NZOA Bankrolls Three New Comedies


In a new comedy for Sky, Tom Sainsbury will play a disgraced journalist turned true-crime podcast host investigating the death of his millionaire uncle in a hometown filled with eccentric suspects.

Small Town Scandal is one of three comedies that NZ On Air has greenlit in a $14.1 million funding round.

Here’s the media release:

A new show for Tom Sainsbury and more great local stories coming to screens

A collection of comedy and children’s animation lead the way in the latest funding announcement from NZ On Air.

Just over $14.1 million* has been committed to Scripted projects in this round, with larger projects looking to access additional finance including the Screen Production Rebate (SPR) being the key priority, alongside projects focused on digital-first release.

“In a media environment in which local content is under real threat, NZ On Air’s goal with this round was to ensure quality local content continues to be available for the audiences of Aotearoa, reflecting our identity through many diverse stories,” says NZ On Air Acting Co-Head of Funding, Kelly Davis.

One of three comedies to be funded is Small Town Scandal, a series led by comedian Tom Sainsbury, who plays a disgraced journalist turned true-crime podcast host investigating the death of his millionaire uncle in a hometown filled with eccentric suspects. It will screen on Sky Open, Neon and Sky Go.

Another comedic series for TVNZ+ and TVNZ 2 has a sci-fi twist. In Warren’s Vortex, Warren jumps in to save his teenage daughter Lucy after she falls through a trans-dimensional vortex hidden in the garden shed.

Dark comedy series Crackhead, for ThreeNow and Three, blends its humour with the very serious topic of mental health and addiction.

It follows the story of Frankie Barker, an addict who burns her sister’s house down and ends up spending time at a flashy rehab clinic.

Two animated series are on the way for tamariki with a strong focus on te reo and te ao Maori.

Katie’s Kuri for Sky Open explores the friendship between a lonely girl and her new puppy, given to her when she moves in with her uncle.

Katie’s confidence grows as she uses te reo Māori to train the pup at Whaea Karen’s dog training school.

Big Little Blue – for viewing on YouTube, RNZ and Whakaata Māori – is a gentle, thoughtful series starring two penguins and covering themes of mindfulness and emotions.

The series embeds te ao Māori and tikanga, and has an English and te reo version of each episode.

Also for tamariki and scheduled for theatre release in November this year is Moana 2 Te Reo Māori, a te reo version of the second in the successful Disney film franchise, Moana.

Moana 2 Te Reo Māori is scheduled for release at the same time as the Disney version, which has Moana journeying to the far seas of Oceania and its dangerous, long-lost waters.

Also in this round is funding for a series of eight short films produced by young emerging filmmakers from across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Day One Shorts is an initiative for young filmmakers which will be released simultaneously across multiple local and global social platforms.

“Not only will this produce some fresh, new and exciting content, but the initiative also delivers great career development opportunities for young content creators,” says Davis.

Finally, returning for a seventh season is Ahikāroa 7 for MĀORI+, Whakaata Māori and TVNZ+, a bilingual Māori web drama series for rangitahi which won the Melbourne Webfest 2023 award for best ‘first nations’ series.

*$3m has separately been announced to support Shortland Street.

Funding Decisions
Note: All funding commitments are based on the funding applications received and must be contracted within a specified timeframe. Funding is only released, in stages, as contractual commitments are met. Funds committed but not contracted within the specified timeframe are written back and distributed in future funding rounds.

Crackhead, 8 x 22’, Warner Bros. International Television Production NZ for viewing on ThreeNow and Three, up to $3,197,306.

Small Town Scandal, 8 x 22’, Little Miss Films for viewing on SkyGo, Sky Open and Neon, up to $2,964,455.

Ahikāroa 7, 20 x 26’, Kura Productions for viewing on MĀORI+, Whakaata Māori and TVNZ+, up to $1,440,000.

Warren’s Vortex, 6 x 23’, Kitchen Table Productions for viewing on TVNZ+ and TVNZ 2, up to $1,227,000.**

Katie’s Ku, 6 x 8’, Sweetshop & Green NZ for viewing on Sky Open and SkyGo, up to $882,882.

Big Little Blue, 10 x 7’, The Down Low Concept for viewing on YouTube, RNZ and Whakaata Māori, up to $810,030.

Day One Shorts 2025, 8 x 10’, Connected Media Charitable Trust for viewing on YouTube, Whakaata Māori, MĀORI+, RNZ, TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, up to $405,000.

Moana 2 Reo Māori, 1 x 100’, Matewa Media for viewing on Disney+ and local platform TBC, up to $250,000.

** This project was previously approved for funding in 2023. The funds were not drawn down and were subsequently written back.

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