ROME – In the hours after a blow-out beach party a body washes up on shore, bringing with it unanswered questions for a group of high school students in an Australian town. But in the 24 hours leading up to the body’s discovery, the personal biases and vices of each character are revealed, altering the storyline and proving that truth is always relative.
“Perception” is an 8 x 60’ drama series created by Drew Macdonald and produced by Australia’s Essential Media Group. The show was selected to take part in the drama series pitching competition at MIA this week. Lagardère Studios is handling international distribution and world sales.
Macdonald said the series was inspired by a quote from the novelist Douglas Adams, who wrote: “Everything you see, hear, or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” With that principle as a starting point, the showrunner decided to examine the shifting perspectives of a group of characters united by an unexpected tragedy.
“Is one person’s truth any more accurate than another person’s? Is it how we see ourselves or how others see us that defines who we are?” said Macdonald. “The series is about modern identity, and what better place to explore that idea than in a high school in 2019?”
“Perception” explores the heightened emotional stakes of teens trying to survive the gauntlet of high school relationships in the vein of “Riverdale,” “Skins,” or “13 Reasons Why,” but Macdonald said the slippery structure “allows for a much more layered and complex narrative. So in a lot of ways it’ll play closer in tone to a ‘Big Little Lies’ for Gen Z.”
In an era of fake news and partisan divides, as individuals and groups remain determined to stick to their preferred narratives, “Perception” is a particularly timely series that “speaks to the way the world is right now,” said Macdonald. But he insisted that the show didn’t intend to dwell on “which perspective is the most truthful,” adding: “Each perspective is true to the character living it, and that’s what I think is fascinating about the show. That’s a message that I personally believe is incredibly relevant today.”
As a mechanism to keep audiences hooked, it’s also a useful narrative device. “From an entertainment point of view, it allows us to create a rich mystery narrative that’s going to keep an audience guessing who is the killer and who is the victim to the very end of the series,” he said.
In Rome, Macdonald is looking for pre-sales or enhanced acquisitions. The producers have strong interest from a U.K. broadcaster already, and are open to a partnership with a global streaming service. Macdonald also said he could “easily” cast a British, Italian or German character “without stretching credibility,” which would “allow a point of entry for those audiences.”