Production of ‘Shantaram’ suspended, to the MEAA’s dismay

17 February, 2020 by Don Groves

Charlie Hunnam in ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ (Photo credit: Stan).

Production of Apple TV+’s Shantaram has been suspended after Justin Kurzel directed the first two episodes of the 10-part drama based on the novel by Gregory David Roberts.

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The producers, Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content, called a temporary halt while they aim to hire a second showrunner to work alongside writer/showrunner Eric Warren Singer.

This will give Singer, a first-time showrunner whose writing credits include the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, American Hustle and Only the Brave, more time to complete the scripts.

Shooting of the first two episodes wrapped just before Christmas and filming was due to resume today. Production in Australia and India will resume after a second showrunner is on board.

Kurzel is contracted to direct a total of five episodes. There is no word yet on whether additional helmers have been hired.

The production was lured to Australia by a $7.4 million grant from the Federal Government’s Location Incentive program, supported by Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund.

The postponement has dismayed the MEAA. Adam Portelli, the union’s regional director for Victoria and Tasmania, tells IF: “We were today officially informed that production has been suspended indefinitely.

“This is disappointing for our crew and performer members who have arranged their working schedules around this production going ahead in Victoria in the early part of this year, particularly given more than $7 million of Australian and Victorian taxpayers’ money was spent to lure this production to Victoria.

“We hope that the hiatus is only a short one and the reasons behind it can be sorted out quickly. We will be contacting the producers to seek a commitment that the production will still be going ahead in Victoria and to ensure that our members are not adversely impacted by this decision.”

In a note to the crew, the producers said they are “evaluating scenarios around timing and how we will proceed,” explaining: “A longer push became official when we determined that we would not be ready to shoot ahead of monsoon season in India.

“We understand that in light of this news, many of you will be exploring other potential job opportunities. We will keep you all updated once we’ve solidified our new production plan.”

Last seen in Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang, Charlie Hunnam stars as Lin, a former bank robber and heroin addict who is the run from an Australian prison and looking to get lost in the teeming city of Bombay.

Cut off from family and friends by distance and fate, he finds a new life in the slums, bars and underworld of India.

Richard Roxburgh plays Detective Sergeant Marty Nightingale, who works for the Australian Federal Police and is part of a small, elite unit trained for the pursuit and capture of escaped convicts.

Indian film and theatre actress Radhika Apte is Kavita, a driven Indian journalist looking for answers.

The 11 months shoot was expected to inject $46 million into the Victorian economy, employ around 330 cast and crew and use the services of more than 500 local businesses.

Richard Sharkey is the line producer and Nikki Barrett handled the Australian casting.

The first look/co-financing deal between Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content expired at the end of 2019 but the two companies have several series on air and 18 projects in development that they will continue to collaborate on, including the recent sale of The Last of the Mohicans series to HBO Max.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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