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Tomorrow When the War Began moves to TV

Producer Michael Boughen walks us through the Tomorrow When the War Began book, to film, to TV adaption and what fans can expect.

Tomorrow When the War Began - the series/Ben King

Tomorrow When the War Began was an interesting balancing act for filmmaker Michael Boughen.

After producing the 2010 movie, steps were taken to make a sequel until Boughen realised John Marsden’s Tomorrow novels were perfectly suited to television.

Boughen was well aware of the importance of the books’ large fan-base and says it’s one of the most interesting challenges for anyone adapting such well-known works.

“At the end of the day, yes a lot of people have grown up reading the books and loved them (but) there a lot of people are out there that haven’t and want to engage with this on a purely entertainment level,” he says.

“You’ve got to balance the two.”

It required a lot of listening to fans, who he thinks will find the Tomorrow When the War Began TV series opens up the world to include much more detail within the book.

“I really felt it was an exciting journey to begin because we had so much more opportunity to really show a lot more character development, which you get in a book but you often don’t get on a 100-minute film,” he says.

There’s also a lot that’s completely fresh and new.

The story is familiar – about a group of teenage friends who find themselves some of the few last free citizens able to stand up to the “Asian Coalition” after they invade Australia – but it’s no longer told just from point-of-view of Ellie (played by Molly Daniels).

“We were therefore able to spend a lot more time with the various characters,” Boughen says, including even looking at what was going on with the teens’ captured parents.

“So we could also look at how being wrenched away from your parents initially seems like a really good idea because you can do whatever you want, but then it becomes really horrendous because you really do need that support, both moral and emotional.”

Even though it’s been updated and modernised, Boughen says the series still holds very true to the DNA of Marsden’s books. The author himself was kept informed of their plans, although he was happy to leave the screenwriting to the screenwriters.

“John is a fantastic author to have on side. He simply says, ‘I write books, I don’t do TV and film’ and he was pleased we were doing it,” Boughen says.

The casting of the teens – another challenge – was a lengthy process of around five months, but resulted in six newcomers who are actually, many of them, playing their onscreen ages.

With casting done, the shoot began in September, followed by a fast turnaround to get the six episodes done for the April 23 premiere. Not that you can tell watching it, Boughen says.

“From day one it was meant to be a cinematic experience… but at the same time get down into the real nitty gritty of character and story,” he says, assuring that they also “haven’t skimped on the explosions”.

Being a PG series about war also presented some unique obstacles for the potentially younger audience. While there are guns, chases, and “lots of bangs”, Boughen said a lot was implied or seen to convey the danger the teens were in.

The demographic also meant Tomorrow When the War Began became the first of four projects to receive funding from a partnership between Screen Australia and Twitter – to tap into the social media savvy audience.

And depending on how successful the series is, there’s always scope for more seasons.

“That’s something we can do for sure,” Boughen says. It depends on how it all travels of course, both locally and internationally, but there are seven books in the series and we’ve still got a lot of material that’s open to us to deal with.”

Tomorrow When the War Began premieres on ABC3 on April 23 at 7.30pm. Remember to tweet or post using the hashtag #TWTWB