The ‘youngsters’ in the TV business are giving big-money Hollywood producers a run for their money these days. Who can imagine entertainment from 2016 onwards without Netflix Originals? Or a world without Amazon Prime Video’s American Gods?
Video-on-demand (VOD) streaming services are opting to create their own content, and sources close to home are following suit. Showmax is working on their second locally-produced original show, The Girl from St. Agnes, a murder mystery headed up by South Africa’s award-winning Quizzical Pictures and produced by Harriet Gavshon.
The Girl from St. Agnes is the streaming service’s first original scripted drama, whereas Showmax’s first original, Tali’s Wedding Diary, was the service’s first comedy show.
Mostly filmed in a town called Ixopo in the South African Midlands, The Girl from St. Agnes is based at a boarding school. The setting was itself based on producer Gavshon’s own experience at a private South Africa boarding school, a move that contributes to the show’s realism.
The story follows the mysterious death of a fairly popular student at the school, which sets off the drama teacher’s quest for answers. Her search unearths many secrets and hidden truths that suggest foul play. This leads her to a number of suspects with their own motives — who all might’ve wanted the girl dead for their own twisted reasons.
The story incorporates relevant issues, not just for South Africans, but globally. “The series deals with misogyny, it deals with teenage sexuality and identity. The issues are very universal, and they’re issues that are very much in the zeitgeist now,” says Gavshon.
In the making
Gavshon says that The Girl from St. Agnes incorporates a story that will resonate with a global audience. “It’s a universal story set in an environment that’s recognisable. Even though it has some things that are very peculiar to South Africa,” says Gavshon
And this isn’t her first rodeo either. Gavshon’s production company, Quizzical Pictures, has been collecting awards for year — most notably a Peabody Award, a Rose d’Or, and an iInternational Emmy nomination.
Filming for The Girl from St. Agnes started earlier this month, and it’s currently in production. When complete the show will consist on eight episodes of 52 minutes each, and the creators are planning to launch on Showmax by January 2019.