Monday, July 20, 2020

Nickelodeon Acquires Rights to 'The Bureau of Magical Things' Season 2

Originally published: Tuesday, November 26, 2019.


ZDF Enterprises, Screen Queensland and Screen Australia have today announced the second season of hit live-action children’s series The Bureau of Magical Things from internationally-renowned producer Jonathan M. Shiff. The series is made for Network 10 locally, plus ZDF Germany and Nickelodeon.

The first season of The Bureau of Magical Things screened in over 170 territories and received the AACTA Award for Best Children’s Program in 2018. Season 2 continues the adventures of Kyra, a teenage girl who acquired magical powers when caught in a clash between an elf and a fairy. In this new series, when Kyra and Darra embark on a quest to find a legendary lost temple, Kyra’s orb magic accidentally awakens a dangerous object causing fairy and elf magic to malfunction. As the danger escalates, Kyra must risk everything to deal with a threat that endangers the entire magical world and brings her own identity into question.

Production will take place from December 2019 to July 2020 with the original cast to return for the 20-part series led by Kimie Tsukakoshi (The Family Law) as Kyra. Siblings Elizabeth Cullen and Julian Cullen (Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan) return as elf brother and sister on screen. Mia Milnes and Rainbow Wedell (Jiva) also headline as fairies. Jamie Carter plays Kyra’s human friend and now a member of ‘The Bureau’, while Arnijka Larcombe-Weate returns as Kyra’s problematic bestie oblivious to the magical world.

Update (27/3/2020) - The second season of Jonathan M Shiff’s children’s fantasy The Bureau of Magical Things was shooting in Brisbane and the Gold Coast but was curtailed this week due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The 20-part series was commissioned by Network 10, German pubcaster ZDF and Viacom-owned kids’ net Nickelodeon. There is currently no word on when production will resume.

UPDATE (19/7/2020) - Filming for The Bureau of Magical Things season two will resume on the Gold Coast from Monday 29th June 2020!

The young cast are joined by experienced actors Christopher Sommers (Sweet Tooth, The Water Diviner), Nicholas Bell (Mission Impossible II, Wanted), Steve Nation (Neighbours) and this season introduces Tasneem Roc (Harrow, Rake, Reef Doctors).

Joining the cast in season two is Miah Madden, who will portray Tayla.

Producer, Jonathan M. Shiff said, “Australian children, like children all around the world, love fantasy, mystery and adventure. It’s wonderful to build on the success of the first series with a story more magical and more epic as our young heroes seek answers to their mystery not only in Australia but across South East Asia. The extraordinarily talented Queensland cast and crew, plus the stunning local locations continue to help us to achieve the highest quality production values for a global audience.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, whose Government has supported the series through Screen Queensland said, “We are delighted to welcome back another season of The Bureau of Magical Things to Queensland. This production will film on the Gold Coast and Brisbane from February to June 2020 and create more than 200 jobs for cast and crew. Queensland continues to be the location of choice for major screen productions including The Bureau of Magical Things that will showcase our world-class screen industry capability and stunning locations. My government is proud to continue to support the screen industry because it creates jobs, boosts tourism and promotes our international reputation. I look forward to the next season of The Bureau of Magical Things.”

Screen Australia’s Head of Content, Sally Caplan said, “Jonathan M. Shiff has time and time again proven his ability to create enchanting children’s television and The Bureau of Magical Things has not only gained critical acclaim but has also captured the imaginations of children around the world. We’re thrilled to support the second season from the talented creative team who will bring this next magical adventure to life.”

Fred Burksen, President & CEO, ZDF Enterprises, said, “We have been working with Jonathan and his team for so many years, we consider them family. Side by side, we have managed to put smiles on the faces of children in almost every country on Earth. We are delighted that our extremely successful partnership with Jonathan M. Shiff Productions will now be continued with the second season of The Bureau of Magical Things.”

The Bureau of Magical Things season 2 is a Jonathan M. Shiff Productions project for Network 10, ZDF and Nickelodeon. Major production investment from ZDF Enterprises, Screen Queensland and Screen Australia. It is presold to Network 10 Australia, German public broadcaster ZDF and Nickelodeon, and is distributed worldwide by ZDF Enterprises.


Jonathan M. Shiff Productions is a world leader in live-action children’s fantasy drama with credits including the global smash hit H2O – Just Add Water and its spin off Mako Mermaids. In 2018, Jonathan was awarded a World Screen Kids’ Trendsetter Award in recognition of his leading contribution to the international television industry and for driving innovation in children’s programming. The first season of The Bureau of Magical Things is an international hit and is being viewed around the world via Network Ten, ZDF Germany and Nickelodeon worldwide. The series went on to win the AACTA Award for Best Children’s Program, plus the international 2019 Kidscreen Award Best New Series Tweens/Teens.

