On the set of Schapelle telemovie

Horse stables on the Gold Coast are dramatically transformed into Kerobokan prison for Nine's telemovie.

Some weeks ago I visited the set of Nine’s Schapelle telemovie on the Gold Coast, but it’s only recently that I can tell you about it.

FremantleMedia Australia and Nine were keen to get it in the can without attracting unwarranted attention. That meant giving the project a fake title, Doc McGee, for the duration of the shoot. It helped that it sounded like a kid’s series.

Even the sandwich board outside the location simply said “DM” to indicate the site to the crew. Normally on a shoot such signage will have the initials of the show title, so as not to alert public onlookers. it doesn’t usually double as a red herring.

Yet here in the Nerang hinterland you’d never expect to find the makings of Kerobokan Prison.

The location is the Country Paradise Parklands, once a kind of low-scale adventure park. Purchased by the local council in 2011, it’s now a mixed-use facility consisting of a men’s workshop, a function hall for weddings, an OzHarvest kitchen, a photographic studio for disadvantaged youth, a community garden and a few horse stables.

It’s the horse stables that production designers have cleverly dressed as Corby’s Kerobokan prison: a tiny makeshift cell with little more than a group mattress, hanging laundry, a kettle, family photos clinging to the wall and an in-ground toilet, imported from Indonesia.

It feels cramped, stifling and entirely authentic. For a few short minutes, I’m no longer in Queensland.

A huge prison wall with barbed wire has been built outside, while a variety of Asian extras, mostly women with small children, have been hired from the Gold Coast.

The function space doubles as a Balinese courthouse. While it is being dismantled during my visit, photos I am shown are a dead ringer for those infamous scenes of Corby in tears and her family screaming at judges. A holding cell has also been constructed outside, so small and gruesome I’d hate to be kept in it, even realising it’s a fake.

In the role of Schapelle Corby is actress Krew Boylan, best known for Cliffy, A Place to Call Home and Wild Boys. In this faux tropical hell-hole, she instantly looks the part. As cameras film her writing a letter, she corrects herself. “Wait, Schapelle has a C in it,” she suddenly remembers. Yes that kind of detail sticks.

In the role of mobile phone entrepreneur ‘Crazy’ Ron Bakir, who financed Corby’s defence, is actor Les Chantery. He is so convincing, that when I am shown old photos of Bakir, I think I’m looking at Chantery.

Vince Colosimo plays lawyer Robin Tampoe. I’m amused by the wry irony that ‘Alphonse Gangitano’ is defending Schapelle for Nine, but I appear to be alone on that.

Jacinta Stapleton -with some added dental assistance- will play the outspoken Mercedes Corby and Denise Roberts and Colin Friels play the Corby parents.

Nine was nervous about details of the production leaking while Corby was nearing parole, but principally because she has fervent followers who are adamantly against the project. This website has already received anti-Schapelle emails, cc’d to David Gyngell and Fremantle CEO Ian Hogg. Supporting their argument is their claim that the book Sins of the Father has been derided by authorities.

But the book is not the basis of the film and Nine has never made the claim.

The script has been penned by writer Katharine Thomson (Answered by Fire, Killing Time, East West 101, Wildside, Blackjack, Halifax FP, GP) and is directed by Khoa Do (Better Man).

The bulk of the story will comprise the period up to and including the sentencing of Corby.

With the amount of public interest in her story, there’s every reason to believe it will attract a big audience. The real question will be whether she is portrayed as being complicit or innocent victim, something I couldn’t tell from a one day visit. But I will tune in to find out.

Schapelle is tipped to air in late 2014 on Nine.

9 Responses

  1. Why are you promoting this revolting production? They sound like buddies of yours.

    Here are a few facts for you to not tell your readers.

    1. The fabrications they are going to poison minds with use ‘dead men can’t sue’ to accuse Schapelle’s father. Can it get any more squalid than this, using a dead man? Yes it can.

    2. You wriggle them off the Duff hook by claiming it isn’t based on his proven fiction, currently in court for defamation. But they broadly tell the same smearimg story. Watch McCauley, for example, whose family was actually paid by Duff.

    3. Why do you never tell your readers about The Expendable Project, and how it has dismantled this smear-movie? Has Nine told you not to?

    4. Please spare us “Nine was nervous about details of the production leaking while Corby was nearing parole”. She is still awaiting the parole decision, so what’s changed? Nothing…

    1. No problem with you disagreeing with the story, but you must abide by the site’s Comments Policy as everybody else here does, thanks. Broadly speaking, I’m reporting on a set visit for a telemovie. The story already alludes to objectors. I’ll review the finished product when it airs and judge its success or otherwise then. Thanks.

  2. Good writer but the director choice is very bizarre. Better Man was one of the dullest and most ineptly directed dramas of 2013. Putting that aside it will rate for Nine irrespective of its truth and Nine will be careful with defamation issues after Nine had to pay out in an early series of Underbelly.

  3. Surely everyone knows the story and the outcome of this as it has been going on for so long and how close to the truth is it really going to be, it will probably be dramatized so much yet the actual events that happened will never be able to be re-enacted only Schapelle herself knows what she has experienced. would not watch it if you paid me, leave the girl alone.

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