There are plenty of mysteries to be solved on the exotic sounding Rock Island. Hence the popular series Rock Island Mysteries. Avid young viewers of this made in Queensland series will be looking forward to season 3, currently filming on the Gold Coast and due to wrap by the end of June.

The set-up involves teenager, Taylor (Alexa Curtis), investigating her Uncle Charlie’s disappearance five years earlier, with that mystery interweaving with strange and seemingly inexplicable events on her home of Rock Island – a place of secret caves, portals and other-worldly phenomena.

Taylor and her friends even have to try to save the island from disappearing at one stage and of course there are baddies with nefarious intentions trying to thwart them.

Evan Clarry, who is once again directing a block of episodes as he has in previous seasons, elaborates says that “a lot of weird things happen on the island”.

“It’s all quite mysterious and mystical, but with a scientific underpinning to it,” Clarry says.

He has a lot of respect for the quintet of young actors fronting the show. Besides Curtis (also a singer/songwriter who was the winner of The Voice Kids in 2014), Noah Akhigbe plays wisecracking Nori; Inessa Tan is adventurous, sports-mad Meesha; Izellah Connelly is Taylor’s influencer stepsister Lila and Ryan Yeates provides a comic element as Ellis – a character who’s a professor-inventor type while also managing to have a variety of phobias.

The actors have matured since the series began in 2022.

“It’s been nice to follow the journey, especially with young actors,” Evan Clarry says. “At the beginning, Ryan was about a foot shorter than he is now. They were all still at school when the series started, the youngest was about 14, so it’s quite a pronounced difference now.”

Clarry’s directing career started with his acclaimed short film, Mate, and feature films Blurred and Under the Radar, but his prowess working with young actors has seen him being invited back for directing stints on children’s shows such as Mako Mermaids, Mortified, and The Bureau of Magical Things.

“Working with these absolutely brilliant young people, seeing them develop, it’s a very special thing about working in TV with young people, seeing them mature” he says. “They blew me away, they were so good, they always knew their lines and they were studying for HSC at the same time.

He describes the characters they play as “all a bit other-worldly and brave”

Although the target age group is 8 to 12, like most children’s series these days, it’s all about aspirational content. In the final episode of Series 2, Taylor was flying a plane and she and her friends parachuted out of it. Beyond aspirational.

As with other shows Clarry has worked on with a magical or mystical element, Rock Island Mysteries involves visual effects and stunts.

“A big part of the job is to not only visualise what’s on the page but then make that happen within constraints of time and budgets,” he says.

The subject of budget raises the issue of quotas for Australian content. It is expensive to make local shows, and unfortunately without quotas, many networks just wouldn’t spend the money if they can acquire overseas productions at a fraction of the cost.

“I believe there should be quotas and they should be enforced, with streamers as well,” Clarry says. “The evidence is that any large corporation will seek to maximize profit. They want good content but want to pay as little as possible for it. I understand that, but in a country as large geographically as Australia but small in terms of its population, I think it’s important that there is some structure in place so that our stories are told with our creative workforce and that reflect our national character and provide employment for our many great artists.”

While Rock Island Mysteries is undoubtedly an Aussie show, it has an international genesis, with the three creators, Matthew Cooke, Michael Ford and Vincent Lund based in the UK. There are also a few American characters, which obviously adds to the international appeal. There’s definitely a nod to the Bermuda Triangle too, with Rock Island being a place where planes (including Uncle Charlie’s, called The Bermuda Queen) and boats have gone missing. The island could be anywhere in the world but there’s no mistaking the stunning Gold Coast scenery and the Australian sensibility.

For any series to be wrapping a third season is an achievement and with 20 episodes per season, it’s a huge undertaking to bring the series to fruition.

Rock Island Mysteries is a Fremantle Australia production for Paramount Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) and Nickelodeon International, with support from the Queensland Government through Screen Queensland’s Screen Finance program and produced in association with Network and Nickelodeon.

In Australia, Rock Island Mysteries season 1 and 2 are streaming on 10 Play and Paramount+, with Season 3 set for release later this year.



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