world class creatives

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Mememe Productions

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world class creatives

The piece of advice that dirtgirlworld creator, Cate McQuillen, likes to share with other creative entrepreneurs in the region tells much about her story.

“Understand that the middle of nowhere is actually the middle of everywhere,” Cate says.

Cate and her partner and co-founder Hewey Eustace first created dirtgirlworld through their business mememe productions ten years ago. In that time it has won an Emmy award for digital innovation projects, the Australian Directors Guild Award for animation, as well as winning many Australian Film Industry awards. It’s also been shortlisted for the world’s most prestigious children’s TV prize the Prix Jeunesse, as well as for a BAFTA, the Japan Prize and an Australian Logie. It’s screened on two ABC kids digital channels daily, as well as being broadcast globally in 128 countries.

They have achieved all of this from their ‘head office’ in the village of Camira Creek in the Richmond Valley with a population of 8 and 55 kilometres to the nearest town of Casino.

“It’s an adventure for our international partners and broadcasters to fly for hours and then drive for hours to visit us in our solar-powered converted church headquarters,” Cate says.

“They collect eggs, pick their lunch from the garden, squeeze orange juice, walk barefoot, hold frogs, as well as sign long-term deals on our verandah.”

In 2008, Cate and Hewey – who at the time were exploring permaculture principles on their land and fronting their cover band the Two Pot Screamers – felt there was something important missing on Australian television, and in the lives of Australian kids.

“We saw an opportunity to create positive, family-led content that focused on sustainability and the joy of going outside and connecting with nature.”

What the pair lacked in knowledge about how to produce and pitch a kids’ TV program, they made up for with their exuberance and passion to realise their vision of creating relevant, cutting-edge, music-centric and fun TV with an environmental focus. Not to mention absolute commitment to the project and preparedness to work very hard.

It’s a fast-moving global success story that attributes both its inspiration and first breaks to the Northern Rivers.

“The Northern Rivers shaped our business by its landscape, its beauty, its realness and its spirit,” Cate says. “This place is a cauldron for ideas and possibilities. It allows you to dream and then gives you the space and time to work out how the dream becomes real.”

There were many local supporters who helped turn Cate and Hewey’s dream into a reality, most importantly the local screen industry body, Screenworks.

“Screenworks is essential to screen industry success in the region,”

Citing a breathless list of the many opportunities the organisation created for dirtgirlworld, including guiding them through pitching competitions at the Screen Producers’ Conference in Melbourne in 2003 and onto the KidsScreen Summit in New York in 2004, an opportunity that opened the program up to the international market.

“Screenworks has always been there to support us – always loving and encouraging us and giving us the professional development to go from enthusiastic dreamers to internationally renowned Emmy-award winning producers.” Cate is now a regular speaker and panellist for Screenworks events, sharing her story and knowledge with emerging producers.

Local business groups and politicians have also helped mememe productions along the way with business training and advice, recognition through business awards, connection to funding bodies and strong support in funding applications, championing access to the best possible internet service, and even with introductions to the NSW premier and environment minister.

“They all want us to succeed and there’s a generosity of experience and no cynicism about what we’re trying to achieve – they share information and opportunities and they celebrate our successes,” Cate says.

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Dirtgirlworld has continued to evolve over the past 10 years, and has partnered with federal, state and local government to create environmental awareness campaigns in topics such as composting and recycling. It has launched a 10-part online education program for kids, downloadable from its website, and also runs a live performance arm, with actors performing the dirtgirlworld characters at festivals and events across Australia – anything from National Tree Day to the prestigious Australian music industry awards the ARIAs.

During the TV show’s production phase, dirtgirlworld employs up to 170 people in Australia, Canada the UK and US who work together using email, file transfer services, Skype conferencing and screen software.

But there’s no question that Cate and Hewey’s roots are firmly planted in the Northern Rivers. Cate says the area is a creative hub, brimming with local talent.

“Our team of locals are extraordinary, talented, passionate and gifted – beautiful people – who share our values and ethics and want to make a difference in the world.”

The area also draws creative professionals to it, she says.

“We have great professionals come for extended periods of time because of the beauty, lifestyle and creative opportunities they can hook into while they’re in the region.”

And Cate is proud that dirtgirlworld is fuelled by all of this talent to help it achieve the goal that has remained true since its seedling of an idea.

“The definition of success is weird for us. It goes something like this…” Cate says. “Are we happy? Yes. Inspired? Yes. Challenging ourselves? Yes. Being creative and innovative? Yes. Do families love the story world, sing the songs, grow a garden, shop differently, smile more, because of their connection with us? Do they spend more time outside and take the time to look at clouds? Yes. To us, that’s success.”

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