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Podcast – Bay of Fires, No Ordinary Love and the 2021/22 Drama Report

The producers behind upcoming ABC crime/thriller Bay of Fires and YouTube series No Ordinary Love give an insight into production in 2021/22 alongside the latest Drama Report results.

Bay of Fires, No Ordinary Love

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Screen Australia’s latest Drama Report results show another year of record expenditure on scripted screen production in 2021/22 to the tune of $2.29 billion. Australian titles made up $1.51 billion of that spend.

On the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast, CEO Graeme Mason gives an overview of the data, before two producers – Marta Dusseldorp and Esther Fwati – give their insights into going into production during 2021/22 financial year.

Dusseldorp, of Janet King and A Place to Call Home fame, produced upcoming ABC crime/thriller series Bay of Fires through her company Archipelago Productions alongside Fremantle Australia. The eight-part series, which she co-created with Andrew Knight (Jack Irish, Rake, Hacksaw Ridge) and Max Dann (Siam Sunset, Dance Academy, Spotswood) was filmed on the west coast of Tasmania.

Tasmania-based Dusseldorp says when the pandemic hit she called Andrew Knight, who she had known for decades through acting work on projects like After the Deluge and Jack Irish.

“I said, ‘I’ve got an idea and I’m living in the most remarkable place, I think, in the world’.”

Knight and her began dreaming up what would become Bay of Fires, and Max Dann, who Knight wrote Spotswood with, joined the team within days as co-creator.

“I looked it up and actually, the first email [with Andrew Knight] about Bay of Fires was the 21st of May 2020. And 1,601 emails later, we are locking ep five,” Dusseldorp says, “so I’m pretty proud of that.”

As described by ABC (see here), “Bay of Fires, tells the story of Stella Heikkinen (Marta Dusseldorp), a single mother of two, who finds herself in a small, remote community.  But it’s not the kind of place they put on postcards – it is instead rife with simmering feuds, crime and sometimes, murder.” The anticipated series is set to screen in 2023.

Bay of Fires is one of the 62 Australian general television and video-on-demand (VOD) projects that went into production in 2021/22, which together had a combined spend of $655 million – close to double the 2020/21 result.

This year, the television and VOD drama data in the Drama Report has been recategorized to reflect evolving content platforms and audience viewing habits. The three new categories are:

  1. Australian general Free To Air TV and BVOD drama - i.e. ABC, NITV, SBS, Seven, Nine and 10, or those broadcasters’ online platforms, ABC iview, SBS On Demand, 7plus, 9Now and 10 play.
  2. Australian general subscription TV and SVOD drama - i.e. Foxtel, Amazon Prime, Binge, Disney+, Netflix, Paramount+ and Stan.
  3. Advertising-based Video On Demand (AVOD), Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) and other online drama - i.e. YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and iTunes.

Bay of Fires would fall within the first category. Meanwhile, in that third category is a series like No Ordinary Love – a K-drama inspired romantic comedy on YouTube – that was created, produced, co-written and stars Esther Fwati.

Similar to Bay of Fires, Fwati says No Ordinary Love was also dreamt up during the early stages of the pandemic and making it an online series was a no-brainer.

“Definitely as a consumer of K-drama and Korean content in general, all of the fanbase live online. So everybody is on YouTube, not only watching K-drama content but creating fan edits and their favourite scenes from K-dramas,” she says.

“When it came time to deciding what platform the series would live on, definitely online was the first and only choice for us.”

Hear more from Fwati and Dusseldorp about the challenges and opportunities for producers at the moment, as well as from CEO Graeme Mason talking through the Drama Report results by listening to the full episode of the Screen Australia podcast.

For more information on the Drama Report, click here.

Watch all episodes of No Ordinary Love on YouTube here and keep an eye out for Bay of Fires on ABC in 2023.

