Disney’s Australian content slate revealed, including The Clearing, cult series The Family

Family has always been at the heart of the Disney brand, but one of its first local commissions, announced on Tuesday morning as part of a long-awaited and expanded slate of Australian content, promises to put a whole new spin on the concept.

The meadowan eight-part series adapted from the 2019 novel In the clearing by JP Pomare, is a fictional account of life in The Family, the LSD and yoga-inspired cult founded by Melbourne wife Anne Hamilton-Byrne in the 1970s.

The series will star Miranda Otto as cult leader Adrienne and Teresa Palmer as Freya, a former cult member who tries to raise her son in the outside world when his old life begins to take hold.

Miranda Otto will play Adrienne, a character based on Anne Hamilton-Byrne.Credit:age

Guy Pearce, Mark Coles Smith and Tom Budge are also part of the project, which will be directed by Jeffrey Walker (Lambs of God) and Gracie Otto, who will direct her half-sister Miranda for the first time in a dramatic role.

The series is created and written by Matt Cameron (Jack Irish, secret city) and Elise McCredie (Stateless, ride like a girl), alongside co-writer Osamah Sami (Ali’s wedding).

“It’s such a dark story,” says producer Jude Troy of the cult The Family, whose practices included children being imprisoned and beaten, having their hair dyed blonde and being forced to dress the same, all learning to revere Hamilton-Byrne as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, while living on a secluded estate on the shores of Lake Eildon in Victoria.

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“I’ve always been intrigued by how a commune becomes a cult, how that power, that narcissism, corrupts,” Troy says. “But there is a story of redemption, of hope, that we also wanted to tell.”

In a sign of the stealth with which Disney developed its plans for Australian content even as it came under fire for not investing locally, the series was picked up from Wooden Horse – the Troy company and former ABC TV executive Richard Finlayson launched in March 2020 – last June and greenlit for production in November 2021. Filming will begin in rural Victoria in late June.

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