Lights, camera, action!

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
In a major shot in the arm for the local screen industry, cameras will soon be rolling for a four-episode murder mystery TV drama series, set entirely in Queenstown.

An action-packed international co-production, A Remarkable Place to Die is employing about 150 cast and crew plus extras.

Big-name stars include Chelsie Preston Crayford, who plays detective Anais Mallory, and Rebecca Gibney — fresh from shooting the third series of TV comedy drama Under the Vines in Central Otago — who plays her mum.

Charles Jazz Terrier plays Anais’ ex-fiance, who’s now married to her ex-best friend, played by Indiana Evans.

The drama’s the brainchild of renowned Screentime CEO Philly de Lacey, who moved to Queenstown last summer and wanted to tell a story depicting not just the resort’s stunning scenery but different facets of the community including its "entrepreneurial drive".

In turn, she’s roped in Germany’s Real Film Berlin as co-production partner in association with Britain’s Banijay Rights, which will handle global distribution.

The series will air across Germany, the United States and New Zealand with, respectively, commissioning broadcasters ZDF, Acorn TV and TVNZ.

DE Lacey’s already worked with Real Film Berlin/ZDF on a thriller, The Gulf, which was filmed in Auckland and dubbed in German, as A Remarkable Place to Die will be, too.

Real Film’s Sibylle Stellbrink, who arrived in Queenstown this week, says Germans will love both the resort’s scenery and solving crime puzzles.

She’s executive-producing the series with her colleague Henning Kamm and De Lacey.

She’s raving about Kiwi scriptwriter John Banas’ script — "the stories are so extraordinary, each is a special story you have never seen before".

De Lacey says Banas has also been supported by cast member Dahnu Graham, who’s brought "a young Maori voice to the table".

She notes each 90-minute episode includes a murder mystery, "but there is an overarching crime story that runs right across the series".

"Everybody loves a good murder mystery — it’s one of the most popular genres in the world."

She says getting the series financed was a very quick exercise.

"People just kind of fell into it, they could see the landscape, they could see what we were trying to create and they just went, ‘we think our viewers will love it’."

De Lacey — who name-checks Acorn TV and ZDF as their "primary financiers" — says they’re well into pre-production, with shooting starting in a few weeks’ time, then going through till the end of June.

She won’t divulge their locations, but says they’ll make the most of Queenstown’s scenery — "we will be all over the Basin".

The council and community have been "hugely supportive", she says.

De Lacey’s thrilled to be giving work to so many local crew, many of whom left for Auckland and Wellington during Covid.

"We’ve had some crew say, ‘oh my god, it’s so nice to work at home for eight months and not be flying up to Auckland to do shows’."

Her biggest challenge, not surprisingly, is housing cast and crew from out of town.

"Somehow we’re getting through, but I think that’s because we’ve got a phenomenal producing team and travel department who are kind of making it work.

"If Queenstown can build its permanent crew base and permanent kind of infrastructure, then, of course, you’re limited to flying in just a few crew and cast — it becomes a much more manageable process."

They’ll also be inviting local media students to visit their set "and get benefit from this show being here".

Meanwhile, Simon Cox, Banijay Rights’ EVP content & acquisitions, says: "With the global appetite for crime drama growing, we see potential for this series, which will charm audiences with vibrant characters and mysterious crimes, all underpinned by a gripping detective, a breathtakingly-scenic setting and a whole host of intrigue and suspense."

Nevak Rogers, TVNZ’s director of content, adds: "TVNZ is thrilled to showcase yet another murder mystery shot on the ground here in Aotearoa, with such a star-studded cast against the spectacular background of the gorgeous South Island."

 

The plot thickens

According to A Remarkable Place to Die’s official teaser, "smart and savvy detective Anais Mallory [played by Chelsie Preston Crayford] returns to her hometown, Queenstown, to be met with a series of startlingly-different and intriguing homicides against the backdrop of past ghosts".

"Among them are her ex-fiance Luke [Charles Jazz Terrier], now married to her ex-best friend [Indiana Evans], her brittle, volatile but loving mother [Rebecca Gibney], and a handsome pathologist, alongside a mixed, wildly eclectic and ever-changing population of tourists and locals that makes challenging investigations even more of a test.

"However, it’s the secrets surrounding her father and sister’s deaths that truly draw her back, and, as she sets about unravelling these most personal of mysteries, she will set in motion an even more desperate cover-up — one that will threaten the only family she has left ... " 

 

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