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast. I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. I'd like to firstly acknowledge the various countries you are all listening in from the unceded lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This podcast has been created on the lands of the Gadigal people of the larger Eora Nation, and I've had the great privilege to be a visitor and be able to work on these lands during my years at Screen Australia. Always was, always will be. For this episode of the podcast, we are looking at some of the latest news in the Australian screen sector, which is the release of the 2021/22 Drama Report and again we're seeing some record breaking numbers. For those of you who don't know, the Drama Report is an annual report that tracks production spend across both foreign and local feature films, television and online drama titles, as well as post digital and visual effects or PDV as it's otherwise known. Essentially, the industry provides data that Screen Australia pulls together and it shows just how much was spent on production in the last financial year, as well as things like hours produced, the cost per hour, production across different platforms and much more. So firstly, we're going to be joined by Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason, who's going to run us through those topline numbers and trends. And then we'll be joined by two producers who had projects go into production during the year this Drama Report covers. The first is Marta Dusseldorp job of Archipelago Productions to talk about the upcoming ABC series Bay of Fires, which she also co-created and stars in. Then we'll be joined by Esther Fwati, the producer, co-creator, co-writer and star of popular YouTube K-Drama series No Ordinary Love. Each given an insight into working on their unique projects and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities in the Australian screen sector at the moment. As always, remember you can subscribe to the podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes where you can leave a rating and review. Any feedback send to [email protected]. And also remember you can subscribe to Screen Australia's fortnightly Industry eNews and you'll be sent all the latest funding announcements, opportunities, videos, articles and more. Now here's Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason.

[00:02:27] Graeme Mason So the Drama Report, which Screen Australia and its legacy agencies have been doing for 32 years. It gets data from the industry and we use it to really have sort of an overview of the, I guess, the health of the local/foreign - you know features television VOD and kids titles as well as PDV. So it's about scripted content only.

[00:02:48] Caris Bizzaca And there was record breaking expenditure on drama production this past financial year. What factors make it a record year?

[00:02:58] Graeme Mason Well, obviously, the thing that makes it a record year is the amount of money that's spent and which was $2.29 billion spent. Now in this year under review there was $1.51 billion spent on Australian titles, which again clearly is a record. It was a record spend on Australian features. It was a record spent in Australian subscription TV and subscription video on demand. And it was also a record for foreign PDV. I mean, so there's a lot of best evers in this year.

[00:03:29] Caris Bizzaca And I mean, it feels like every year we're setting new records. Like, why is that?

[00:03:36] Graeme Mason I mean, we've had a real production boom, which most people are aware of. We've had, you know, with COVID, we had a big shutdown. And as I said at the time, we needed to look at a couple of those years together, put them together and, you know, allocate it almost as though it would have been over two years. But now what this is showing is that last year and this year, the boom is really continuing. And that's because we've got lots of brilliant creators. It's got lots of great crews and facilities. So people are coming down to work here. But as you're noticing, most of the spend is on Australian titles and that's really being added to by new players coming into the market and working with our Australian content creators. So there's a real production boom here at the moment, which those of you're working in the sector are real well aware of.

[00:04:19] Caris Bizzaca And you know, there's obviously some positives there that you touched on, but does that boom have any negative knock-on effect in the industry?

[00:04:28] Graeme Mason I mean, there's some obviously real challenges, which, again, any of you who are working or haven't been living under a rock would know that it's really hard at the moment to get the crew you want at the time you want them or the facility you perhaps want. There's so much more competition. So we'd like others in our space, particularly in English language the US, the UK, Canada. You know, it is really a challenge at the moment to find the right crew that you want. There's other issues outside of that as well that, you know, we have inflation everywhere in the world. And, you know, it's exacerbated by the terrible situation in Ukraine and supply chains. So there's some real challenges there. We're doing some stuff in that space, though. Obviously, at the moment we're currently hiring a training and industry development manager and we're working particularly with the Federal Department and other great people in our space, the state agencies, Ausfilm, AFTRS, NIDA to work on how can we work with the sector to train up new people and develop new people and make it better for those in the space too, so we can make sure we retain the crew that we've currently got.

[00:05:39] Caris Bizzaca And so  we'll dive into some of the numbers now. Let's look at Australian production expenditure first and in particular feature films we'll look at first. So how did features fare and how much of that total is skewed by, you know, big budget Australian features that have been filmed here?

[00:05:58] Graeme Mason I mean it was a record year for Australian theatrical feature films. It's $786 million, which is a massive 59% increase on 2021 and 89% up on the five year average. It is obviously it can be skewed by bigger titles but you know, we often have big titles coming through. It is something to talk about that there were fewer titles getting made and particularly fewer of the very sort of low price point. And that is partly because at the moment it is harder to make films with COVID. We saw a lot more impact still on the speciality audience or the older arthouse audience returning to the cinemas just now. And that goes all the way through the supply chain, back to the top on how difficult it is to finance a film. So clearly we saw fewer films being made, but at higher price points. Now, outside of that obviously, it means there's more money in employment for crew and facilities, and often they're going to have a better chance at the box office, both here and abroad. But it is something we're looking at. We obviously, we Screen Australia are still supporting a whole range of different films from Force of Nature to Run Rabbit Run, to Talk to Me, you know, so there's not just the big, big, big end of town, but we are mindful that some of those micro-budget ones have maybe had a little bit tougher time of life.

