After an Emmy win and both local and international success with Hardball, Northern Pictures is developing a new children’s project with one of its creators, Guy Edmonds.
Titled Dance Spies, the live-action series follows the exploits of a group of teens in a dance school as they secretly train in the art of espionage. To be the best dance spies they can be, they’ll juggle dance assessments and personal differences with epic espionage and in the field ops.
The project is being co-developed with Canadian production and distribution company Sinking Ship Entertainment.
Edmonds got the idea after watching a multitude of dance series with his two young daughters.
“The more I watched these shows, and I’ve watched a billion of them, something occurred to me… The dance world is ruthless. To be a hero in it you need to be tough as nails, uber disciplined and a top shelf athlete. These just happen to be the same attributes of another type of hero, my favourite type of hero, the action hero,” he tells IF.
“It made perfect sense. Why can’t there be a dance series where the dancers don’t just kick butt at dance, but kick actual butt too! And with that, Dance Spies was born.”
The creator has been crafting the project with Hardball series producer Joe Weatherstone and set-up director Darren Ashton, who have since come on board at Northern Pictures as co-heads of development.
A number of writers have been involved in the writers room, including Greg Waters, Amy Stewart, Tresa Ponnor, Shanrah Wakefield and Kathleen Lee.
Initially Edmonds wrote the project as a feature film before working it into a series with Northern Pictures and Sinking Ship.
“We’ve got a pilot script and detailed show bible that charts season one and hints at seasons two and three. If we were fortunate enough to do three seasons and audiences wanted more – there’s plenty of story to mine.”
Dance Spies will skew older than Hardball, aimed at the ‘tween’ or 10+ age bracket. The plan is to finish scripting before pitching to broadcasters.
“We established a fun and collaborative partnership with both Guy and Matt [Zeremes] on Hardball and so when Guy said he was also keen to explore working on his own (though he and Matt still continue to write together) we were definitely keen to take the pitch,” Northern Pictures head of kids and scripted Catherine Nebauer tells IF.
“The high stake worlds colliding grab your attention and imagination, and with the fast, edgy and funny writing Guy brings to the table we are sure this will connect with audiences.”
The second season of Hardball is due on the ABC later this year. The series, which follows fish-out-of-water Mikey and his dream to become the ‘sweetest-bestest-acest’ handball champ in Western Sydney, was created by Edmonds and Matt Zeremes.
The first season picked up an International Kids Emmy, and sold to the BBC for the UK as well as a host of other territories including France Televisions (France), NRK (Norway), RTE (Ireland), TVO (Canada), TFO (Canada), TVB (Hong Kong), RTP (Portugal), RTV (Slovenia), and SABC (South Africa).
The second installment sees Mikey and the gang try to win the state doubles handball tournament, before they reach the end of primary school and experience all the change that comes with it. Edmonds directed a number of episodes, something he is keen to continue to pursue.
Hardball was Northern Pictures’ first push into scripted, and it continues to ramp up its slate, including in adult drama, such as with the upcoming Spreadsheet.
Commissioned by ViacomCBS for Paramount+, the comedy will star British actress Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) as a divorced mother of two looking for sex without commitment.
With the help of best friend Alex, she develops “Spreadsheet”: a database of sex options, customised to ensure sex around with variety and order amidst the chaos of her life. What Lauren didn’t expect was a slew of needy men, which apparently even a well-managed excel tracker can’t control.
The series is created and written by Kala Ellis, with writers Romina Accurso, Rhys Nicholson and Ashton, and will be produced by Andy Walker with Nebauer the EP.
In factual, Northern Pictures has had almost back to back premieres in the second season of Love on the Spectrum for the ABC, and SBS series See What You Made Me Do.
The company is also readying Strong Female Lead, commissioned via SBS’s Australian Uncovered strand. Using archival footage the one-hour explores the gender politics in media, the public and parliament during Julia Gillard’s term as PM.