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Singapore-Australian drama big boost for Perth
Singapore-Australian drama big boost for Perth

WA film and television veteran Paul Barron is making a long-awaited return to adult drama with Serangoon Road, a new 10-part detective series currently shooting in Singapore that marks the first drama co-production between ABC TV and HBO Asia.

In recent years Barron, the producer of Nicole Kidman's early films Windrider and Bush Christmas and Heath Ledger's breakout teen drama Sweat, has concentrated on children's programs including Stormworld, Streetsmartz and Parallax.

Don Hany (Offspring, East West 101) heads the cast as Australian-born Sam Callaghan, who spent his childhood in Japanese internment camps during World War II and returned to fight in the Malayan Emergency.

Joan Chen (Mao's Last Dancer, Home Song Stories, Twin Peaks) plays Sam's neighbour Patricia, who asks him to help keep afloat her recently murdered husband’s private detective agency.

The detective agency's activities in exotic and tumultuous 1960s Singapore soon brings Sam and Patricia into conflict with some of its most powerful and ruthless factions.

Barron said Serangoon Road had been in development for three years but he had been long fascinated with the history of Singapore in the 1960s.

His love affair with Singapore started with his first visit in the1970s and his 1990s trilogy of Singapore Sling telemovies were partly shot and set there. He also filmed part of Stormworld in Singapore.

Given the proximity and same time zone to Perth, Barron said he always thought Singapore had the potential to be a great partner for WA.

Other cast include Perth-born Rachael Blake (Wildside, The Straits), Maeve Dermody (Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms) and Michael Dorman (The Secret Life of Us), while directors include Tony Tilse (Underbelly) and Peter Andrikidis (Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms, Killing Time).

Veteran Perth production designer Herbert Pinter (Cloudstreet, Mao's Last Dancer) is also working on the series created and produced by Barron.

Serangoon Road, which is expected to shoot in Singapore and Batam Island until the end of November, is a co-production between Singapore’s Infinite Studios and Barron’s Great Western Entertainment. Financing partners include ScreenWest, ABC TV, ABC Commercial, HBO Asia and international distributors Content Media Corporation.

"This is a very significant collaboration between Australian and Singaporean producers that will create compelling drama from our region," said Kim Dalton, director of ABC TV.

"We are very pleased to be working with HBO Asia on its first locally commissioned television drama series. ABC TV’s work with Asian broadcasters, producers and funding agencies now extends across drama, animation and children’s programming."

Jonathan Spink, chief executive of HBO Asia, said he was pleased to be in partnership with ABC TV to make high-quality locally-produced drama for HBO's Asian audience.

"While HBO Asia is still in the business of delivering the biggest and best Hollywood blockbusters and series, this milestone investment marks the beginning of our commitment in producing in top quality, relevant and riveting content."

The State Government has invested $600,000 in Serangoon Road under the ABC ScreenWest Matched Primetime Television Production Fund.

Arts minister John Day said the partnership would help other WA producers identify new production opportunities and the flow-on effect for the screen industry would be substantial.

The first Australian-Singapore drama co-production was facilitated by a three-way agreement between ScreenWest, Singapore's Media Development Authority and ABC TV.

"This $600,000 State Government investment will translate into a significant spend in WA as much of the post-production will be done in Perth," he said.