Fiona Eagger on the making of ‘Newton’s Law’
The team behind 'Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries', Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger, are back with 'Newton’s Law', starring Claudia Karvan. Eagger talks to IF about the show’s development and shooting in the ABC carpark.
How’s Newton’s Law going?
We’re in the middle of a 12-week shoot. Deb [Cox] and I just went to MIPCOM and you pay dearly for taking [time off]. We went and came back within a week but a lot of things stockpile.
Did you go there to show footage from the show?
Yeah, ABC Commercial is distributing the show for rest of world, and we did a little MIPCOM teaser trailer. It's not our official trailer because not all the material had been shot. And then Deb and I obviously had some meetings with the people they wanted us to. Just to meet some of the North American platforms and talk about what the show is and where there's an alignment between the shows we create and their audience base.
It seems like Acorn TV is picking up a lot of Aussie shows.
They've certainly had a lot of success with Miss Fisher. Miss Fisher's been on a number of platforms; Acorn had it originally for DVD in the UK, and they've got their own platform in America. So PBS, Acorn and Netflix in the States. People are wanting more bespoke material just for them, so those sort of SVOD platforms are now paying more money so they can get a more exclusive window. It is a changing market and it means that things like Miss Fisher can do multiple sales into the same territory.
Given the success of Miss Fisher in America and overseas generally, how much are you thinking about the global market when developing a show?
We love having things that travel. There's nothing more satisfying than that. Miss Fisher has been such a blast. It's sold to over 160 territories. I think this will sell on its strengths of its optimism and its warmth and characters rather than the genre of a legal show. I think it's a tougher sell than Miss Fisher. But there are more niche markets [now], so there's a lot more opportunity for something like Newton's Law to sell internationally than when they released Seachange. At that point you only had your big buyers, so I think the fragmentation of the market means [that] things will travel internationally. It's just a matter of the money that you get for those sales.
Who came up with the idea for the show?
Deb and I were doing an application for an Enterprise scheme quite a few years ago in a cafe. You had to have a number of projects and one thing Deb and I never find difficult is coming up with ideas for new television series. We were actually trying to find something we wanted Miriam Margoyles to do. The concept was a legal show, where the lead had had a recent loss and was working on a lot of pro-bono cases when an old friend asks her to work for his law firm. So it wasn't romantic, it was [for] a slightly different age group. The broadcaster at that stage said, could she bit a bit younger, could there be a bit more romance, and things evolve. That would have been two or three years ago.
How did it develop?
We brought in Belinda [Chayko], Elizabeth Coleman, Chris Corbett, writers that we use on Miss Fisher that we know and trust. Also we were very fortunate to have Alison Nisselle, who had started as a development manager at the ABC at that stage. She’d done shows like Marshall Law and Janus, so she was able to help us on that [legal] front, because really it was like learning a new language. We knew we wanted it to be slightly off the wall, a different way of approaching a legal case. Kerry Greenwood, who wrote the Miss Fisher books and was a Legal Aid solicitor, gave us access to some of her cases.
How's the shoot been going?
It's been strange, because we've been in Miss Fisher land for so many years, and you know the ins and outs of the show. So there's that sense of nervousness, because until you get the first ep locked off you're never quite sure what the beast is. But there's no one better than Deb when it comes to this sort of television: an understanding of what's going to keep a story engine going. We wanted to talk about women who do too much and don't apologise for it.
Where have you been shooting?
We've been shooting at [ABC HQ] Gordon Street in Elsternwick. The Ripponlea studios. Which won't be here much longer. We've turned their car park into a set. Then there's a back shed: we've turned that into a court. Then there's the old canteen they don't use anymore: we've turned that into a cafe and bar. So we've sort of invaded the whole building. They want to move and we don't want them to.
What has it been like having a leading lady in Claudia Karvan who's also an experienced producer?
Oh it's delightful. She so appreciates what we do and she's so happy not to be doing it (laughs).