Jonathan M. Shiff Productions award winning content has screened in over 170 countries worldwide entertaining an audience of hundreds of millions and showcasing Queensland locations and lifestyle. Their Mako Mermaids series became the first ever Netflix Original live-action series for children. Graduates of Shiff’s productions include Liam Hemsworth and Margot Robbie, both seen as younger actors in The Elephant Princess. H2O stars Phoebe Tonkin (Bloom, Safe Harbour) and Claire Holt moved onto the US series The Vampire Diaries and its sequel The Originals; their co-star Luke Mitchell to The Code, Blindspot and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They are amongst an impressive list of those who learned their craft and the business of filmmaking on Mr. Shiff’s sets.

From IF Magazine:

Jonathan M. Shiff series and Steve Jaggi film herald Queensland production re-start

Julian Cullen and Kimie Tsukakoshi in ‘The Bureau of Magical Things.’ (Photo credit: Mark Taylor)

Screen production in Queensland is set to restart with the second season of Jonathan M. Shiff Productions’ The Bureau of Magical Things and a rom-com feature from the Steve Jaggi Company.

The cameras will roll on Shiff’s children’s fantasy, which was shut down in March, on June 29 on the Gold Coast.

On the same day, Jaggi and director Christine Luby will begin shooting This Little Love of Mine in Cairns. Scripted by Georgia Harrison, it’s a co-production with Nicely Entertainment, an LA-based distribution and production company recently launched by former Gaumont exec Vanessa Shapiro.

Jaggi is producing with Kelly Son Hing and Spencer McLaren; the cast will be announced next week.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Shiff’s 20-part series is employing more than 200 cast and crew and injecting more than $8.5 million into the State’s economy. Jaggi’s film will create 25 local jobs and spend more than $1.5 million.

Network 10, German broadcaster ZDF and Nickelodeon commissioned season two , with investment from ZDF Enterprises, Screen Queensland and Screen Australia.

Kimie Tsukakoshi returns as Kyra, a teenager with magical powers, as she and Darra (Julian Cullen) embark on a quest to find a legendary lost temple.

On the first block of 10 episodes Evan Clarry and Martha Goddard had finished shooting 30 of the 43 days scheduled before the production shut down.

So they will complete shooting that block in the coming weeks, followed by the second block directed by Grant Brown.

Palaszczuk acknowledged the screen industry had been hit hard by COVID-19. Her government responded by creating a $3.3 million support package and forming a Queensland screen industry task force.

“As well as focussing on local productions, we’ve also been working to ensure major international productions can return to the State,” she said.

The Premier said Hoodlum Entertainment aims to get season three of the ABC’s Harrow back into production in the next few months. That is contingent on the federal government granting a waiver on travel restrictions to bring back star Ioan Gruffudd from LA.

Her government is also working closely with Baz Luhrmann and his production team to resume production on the untitled Elvis Presley biopic at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast.

“We want to ensure this can happen as soon as possible while making sure the cast and crew can operate safely,” Palaszczuk added.

The start date on the Warner Bros production was postponed after Tom Hanks, who plays Colonel Tom Parker, and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive for COVID-19.

Hanks and Austin Butler, who plays Elvis, both returned to the US, so the producers will need special dispensation to bring them back.

Screen Queensland and Queensland Health are developing a screen industry COVID-safe plan, which will be released shortly.


From We Are Gold Coast:



Julian Cullen and Kimie Tsukakoshi in The Bureau of Magical Things season 2. Image credit: Mark Taylor

Getting the greenlight to shoot again has meant strict compliance with guidelines developed by Queensland Health and WorkSafe QLD, cross-checked with the Australian Screen Production Industry’s official advice and the Bureau team’s own set protocols.

Heavy measures, but Bureau’s lead producer Stuart Wood says necessary ones to overcome the biggest production challenges he’s witnessed across a 40-year career.

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” says Wood, “the situation is unique for the screen industry, really just as it’s unique for the world.

“We’re working in new territory today and – as medical advice and understanding of the virus evolves – we also need to be prepared to adjust how we work in the future.”

Julian Cullen as Darra on The Bureau of Magical Things' first day back in production under COVID safe protocols. Image credit: Mark Taylor


Wood says COVID-safe guidelines affect every aspect of screen production, with traditionally dynamic film set environments now operating under tight controls.

Actors rehearse wearing facemasks and crew abide by strict new rules about who can handle which pieces of equipment. Even the memory cards are sanitised each time they’re pulled from the cameras.

Makeup artists use a separate kit for each actor, and the cast stays distanced while clever camera angles bring them closer together. Masks and sanitiser pumps are ubiquitous.

