After setting audience records for a recent drama launch on Foxtel’s Showcase channel, Lambs Of God has been sold to 26 international territories including Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, with negotiations underway in the US and the UK.
Although Sky Vision is the global distributor, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will go to Sky for the UK.
The series was made for Foxtel by Lingo Pictures, a partnership between television producers Jason Stephens and Helen Bowden launched four years ago. Stephens is creative director and Bowden is managing director.
In that time in addition to Lambs Of God they have made Wake In Fright, On The Ropes, Upright and The Secrets She Keeps.
The partners have stuck to the original plan with some success – focus on high-end drama that could be attractive to an international audience.
“The challenges for us initially have been like those facing any small, new company – cash flow and wondering where the next commission will be coming from,” Stephens told Mediaweek.
“When we met we had a few projects in development which gave us a bit of a head start. Helen had been developing Wake In Fright and that was our first project.
“And like any business, once you get some momentum it starts to get a little easier. Each of us also came with a track record, which gave us a head start.
“We have worked hard at establishing the brand and getting in front of the broadcasters. You need to be constantly keeping your eye on production and development.”
Rather than having a range of projects in development, Stephens said Lingo focuses on one particular project and tries to get it to market as quickly as possible. “That means we have to keep our development slate relatively small compared to bigger producers.
“The people we approach to give us their books or ideas to develop know will get it to market quickly to gauge the response.”
Although Lingo Pictures is working with premium drama projects, it has managed to place programming with a range of broadcasters from Foxtel and Sky, to Network 10 and SBS. “We try to select the best partner for a project before we pitch, but we are more than happy to work with anybody.”
Lingo is always looking for pre-sale opportunities internationally, something they achieved with Upright where Tim Minchin’s profile helped secure a pre-sale with Sky.
The current hit Lambs Of God has attracted much attention because of a number of factors including the cast – Ann Dowd, Jessica Barden and Essie Davis – and the fact it is set in the northern hemisphere.
It’s hard to label the reasons for the success of Lambs Of God. It’s compelling viewing, but it is hard to pigeonhole the series. Stephens said: “It defies genres in many ways. It is a mash of styles – part comedy, part thriller, part mystery and part gothic.”
Critics have been glowing in their praise: Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado wrote, “Lambs Of God is a gothic masterpiece, a demented mash-up of multiple genres that leaves you gasping at every turn, right up until that unexpected ending.”
Stephens has been following the comments from viewers on social media around the world as the show premieres in different markets. “They are all saying much the same thing – ‘I don’t know what this is, but I really like it’.
“We wanted to make something very distinctive, and we have managed that. These days with so much choice, and so much content, you really need to stand out from the crowd.”
So far the series has also screened in Spain, Poland, Sweden and it screens in New Zealand from this week.
The book Lambs Of God by Marele Day was originally optioned by Hollywood. “Back then it was developed to be a feature film,” said Stephens. “When we optioned it for television we decided 4 x 1 hours was the best format. In doing that they had to develop some new stories. In the book the whole story happens on the island, but we also took the story to the mainland and introduced new characters including the sister of Ignatius, even though she was mentioned in the book.”
Stephens said there would be no second season. “We have exhausted it. It was a self-contained story that had an ending. It wouldn’t feel right to do more.
“I’d say yes to doing more in the genre, but I’m not quite sure what the genre is!” [Laughs]
“It was a beast of a show to produce. We had to build a large set at Fox Studios. Everything was built on trickery. Everything that you see onscreen doesn’t exist, which was an enormous challenge.”
In addition to Fox Studios there were locations in the Blue Mountains, Tasman Island and the south coast of NSW. “We even sent someone to Ireland to shoot some Irish villages for establishing shots. All that needed to be welded together to make it look like the same location.”
Top Photo: Essie Davis in Lambs Of God