Jonathan M. Shiff: “Possibly, The Bureau of Magical Things S2 might be my best work”

Despite navigating through COVID restrictions prolific children's producer is delighted with The Bureau of Magical Things S2.

Production recently wrapped on season two of The Bureau of Magical Things in Queensland.

Prolific children’s producer Jonathan M. Shiff told WorldScreen about navigating through COVID-19 restrictions.

“We had to, first, revisit all the stories that I’d spent a year and a bit writing and falling in love with. That sort of dynamic is part of normal filmmaking,” he said. “Being a creator and being a producer sometimes is in conflict. You’ve got to find the synergy and the pathway, and I found I had to approach it the same way. We need to move this forward and do the best story we can do. We had to rewrite scenes, move interiors to exteriors to be safer, strip out cast that were not critical to the scene to be sensible about it. We had to reduce the number of extras. We had to reimagine sets. It’s very counterintuitive to everything I learned in 30 years of filmmaking. We had to take the ceiling off sets. Sets that were designed to be small and intimate had to be opened up a bit. Sets that were very open and expansive had to be made smaller for less cast. There was a lot of work on that.

“There was a certain elevation of focus that you get out of working in a pandemic. When you’re at war with a virus that can hurt you and your family, you come in focused on doing the very best you can and more because you’ve given up a lot or you’re risking a lot to be [there]. And I think, possibly, The Bureau of Magical Things season two might be my best work. I, personally, feel it was the most challenging and probably the best job.”

Returning cast include Kimie Tsukakoshi as Kyra, Elizabeth Cullen and Julian Cullen as elf brother and sister, Mia Milnes and Rainbow Wedell as fairies, Jamie Carter as Kyra’s human friend and now a member of ‘The Bureau’, and Arnijka Larcombe-Weate as Kyra’s problematic bestie oblivious to the magical world.

They are joined by Christopher Sommers (Sweet Tooth, The Water Diviner), Nicholas Bell (Mission Impossible II, Wanted), Steve Nation (Neighbours) and Tasneem Roc (Harrow, Rake, Reef Doctors).

Asked about managing the increased costs around filming during COVID, Shiff said, “Some of it was covered internally. A lot of it was covered by Australian government subsidies, which we were very blessed to receive, and Screen Australia and Screen Queensland elevated their investments. We were very blessed to be working in concert with ZDF and ZDF Enterprises and so on. And Nickelodeon. But largely, it was, frankly, the Australian government assistance that helped us muddle through and without that, I think it would’ve been quite difficult to conquer it.”

The series will screen on 10 Shake.

The Bureau of Magical Things season 2 is a Jonathan M. Shiff Productions project for Network 10, ZDF and Nickelodeon. Major production investment from ZDF Enterprises, Screen Queensland and Screen Australia. It is presold to Network 10 Australia, German public broadcaster ZDF and Nickelodeon, and is distributed worldwide by ZDF Enterprises.

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