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Report From The Set Of 'Foreign Exchange'
15 Jul 2004 :

Lynne(Hannah) and Zach(Brett) outside Hackett House.

After 11 weeks of filming in Galway, 'Foreign Exchange', the first ever childrens drama funded by RTÉ , is now in its last week of principal photography. IFTN met the producers and the shows young stars on set.

'Foreign Exchange' is a 26 x 30min television series produced by Magma Films and Southern Star (Australia) for RTÉ and Channel 9 (Australia). With funding from the IFB, Section 481 and Screen West (Aus).

The series follows the adventures of Brett (Zachary Garred), a young Aussie from the small town of Woolondonga Western Australia and Hannah (Lynne Styles), a young Irish girl living in a boarding school in the west of Ireland, who discover a magic portal that allows them to travel freely in and out of one another's lives.

There is an air of confidence on set as IFTN sips coffee with producers Ralph Christians (Magma Films) and Gerry McColgan. Smiles are wide when we talk about the fact that post-production is already underway in Australia with the first 13 shows in the can, Christians admits he thinks "it looks fantastic". Producer Gerry McColgan considers the show to be essentially a children's comedy series, but identifies a similarity to the hugely popular American series 'Malcom In The Middle' and hopes it will be just as popular with young and old audiences alike.

Director Declan Eames instructs the actors on set.

The Irish boarding school set is based about 45 minutes from Galway city. Filmmakers have transformed Hackett House, which dates back to the 1700's, into an "old but modern boarding school". The house hallways have been modeled into long school corridors, painted blue and pink complete with lockers and school notice boards. The EU5 million production is directed by Australian director James Bogle and Irish ex-pat director Declan Eames (Fair City, Glenroe who returns to Ireland after 10 years working in Oz). It boasts a 45-man crew and is shot on DigiBeta (equipment supplied by Telegael and VFG).

Throughout our visit, the show's young stars are commended by their older colleagues for their acting talent and professionalism. 17-year-old Zachary Garred (Brett) is studying for his HSC (Leaving Cert) exams between takes. He says this has not been a bad thing, "To be frank, this has been the most phenomenal experience of my life, and to do it just as I am about to leave school is just a gift wrapped at my feet." Already adopting some Irish slang he adds, "the school were fine with it, they were grand and they keep sending me school work, how generous of them (laughs)."
Hailing from Newcastle (north of Sydney) and fresh out of acting school, this has been a fantastic learning experience for Zach. He loves Ireland and seems to appreciate the unique opportunity he has been given. He says, "it was really weird, it was like I had been yanked away from reality andjust placed in this Harry Potter parallel fantasy world… sometimes you sit
Zach gets some pointers from Director James Bogle

back and you think 'what the hell am I doing here?' I was just flying blind into a snowstorm in Perth. I didn't have a clue what was going on, I just did what I was told cause this is my first ever real big gig. Then when I came to Ireland I had a lot more confidence, hit my marks better, learned my lines properly and in the end I found it a lot more comfortable...Now it's sort of winding down I can't wait to get home to see all my mates again. I miss them to death, but at the same time I know at some point on my 12 hour flight home I am going to stop and think 'why did I leave Ireland?'"

The show's other stars Lynne Styles (Hannah) and Danielle Fox-Clarke (Tara-Hannah's roommate and Brett's love interest) are old friends from Ann Kavanagh's acting school in Dublin, although they have worked in Ireland before on Fair City and in small theatre parts, this is also their first major production.

Danielle(Tara) and Lynne on set.

They are thrilled to work on the show and Lynne says she especially enjoyed her time in Australia. "I loved Australia, it was during the summer and it was very hot." Although getting to grips with the Australian national pastime, surfing, was somewhat of a challenge for her. "I had to learn how to surf and the whole idea was that Hannah didn't have a clue how to surf, so I could do that very well," she said.

Lynne and Zach on set in Perth

However, it was not all fun and games in the sun for the lively 15-year-old. Continuity has been a high priority for the production team, ensuring the show cuts seamlessly between the Australian and Irish sets, Lynne was required to shelter from the Australian sun under an umbrella throughout her entire three month stay in order to maintain her fair Irish complexion!

All the young stars are pleased with the production and agree that it is something worth checking out. "I think most teenagers our age would watch this, it's not just for kids, when I read the script I thought it was brilliant," says Lynne with Danielle adding, "you just end up laughing out loud, it's so funny."

Foreign Exchange is due to premiere on RTÉ in their Autumn schedule followed by a run on Australia's Channel 9. Talk of international sales already abound with Ralph Christians intending to travel to MIPCOM in October with the show. He hopes the series can be sold to around 60-70 countries and a second series can be commissioned. He hopes to develop similar live action and animation co-productions in the near future and believes Foreign Exchange could help build up a successful creative and corporate relationship for all parties involved.


By Tanya Warren.

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