WorldScreenings: all3media international’s The Brokenwood Mysteries

Jonathan Hughes, sales manager at all3media international, spoke to Kristin Brzoznowski, executive editor of World Screen, via video conference about The Brokenwood Mysteries, with added insight from the series’ creator and writer, Tim Balme.


Puzzles are, by their nature, endlessly intriguing, and there’s something about a murder mystery that is forever compelling. The New Zealand-set crime series The Brokenwood Mysteries, produced by South Pacific Pictures and sold by all3media international, takes the whodunit convention and gives it a lighter, quirkier feel.

The show is set in Brokenwood, a sleepy town with a population of 5,000 (and declining), nestled in New Zealand’s wine country—with glorious rolling landscapes, snow-capped mountains and waterfalls presenting a dramatic backdrop to the otherwise homely small-town world. The show’s hero, Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd, is dependable and kind. He has flaws but is a likable fellow with a love of country music and an emotional bond to a scruffy old car rather than life’s darker temptations (although the twinkle in his eye has left a few ex-wives in his trail). He has been known to chat to the victims about the nature of their death, which others might find strange, but Brokenwood‘s is a world of deadpan humor and warm camaraderie.

The production team had struggled long and hard when casting the role of Shepherd. They saw some great talent, but no one the casting agent suggested quite matched their view of our hero. Then it dawned on everyone that the hero they wanted was right in front of them: Neill Rea, the casting director, who was also an accomplished actor (ScarfiesLegend of the SeekerGo Girls).

The crimes in the show are often macabre, inventive and emotional, as small-town family rifts run deep. The suspects are a collection of peculiar, complex characters driven by different but classical desires: love, revenge, pride, lust, envy, greed or hatred. The investigative team is led by Shepherd (possibly always going to be an outsider; he sure wasn’t born here) and his associates, Detective Kristin Sims (local, smart and kind, enjoys the Shepherd sparkle), Detective Sam Been (young and gauche, but don’t underestimate him as he’s not as naive as he might look) and pathologist Gina Kadinsky (originally from Vladivostok, Russia, she is professional and wry, a realist with a dry sense of humor. She may not always get Shepherd’s jokes, but she certainly appreciates his lateral thinking).

In addition to its success in New Zealand, the two-hour series has been a hit with audiences in North America and across Europe, proving to be both charming and addictive. France fell in love with the show quickly; it must have been the wine connection, as the series was launched to press at the New Zealand Embassy in Paris over a wine-tasting session for journalists. The Brokenwood Mysteries regularly exceeds benchmarks—in Sweden by as much as 75 percent. Over 150 countries have shared the Brokenwood experience, including the U.K., France, the U.S. and Australia.

In the U.K., The Brokenwood Mysteries is the second-highest-rated series this year so far for UKTV’s Drama channel, and in France, season five recently launched on France 3, attracting on average 3.2 million viewers, performing very well with adults 15 to 34, exceeding the benchmark by 23 percent.

The show has delighted fans and critics alike, garnering accolades along the way. It’s won awards at New York Television Festival over consecutive years, and in Asia, it’s been nominated at the Seoul Drama Awards several times.

The Brokenwood Mysteries forms part of all3media international’s “Detectives Catalog,” which has a crime-buster for every occasion. There are stylish lady sleuths from the ’20s in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and her MODern 1950s incarnation too; the tenacious French ex-cop in contemporary Europe in Baptiste; the daunting beauty of Australia’s award-winning Outback noir Mystery Road‘s surroundings for Detective Jay Swan; the lighter touch of Agatha Raisin as she moves to the rolling hills of the Cotswolds from London, only to find the locals are up to all sorts of mischief; Amsterdam’s finest, Van der Valk, and the ensemble, solving mysteries and murders in the intriguing Dutch capital; and, of course, there’s Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Murders in the surprisingly lethal countryside.

all3media international is also pitching two further dramas from South Pacific Pictures. Head High is about the hopes, dreams and expectations of growing up in the world of a sport-based college, with school rivalries, emotional challenges and family drama. The Sounds is an eight-part thriller set in a small seaside community that charts the demise of the picture-perfect marriage of Tom and Maggie as their blissful life shatters under the weight of long-buried secrets.

See all3media international’s Summer 2020 Showcase here.