ACT’s problem: Filming of two six-part TV series The Code and Secret City starts

Phillip Thomas



Canberra faced a “first world problem” starting Monday.

Too many TV production companies began shooting political thrillers.
In Foxtel-Matchbox Pictures corner there was Secret City: “Beneath the placid facade of Canberra, amidst rising tension between China and America, senior political journalist Harriet Dunkley uncovers a secret city of interlocked conspiracies, putting innocent lives in danger – including her own.”

In the ABC-Playmaker Media corner was the second series of The Code in which two brothers – a journalist and a hacker – track down illegal weapons, drugs and people with dangerous ideas.
And it seems, as workloads go, it was all too much for the ACT film industry to carry on its own.

According to Screen ACT, many of the crew for both productions had to be brought into Canberra.

While it will be great for restaurants and hotels, it has exposed a shortage of talent in the territory’s screen sector.

“It shows how nascent the industry here is,” Screen ACT director Monica Penders said.
“We’ve been strong on factual productions, such as documentaries, but when it comes to high-end drama we’re only just getting our feet wet.

She described it as a “first world problem” and said the flood of production money into the territory would drive the growth of the talent pool in the local sector.

Crews faced the very real challenge of keeping their camera gear dry on Monday as rain fell consistently through the afternoon.

Ms Penders said Canberra’s size and location made it a great option for production companies.

“You can fly into Canberra and be in the city in 10 minutes and in a sheep paddock 10 minutes later,” she said.

On Monday Fairfax Media spotted the cast of The Code near Commonwealth Avenue Bridge on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin and it is understood the Secret City crew had been filming near the lake as well before the rain moved them to an indoor location.

Secret City was believed to be the most expensive production filmed in Canberra and has advertised for a “production runner-driver” to drive cast and rushes from Canberra to Sydney across a three-week period.

Anna Torv, Dan Wyllie, and Alex Dimitriades will star in Secret City while Jacki Weaver will play a Labor senator.

The mini-series is based on two books,The Marmalade Files and the Mandarin Code, by journalists Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis.