Libertine Pictures teams with Downton Abbey producers for BBC crime series

Libertine Pictures and writer Neil Cross have teamed up with leading international TV producer Carnival Films to develop a major new crime series set in Rotorua.

Libertine will develop the contemporary drama series with Carnival, producer of internationally-acclaimed British period drama Downton Abbey, for the BBC.

Provisionally titled Bay of Plenty, the series is a darkly eccentric crime drama set in Rotorua, created by Libertine’s Creative Director and multi-award winning film and TV writer Neil Cross.

Richard Fletcher, Joint Managing Director of Libertine, said the series would be shot primarily in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty with a New Zealand crew and a New Zealand and international cast.

“Neil is British but has lived here for a number of years and is passionate about doing a New Zealand project,” said Fletcher.

“A London police detective relocates to Rotorua with her husband and children with the notion she is moving to paradise. In the tradition of shows like Twin Peaks and Fargo the series explores the beauty, eeriness and dark underbelly of this small city at the end of the earth.

"Viewers can expect the kind of darkness that characterises Neil's work but with a quirky humour too."

Gareth Neame, Executive Producer, Carnival Films, said: “We love Neil's take on this story and believe that audiences will be intrigued by the environment and the atmosphere he will create. We're excited to be partnering with the BBC which has had such a successful relationship with Neil and we're also looking forward to embarking on our first project in New Zealand.”

The series will be executive produced by Richard Fletcher, Paul Davis and Neil Cross for Libertine and Gareth Neame and Nigel Marchant for Carnival. NBCUniversal will handle international sales and will launch the series at MIPCOM, the upcoming television market in Cannes from 13-16 October 2014. The deal was brokered by Carnival Films’ Chief Operating Officer David O’Donoghue and Libertine Pictures’ Richard Fletcher. Phil Temple is the Development Producer for Carnival Films. Neil Cross is represented by Michael McCoy of Independent Talent.

Filming is expected to get underway during the second half of 2015. The project will be financed by international licence fees and the Government’s New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG). It is the first major New Zealand-originated TV production to be announced since the launch of the incentive scheme in April.

Fletcher said: “The NZSPG aims to move production companies away from the service model to an intellectual property creation model with long-term benefits realised from a production. This project is a direct example of how that is working in practice.

“It will bring significant investment to the local and national economy. The vast majority of the cast will be New Zealanders and it will employ many people from the New Zealand television and film industry and from the Bay of Plenty region. The initial production is being developed as eight one-hour episodes but our vision is for it to become a long-running series.”

The project offers opportunities for creatives in the New Zealand television industry to work on a world-class project destined for international audiences.

“Libertine was set up with the aim of actively working in the international market. The NZSPG and this series provided us with that opportunity,” said Fletcher.

“We are very pleased to be working with producers of the calibre of Carnival and to have the support of the BBC and NBCUniversal. We could not wish for better partners. Their expertise and market strength are a huge asset to the series.

“This will give a team of New Zealand writers the chance to work with some of the world's best in television development and will provide exciting opportunities for New Zealand behind the camera talent.”

Cross, who will also be showrunner for the project, is creator and sole writer of the multi-award winning BBC crime thriller Luther, for which he has been twice nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing and which screens in more than 160 countries. His many film and TV projects also include writing the 2013 international hit film Mama, he was lead scriptwriter for the acclaimed Series 6 and Series 7 of BBC spy drama Spooks and recently scripted two episodes of Dr Who