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New Oz prodco creating ABC telemovie

A pair of veteran Australian TV drama producers have launched a new production company and secured a commission from ABC to create a telemovie about an iconic Australian transgender figure.

Riccardo Pelizzeri and Lara Radulovich have created Story Ark Productions, which will produce Carlotta for pubcaster ABC1. Pelizzeri’s credits include series such as Underbelly: NZ, MDA and Blue Heelers, while Radulovic has worked on Wentworth and Neighbours among other shows.

Their first production as Story Ark is a TV movie is based on the life of Carlotta, an Australian caberet act whose sex change operation in the 1970s threw light on Australia’s transgender community. Jessica Marais (Packed to the Rafters) will play the titular Carlotta, who was born male but later changed sexes after finding fame as part of the Les Girls cabaret group.

It will be filmed in Sydney. David Hannam wrote the script, with Carlotta consulting. Samantha Lang directs, while ABC’s Carole Sklan and Christopher Gist executive produce.

“This has been a passion project of ours for many years and we are thrilled to be bringing Carlotta’s story to the screen,” said Pelizzeri and Radulovic in a statement. “A love story and an outsider tale about an exceptional woman’s desire to be ordinary, hers is an extraordinary life, lived in changing times.”

ABC TV’s head of fiction Sklan said: “The ABC has been dramatising stories of remarkable Australians, from [indigenous rights campaigner] Eddie Mabo to [social justice campaigner] Bernie Banton, individuals who have gone against the grain and contributed to social change. We are thrilled Jessica Marais is playing the remarkable Carlotta.”