[00:07:31] Caris Bizzaca And something important for people to note listening in is that this year, the Drama Report has been recategorized across the the television and Video on Demand drama space to reflect kind of evolving content platforms and audience viewing habits. So just quickly, it's been split into three new categories. The first is Australian general free to air TV and BVOD drama. So things like ABC, NITV, SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten as well as those broadcaster's online platforms. So things like ABC iview, SBS on Demand, Seven Plus, Nine Now and Ten Play. And then the second category is Australian general subscription TV and streaming video on demand drama. So things like Foxtel, Amazon Prime, Binge, Disney Plus, Netflix, Paramount Plus and Stan. And then the third category is Advertising based Video on Demand (AVOD), Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD) and other online drama. So things like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and iTunes. Worth noting as well is that children's TV isn't included in this. It's actually got its own separate category, which we'll talk about in a bit. But when we're talking about TV expenditure, Graeme, can you talk through this category a bit as well as some of the trends that were emerging?

[00:08:53] Graeme Mason Obviously, I think it's really important to note that we have changed the way these categories and everything is bundled together to be much more reflective of where content is being made and money is being spent, which is the whole point of the Drama Report. So as you say, in the past we used to have the streaming services were being put in the same basket as stuff we're making with YouTube. And that obviously is I mean, it's great this has been split up now, so we can see more clearly where the sector is going. And from that in free to air you can see that it was up some 8% on last year with 208 million of spend, but it's still below the five year average and of course it's lower down on the amount of titles, the hours on free to air. Conversely, the other side of the coin, what we're seeing in subscription and SVOD is massive increases. So a record spend of some 445 million, up from 119 (million) a year ago and double the five year average. So there's been a marked shift from free to air lessening and the SVOD streamers really bumping up. So obviously in subscription and SVOD, whilst it looks good at that moment, what we want to see is that there's consistency of Australian content by Australians being made for Australians on all these platforms that are here now. It's also worth really mentioning again that obviously television, wherever it's been made, has had real hits and it's working on a global level. So Stan, obviously have been doing a lot of Australian drama because they find it really works for them. Bump has been one of their most successful shows and that's why they've done three seasons of it. It is also worth noting, of course, that show won its timeslot in the UK on BBC One. You've seen, you know, Netflix having real success with Heartbreak High: top ten in multiple countries around the world. So there's been real opportunities for our television content here. But really what I'm focusing on at the moment is how a lot of it - The Secrets She Keeps, The Newsreader, Bluey of course, how it's travelling and what that could mean for future inward investment.

[00:11:15] Caris Bizzaca And so then talking specifically to that third category we mentioned, so that was the AVOD, TVOD and other online category, which includes projects that would be on things like YouTube, TikTok and iTunes. Graeme, how did they fare?

[00:11:31] Graeme Mason Well, there were nine Australian titles which generated some $3 million in expenditure and 8 hours of content. Now, it is a bit of a drop from last year, in both number of titles and hours. What we're also seeing, though, is the cost per hour is increasing. So really what we think we're seeing is a move into fewer things being made with bigger budgets. I guess they're hoping to have greater reach. Some of those shows have been incredibly successful, like the final season of Metarunner for YouTube. But what I want to say too is there's a lot of stuff which falls under or outside of this - great shows that we've been thrilled to be part of like The Formal with millions and millions of views. But because of the minutes that it's made, each season is, it doesn't fall into the Drama Report here. But, you know, we're still very keen, obviously, on the online space generally.

[00:12:26] Caris Bizzaca And so then talking to the children's TV and video on demand section. So the new drama report has a more holistic and comprehensive look at children's drama. So all children's dramas are grouped together, whether they're made for broadcast TV, subscription TV like Foxtel or online platforms like streaming Video on Demand or YouTube. But Graeme, what is happening in the children's TV and video on demand space?

[00:12:53] Graeme Mason So children's TV, it's interesting. It was largely on a par with last year. But whilst on one hand, that sounds good and I need to probably start off by saying our kids content is incredible and the creators are incredible. And globally, it's in demand. But the overall numbers of children's TV continues to decline from the historic highs we'd seen, you know, a decade ago. So spend is up and hours are slightly up, but there are also still 32% underneath the five year average. Those great shows from Barrumbi Kids, Crazy Fun Park, Beep and Mort. They're winning prizes, Emmys like First Day and Hard Ball. Bluey, of course, is the most successful show on the planet at the moment. But I think of the 11 kids titles which are in the Drama Report, eight of them were the ABC, one was SBS/NITV, and then there was one for ten and one for Netflix. So really, the ABC, Screen Australia and the ACTF are doing the heavy lifting here and we need to ensure that there is a good range of kids content on a range of platforms so that our children see and hear themselves on all screens.

