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Superwog: leaping from sketches to a TV pilot

Superwog’s Theo Saidden on co-writing/directing/producing and co-starring in the duo’s TV pilot and why they will always try to make YouTube videos, no matter what.

Nathan and Theo Saidden

When Superwog’s Theo and Nathan Saidden first started filming and uploading videos to their YouTube channel some eight years ago, they saw the platform as a potential jumping off point to a filmmaking career.

But it’s become much more than that.

“I feel like eyeballs are all online now,” Saidden says.

“I don’t really see it as a jumping-off point anymore. I feel like it will always be there even if we get something else.”

That something else could be a TV series – a natural next step for the brothers after they uploaded their first TV-length episode to YouTube on 16 July, 2017 and it became the top trending video in Australia (and was still #1 five days later).

It took less than 24 hours to hit 500,000 views, and less than four days to hit one million. And most of this was organically through the Superwog fanbase, with no advertising spend to bump up the views.

Although Saidden says the approach was still slightly different to their normal videos.

“Normally when we upload we just do a quick post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but for something like this we just put a little bit more effort into reminding people that this isn’t a normal episode,” he says.

Production company Princess Pictures put the word out on their channels, and they had a mini campaign through crowdspeaking platform Thunderclap (where fans who sign-up authorise one message to be shared across all of their social media accounts).

“Just little extra things to create more of a buzz, which is a first for us.”

Produced by Princess Pictures and supported by Screen Australia and Google through Skip Ahead, the 23-minute episode follows Superwog (played by Theo) and his friend (played by Nathan), who want to be independent and so get themselves jobs at a fast-food store. Meanwhile Superwog’s parents (also played by Theo and Nathan) go to marriage counselling to try and mend their relationship.

“It’s the same humour – we haven’t strayed from that – [but] just longer, bigger, shot better,” Saidden says.

“Everything is elevated.”

Part of this is thanks to the bigger budget and higher production values, but it’s also due to the amount of time they spent developing the script over eight months under the guidance of producer Paul Walton from Princess Pictures.

“In order to get the Skip Ahead funding, it was better if you were attached to a production company [and] we went to Melbourne and met with them (Princess Pictures) and they were just as interested in working with us as we were with them. We clicked straight away. Because our material, it’s not for everyone. It’s quite edgy. And having someone who gets what we do was so important.”

Saidden says Walton would give them writing exercises and try to push them out of their comfort zones.

“They (Princess Pictures) really knew what the task was in bringing on someone who wasn’t used to long-form and were very nurturing,” he says.

While Walton has described the shoot as “nimble” and shot over about five days, it was still much longer than Saidden was used to.

“Overall the shooting style was much slower because it was TV style. It was more old-school. That was difficult for us to adjust to. Usually we just run in with the camera, no lighting and no audio, so just using in-camera audio,” he says.

“We’d normally take between 8-12 hours to shoot our videos, because usually we’re doing three to four minute videos on YouTube.”

But with this pilot, they got a real taste at what directing a higher-budget project means – from working with a DoP to an editor to make sure the final product is what they envisioned.

“Having that extra support was awesome. And just having access [to locations] rather than rushing and asking for favours. You felt really legitimate,” he says.

“We just had to be way more prepared… The morning of each shoot, I’d come with Nathan with hand-drawn storyboards. Cause we knew exactly what we wanted.

“We normally edit everything, but Paul from Princess Pictures was adamant we get an editor and found the right person (Lydia Springhall) and she just got all the comedy beats.”

It’s been a busy year for Superwog, between uploading their regular content every one or two months, writing and shooting the pilot, and touring with their live comedy show. They were also part of the delegation funded by Screen Australia for Talent USA, which enabled them to travel to this year’s VidCon (the world’s largest video conference) in June.

“We’re full-time now with Superwog,” Saidden says. “I studied business law and got admitted as a lawyer and started working as a paralegal and slowly went from four days a week, to three to two to one. And then I quit, which the live shows made possible.”

And there’s still a lot more the brothers want to tell.

“We will always do videos on YouTube because we love comedy, but I would love to be able to open up that world where we can write stories and narrative and have a series,” Saidden says.

“That would be the dream – a feature, or series.

"It doesn’t even have to be on TV. If it was on YouTube, but it was somehow funded and someone made it possible, we’d love to do that.”

Watch the Superwog TV Pilot here