films & tv by tony cavanaugh

Tony Cavanaugh has over thirty years of experience in the film industry. He got his first job at Crawford Productions, at the age of fifteen, where he worked as a runner on Matlock Police

After studying at La Trobe and Flinders Universities, Tony again worked at Crawford Productions where he spent three years in the camera department on The Sullivans. He then decided to move across into the writing department where he became a script editor, writer and story editor for The Sullivans. Working closely with Hector Crawford during the last series of the award winning show, he wrote its final episode.

His work as a writer and editor at Crawfords over the years was diverse: the Emmy winning series, Zoo Family, the drama, Carson’s Law and the long-forgotten (and totally dreadful) Cluedo; he adapted Robin Klein’s novel, Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left into a series and script edited the film, I Live With My Dad.

In the mid 1980’s he was asked to create The Flying Doctors into a series, devising each story, hiring the writers and overseeing the editing of all scripts, while liaising with the directors and actors. He left Crawfords after the first season of The Flying Doctors and became a freelance writer, story editor and script editor for all the major Australian production companies on a diverse range of television series. He also worked as a 'crisis-manager' when scripts and writers were in need of guidance during, or just before, production. In this role, Tony was hired by the Networks to ensure that their needs were being addressed in order to maximise ratings.

Father was made in 1989. Tony co-wrote and produced the film. Max von Sydow played the main character. Father was released in 1990. Evan Williams, from The Australian called it ‘the best Australian film ever made.’ Max von Sydow won Best Actor at the Australian Film Institute Awards; Julia Blake won an award for Best Supporting Actress. The screenplay was shortlisted in the 1990 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

Tony was asked to adapt a New Zealand novel, Once Were Warriors; instead he suggested first-time author, Alan Duff, was a more appropriate choice if guided through the process of adaptation to screenplay. Tony worked in Auckland as he taught Alan the essentials of scriptwriting then as he edited the script to its final draft. The film was an international success. 

In 1991, Tony formed Liberty Films. Its first production was Fire, a thirteen-hour drama mini-series. Tony was a creator of the drama; he also wrote and edited the scripts and produced the series. Fire was nominated for Most Outstanding Mini-Series and Most Popular Drama at the 1994 Logie Awards

Tony’s next production was The Day of the Roses which told the story of a train derailment at Granville, in Sydney, in the late 1970’s, which killed over 80 people. The mini-series was acclaimed in the press and remains in the 'top ten' lists of best dramas made in Australia. It won a Logie for Best Drama Production as well as having been nominated for Best Actress and Best Actor. It won Guild Awards for Best Composer, Best Make-up and an AWGIE award for Best Screenplay. 

Tony then wrote Through My Eyes, the definitive story of the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain. The mini-series was commissioned by the Seven Network. For two years Tony (and his partner) interviewed over three hundred people who were directly involved in the events following the disappearance. He was granted, for the first time, access to legal documents and statements and evidence that had been warehoused in Alice Springs. Tony met with the traditional owners of Uluru for consultations during filming and for first-hand witness accounts, which had previously gone undocumented. The script was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and was called 'The best Australian drama of the year, if not the decade' (The Daily Telegraph). It was nominated as Most Outstanding Mini-Series at the 2005 Logies.

In 2008 Tony produced (and script-edited) the film, In Her Skin (I Am You). Shot in Melbourne and Brisbane, the film starred Guy Pearce, Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Rebecca Gibney and Justine Clarke. The soundtrack featured Sigor Ros, John Butler and Mark Seymour. The film was released by Goldcrest Films and was screened at the 2010 Brisbane Film Festival. Through Liberty Films, in which In Her Skin was made, Tony (and partners) raised over $60 million for the purposes of film and TV production.

In 2009 Tony was a Producer on Nine Miles Down. Shot in Tunisia and Bulgaria, the film had originally been optioned by Tony in 1992. He developed the project with Spelling Films in Los Angeles, working with a number of Hollywood screenwriters and directors like John Carpenter (The Thing) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist). He also worked as a story editor on Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, season 3, for Every Cloud Productions. 

Tony has been a Judge for the Logie Awards and the Australian Film Institute Awards. In 2009 he was asked to Judge for the International Emmy Awards, held in New York. Over the years Tony has taught scriptwriting at Melbourne University, RMIT, Swinburne, QUT, UQ, AFTRS, the Australian Writer’s Guild, Griffith University and the New York Film Academy on the Gold Coast. 

In 2017, Tony and Louise Lee Mei created Armarna Films, based in Queensland and NSW. Penny Wolf from The Film Consultancy in London is one of its partners. Screen Queensland has invested in Armarna by sending Tony and Louise to the Shanghai International Film Festival in June 2017.

In 2018, Armarna Films joined forces with Beyond to create a joint venture for the development and production of film and television drama – creating Beyond Armarna films, carving out space for unique cross-cultural narratives and female lead drama with primary connections in China, South East Asia and Los Angeles.

To see Tony’s current film and TV projects, visit Beyond Armana Films.