Thursday 19 April 2018

Green light for 'Amber' as RTE drama starts tonight

Eve Birthistle in Amber, a new RTE drama
Eve Birthistle in Amber, a new RTE drama
Lauren Canny who plays Amber
Eva Birthistle in Amber
Actress Lauryn Canny

NIAMH HORAN

RTE's highly anticipated new drama about a missing girl will air tonight -- more than two years after it was filmed.

Amber was originally stripped from the autumn 2012 schedule as a result of the funding crisis engulfing the State broadcaster. It reappeared on the autumn 2013 schedule, but with no fixed transmission date.

Actor Lauryn Canny, who was 12 years old when she filmed the role of Amber, is now 15. Critics are already predicting that the new series will be worth the wait.

But as hundreds of thousands of people sit down to the drama tonight, the creator of the country's most anticipated show since Love/Hate will be the last to know how his work has fared among his Irish audience -- because he will be stuck in the middle of another premiere.

Paul Duane will have to sweat it out while he hosts his second premiere of the night in New York, where he will be showcasing his new documentary Matan, about a Jewish film-maker, to his new American fanbase.

But audiences will be able to let him know exactly what they think of the series as soon as the closing credits roll on the first episode tonight.

Mr Duane told the Sunday Independent: "I won't be watching it because I will be at another premiere of mine tonight. I will be in New York at a screening which is on at the exact same time this airs on RTE. So I will be running out to Twitter immediately afterwards.

"Of course, awards matter in terms of recognition and getting things made again, but ultimately it will be down to how viewers respond to it to gauge whether it has been a success or a failure."

But Mr Duane doesn't need to fret too much as he revealed that he is already in talks with Hollywood television executives to bring the show to America.

"I am in LA on the way back from meetings with people in the upper echelons of TV here, so it is very possible it will be remade State-side. If that is the case, then it will have to go out under a different title because 'amber alerts' holds it own meaning here," he added.

Talks are also under way already to bring 'Amber 2' to our screens.

When asked how he feels viewers here will take to such a raw topic, Mr Duane said: "There is always a sense of anticipation and concern about how people will take it.

"There have been so many missing cases in Ireland, that no doubt it will touch a lot of people."

He said viewers who had been touched by similar personal tragedies should make up their own minds if they want to watch the series.

"It will be a personal decision for people and anyone who has gone through any similar tragedy. It could make it worse or better for them but hopefully it will help to raise awareness of missing-person cases and the pain the families go through. It's a wound that never really heals."

Mr Duane made the programme with his business partner and co-creator Rob Cawley, with whom he runs a production company called Screenworks.

And he revealed it was a real-life tragedy involving Mr Cawley's family that was the inspiration for Amber.

In 2009 in Clare, Mr Cawley's wife Grainne alerted family members after scouring the coastline looking for her brother Kevin, who had gone missing.

CCTV evidence suggested that Kevin may have taken his own life but family and friends continued to search for Kevin's body. Five years on, he has still not been found.

"I was very good friends with Rob at the time, so yes, it affected me," Mr Duane admitted.

"Seeing him walk up and down the west coast of Ireland looking for any sign, it was heartbreaking watching him suffer like that.

"But I suppose I learned that no matter how tragic or awful something is, you can heal in some way. And that is part of what Amber is about."

The four-part drama series, which is to be run over consecutive nights on RTE One from tonight, tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who goes missing and the effect her disappearance has on the lives of those around her.

The first episode stars Eva Birthistle as Amber's mother. The second tells the story from the viewpoint of a journalist.

The third episode tells the story from the perspective of the man who finds Amber's mobile phone and the final episode is told from the perspective of Amber's father, played by David Murray.

"It enabled us to capture that raw grief that grips people and what families of missing persons go through," Mr Duane said.

"Then you feel bad and you wonder if you are some sort of vampire drawing on this experience. And I suppose that is where the part of the journalist comes in.

"I guess people do anything they can to get through and make sense of such an awful experience."

The programme is already being promoted abroad as the next The Killing, the hit Danish political/crime drama. BBC4 and Netflix USA have already picked it up.

Irish Independent

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