[00:14:11] Caris Bizzaca So that's Australian expenditure. If we look at foreign expenditure, what's the overall picture, why was it down?

[00:14:20] Graeme Mason For production as a whole was still a very, very healthy 777 million in 21/22. Now you got to remember too, it's down slightly really in terms of inbound production spend. But last year was a record year, so it's still sitting some 35% above the five year average. So there's a lot still going on. You've got Joe vs Carol, you had Nautilus going, La Brea season 2, Young Rock. So there's a lot of work going on there, some really good shows. And if I'm looking ahead to next year's report, we've already got Kingdom on Planet of the Apes here, the sequel to Godzilla versus Kong and Metropolis going in Victoria. So there's a lot of inbound productions still happening here.

[00:15:06] Caris Bizzaca And then if we're looking at something like PDV, a post, digital and visual effects, how did that fare?

[00:15:15] Graeme Mason Well, the spend on foreign PDV titles rose incredibly. A new record of $335 million, an increase of 22% from last year and 65% above the five year average. It's a fantastic result and we're really thrilled to see the sector growing. It's doing really well in multiple places, multiple companies and a lot of federal and state government support is really helping that part of the sector. And, you know, I'm delighted to see that.

[00:15:44] Caris Bizzaca And what do you think is some of the the big challenges facing the screen sector at the moment?

[00:15:50] Graeme Mason Well, as we've discussed, I mean, one of the biggest challenges is, again, finding the right crew and cast and facilities that we need, that the skills and availability shortage is also an issue. Still Covid - we've worked so brilliantly with it, but it still has challenges both for personnel, but it's got issues for financials, too. So, you know, those things that we've really got to be thinking about. We've got to ensure that all the new players maintain their interest of working on Australian content. You know, in this changing environment we've got to make sure there are still Australian companies making Australian content for a range of Australian audiences.

[00:16:35] Caris Bizzaca And you know, on that note, what's on the horizon that you're looking forward to?

[00:16:40] Graeme Mason Well, there's a lot of, you know, great shows still going on. We had big success in Toronto and New York and Mipcom recently with a range of content. Sweet As, Jub Clerc's directorial feature debut won prizes both in Melbourne and in Toronto, and that will be coming out next year. The sequel to The Dry - Force of Nature - is in post. You've got New Boy, Warwick Thornton's next film with Cate Blanchett starring and producing is filming right now. Colin From Accounts had great reactions at the L.A. screenings and it's going to be out on Binge soon. There's a myriad of kids content, as I said, which was really successful at Mipcom from Beep and Mort, to Crazy Fun Park. Buyers really keen to see those shows. And I know audiences here are going to love them too.

[00:17:34] Caris Bizzaca As Graeme mentioned earlier, 62 Australian general television and video on demand projects were produced in the 2020/22 financial year. But let's zoom into that a bit further. Out of that number - 62 - there were 24 drama titles created for Australian Free to air and BVOD. Of those 19 were created for the public broadcasters. And of those, one was the upcoming ABC crime thriller series Bay of Fires. Filmed on the west coast of Tasmania, the eight part series is co-created by Andrew Knight, Marta Dusseldorp, and Max Dann and set to air in 2023. In it, Marta stars as Stella, a mother of two who finds herself in a small, remote community. But it's not the kind of place they put on postcards. It is instead rife with simmering feuds, crime and sometimes murder. Aside from Marta, the ensemble cast includes the likes of Rachel House, Yael Stone, Stephen Curry, Pamela Rabe, Roz Hammond, Toby Leonard Moore and Matt Nable to name a few. Bay of Fires was produced by Marta's company, Archipelago Productions, alongside Fremantle Media, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC and Screen Tasmania and support from VicScreen. For Marta, who many would know through acting roles in Janet King, A Place to Call Home and Jack Irish, the series Bay of Fires marks her first screen producing credit after several years working within Fremantle Australia and being mentored by Jo Porter as well as an associate producer credit on Janet King Season two and three. Marta, who is based in Tasmania, says the idea for Bay of Fires came about after the pandemic hit.

