Producer Tracey Robertson knows there is a lot riding on Tidelands.
It marks the first original scripted drama in Australia from Netflix. Since launching in 2015 the streaming provider has been under pressure to invest in local production. While there have been a handful of co-productions, notably with ABC, Tidelands is the first stand-alone drama to be fully funded by the company. That makes it doubly important it succeeds both locally and internationally.
The series, filmed entirely in Queensland, is a Hoodlum creation and revolves around a community of half-Siren / half-human ‘Tidelanders.’ Into the mix strides hometown girl Cal McTeer, played by Charlotte Best, who has unresolved history following the death of her father.
It’s another in the line of bold work from Hoodlum, best known for tiles such as Secrets & Lies, Harrow, SLiDE, The Strange Calls. With expectations high for Tidelands Robertson jokes that ‘Don’t f*** it up’ summarises the pressure on her.
“They want to see how Tidelands goes, to see if they want to get heavily in the market”
“I’m sure we will not please everyone. But yes there’s a lot riding on it I don’t because they want to see how Tidelands goes, to see if they want to get heavily in the market,” she tells TV Tonight.
“We filmed it all around Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Stradbroke Island, which is an island just off the coast of Brisbane.
“And then we built sets in a studio at Yeronga which is five kilometres from the centre of town. And then we also built an exterior set which was built on a property about 25 minutes from town, on a river.”
The predominantly-youthful cast features a lot of fresh and unfamiliar faces.
“Elsa Pataky (top, left) lives here but she is a Spanish actress and Aaron Jakubenko was in The Shanarra Chronicles in New Zealand but I don’t think it’s been seen a lot of Australian TV shows. Charlotte Best was in Puberty Blues so this is her first adult lead role and she’s fabulous. Mattias Inwood is New Zealander.
“We have quite a big international cast. Marco Pigossi is a big Brazilian star right now and he’s fabulous.
“We wanted the Tidelanders to feel like they have come to this place for a special reason”
“We wanted the Tidelanders to feel like they have come to this place for a special reason but they all speak with different accents.”
But Robertson stops short of weighing into the ongoing debate of whether streaming companies should have local drama quotas, as Europe has recently legislated.
“We’re in a really great position to have Netflix finance our show and get excited about it. So I’m very grateful for it,” she notes.
Robertson (above, right) runs Hoodlum with business parter Nathan Mayfield (above, left), whom she met working on Nine soap Pacific Drive. Scottish-born Robertson’s interest in sculpture and art led her to numerous internships and work experience and opportunities to learn Continuity, which she used as a grounding for her career as a Producer.
Being based in Brisbane, Hoodlum got a name for itself for creating online and digital content built around other productions, including Lost, Vikings, Spooks and Emmerdale.
“Because we were based in Brisbane we felt we needed to have a point of difference to everybody else in Australia. So we created a show that was Austar funded called Fat Cow Motel which was a multiplatform TV show. And so that got us more recognised in the digital space outside of Australia,” she explains.
“We did quite a lot of high profile digital pieces for other people’s TV shows so the company grew quite quickly by doing these big experiences and creating worlds.
“We didn’t really want to work on other peoples’ IP. We wanted to work on our own.”
“But every time we had our strategic planning session we didn’t really want to work on other peoples’ IP. We wanted to work on our own.
“So in 2009 we started to build ur own slate and we’ve been working in TV ever since.”
Strange Calls was sold to the US, but while a Pilot did not proceed to series, it opened doors for the company to get a foothold in America as a business and the sale of Secrets & Lies to ABC with Ryan Philippe and Juliette Lewis. The show enjoyed a second season there, despite just 1 season in Australia on 10.
“It did work creatively, and it sold everywhere, so it’s done really well. Ratings-wise 10 was on the way down the toilet and it was just really disappointing they, didn’t market it,” Robertson suggests.
“And then they started getting really good reviews and then they did a mad dash to try and market it.
“10 was just in a bad period.”
Hoodlum now has romantic comedy Five Bedrooms commissioned with 10 by writers Michael Lucas & Christine Bartlett. Filming will take place in Melbourne in the new year.
“It’s such a good show and really fun.
“It’s a fun show in the female werewolf space.”
“And then we’ve just started working on a new show in Brisbane called Who’s Afraid which is based on a book by Maria Lewis. It’s a fun show in the female werewolf space.
“It’s got a broadcaster, I won’t say who it is. It’s on one of those places where people watch telly…
“Hopefully it will go to air in December next year. We’ve just started writing it.”
There is also more Harrow on the way with ABC, and the untitled Shakespeare project with Margot Robbie’s Lucky Chap production company. There are 10 episodes at the treatment stage at the moment.
“We still have a core team of about 12 people but we obviously have a lot of stuff going on at the moment.
“When we’re working on Lost we had 35 staff because we took everybody in-house but it was ‘feeding the beast’ and it becomes really hard. So the model that we have now is just like any production company where we have three of us in the US and then about 12 of us here.
“So we bring in all the creatives. We bring in the writers to work on different projects.”
If Tidelands succeeds, company favourite Stephen M. Irwin will hopefully get cracking on a second season of Tidelands.
“He’s amazingly prolific, an incredible mind and incredible writer. He did Tidelands S1 and he’s doing Harrow. We’ve got other things with him but we’re just basically waiting for him to have time.”
Tidelands premieres Friday on Netflix.