LILLE, France — Lingo Pictures Productions and Endemol Shine’s new Australian limited series “Lambs of God,” based on the Australian novel of the same name by Marele Day, world premieres on Wednesday, March 27 in the main International Competition at this year’s Series Mania festival.
The series follows three devout nuns, the last sisters of the Order of St. Agnes, who live in extreme isolation on an island off the coast of Ireland. They spend their days practicing ancient rituals, tending their sheep, knitting and telling their own versions of classic fairy tales in a routine that seems unchanged by the centuries of slow collapse affecting the monastery around them.
Their world is thrown of balance when an attractive young priest from the mainland stumbles through the brambles into their home, and the sisters are caught up in a conflict between passion and their beliefs.
Produced by Jason Stephens at Lingo Pictures Production for Australian broadcaster Foxtel, the series was written by Australian Writers’ Guild Awgie Award nominee Sarah Lambert (“Dance Academy”) and directed by popular Australian film and TV director Jeffrey Walker (“Ali’s Wedding”).
Lingo’s Stephens and his business partner Helen Bowden discovered the novel together and pitched the show to Foxtel, who supported the series from the word go, with Endemol Shine Australia contributing seed money to develop the project. Sky Vision handles international sales.
Variety discussed the series’ broadcast possibilities, the rise of the short-format series, and adapting a novel for TV with Stephens, Lambert and Sky Vision director of sales Leona Connell.
Where do you think the series can find success? Which territories and what kinds of audiences are you targeting?
Stephens: The themes that play out in the series will, I believe, resonate with audiences in territories around the world. Its depiction of strong and amazingly resourceful women who challenge a historically male dominated institution – the Church – are very timely. It’s also a gripping, thrilling, mysterious drama. And, we have an incredible cast who international audiences will respond to.
What kind of broadcasting do you envision for the series?
Connell: We think the series will do very well on SVOD and premium pay TV services as it has that high marketability factor. However, we envisage that it will also work on some free to air services, as four part mini-series appeal to quite a few of our free TV clients.
The series limited format is a bit unorthodox. Why the decision to do four, one-hour episodes?
Lambert: Four hours ended up feeling like the natural fit for the genre and story. We were lucky that from the outset Foxtel was keen on the idea of an event mini-series; something high-end, unique and bold. And since we made the show, we’ve been seeing more short form series coming through. I think that may be in response to people feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content out there. Committing to four hours rather than eight or ten makes for an attractive choice. It’s the perfect weekend viewing experience, right? The idea of an audience leaning in to listen to a fairytale then taking them on this wild and visceral ride that grabs hold of you and won’t let go until you get to the “happily ever after” ending.
Can you talk a bit about adapting the book for TV? Was Marele involved?
Lambert: Marele Day was incredibly generous in trusting me with the book. She made it clear from the outset, she didn’t want to impose on the adaptation process. But I wanted her to be there on the first day of the writer’s room so we could discuss my approach and hear from her any caveats she might have on the direction we wanted to take the story and characters. Adapting the book was challenging. Tonally, it’s both gritty and very real, then sometimes fantastical and also darkly funny. What resonated for me was that this is a novel about women standing up to power – the church, men, society – and reclaiming our stories, our knowledge and our histories. It’s about rewriting ‘fairytales’ that have imprisoned us all, male and female. Above all, for me, it was a novel that celebrates the glorious messiness of the divine feminine and sisterhood. I think it’s why the novel resonates so strongly even after all this time and it’s really why I wanted to make it.
Does the series have a definitive end that matches the book, or is there a possibility of more?
The series departs from the book in many ways but the ending definitely embraces the spirit of the book. The end does allude to the beginning of a new fairytale for the next generation of sisters though, so I guess there is always the possibility of more. Never say never.