that Never Was, performing in the first two seasons. The play has been performed regularly in Strahan for 28 years.

Franz’s advice to students and recent alumni: “If you’ve got faith in an idea/a project and it stays with you, there’s a reason for it. You’ve got to go for it. Dig deep and don’t be afraid to have a go; it can lead you to all sorts of places.”

Belinda’s advice is to, “Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way, widening your community and networking, which is so important … And work hard. But if you love what you do, that’s not a problem.”

The pair are now working on a young-adult TV series based in Hobart, with support from Screen Tasmania.

For this project, the writing room, where ideas are workshopped, has been based in Hobart with the notetaker, Stephanie Francis, also a University of Tasmania alumna. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts with a major in Theatre.

Image credit: Amy Brown

This article featured in the monthly eNews Alumni and Friends. If you are a member of the University of Tasmania community and would like to receive this publication, please provide or update your email address.

Published on: 11 May 2022 12:19pm