Design the lights
The Luminaries, set in the 1860s on New Zealand's South Island at the height of the gold rush on the West Coast, is an epic and complicated novel. On more than 800 pages, the writer Eleanor Catton weaves several stories from different narrators to create an astrological thriller that is full of surprises, cliffhangers and coincidences.
The novel was an instant hit when it was released in 2013. He won the coveted Man Booker Prize and appeared on numerous bestseller lists. Since then, it has been translated into several languages and over half a million copies have been purchased worldwide.
Seven years after its publication, the cult novel was reinterpreted for the screen in a six-part series of Working Title Films. The show, written by Catton and commissioned by BBC Two and the New Zealand broadcaster TVNZ, remains largely true to the events and worlds depicted in the book, but with a few essential twists. While the original text focused on male characters, the series is told from the perspective of Anna Wetherell, played by Eve Hewson, and its rewording has also brought a new ending.
Above and main picture (shown above): sets for scenes in a community in Hoktika and in the capital. Images: Felicity Abbott
With its elaborate plot, large cast and historical backdrop, it is an ambitious production. And since the story took place in multiple locations, the show's art department faced the daunting task of building a gold mine, a remote mountain hut, a harbor, and an entire 19th-century town on plots and farmland in and around Auckland.
Abbott started working on the project in April 2018 with show director Claire McCarthy and cameraman Denson Baker. "I was involved very early on – I helped make the original pitch Claire did for Working Title and the BBC in London, so it was me. We developed the tone and style of the show long before we got it (um to work on the project), ”she tells CR.