Jess Murray, an early-career writer/animator from Margate, Tasmania, has been announced as the winner of Screenworks’ Discovering New Voices – Adult Animation initiative, which is being run in partnership with Princess Bento, a major new animation studio from Princess Pictures and Bento Box Entertainment (US).

Jess, who graduated from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts: Screen Production, applied for the program with their animation project After All, a series about two amateur filmmakers, Winston and Marshal, living together in an absurd wasteland long after a nuclear war has swept the planet.

Selected from a field of 40 applicants, Jess will participate in a paid four-week attachment with Princess Bento to further develop their project and get hands-on experience of animation development and production processes.

A callout for the initiative was issued earlier this year offering writers and animators from regional Australia the opportunity to apply for the Discovering New Voices program which is supported by the Screenrights Cultural Fund. It’s a three-stage program designed to expose undiscovered, diverse and talented writers and animators living in regional, rural and remote Australia to the international animation industry and the scripted development process.

Sarah Lang, Head of Development at Princess Pictures said: “We were looking for animation concepts that are funny, irreverent and imaginative but also have something worthwhile to say. It was brilliant to see the diverse range and the high standard of applications from regional Australia, and ultimately Jess stood out because of the clarity of their vision and their dedication to improving their craft.”

Princess Bento will continue to build relationships with a number of the regional creatives involved in the initiative, sourcing new talent for the Studio – a new, globally focused animation house created through a partnership between Emmy Award-winning US animation studio Bento Box Entertainment (Bob’s Burgers, Central Park) and Victorian production powerhouse Princess Pictures (Superwog, How to Stay Married).

The new company builds on the first-look development deal the two companies entered last year to jointly develop animated content from Australian-based creators. Productions include YOLO: Crystal Fantasy and Smiling Friends for Adult Swim / HBO Max, and Koala Man for Hulu.

“We’ve been delighted to partner with Princess Pictures and Bento Box to offer this unique opportunity to regional Australian creatives,” said Screenworks CEO Ken Crouch.“The animation industry is hungry for new and unique voices and great Australian stories can and should come from all regions of our great country, not just from the metropolitan centres. We’re looking forward to supporting Jess on their four-week internship at Princess Bento – it will be an excellent opportunity for them to learn more about the valuable skills of writing episodic comedy and creating animation, as well as to further development of their own project. We’re extremely grateful to Screenrights for enabling us to give this opportunity to a regional Australian practitioner.”

Discovering New Voices winner Jess Murray said, “I am super excited to develop my project with Princess Bento! This will be the next big step for my career of drawing strange characters and telling heartfelt yet goofy stories. It’s certainly something I didn’t expect to be doing when I was doodling in the back of maths class in high school.”

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