Sea Patrol: articles

Dramas scoop international deals

THE local television production industry has received a boost with two dramas receiving weighty international affirmation this week.

The Nine network's new drama Sea Patrol, starring Lisa McCune, has been sold to more than 100 territories, including Britain, after its international distribution representative, Portman Film and Television, signed a global deal with the Sparrowhawk-owned Hallmark Channel on Sunday.

It is believed to be the first Australian TV series to be sold internationally before broadcast.

McLeod's Daughters screens internationally on Hallmark but its series deal was struck after the success of its telemovie. Sea Patrol is expected to premiere here in July.

And ABC TV's telemovie Curtin, starring William McInnes as our war-time prime minister, has been nominated in the made for TV movie category at June's Banff World Television Awards.

The deal for Sea Patrol, with Hal and Di McElroy the creators and executive producers, is of great consequence, particularly given Hallmark's interest was primarily on the strength of scripts, sizzle reels and trailers.

The McElroys showed Hallmark representatives just two finished episodes of the series this weekend at the MIP TV conference in Cannes.

"Obviously this vote of confidence is important," Nine's head of drama Jo Horsburgh said. "One hopes that will engender a strong interest in the series. It also bodes well for a second series, which is great for Australian drama. And it's a great signal to the international market of how great Australian drama can be."

Sea Patrol is also one of the most ambitious Australian dramas undertaken. It required the participation of the Australian navy for six weeks of filming on a Fremantle class patrol boat off Mission Beach. It was co-financed by Australia's Film Finance Corporation and the Pacific Film and Television Commission. Despite its high cost, it further defines to local networks the kind of dramas that are marketable internationally.

"Nine's always been strong in drama and certainly always had a focus on high-end dramas, that's a historic thing," Horsburgh said.

"McLeod's and Sea Patrol's point of difference is the landscape and the big stories, so this is in keeping with the Nine philosophy and we're very proud to be associated with (it)."

Curtin is the only Australian nominee in the Banff awards and is up against programs from Britain's Channel 4, ITV and BBC, and from South Africa and Canada. The Banff festival is considered one of the top three TV festivals in the world.

"We're delighted to be nominated and the timing of the nomination couldn't be better," producer Andrew Wiseman said.

"We've just tried to make a riveting good story."

By Michael Bodey
The Australian
April 19, 2007

[Note: acclaimed children's program Mortified was also among those nominated at the 2007 Banff World Television Awards]