Pine Gap thriller for ABC, Netflix.
Exclusive: 6 part drama on the secretive joint US / Australian facility will film in 2018.
The 6 part production, created by showrunner Greg Haddrick and co-writer Felicity Packard, exposes the stress inflicted on nations and individuals when ultimate loyalty is under threat, and true motives endanger the famously strong American / Australian joint military alliance through conflicting interests, personal ideals … and one tragic mistake.
The series will be produced by Lisa Scott and Felicity Packard, and executive produced by Screentime’s Bob Campbell, Rory Callaghan and Greg Haddrick, and ABC’s Sally Riley and Kym Goldsworthy.
Filming will take place in South Australia and the Northern Territory in 2018, with pre-production to commence in Adelaide in November.
Since opening in 1970 the joint facility, partly-run by the CIA, has been surrounded in secrecy.
During the 1980s it was frequently the subject of protests due its pivotal role, and potential target threat, at the height of the US / USSR “Star Wars” friction. It continues to play a role in signals intelligence, providing early warning ballistic missile launches, and could be pivotal if North Korea unleashes a nuclear attack on the South Pacific.
Showrunner and co-writer Greg Haddrick (pictured below) tells TV Tonight, the key roles would comprise both Australian & US characters, largely in Intelligence roles, but supporting characters would also dramatise the nearby Alice Springs community.
“Since the ’80s I have been fascinated by the world of Pine Gap and what it meant to be living with a little bit of America in the middle of Australia, and the relations between Americans & Australians on that base.
“So it evolved out of wanting to tell a story of those who work in intelligence, and how an environment of secrecy and increasing geo-political pressures impacts on those relationships,” he says.
Together with writer Felicity Packard, researching the subject has proven challenging. The fictional series expects no co-operation from the base nor Department of Defence.
“We don’t get direct access to the formal world of Pine Gap, but we did get considerable help from David Rosenberg who wrote the book Inside Pine Gap,” he continues.
“He helped us with the unclassified information about the base.
“And we had help from a couple of other people who had visited the base but are not part of the Department of Defence, directly.
“We could glean enough to be able to set a credible drama series in that world. But having said that the series is not about trying to reveal precisely what Pine Gap does, because we will never know. It’s more about the relationships inside the base. We wanted to contextualise it by making it as authentic as we could.”
Haddrick also isn’t expecting any access for filming, with the base to be re-created, including with CGI, in South Australia. Pine Gap follows Glitch as the second primetime co-production for ABC and Netflix. Tipped for a late 2018 debut, it is expected to premiere simultaneously on both platforms, with Netflix enjoying global rights excluding Australia and SVOD rights (including Australia).
“Netflix wanted to make sure that it was clear to an American audience what this place was, and what it did. Most people in America, and indeed (many) in Australia, have no idea that it exists at all,” says Haddrick.
“So it feels like an Australian story for Australians and an American story for Americans.”
Pine Gap is financed by Netflix and ABC, in association with the South Australian Film Corporation. Additional financial support is provided by a grant from Screen Territory.
Executive Chairman of Screentime Bob Campbell said, “Screentime is delighted that Netflix and the ABC have come together to commission this production that has been in development by the Screentime drama team for a number of years.”
“Greg Haddrick is a magnificent voice in television in Australia and around the world,” said Elizabeth Bradley, Netflix Vice President of Content. “We can’t wait for Greg to bring Pine Gap‘s story of secrecy and deceit to Netflix members around the world.”
The ABC’s Director of Television David Anderson said: “Pine Gap is shrouded in intrigue for many Australians. It’s the perfect anchor, and a timely subject, for an Australian drama that can resonate both locally and with a global audience. This partnership enables a high-end Australian drama to be produced for all Australians, and for locally produced content to be delivered to an international audience. We look forward to working with all our partners on this new venture.”
South Australia’s Minister for the Arts, Jack Snelling said: “Having an original series in production from global streaming giant Netflix in South Australia is testament to the strength of the screen sector here. Pine Gap brings with it a multi-million dollar investment in the State and significant job and career opportunities for our world-class crews, with nearly 100 local crew joining this production. Production of Pine Gap will take advantage of the wide range of exceptional locations South Australia has to offer.”
The South Australian Film Corporation’s CEO Annabelle Sheehan said: “SAFC welcomes the opportunities which come with a series of this calibre including further developing our amazing South Australian crew. Pine Gap strengthens the relationship between South Australia and the massive Netflix audience projecting our State around the world. SAFC is also so pleased to have Screentime stay on in South Australia transitioning from post-production on Wolf Creek Series 2 into Pine Gap pre-production and shoot.”
Photo (top): Kristian Laemmle-Ruff