Kaitangata Twitch sells to ABC TV Australia

Kaitangata Twitch.
The television adaptation of Margaret Mahy's Kaitangata Twitch has sold to Australia’s A

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The thrilling NZ mystery drama Kaitangata Twitch has sold to Australia’s ABC TV in a deal bypassing the expected rush at the Television Market MIPJunior, which started on Saturday. 

Produced in New Zealand, Kaitangata Twitch is packed with drama, live-action, CGI, myth and magic, from the fertile imagination of internationally beloved author Margaret Mahy, who recently received the world’s most prestigious prize for children’s literature: the Hans Christian Andersen Award, given for a whole body of work.  She also won the Major Picture Book Prize at this year’s Boston Globe Horn book awards, while over two hundred of her stories have been translated into 15 different languages.

We are delighted that ABC TV will screen Kaitangata Twitch.  New Zealand has a wonderful, rich Maori culture and we have no doubt our audience will enjoy this very personal tale by Margaret Mahy," says Barbara Uecker of ABC TV.

“We are thrilled to have achieved our first sale with ABC TV Australia.  It’s perfectly suited to this excellent series, which we’re delighted to be a part of,” says Jack Lenz of distributor Lenz Entertainment, who are adding to their Pre-school, Children and Tween slate with this 13 part drama.

Kaitangata Twitch is directed by Yvonne Mackay, episodic director of some of New Zealand’s most popular drama including Duggan; The Insiders Guide to Happiness and the family feature The Silent One. 

The story is Mahy’s first cross-cultural tale, and a personal one, dealing with land dear to her heart and her family roots - her European New Zealand background and her 21st century part-Maori nephews and nieces. 

Kaitangata Twitch deals with a number of strong themes over 13 x half hours,” says director Mackay: 

“Conservation of the environment; the breakdown of family and most importantly, of young people finding their identity and their place within the world and their own mixed race family.”

The series also features an island that eats people!   Bringing the island to life has been in the hands of CGI wizard Ken Gorrie of Ian Taylor’s Animation Research Ltd (ARL).

In addition  to Anna Paquin and Keisha Castle-Hughes, 13 year old Te Waimarie Kessell proves to be another great Kiwi acting discovery in the lead role of Meredith, a girl who feels a strange connection to the ghost of a young girl and the island of Kaitangata [Kai=food; Tangata=People].  Kessell (the niece of actress Simone) stars alongside acclaimed stage and screen actor George Henare (Who wants to be 100?) as the mysterious old man, Lee Kaa and Charles Mesure (Bones, Without a Trace, Crossing Jordan) as Meredith’s Greenie father, Carey.  They are supported by some high quality talent, including Miriama Smith, Blair Strang and newcomers Kerry-Lee Dewing and James Davies.

The series has been adapted for television by top writers Gavin Strawhan; Michael Bennett and Laureate 2000 Briar Grace-Smith.  Shot in High Definition on location in Mahy’s territory - Governor’s Bay outside Christchurch, Kaitangata Twitch completed thirteen weeks of production in May 2009.  David Paul is Director of Photography and Paul Sutorius Editor. 

Both won respective awards for their work on the telefeature (Until Proven Innocent) at the Qantas TV Awards in September 09.  Gary Mackay (The Tattoist) is Production Designer and charismatic composer Gareth Farr (The Wedding) created the haunting New Zealand soundtrack maximizing the talents of Richard Nunns, a living expert on ancient Maori instruments. 

Kaitangata Twitch is commissioned by Maori Television and supported by Te Mangai Paho (TMP) and NZOnAir.   It is produced by veterans of many New Zealand dramas: Chris Hampson producer with Dorothee Pinfold and Yvonne Mackay Executive Producers.  Kaitangata Twitch will be distributed internationally by Canadian-based Lenz Entertainment and launched at MIPJunior in Cannes, France on 3-4th October 2009.  It will screen on Maori Television mid next year. 

Written by

Sian Clement

21 Oct 2009