News & Events
Meet the Adelaide Studios tenant: Triptych Pictures
04 March 2022
The SAFC’s Adelaide Studios isn’t just a screen production facility, it’s a creative hub that’s home to 28 South Australian screen businesses and screen practitioners. In this ongoing series of SAFC interview profiles we invite you to meet the tenants and get to know their work.
Triptych Pictures is an independent production company based at Adelaide Studios, making quality, compelling screen content for cinema, television and online. Established by producers Julie Byrne and Kristian Moliere in 2013, Triptych combines extensive production and producing experience, with credits that include SAFC supported features Gold, The Babadook, and The Mountain and TV series Wake in Fright for Network 10. Other company credits include the factual entertainment series Jillaroo School, FilmLab feature Touch and online works for RackaRacka.
We asked producer Julie Byrne to tell us a bit more about the business.
How would you describe what you do at Triptych Pictures?
The company is a two producer team, myself and Kristian Moliere, and we make feature films and television series, across genres, focusing on novel adaptations and original works from writer/directors. We have a broad slate in development and currently have several co-productions with both US and Australian partners, with projects out to finance. I also lend my services as producer on external productions, Kristian executive produces on features and we occasionally do producer consulting.
How did Triptych Pictures start? What’s your background?
Kristian and I knew each other from when we were both making short films in the late 90s, and reconnected in 2009 when I line produced the film Lucky Country that he was producing. The company started after Kristian and I, and another producing partner at the time, teamed up for the ABC/SAFC 2013 FACTory initiative. Our 6x30min factual entertainment concept Jillaroo School was selected for development, which aired on ABC1 in 2015.
My background is in production predominantly, starting when I was in art school in the early 90s in Adelaide and co-founded a public television broadcaster, in which I also produced a number of programs. The first feature film I ever worked on was Shine, as a 2nd AD Attachment. I made short films at the same time as freelancing as an AD, and as a Production Manager, working on low budget features in the main and the drama series McLeod’s Daughters.
I then went on to line produce feature films like The Babadook and Charlie’s Country as Triptych was forming, and continued to lend my services in this way time to time (I Am Mother, Escape From Pretoria). I have also co-produced on wonderful films such as Matt Bate’s Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure, and recently Anthony Hayes’ thriller Gold starring Zac Efron.
How does your team work?
As a two person team we are both hands on across all aspects of the business and project production. In the early years of the company we ran extensive in-house intern programs, but now we have periodic volunteer interns/producer assistants who come in a day a week over a couple of months to undertake producer related tasks and assist in administration. We expose our interns to a range of projects and experiences, making it a mutually beneficial arrangement. Many of our interns have gone on to be employed on our productions or those I’ve worked on, kickstarting their professional careers.
What’s your favourite thing about your work?
For me, it’s the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process. Creating something together as a team is hugely rewarding. I love a challenge, and this industry is never in short supply of those, and I love the variety of people I meet and unique experiences that my work life brings. No two weeks are ever the same – often no two days – and that’s invigorating.
What qualities/skills do you need to work in this field?
Tenacity, stamina, patience, a positive attitude, business smarts, people skills, an ability to listen, appreciation and respect for what the people around you bring to the table, a thick skin and hard work! As a producer, you can have all the practical and creative skills in the world – script development and casting prowess, budgeting skills, business acumen, financing and production know-how – but you really need those other qualities as well to help you truly succeed.
Networking skills and relationship building is also crucial, and this doesn’t come naturally to some. It involves consistent attention and time put in. We have spent many years making connections and cementing bonds with key creatives and companies, with tangible outcomes. Kristian also regularly travels to the US in particular, and the relationships he has built and maintained there are really starting to pay dividends with a number of US co-productions now on the slate.
What are some of your favourite productions you have been involved with?
Personally, producing the SAFC FilmLab feature film The Dead Speak Back (2013) with South Australian artist and composer Jason Sweeney, on a shoe string $25,000 budget, was a highlight. We were a five person team and it was a genuine creative collaboration across the entire process. The methodology (and film itself) sat way outside of what would be called regular and that was exciting.
I thoroughly enjoyed producing work with South Australian Youtube duo RackaRacka, aka brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, especially the Versus trilogy. Their originality and talent is phenomenal, and the terror and the laughs kept me on my feet and in high spirits (most of the time anyway!) which in this business goes a long way to enjoyment of your work.
I look back on Charlie’s Country with great pride and awe really as it was tough going for a number of reasons, but it was shot mostly in Arnhem Land, which is an extraordinary part of the world and was an immersive experience, both workwise and culturally, that I’ll never forget. I am currently producing with Rolf de Heer his latest film The Mountain, and it is already another highlight in my career. Both these films tell compelling, very original stories and whilst many codes of filmmaking practice were standard across the two productions, there is a philosophy and methodology embedded in their creation from the ground up that makes them quite special. A commitment to equity, small team self-reliance and being flexible and nimble in all matters is a way of working that I embrace and find liberating.
