Filming has begun in Wales on Requiem, a 6×60' drama created and written by Aussie writer Kris Mrksa, commissioned by BBC One and co-produced by Netflix.
In 1994 a toddler disappears from a small Welsh town, never to be seen again. Twenty-three years later, talented young cellist Matilda, played by Lydia Wilson (Star Trek Beyond, About Time), has her life turned upside down by her mother’s inexplicable suicide.
In the wake of the tragedy Matilda begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself, embarking on a quest that leads her to that same Welsh village, where the secrets she uncovers threaten to unravel her very identity.
Also in the cast is Animal Kingdom’s James Frecheville, playing an Australian who arrives in town and may not be all that he seems.
This is the first show Mrksa, whose credits include East West 101, Underbelly, Devil’s Dust and Janet King, has created himself. The scribe pitched the outline in the UK almost two years ago, he tells IF.
“I got an agent in the UK more than anything else because of The Slap. It seemed there was a high level of awareness of The Slap in the UK and it was pretty highly regarded.”
“I talked to my agent here, Anthony Blair, and he was encouraging of making a foray over there, so I went over and met with a whole bunch of agents and ending up signing up with Jago Irwin at Independent Talent."
"Jago’s advice was that there wouldn’t be any problem living in Australia and working in the UK, but he thought we’d need an idea that would get production companies noticing me.”
Irwin sent Mrksa’s two and a half page outline for what would become Requiem to around twenty production companies, with the scribe travelling to London to meet them all.
The screenwriter decided to go with New Pictures after hitting it off with producer Willow Grylls (The Take, Indian Summers). Mrksa was also a fan of the company's series The Missing, starring James Nesbitt and Australia’s Frances O’Connor.
“I thought the production values they managed to bring to that show were astonishing,” Mrksa says. “It just seemed really ambitious, and looking at the show I just felt the producers must have had a very can-do attitude.”
Also attractive was the willingness of New Pictures to commission a script themselves without going to a network.
Armed with the pilot script and a series outline, Grylls approached BBC One, who promptly commissioned the entire series.
“What’s very refreshing in the UK is they’ll usually make a decision based on an episode one script and a series outline,” says Mrksa.
“Unlike here where I’ve sometimes been in the development mill for up to two years on shows, with more and more work being commissioned but the network unwilling to actually make the commitment to make the show.”
Young director Mahalia Belo, who made a splash with her graduation film Volume, came on board to direct. “What was impressive about Mahalia aside from the fact her work is so fabulous was that she had an incredibly strong, clear vision for the series,” says Mrksa.
Still based in Melbourne, the writer describes working on a show being made abroad as not terribly different to working locally.
“It’s one of the advantages of our modern interconnected world: I’ve actually done quite a lot of the work from here in Melbourne.”
“The biggest thing is the time difference, which means I’m often having meetings in the evening when the rest of my family are having dinner, when I’d like to be settling down with a glass of wine to watch one of my Netflix favourites (laughs).”
Mrksa has written five of the show's six episodes, with Blake Ayshford (Cut Snake, Barracuda) penning episode five.
“I always wanted to sit in the room and do some plotting and brainstorming,” says Mrksa, “and although the producers all have great story brains you want to have at least one other writer in the room with you.”
“The room is about chemistry, and I’ve worked with Blake a lot of times. Given I was flying over to London for it, I really didn’t want to waste those two weeks. I wanted to make sure we got the most out of it and I knew Blake would deliver.”
Mrksa is currently developing another script with New Pictures for ITV, and a second for the BBC and Artists Studio (The Fall).
Requiem is produced by Sue Breen and executive produced by Grylls, Elaine Pyke and Charlie Pattinson for New Pictures and Christopher Aird for the BBC. Netflix will debut the series globally outside of the UK.