Bureau is partly set in a magical realm and cast members’ prosthetic elf ears needed protocols all their own, with the tools to apply them surgically sterilised after each use.

“Our makeup department is under the tightest hygiene restrictions on the set, because they’re working on human beings,” says Wood.

Aside from the public health issues, the return to work to complete season two also means high stakes for the Bureau team from a creative perspective.

The show’s first season was a global hit and scored several industry awards, including the AACTA Award for Best Children’s Program, and Wood says the cast and crew are back at work fired up to maintain standards.

“A lot of our work is to make the on-set protocols invisible,” he says.

“There’s a certain headspace we need to protect around our directors and cast and key creatives.

“We want the actors to be comfortable that they’re safe, and then forget about it and go and deliver the best performance they can.”

Camera operator Brad Hunt shooting on The Bureau of Magical Things' first day back in production under COVID safe protocols. Image credit: Mark Taylor


The Bureau of Magical Things was halfway through its season two shoot when coronavirus began to flare worldwide.

The production voluntarily instituted hygiene measures well ahead of community standards, but the set was shuttered late March, Wood says, once they could not be sure continuing work was the safest course.

During shutdown, the producers conducted a risk assessment and developed plans to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, then worked with their department heads on practical protocols for making a COVID-safe film set run.

But Wood says there’s much more than paperwork behind this week’s restart, with getting the show back on the road a collaborative effort between crew, government and financiers.

Screen Queensland and the City of Gold Coast’s film unit have, he says, been “rock solid” in support of Bureau’s production company, Jonathan M. Shiff Productions.

“Both those organisations have been incredibly supportive in understanding what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

Jonathan M. Shiff Productions has made hundreds of episodes of TV on the Gold Coast and inspires particular loyalty among local crew.

“We work closely with a lot of talented people, and they’ve pulled together as a team; that’s vital in an environment like this,” he says.

“We want to look after them and – most importantly – we want them to go home and re-assure their families they’re not at risk.”


From IF Magazine:

Jonathan M. Shiff on new shooting protocols and why the TV Producer Offset must be doubled

Shooting of the second series of Jonathan M. Shiff Productions’ The Bureau of Magical Things resumed in Queensland on June 29, one of the first to restart after the lockdown.

Directors Evan Clarry and Martha Goddard completed the first 10 of 20 half-hour episodes last week and Grant Brown is now directing the remaining 10.

The company’s founder tells IF about the new shooting protocols, the extra costs involved and the need to rewrite scripts, and his fears that live action children’s TV is doomed unless the TV Producer Offset is doubled to 40 per cent.

Q: I assume you are using the COVIDSafe guidelines, adapted to the specific needs of your production?

A: Our COVID-Safe guidelines and on-set protocols are extensive and are based on the Australian Screen Production Industry Guidelines as well as those provided by Queensland Health and basic workplace safety requirements. There was extensive consultation (via Zoom) for some weeks with cast and crew to build department specific protocols.

Many great suggestions were derived from this. All arrivals to our set, whether studio or location, are tagged with a QR code logging them in and out; all must answer relevant safety contact questions on arrival; and all are temperature checked. Hand washing is mandatory on arrival, at the time of departure and during the day.

A full-time nurse is always on set also recording temperatures of all cast and crew during work hours as well as supporting our COVID/Safety supervisor Rocky MacDonald in encouraging the use of regular hand sanitizer and distancing. Cohorts of sub-groups, for instance make-up and hair, gather separately on set. No equipment is ever touched by other department personnel and all equipment and hand props are sanitized.

Q: How are the cast and crew adapting to the new shooting protocols? Does that mean you can’t do as many set-ups per day as before?

A: Each department had help to develop the very best way they could work safely and efficiently and were pre-prepared for the new protocols and so we’ve found that so far there is very little delay to our workflow.

We are still doing comparable set ups but because we are working under continuous shooting or “French Hours” (working for 10 hours straight without a break for lunch), I found the rhythm of shooting now is actually far better than when previously it was interrupted by lunch.

Individual catering lunch packs, which are very generous and very well received by the crew, are available over a period of some hours and can be taken at the convenience of cast and crew. This means crew are distanced and gathering only in their company of department colleagues rather en masse at a buffet.

Each department has made significant changes: all gear, hand props and surfaces must be regularly sanitised. For instance, make-up and hair have very, very strict protocols, including those that govern the application of prosthetics.

Other than those that are required, no one is permitted to enter their buses, which are also sanitized constantly. Standby members of this team gather separately on set and along with the wardrobe crew, are supplied with a live stream from the shooting cameras in an intranet feed so they can see everything on an iPad, just as they would have if standing beside the video village.

