An unsolved murder, a detective with a dark past, a bitterly divided island on the edge. For the creators of “Farpoint,” which is being pitched at the co-production forum during Rome’s MIA Market this week, all the elements are there for a riveting “Med Noir” series that marks the first stab at high-end international drama for the island nation of Cyprus.
The series is produced by the U.K.’s Three River Fiction and Cyprus-based Caretta Films and Splash Screen Entertainment, with ZDF Enterprises onboard as a distributor. It’s inspired by a real-life murder case in the 1990s that rattled an island nation best-known to millions of annual holidaymakers for its sun-soaked beaches and hedonistic nightlife, but split between the Turkish North and the Greek South by a U.N. buffer zone.
“Cyprus is a country that’s home to Greeks, Turks, British, and also a huge number of U.N. forces that are throughout the buffer zone that cuts the island in half,” said series co-creator and co-writer Andreas Kyriacou. “I wanted to use [the murder case] as the basis for a fictional story that will give me the opportunity to speak a little bit more about the island, and it’s very unique place in Europe.”
To do so, he enlisted the help of fellow scripter and co-creator Sophie McVeigh, who was instantly drawn to the character of newly appointed Detective Chief Inspector Ashley Gallagher, the first ever female commander of the regional police force in the Sovereign Base Areas, a British territory located in Cyprus. “She’s a woman ahead of her time,” McVeigh said. “On top of being a fish out of water she’s having to deal with a great deal of pressure to prove herself in a male-dominated world.”
Gallagher is looking for a break after closing a long-running hunt for a serial rapist in the U.K. and dealing with the fallout from a messy divorce. Instead, she gets thrust into a murder investigation that forces her to confront dark secrets about the sun-splashed Mediterranean island – as well as some of her own.
“She thinks that she’s escaping. And Cyprus seems like the perfect opportunity,” McVeigh said. “She thinks that it’s going to be an easy posting in the sun, and a chance to just get away from it. But what I really like about her is that she can’t escape from who she is.”
The scribe compared her protagonist to recent small-screen characters like investigator Mare Sheehan in the HBO drama “Mare of Easttown” or DCI Silva in the BBC police procedural “Vigil.” “She’s a strong but complicated, multifaceted female lead who takes risks and sometimes makes mistakes, and whose own trauma informs her dogged search for justice – and that’s what makes her so compelling to me,” she said.
“Farpoint” co-creator and creative producer Ben McGrath, of Three River Fiction, said the series will offer a localized take on the wildly popular Scandi Noir genre, something the show’s creators have dubbed “Med Noir.”
“We are going for a similar aesthetic, but we’re kind of flipping it,” McGrath said. “In a Scandi Noir, you’d create tone and atmosphere with the landscape, and it would be quite sparse, it might be quite snowy, or quite brutalist…. We want to do something very similar in terms of the effect it has on the viewer, embracing that real unique quality or qualities that Cyprus has. And I think it’s kind of reasonably unrivaled, and it’s untapped.”
Mirela Nastase, of ZDF Enterprises, said that audiences are ready for a different spin on the noir genre. “Viewers, after two years of the pandemic, they’re still fascinated with true crime and crime, but they want a bit more sun,” she said. “I think everyone will be really happy to travel and to discover an island that many visited but many haven’t, and to really understand the complexity, the political, the cultural, social complexity of this little place.”
It is, for viewers and creators alike, a chance to enter unchartered territory. “Cyprus is virgin ground for series,” said producer Constantinos Nikiforou of Caretta Films. “Nothing like this was even brought to the table for negotiations.” Not only does the island offer a variety of appealing locations – many of which have never been seen onscreen before – but it boasts an attractive cash rebate of up to 40%. Sweetening the deal for foreign producers is an additional rebate of up to 25% for above-the-line talent, on top of the 40%.
The creators of “Farpoint” believe they have all the ingredients for a series with long-lasting – and long-term – potential. “There are a number of story strands that we sort of have deliberately left open for that possibility,” McGrath said. “But then it’s quite clear from the [series bible] that it’s also a close-ended, six-part story in its own right.
“We’re looking to take this forward to script,” he continued. “A big part of the MIA experience is to effectively bring on board further partnerships to help us close that funding and take it forward, get a script written and build from that.”