Bay of Fires drama sparks winter boom on Tasmania’s west coast

After treading the boards on Tasmanian stages as a teenager – to hit TV shows in New York – actor Toby Leonard Moore is back in the state he called home.

Leonard Moore co-stars in Bay of Fires, a new eight-part TV drama described as a darkly comedic crime series, set on Tasmania’s rugged west coast.

“It was great to go back to my roots,” he said.

“I grew up in Tassie, never thought I’d get the opportunity to shoot anything here, I’ve been away for a long time so it was great to come back.”

Leonard Moore lives in New York, but went to high school and college in Hobart and performed in local theater productions during this time.

“I love that Tassie is finally uncovered on camera because you point a camera anywhere and it’s a cliche, it’s beautiful,” he said.

“We stayed in Queenstown, met the locals, tried to support local industry, you kind of tap into that energy because those are the characters we play on camera.”

Bay of Fires tells the story of single mother Stella Heikkinen (Marta Dusseldorp), who finds herself in a small community rife with feuds, crime, and even murder.

Co-creator Marta Dusseldorp felt the West Coast was the perfect backdrop for the Bay of Fires series.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Marta Dusseldorp, who also co-created the show, chose the West Coast landscape as the backdrop for the series.

“I just knew this was the home of this show the first time I set eyes on it,” she said.

“It’s surprising, unique, intact, poetic, brutal.

“It makes every moment feel authentic and it’s a place that some people have seen but not many, so I really hope to encourage people to come to the west coast of Tasmania and check it out.”

A man wearing headphones stares at a screen as people stand around, also watching.
Director Wayne Blair on the set of Zeehan.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Producing a TV show in such a remote location poses challenges, especially managing the logistics of getting the cast, crew, and equipment to a remote area without a major airport or sea terminal.

“When I went to the Government of Tasmania to talk to them about it and encourage this idea of ​​a regional grant to enable us to go this far – because there are significant costs associated with this – and certainly they understood that right away and said yes,” Dusseldorp said.

“Their support for this show is what will be the legacy for other shows to come, that you have to find that little bit extra to do it because it’s not a metropolitan city.

“But the regional areas are so important, they are the heart and soul of this country and we would be foolish to ignore them.”

Show business at the service of local businesses

The influx of people into the small towns of Queenstown, Strahan and Zeehan has been a boon to local businesses during the generally calm winter months.

Queenstown pizzeria owner Darren said it was his first profitable winter.

“It’s been good for the economy, it’s good for jobs,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to other business owners and they’re pretty happy with what happened.”

A woman wearing a face mask puts a jacket on a rack in a store.
Op Shop owner Trish Gillie said the film crew had been a great addition to the community.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Trish Gillie owns the Ops store in Zeehan.

“It’s just nice to have something different in the city and the crew is friendly,” she said.

“More [local] people think it’s good.”

A man wearing glasses and a pump smiles at the camera.
Mayor Shane Pitt said the place is “very vibrant” right now.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

West Coast Mayor Shane Pitt said the production, along with a few other local tours, opened up a new avenue for the region.

“We are now considered a major filming area in Tasmania and it certainly fits into that area, it has some great scenery,” he said.

“We have never seen so many people in the community, the accommodation places are all filled and it is very buoyant at the moment here.”

The production also provided three months of full-time employment for Tasmania’s screen professionals, with nearly half of the state’s 138-member Bay of Fires crew.

A group of people with boom mics and cameras stand outside a large old building under a cloudy sky.
On the set of Bay of Fires at the Gaiety Theater in Zeehan.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

This came fresh after months of filming in Tasmania for another TV series, Deadloch.

Alex Sangston, executive director of the state government division Screen Tasmania, said it had been an extraordinary production year for Tasmania.

“So our crews have been in production and employed full time for most of the year, this will be a banner year for production for Screen Tasmania and for the state as a whole,” he said.

“There are a number of shows in development and a few feature projects coming up, so it’s been a very busy eight or nine months and it’s not going to slow down for the next six or so.”

Residents benefit from additional opportunities

Half of Bay of Fires’ 111 cast are also Tasmanian, mostly extras from local towns.

A woman in a black jacket looks seriously at the camera.
Georgia Sherriff loves Australian TV shows.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Georgia Sherriff recently moved to Zeehan.

“I tried to get out and do something a little different, I wanted to be able to do something in the community, so this is a great opportunity,” she said.

“I really like Australian TV shows, especially Tasmanian ones – Rosehaven and such – so making it a local one and showing that area is really good.”

A man in a black jacket and beanie smiles at the camera.
Thomas Bailey said it was nice to meet new people.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Tullah resident Thomas Bailey said he enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from other West Coast towns.

“A lot of us are from local towns, whether it’s Rosebery or Queenstown or Zeehan or I’m from Tullah,” he said.

“These are pretty quiet towns, people know each other but I don’t think there’s that much cross-pollination.

“As an extra you spend a lot of time sitting down, not on set, so it was a really good opportunity to meet people, it was nice to interact with people who wouldn’t necessarily be in your circle. social.”

A woman wearing glasses leans against a stone wall outdoors and looks at the camera.
Lee Brient said it was worth the trip from Launceston.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Lee Brient drove two and a half hours from Launceston for his scenes.

“I really like it, the main reason I did it was just to have something different in my life,” she said.

“It’s worth being a part of something that’s going to stick around for a while.

“The fact that they use locals is fantastic, we have so much talent in this state.”

Bay of Fires will air on ABC TV and ABC iview next year.