Charles Russell, Samuel Ireland, Melanie Wozniak and Kylah Day in ‘Itch’ (Photo credit – Nic Duncan).
When BBC announcer Simon Mayo wrote a short story for Joe, his then 10-year-old son, he had no agent or publisher and he could not imagine the book turning into a TV series set halfway across the world in Australia.
Mayo’s tome Itch was published in 2012 and optioned the following year by Komixx Entertainment, the film and TV production company with headquarters in London and offices in Los Angeles.
Melanie Halsall, Komixx’s head of development, laboured for years on the project, which chronicles the adventures of Itchingham Lofte, a science-obsessed teenager who pursues the unusual and sometimes dangerous hobby of collecting all the elements on the periodic table.
When he discovers a new element with extraordinary powers he is forced to go on the run to protect it from sinister organisations who want it for their own ends.
Halsall’s patience paid off after Amanda Morrison was appointed MD of Komixx Entertainment’s Australian operation based in Perth in 2017 and they decided to pitch the series as an Australian production.
ABC ME commissioned the 10-part action-adventure targeted primarily at 8-to-12 year-olds, which is shooting in Albany, WA, directed by Renée Webster (The Heights) and Nicholas Verso (Nowhere Boys, Boys in the Trees).
Produced by Morrison, Tania Chambers and Halsall, it stars WAAPA graduate Samuel Ireland as Itch with a cast of newcomers, most based in WA, Melanie Wozniak, Charles Russell, Kylah Day, Harry Popple, Henry Mendez and Keala Kern, who were unearthed by casting director Jane Norris.
The scripts are by Halsall, Dan Berlinka, Ron Elliott, Heather Wilson, Jessica Brookman and Roger Monk. The investors include Screen Australia, Screenwest, Lotterywest and the Western Australian Regional Film Fund. ABC Commercial holds the worldwide distribution rights.
“We looked at doing the show as a co-production but the ABC loved it so much we decided to make it as a wholly Australian production,” Halsall tells IF. “We hope the BBC will take it.”
Morrison says: “It is a high-octane action-adventure with a fresh concept, which we are confident will appeal to international audiences.”
ABC acting head of children’s Libbie Doherty adds: “Itch is a fantastic adaptation of Simon Mayo’s successful novel that explores from all angles the ethical dilemma of humans’ impact on the environment.”
This is the latest in a line of adaptations from Komixx, most notably Vince Marcello’s romantic comedy The Kissing Booth, which stars Molly Ringwald, Joey King, Jacob Elordi and Joel Courtney and was acquired by Netflix.
Mayo tells IF he got the idea for the book after he heard about an app called The Elements, which educates users on the elements of the periodic table and how they combine to form the world around us. “It’s a surreal experience meeting the cast and crew,” he says a set visit in Albany.
The twist is that all “magic” in the book and the series is based on scientific facts, which he verified by consulting with professors of chemistry and nuclear physics.
Mayo, who was 50 when he wrote the book, wishes he had taken up writing years ago and has since published two more Itch novels, which Komixx has optioned.
Meanwhile Morrison has a large development slate including young adult content.