Philip Tarl Denson gains traction on his first TV series
Philip Tarl Denson.
After Philip Tarl Denson won the Northern Territory Literary Award for Screenwriting way back in 2011, persistence, patience and talent are paying off for the Darwin-based former teacher.
Chances are the writer/producer’s first TV series Anomaly will get the go-ahead this year with the backing of two US heavy hitters.
Denson is going to the US later this month to pitch Anomaly to streamers and networks in tandem with Legendary Entertainment and the US producer Michael London, whose credits include Sideways, Trumbo and Thirteen.
In the past few years London has focussed on TV series, executive producing the Snowfall, the FX crime drama co-created by John Singleton (which screens here on Fox Showcase), the Showtime comedy SMILF and Syfy fantasy The Magicians.
The recipient of the Monte Miller Award for unproduced screenplay in the long form category, Anomaly (10 x 1 hour) centres on three astronauts – US, Russian and Japanese – who return from the International Space Station only to discover that they had already returned 12 years earlier.
After crash landing in Kazakhstan the trio is detained by the Kazakh army and eventually sent back to Houston. In a twist, events unfold from the perspective of the American astronaut’s wife.
Denson, who is repped in the US by Management 360 and Verve Entertainment, tells IF he wrote the series in December 2018 and progressed the project when he was part of the Imagine Impact US content accelerator program in April 2019, mentored by actor/writer Kieran Mulroney.
Mulroney, who co-wrote Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with his wife Michele, has agreed to serve an EP on Anomaly.
Philip met several producers through Imagine Impact and connected best with London, whom he describes as a “tastemaker.”
Legendary Entertainment was among three studios who were keen to option the series and he accepted their offer because they are “smart genre people.”
A showrunner is attached – name under wraps – and the choice of director and cast will await input from the commissioning network.
Denson turned to screenwriting after teaching physics in Darwin for two years; before that he spent four years teaching in the remote Arnhem land community of Gunbalanya.
Lucid, his first feature film script, won the NT Literary Award for Screenwriting and was a finalist in the John Hinde Award for Science Fiction and in the 2017 Gateway LA list of the best unproduced scripts by Australian writers.
The narrative follows Norman Pips, a socially isolated dream programmer whose life consists of appeasing his landlord, pining for his boss Claudia and working for a company specialising in personalised dream fabrication and implantation.
Denson produced writer-director Nathaniel Kelly’s Fracketty Frack: It’s the Frackpocalypse, an eight-part sci-fi dramedy for YouTube with completion funding from Screen Australia.
Set in the Northern Territory, the series centres on Ben Slate, an easily-manipulated politician who opened up the Territory to fracking. When Slate has second thoughts about green-lighting this controversial technique, he teams up with conspiracy nut Kenneth and his activist niece Charlotte to uncover the truth behind fracking and its possible extra-terrestrial origins.