Luke Arnold, Bella Heathcote, Jay Ryan headline Stan/Nine’s ‘Scrublands’

Greg McLean, Luke Arnold, Bella Heathcote, and Jay Ryan.

Stan and Nine have announced their next co-commission following last year’s Bali 2002, with production underway in Victoria on an adaptation of Chris Hammer’s 2018 novel Scrublands, starring Luke Arnold, Bella Heathcote, and Jay Ryan.

Set in an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, the story opens with a charismatic and dedicated young priest (Ryan) calmly opening fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners.

One year later, investigative journalist Martin Scarsden (Arnold) arrives in the town of Riversend to write what should be a simple feature story on the anniversary of the tragedy. But when his instincts kick in and he digs beneath the surface, the previously accepted narrative begins to fall apart and he finds himself in a life-and-death race to uncover the truth.

Joining Arnold, Ryan, and Heathcote in the cast are Zane Ciarma, Adam Zwar, Victoria Thaine, Robert Taylor, Stacy Clausen, Genevieve Morris, and newcomer Ella Ferris.

An Easy Tiger production, the series is being directed by Greg McLean from scripts written by Kelsey Munro, Jock Serong and Felicity Packard, who also produces alongside David Redman and Easy Tiger’s Ian Collie and Rob Gibson.

Michael Healy and Andy Ryan are executive producing for 9Network with Cailah Scobie and Amanda Duthie for Stan. International sales are being handled by Abacus Media Rights.

The majority of filming for the VicScreen-supported production will take place at Maldon in the Goldfields region, with some scenes to be shot in Melbourne. It is expected to employ more than 500 people from the state.

Collie and Gibson said they immediately saw the screen potential of Hammer’s debut fiction novel, which has since spawned sequels, Silver and Trust.

“From the moment we opened Chris Hammer’s ripping page-turner, we knew Scrublands was destined to be a must-watch crime series,” they said.

“We’re delighted that our partners at Stan and Nine agree wholeheartedly, and we’re thrilled to work with the incredible team there to bring this to the screen, with the crucial support of VicScreen and international partners Abacus. In the masterful hands of director Greg McLean, writer/producer Felicity Packard and writers Kelsey Munro and Jock Serong, and producer David Redman, Scrublands will be an unmissable TV event for rusted-on Chris Hammer fans and everyone else alike.”

Scobie said Scrublands promised to be a “powerful and compulsive crime thriller”.

“A remarkable crime series set in Australia’s unforgiving and harsh landscape, Easy Tiger has secured an outstanding core cast in Luke Arnold, Bella Heathcote and Jay Ryan and we look forward to collaborating with them on Scrublands,” she said.