Given the WWII setting of author John Birmingham’s Axis of Time book trilogy, it’s fitting that filmmaker Luke Sparke became inspired to work on a television adaptation while working on a project detailing the same era.
While he read the first book, Weapons of Choice, upon its release in 2004, Sparke told IF it wasn’t until he came across the series again at Brisbane Airport while en route to join the costume and wardrobe department on mini-series The Pacific in 2007 that the potential of the subject matter dawned on him.
“I picked it up and read it on the plane and couldn’t put it down,” he said.
“That’s when the gears starting turning that it would make a good TV show, but at the time I wasn’t in any position to create one.
“I kept the book, which is the copy I am using to do all my notes in.”
His company Sparke Films has now secured the television rights to Birmingham’s Weapons of Choice, Designated Targets, and Final Impact, with a drama series, tentatively titled Weapons of Choice, in late development and offers out to the first-choice cast.
The trilogy centres on a military experiment in the near future that has thrust an American-led multinational armada back to 1942, right into the middle of the US naval task force speeding toward Midway Atoll, and a renowned US triumph of the war.
Initial jubilation at the news the Allies would win the war is quickly doused by the realisation that the time travellers themselves, by their very presence, have rendered history null and void, and that other elements of the 21 century may have also made the trip to the benefit of Yamamoto and the Japanese.
The pilot is a collaboration between executive producer and showrunner Luke Sparke and co-writer Jay Thames. Carly Imrie and Carmel Imrie will produce, alongside Trimax Media’s Alan Glazier (The Bank Job) and Zachary Garred.
Sparke said he first consulted with Birmingham while completing post-production on his feature debut, Red Billabong, in 2015.
“I started the treatment in 2011 and 2012, before Red Billabong, because I really loved the series. Then I perfected it and had the ideas in my head of what I wanted to do by 2015 to give it to John,” he said.
“He was really receptive straight away and really took everything I said on board, including changing characters and adding new characters and changing the stuff around to make it work for a TV series.
“From there I got cracking on writing season one, which I have since given to John. We have gone back and forth to make sure he is happy and make sure it is workable and achievable for what we are doing.”
Since then, Sparke has written and directed the 2018 sci-fi thriller Occupation and its sequel Occupation: Rainfall, which will premiere on US Netflix on October 9, having already made it into the country’s top 10 VOD releases upon its digital release in June.
He connected with Thames after finishing work on the latest installment, with the pair working throughout the past year on the series.
As with his Occupation titles, Sparkes hopes to film in Queensland.
“The book takes in the Pacific during WWII and I think the state offers me a lot to work with for jungles, canefields, and tropical climates,” he said.
“We’ve already location scouted numerous areas throughout the year, which has been good.”
Going forward, Sparke will divide his time between the series and the next chapter of the Occupation series, which has been written.
He is already fielding interest from multiple networks, streamers, and sales agents for Weapons of Choice, a project he said had the potential to be a “huge streaming TV show”.
“It’s my first time showrunning a show, so I’m super excited and super confident to get into that.
“I m pitching continual seasons up to three and four; I’ve got treatments out there for many, many seasons that these books can draw up and expand upon.”