Tony Ayres and Christian White are co-creating Clickbait, an eight-episode thriller for Netflix, the streaming giant’s first original series to be produced in Melbourne.
Tony Ayres Productions (TAP), Matchbox Pictures and the UK’s Heyday Television will produce the series scripted by White with funding from the Federal Government’s Location Incentive program and Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund.
American Brad Anderson, whose credits include the USA Network’s The Sinner, ABC’s Forever and the movies The Machinist and Beirut, will direct the first two episodes.
Due to shoot in November at Docklands Studios, the production will bring in more than $36 million of international investment, employ about 540 cast, crew and extras and use the services of 290 local businesses, according to Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts.
That implies a production budget of around $5 million an hour. The cast is expected to be a mix of Australian and international actors with casting handled by Jane Norris in Australia and US-based Douglas Abiel, whose credits include Succession, Mozart in the Jungle and Manchester by the Sea. There is no word yet on the other directors.
The MEAA says it is finalising a cast agreement with the producers to ensure Australian actors receive rates and residuals that are in line with “best global standard.”
The plot revolves around a mystery told from the viewpoints of various individuals, a similar format to The Slap, Ayres’ adaptation of the Christos Tsiolkas novel, in the context of how the Internet is shaping society.
According to the synopsis, the thriller explores the ways “in which our most dangerous and uncontrolled impulses are fueled in the age of social media, and reveals the ever widening fractures we find between our virtual and real life personas.”
Anderson was hired as the lead director because Ayres admired his work and felt he really understood the concept and the creative ambition.
Ayres first met White when the writer won the Australian Writers’ Guild’s inaugural TV drama screenwriting competition with his series pilot One Year Later in 2013. The prize included meetings with the development team at Matchbox.
The pilot did not fly but Ayres and White started discussing ideas for other projects, which evolved into Clickbait. White has since co-written with writer-director Natalie Erika James her debut feature, psychological horror movie Relic.
“We’re thrilled that we are able to partner with Netflix on a passion project which we hope will have real global reach and impact,” says Ayres, who will serve as the showrunner.
“We are equally delighted to produce this US show in Melbourne. It’s an opportunity to showcase the international level of Australian talent both behind and in front of the camera.”
For the last few years Ayres had been keen to work with Heyday Television’s David Heyman (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Harry Potter, Gravity) and Tom Winchester. “They really responded to Clickbait and are the right creative partner,” Ayres said.
Matchbox Pictures MD Alastair McKinnon said: “Tony Ayres is one of the most prolific, talented and successful showrunners in Australia and Clickbait is Tony at his best – a thrilling and ambitious series for a global audience for which Netflix is the perfect partner.”
Channing Dungey, VP of original series for Netflix, added: “We’re excited to work with the entire Clickbait team to create this new series in Australia and share it with audiences around the globe. With world-class production facilities and talent, the Aussie screen industry is thriving and we thank the Federal Government and Victorian State Government for investing in and supporting this production.”
As IF reported, Andrea Denholm joins Tony Ayres Productions today as head of development after finishing up last Friday as a producer/partner at Princess Pictures.