Cleverman breaks new ground for original drama
Game of Thrones’ Iain Glen, Frances O’Connor, Deborah Mailman, Hunter Page-Lochard, Rob Collins and Ryan Corr are shooting Cleverman, an innovative six-part futuristic action drama for ABC-TV.
Based on an original concept by Ryan Griffen, the plot follows a group of non-humans who are battling for survival in a world where humans feel increasingly inferior and want to silence, exploit and kill them.
The protagonists are two estranged Indigenous brothers (Page-Lochard and Collins), who are forced together to fight for their own survival. Otherworldly dreaming creatures also emerge into this ‘real world’ dystopian landscape.
Commissioned by ABC-TV's Indigenous department, the series is an Australian/New Zealand co-production between Goalpost Pictures and Pukeko Pictures.
The Sapphires’ Wayne Blair is lead director with Leah Purcell also directing. Blair recently completed US thriller Septembers of Shiraz, which tells the true story of a secular Jewish family caught in the Islamic revolution in Iran, starring Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek.
Michael Miller, whose credits include Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, The Time of Our Lives and House Husbands, is script producer and the writers are Miller and Jon Bell.
Weta Workshop and the Bangarra Dance Company’s Jacob Nash are providing the creature design and Park Road Post Production is handling the visual effects.
The cast includes Tasma Walton (Mystery Road), Rarriwuy Hick (Redfern Now), Tony Briggs (The Slap), Robyn Nevin (Top of the Lake), Lynette Curran (Wentworth), Jack Charles (Gods of Wheat Street) and Stef Dawson (The Hunger Games).
Glen plays a media mogul, O'Connor is his wife who works with the Indigenous community, and Mailman is one of the community's "knowledge keepers."
The producers are Rosemary Blight and Lauren Edwards for Goalpost Pictures, Griffen, and, for Pukeko Pictures, Angela Littlejohn.
Blight tells IF that Goalpost hired Griffen as an intern pre-The Sapphires. While he was working on the children's series Lockie Leonard in 2007 he came up with the idea for the series. Most recently he worked as a director's attachment on Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.
Many of the stories in Cleverman are drawn from Aboriginal story-telling, for which Griffen obtained permission from Aboriginal elders. Blight said, "The arc of the stories is fiction but the heart and genesis of the stories come from Aboriginal story-telling. There is a definite truth to the stories."
Goalpost joined forces with Pukeko to complete the financing and to take advantage of its relationships with Weta and Park Road Post. Screen Australia and Screen NSW are investors.
Executive producer and head of ABC-TV’s Indigenous department Sally Riley said: “Cleverman marks the beginning of a new venture for Australia’s Indigenous production sector and is set to be a major drama highlight for ABC-TV in 2016.
“Many years of hard work, collaboration and exceptional talent have brought about this exciting opportunity to invite audiences into a bold new story-world where Aboriginal storytelling meets high concept genre drama."
The 12-week shoot started in Sydney last week. Red Arrow International is distributing the drama worldwide and eOne Australia is handling domestic sales.
Red Arrow's Amelie Kienlin said: “Cleverman is a particularly bold and ambitious project and must be one of the most original genre drama series in production anywhere in the world."