“A stand alone, one-off telemovie is quite a hard sell. What would be better is to pitch it as a franchise such as Rebus or Wallander. That’s what executives want,” he explains.
“So we optioned four Jack Irish books. There are two that we are introducing and hopefully we’ll do the other two, and he has a fifth as a work in progress. The game plan is to do all five as a Jack Irish suite of telemovies.”
The second, Jack Irish: Black Tide airs this Sunday night on ABC1.
But there are plans to adapt Dead Point and White Dog novels.
Collie, from Essential Media, had the opportunity to option the novels after the rights to Bad Debts had lapsed with another producer.
“I thought ABC was the right home for it because he’s hard to define. He’s not an archetypical homicide detective or private investigator, he’s actually a bloke like you and I, maybe with a bit more presence, who gets caught up in the eye of the storm,” he says.
“So it’s not a neat genre sell to all networks and also it’s very character driven….. also because I’d established relationships with the ABC by doing Rake and a number of other things like Stepfather of the Bride.”
Temple had made attempts to adapt Bad Debts but under Collie, Andrew Knight wrote the screenplay with Matt Cameron adapting Black Tide.
“Peter had found it really hard because he had to drop characters and storylines and make it 2 x 100 minutes as a two-part telemovie. But the ABC wanted a self-contained telemovie. I think he found it too hard to emotionally cut himself off. He loves TV but maybe not the actual machinations of it,” says Collie.
“Both Andrew and Matt really channeled the detective voice. When it came to constructing the dialogue they could almost lift from the book and other times they had to create their own dialogue but hear Peter Temple’s voice in it. There’s a laconic, droll delivery with humour that is a bit ironic.”
The two telemovies have attracted solid reviews for ABC1 and strong ratings in a competitive timeslot. The ensemble cast has assembled some of the best character actors in the country.
“Getting Guy Pearce was a coup. We had a few Jack Irishes in mind, but it just shows you how much telly has changed, internationally, that it’s attracting big players,” says Collie.
“Obviously a film star isn’t going to do a long-running series but the fact that it was a telemovie in Melbourne ticks a few boxes.”
He also attributed the stellar cast to three drawcards: Temple, Pearce and Knight / Cameron scripts.
“I think they acted like a magnet to attract a great cast,” he says.
“A lot of the cast are only here for one day but in a sense it probably works for them. It’s an embarrassment of riches and for some roles in particular it was really hard to make the call.”
Jack Irish: Black Tide airs 8:30pm Sunday on ABC1.