Judging by the productions I’ve just mentioned, there is a bit of a theme here!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve come up against in your work?
We are a two person company with a demanding slate, and being hands-on across all aspects of the filmmaking process, plus managing and administering the business, largely without assistance, has been extremely difficult to maintain over the years. When I work fee-for-service, usually on one or two external productions a year, the production is all-consuming and without question it takes priority. But as a producer I have to save some energy for keeping my own projects in development alive at the same time, so the hours in my week become excruciatingly long and pressurised. I have, over the years, sacrificed huge elements of my personal life to the demands of work which has taken its toll on my health at times also. It’s a constant tug of war for me.
Financing feature films as a small independent company in a landscape that is becoming harder and harder to compete in is a huge challenge generally. For producers, years of working with writers, directors, other producers and production partners, attaching market, getting them 80% financed, and even at the point of having production dates in sight, can all go sideways or down the drain in an instant for any number of reasons, so staying positive in the face of this and “starting over” can really wear you down. The roller coaster is real!
South Australia has seen a steady increase in screen production in recent years, hitting record levels of production in 2021 – what has that meant for your business?
It has meant more opportunities for me to produce. Since Gold, I’ve been working as Series Producer on the SBS Digital Original A Beginner’s Guide to Grief for KOJO Studios (currently in post) and entered into a co-production with Rolf de Heer’s company on The Mountain that we shot in the Flinders Ranges and Tasmania last quarter of 2021. The opportunities have certainly increased, but this has been as much to do with reputation and relationships I believe, as it has been to do with the production boom.
What’s in the future for Triptych Pictures?
We are still working hard on our slate and have been very fortunate to receive development funding from SAFC and other funding bodies over recent years. Kristian’s immediate priorities are to progress the feature films with US partners on the slate, and there are projects we’ve progressed that are now script-ready, with directors attached, about to go out to finance and casting, so the idea is to just keep at it and aim for one or two to go into production in the next 12 to 18 months.
In the meanwhile, Triptych has entered into an Australian co-production on a feature that Kristian is producing and I am on board to produce on a feature for an external company, with both aiming to shoot in South Australia later this year.
In addition, Triptych is in the early test phase of a new business concept that we are in partnership on with an ex-international distribution exec that could see great benefits to our company and the South Australian producing community in the future. Stay tuned.
What is your advice to anyone looking to get into your line of work?
Think long and hard about whether producing is really what you want to do, as it is a brutal industry in many ways and, contrary to popular belief, very hard to make a living from creating your own IP. Very few production companies or producers actually make their own projects on a regular basis, enough to sustain a viable business, and need to supplement their income in other ways. Some have achieved it, and deservedly so, but financing projects is a long hard road more often than not, and there are fewer and fewer risk-taking investors out there and less money to go around. But if producing is your calling or you believe you have what it takes, then there is always a place for new players and always a way to get projects up, eventually!
Another thing is to be passionate about the projects you want to make as they’ll be with you a very long time.
Finally, trust your instincts, believe in yourself, and find your tribe. The people you choose to work with that you like, admire, respect and trust will be one of the most important aspects of your working life.
Do you have a favourite South Australian screen production?
There are a few South Australian productions on my favourites list – the original Storm Boy – its simplicity of storytelling, and its heart and beauty of place; Picnic At Hanging Rock – the synergy of location, tone and performance that evokes another era so beautifully, plus a musical score that elevated the film to iconic status; Breaker Morant – brilliant performances and compelling storytelling; The Tracker – again, a wonderful synergy of performance, story, location and sound track; and The Babadook – excellent script with precision translation to screen, and exemplary in its psychological horror genre (not that I am biased at all!).
What’s the best thing about being a part of the SA screen industry?
History – embracing the legacy of this state’s industry, which has seen some incredible feature films made here over the decades in particular.
Independent creative spirit – South Australia’s independent creative spirit is something to be embraced as some highly original work has been made here, and is still being made, that has shone a spotlight on the state.
Familiarity – knowing largely who you are working with, and the sense of family and camaraderie that arises from that, and just knowing the lay of the land – literally, with the locations, and also figuratively.
And a risk-taking and very supportive screen agency in the SAFC
What’s the best thing about having your business located at Adelaide Studios?
Ready access to the SAFC and being on the doorstep of fantastic facilities in the Adelaide Studios, not to mention the discounts given to South Australian producers and tenants. Having the support of and opportunity for potential collaborations with like-minded creatives in the same site is another big plus.
Find out more about Triptych Pictures at triptychpictures.com.au
By Jerri Phillips