We had had to acquire more crew and vehicles to allow greater social distancing, including more make-up, wardrobe and green room facilities. More staff are on board specifically for cleaning and sanitizing common surfaces.

We’ve also hired more unit staff, including one dedicated team member at craft services so we do not all touch tea and coffee making equipment etc. There are demountable buildings on site for wardrobe fittings and our art department and office staff have spread out to allow just a handful of people in requisite spaces. I have closed my workstation in the office and now work largely remotely, having installed a sim camera on the directors monitor bank, which means I can live stream at my apartment or on my iPhone.

Many of the management team including our producer Stuart Wood and our line producer Wade Savage can also access this feed. I do visit set but try not to be there for long periods. No visitors or independent contractors are permitted on set. All on-set crew wear masks: we have provided washable masks to all personnel together with replaceable filters. Whilst the actors on camera cannot wear masks during takes they will always take comfort from the PPE worn by all crew that surround and support them. There is a huge cost to this new way of shooting. But if it keeps us safe and engaged then it’s the only way forward.

Q: Did the writers have to rewrite any scenes?

A: Yes. Our story producer Mark Shirrefs had to rewrite quite a bit of material. Firstly, even though it is diametrically opposed to all the training I have ever received, we tried to pull as many scenes as possible out of our studio sets and into, say, parklands where social distancing is much easier for all.

We had to consolidate many scenes and rewrite around cast availability so as to minimise (or ideally eliminate) multiple trips for interstate cast to join us here in Queensland. Because the situation and state border restrictions are changing constantly we remain in regular contact with Queensland Health and are guided by their advice and remarkable endeavours to keep us safe.

Q: Network 10, German broadcaster ZDF and Nickelodeon commissioned season two, with investment from ZDF Enterprises, Screen Queensland and Screen Australia. So does that cover the production cost with the Producer Offset?

A: No. Jonathan M. Shiff Productions is also a significant investor and is providing considerable equity and now additional funds to enable production to continue and complete.

Q: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the series is employing more than 200 cast and crew and injecting more than $8.5 million into the state’s economy, so that is your biggest ever production?

A: No. It is comparable to many I have produced here in the 20 years since I brought Cybergirl to Brisbane in 2000. H20 – Just Add Water, Mako: Island of Secrets and many of our shows were equally as ambitious. Some had large underwater crews in addition to the on-land crew. None, however, have had to weather the challenges of a deadly international pandemic.

Q: What did you and your colleagues do during the shutdown? Spend more time on development?

A: My producer Stuart Wood and some of our senior management worked long hours on Zoom meetings planning and preparing for our safe return. I personally spent time with my family and was blessed with quality time to live with and get to know my nearly two-year-old granddaughter – time I would not have ordinarily have had.

As for new projects, clearly the type of stories, the way we tell them and the locations in which they are to be filmed must now be totally revisited and re-imagined. Wonderful opportunities now emerge.

Q: Are you concerned the government will extend the suspension of the FTA broadcasters’ local content quotas into 2021?

A: Yes.

Q: I know your colleague Julia Adams was instrumental in drawing up the Australian Children’s Television Producers submission on the options paper. What is the best-case scenario for kids TV funding and regulation you can hope for? And the worst?

A: More than 20 producers of quality content for children joined in this joint submission to government. I would hope that other content triggers will replace the ineffectual C classification system and that funding will expand and protect Australian stories for Australian kids.

Without this we will not only be culturally adrift but swamped by poor foreign sourced content for young audiences – or worse still, little content at all. I would insist that the 40 per cent Offset must be extended to cover children’s live action. There will be no industry, no production in our genre without it.

Q: In 2018, Screen Australia reported you had made 28 seasons or 290 hours’ worth of 15 live action children’s series with budgets totaling $221 million. What’s the tally now?

A: We are now at 29 seasons or 300 hours worth of 15 live action children’s series with budgets totaling $232 million.

Q: Mako: Island of Secrets returned more net revenue to investors in calendar year 2017 than any other television drama made with Screen Australia investment. What is your outlook now for selling Australian children’s series the rest of the world as productions resume and economies start to recover?

A: There has always been and will always be, a huge international appetite for high quality, engaging, well-crafted content for a younger audience. Many of the world’s leading SVODs use this content at the sharp end of their drive forward for new subscribers.

Massive opportunities present themselves and no less in this environment. Of course, your question presupposes the global economies actually do recover. Many will not.

However, no matter where they live in the world, children love and need human stories, of adventure and heroism, of danger and how to deal with it, of friendship and how to value it. Whether children’s content is a doona to hide under, or a superhero cape to throw over your shoulders, now more than ever it’s needed. Globally!


More Nick: Nickelodeon Embarks on New Direction with its Biggest, Most Wide-Ranging Content Slate Ever!

H/T: Mirage News.
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