Tassie landscape inspires gothic dramas

Tasmania may have no better creative champion of late than writer Vicki Madden.

Stan drama The Gloaming, which paints Hobart in mysterious, atmospheric hues follows her 2016 drama The Kettering Incident for Foxtel.

Born and bred on the apple island, Madden is now drawing upon personal experience as backdrop for adventurous storytelling. For viewers this offers unique and dramatic vistas, including blending old and new touchstones.

“When you drive into Hobart there’s this omnipresence with Mount Wellington that looms over the town,” she tells TV Tonight.

“It’s a very beautiful cosmopolitan town that’s changing so much, with the snow-capped mountains and [The Museum of Old and New Art] here and Constitution dock. All the history just sits there, so I really wanted to show people how the old and new sit together in a little town.

“There’s a cosmopolitan vibe due to the arrival of MONA, they call it the MONA effect, and now we have the Kettering effect as well where people are coming down that haven’t been here before. There’s a bit of a hipster vibe, there’s big universities, and then you have generations of families that have been here forever.

“When you go to an outdoor Music Festival and look around the audience, it’s just so unusual. You even have researchers coming up from Antarctica in their overalls. It’s very eclectic, very noir-ish.”

The Gloaming stars Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie as detectives who must team up to solve a routine investigation which exposes political corruption and occult practices. The noir series also features Martin Henderson, Aaron Pedersen and Rena Owen.

But Hobart and its surrounds feature so strongly in landscapes captured by directors Michael Rymer, Greg McLean and Sian Davies, it is almost a character in its own right.

“The landscape always inspires me and I wanted to tap into my heritage of convict history and weaving it with the supernatural,” Madden acknowledges.

“I’ve always been interested in superstitions being brought out by the convicts and in this case witchcraft.

“My mother was Welsh and was deeply superstitious and was often called a witch. She was very much one who would put a hex on people to sort things out.

“It’s also a meditation on grief. All the characters are kind of stuck in a space, which I call The Gloaming. So it’s kind of a ghost story really, haunted characters in a haunted landscape, and all of them haunted by their own past and secrets.

“Slowly they are revealed in the underbelly of the crime story that bubble to the surface.

“The two main characters, Molly and Alex, have their own tragic past, but are brought back together. Elements of their past have come to the surface with two different crimes in two different timelines.”

Madden elaborates further on the title as “a space between twilight and darkness, which I’ve taken to use liminal space. I talk about it as the space between life and death, good and evil. In the show the fog and the mist provides that. So we see people come and go out of the mist and they could be ghosts or not….

“It’s very much a landscape that has a parallel world I suppose. It represents a metaphor for our characters where the past is always close by and unresolved.”

Vicki Madden

Tasmania is enjoying a boost in successful scripted projects including ABC’s Rosehaven and Foxtel’s Lambs of God, which drew upon the state for exterior scenery.

“I’m waiting for the keys to the city!” Madden jokes. “I took my Logie to the Premier which helped get some more money. Kettering did so well around the world and we’re getting a lot of feedback now.

“Screen Tasmania have been amazing in their support for me. I’m really spoiled and it’s great to be able to work from home. I’ve spent so much time overseas it’s nice to be home and find my voice.

“I can go to the dark world and Stan don’t have any problems with that at all, so I do feel a sense of creativity. Kettering has given me that so I’m very grateful to Foxtel.”

The Gloaming is also co-produced with ABC Studios International, a further sign of international interest in both Madden’s writing and Tasmania as a drama backdrop.

“I just feel like I’ve been given an opportunity, and there’s a sense of anticipation even in States for the project, so that’s exciting -a bit of pressure- but I know that it’s got a market. With Kettering I was kind of making it, in a way, for myself, not knowing how well it would do and how strange it might turn out.

“I feel now that there is a market for my work.”

The Gloaming is now screening on Stan.

7 Comments:

  1. Australia does have future opportunities to make more original content, and Aussie versions of Nordic noir will find a market, but these type of supernatural / mystery series will get lost in the glut of similar productions that global streaming is providing.
    The Gloaming is a recognizable yarn though the initial slow pace could be distracting for some viewers, if the plot was based on a Steven King short story it would not surprise.
    Trying to include Australian culture is never easy when selling TV products overseas, so I guess this is why the producers chose the more cosmopolitan style for this show.

  2. Many, many films and TV productions made in Tasmania using its disconcerting landscape-this goes back to ‘For The Term Of His Natural Life’ in 1927 and Port Arthur.

      • Agree! Hobart would seem to have universal appeal and Interest across Australia

        I see it having more universal interest than Sydney Melbourne Brisbane or Canberra. Gold Coast could turn people off. Canberra annoys people as they think of pollies. Brisbane seems tokenism- and syd Melbourne have been done to death

        • I once told Foxtel they should name The Kettering Incident as The Tasmanian Incident and they would double international sales… it’s a word that draws global curiosity. And it has “mania” in it…

          • I never watched it. Just assumed it was Kettering in the UK. The Gloaming was excellent, so I’ll definitely revisit it now.

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