Fremantle, Triptych Picures catch ‘The Trespassers’

Meg Mundell.

Fremantle and Triptych Pictures’ Kristian Moliere are teaming up to make a TV drama adapted from New Zealand-born author Meg Mundell’s second novel The Trespassers.

The tome follows a shipload of migrant workers fleeing from a pandemic-stricken UK who seek a fresh start in Australia. For nine-year-old Cleary the journey promises adventure, for former nurse Billie it’s a chance to put a shameful mistake behind her, while struggling schoolteacher Tom hopes for a brighter future.

But when a crew member is murdered and people start falling gravely ill, the Steadfast descends into chaos. Trapped on the ship, the trio must join forces to survive the journey and its aftermath.

The screenplay is being written by Andy Cox, who was a script consultant on Stephen Johnson’s High Ground, script editor on Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin and script consultant on Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket.

Moliere, who runs Triptych Pictures with Julie Byrne, read the book before it was published, rang Fremantle MD Chris Oliver-Taylor and suggested they co-produce the project. Oliver-Taylor readily agreed and Fremantle optioned the novel.

Cox and Moliere will develop the 8-part series with Fremantle’s drama team headed by director of scripted Jo Porter, who said: “This captivating novel’s unique framing of a story that deals with class, refugees, and fear set in a world in the not-too-distant future feels highly relevant in today’s climate.

“It lends itself to the kind of event television that makes it the perfect addition to our international drama slate.”

Cox, whose credits include Kriv Stenders’ Lucky Country and Leigh Sheehan’s Under a Red Moon, is also adapting Peter Temple’s final novel Truth, the sequel to The Broken Shore, for Triptych Pictures and Hoodlum Entertainment. The plot follows a cop as he investigates a spate of killings during devastating bush fires in Victoria.

Moliere (The Babadook, Wake In Fright) tells IF he had been talking to Oliver-Taylor, an unofficial mentor to Triptych Pictures, about potential co-productions for several years.

Mundell’s novel was among a bunch of books he received from the publisher QUP. He was introduced to Cox years ago by Robert Connolly and John Maynard when they distributed Lucky Country.

“As soon as Andy Cox and I read Meg’s gripping and powerful novel, we could envisage a television adaptation that we knew would resonate with audiences,” he said.

“Through a group of isolated strangers forming connections, the book explores a range of relevant contemporary issues in a tense and suspenseful setting.”

The Melbourne-based Mundell’s first novel was dystopian thriller Black Glass. She said: “I’m rapt to have signed with the Triptych and Fremantle teams and excited about working with Andy and Kristian as they develop The Trespassers for screen. Andy’s a hugely talented screenwriter and the perfect person to bring the book to life in this new form.”