Tony Tilse looks forward to the challenge of directing the ‘Miss Fisher’ movie

Tony Tilse (R) with DOP Roger Lanser on the set of the Miss Fisher series.

Pursuing his passion for projects that take him out of his comfort zone, Tony Tilse is in Indonesia shooting Grisse, a period drama commissioned by HBO Asia.

After that wraps, the director will face a different challenge as he starts pre-production on Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears.

The theatrical movie spin-off of the ABC’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will follow Essie Davis’ private detective as she embarks on a global adventure to find missing treasure, solve murders and break aviation records.

Although it will be the feature debut of Tilse, who was the set-up director of the series produced by Every Cloud Productions’ Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox, he sees little or no difference between the formats.

“The line between cinema and television has blurred,” Tilse tells IF via Skype from Batam. “It’s about getting the emotions right, layered with some great visuals.

“With Miss Fisher we will have a great juggling act: striking the right balance between appealing to those who love the series and those who have never watched it and want to be entertained in a cinema.”

Scripted by Cox, the plot will feature romantic wayside stops in the Far East, sojourns in the mansions of London and a battle for survival in the Arabian desert, with shooting expected in Melbourne, London and Morocco. Roadshow will release in Australia, part of its intensified commitment to producing and developing Australian films.

At the end of May Tilse will finish filming Grisse, an English-language Indonesian Western set in the 1860s which follows an unlikely group of people in a town in Java controlled by colonial forces. They rebel but find that freedom comes with a heavy price.

The international cast is drawn from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Australia. In a twist, all the female characters are strong individuals.

Tilse is directing six episodes and the showrunner/creator Mike Wiluan is helming two. “It is set in a very heightened universe,” he says. “HBO Asia has high hopes for the international release.”

That’s his third HBO Asia project following Serangoon Road (a co-production with the ABC) and Grace, a thriller centring on a father’s mistake which condemns his family to unspeakable horror.

Last year he directed two episodes of Harrow, the ABC/ABC Studios International crime procedural drama produced by Hoodlum’s Tracey Robertson, Nathan Mayfield and Leigh McGrath. To his frustration he has only watched his episodes because of the lengthy Indonesian shoot.

The scripts by Stephen M. Irwin were so good, Tilse says, “You just had to turn up and shoot it.” He will be surprised if the series isn’t renewed.

Before Harrow he directed Playmaker Media’s Chosen, a three-part Mandarin-language action and suspense thriller based on a US series which was commissioned by Chinese online streaming platform iQIYI.

To prepare, Tilse did an intensive 12 week course in Mandarin. Although he realised he would never master the language, he got a good sense of the dialect’s grammar and rhythm, helped by a Mandarin interpreter on the set.

The director has not lined up anything post the Miss Fisher movie but is developing his own projects. As he says, “I look for projects that take me out of my comfort zone.”