[00:19:17] Marta Dusseldorp And then I rang Andrew Knight and I said, I've got an idea and I'm living in the most remarkable place, I think, in the world. And then Andrew, who later told me he didn't mean it, but he said, 'Sure, let's start dreaming up a show.' So we did. And I looked it up. Actually, the first email about the Bay of Fires was the 21st of the 5th, 2020 and 1601 emails later, we are locking ep five. So I'm pretty proud of that.

[00:19:54] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, just a few emails. Just a couple.

[00:19:58] Marta Dusseldorp Yeah, yeah, yeah. And Max Dann, the other co-creator of Bay of Fires, my first email with him was the 29th of the fifth. So only eight days later he brought Max onto the project. They wrote Spotswood together and I've only got 803 emails with Max. I'm not sure what that means. And the person I really should mention now - the other third phone call I made was to Greg Sitch and I rang, cold-called him, left a message. He called me back within 10 minutes and I said, I've got this idea and I'm talking to Andrew and I would love you to come on as an EP and mentor me. And he said, I'd love that. And so he's sort of the third spoke of that incredible wheel, if you like. So between the three of them and me, we worked really hard to keep it ours, keep it original and with the support of Screen Tasmania. Alex Sangston and Andrew McPhail, we were able to do that because we got the pilot up through them and the Tasmanian Government.

[00:21:10] Caris Bizzaca I have a note here that there were 81 shoot days and you seem to be in the bulk of scenes as well as, like you said, producing. How did you find this experience?

[00:21:25] Marta Dusseldorp Oh, it was it was incredible. Pre-production was like walking into a funfair. I mean, there are people making things and throwing ideas and splashing up colours and presenting you with things you couldn't have imagined. You've got Jo Ford spending hours talking about the texture of the floor or the the type of the wall colours as opposed to someone then throwing a costume in front of you and Fiona (Ress-Jones) saying, Oh, I imagined maybe that they looked like this. And then we grind it down into authenticity and (director) Natalie Bailey would be off going on a recce with Marty (McGrath) and they find this and then we drive up to the West Coast and and look at all the spaces. And I have to say, a lot was gifted to us. Everyone said that. They said, oh, this place is gold. We don't have to angle anything, frame anything out. It's all sitting here for us. So I found that really invigorating and exciting. And meanwhile I went back and the guys would be writing and I'd sit down there for a couple of days and brainstorm another thing or move something somewhere else. Meanwhile, the casting is going and these beautiful actors putting down the most incredible auditions and you get to meet them and talk to them as well. So they're feeding you and Yvonne (Collins) and Mim Davis in the next room, pounding out their schedules and pulling together this incredible crew. It's like the Titanic. And then it sets sail and then you hope there's no icebergs. We had the third wave of COVID come through, and that was so difficult. But nobody said that. Everyone said, 'this is what we're doing. This is how, let's keep going.' So we're shifting schedules. I mean, I think we had 41 down with COVID at one point, you know, on and off, in and out. I didn't get COVID miraculously. So it was like, 'okay, Marta, you're on.'

[00:23:33] Caris Bizzaca Keep going.

[00:23:34] Marta Dusseldorp Yeah, I'd learn up that stuff, but I have to say, it was in my DNA so that didn't matter. We had these gorgeous Imi and Ava who played my kids, who were always turning out positive and excited, knew their lines and knew what they wanted to do. Natalie Bailey, director of eps one to four and didn't get Covid either. So we kept going. And it's just this massive carnie. It's a carnie vibe. Everyone keeps each other up. The West Coast became our home and the West Coastans  really invited us in and made us feel welcome. So that also really helped. So I guess the answer to your question is it filled my life to the brim, and that's what it's for. It doesn't matter how many hats you've got - it's the people around you, the strength of the idea and the project, and the belief in making Australian stories. It's real and people are passionate about it. So that really ended up being what it was and that just lifts you up and carries you along.

[00:24:43] Caris Bizzaca And I was wondering what from a producing point of view, what do you think are some of the big challenges for producers at the moment?

[00:24:50] Marta Dusseldorp I think it's definitely our budgets, I'd say would be the top one. We really do a lot with very little comparative to the other English speaking countries. But again, I don't think we whinge about that. We just get on and make it as best as we possibly can and punch way above our weight. But I think if we want to seriously grow as an industry in the English speaking market internationally particularly, we're going to have to look at that model and really find more money to pour into each episode just so that we can keep up. Again, having said that, we do keep up, so I'd like that to be top line. I think COVID is a crazy time to make anything. It's incredibly disruptive, and I think people's health is first and foremost. So that's their responsibility to make sure that everyone is well and safe. It's a big burden. You feel that. You feel it every day. You want people to be well. And so that was a big thing for me. When I walked away at the end of the shoot, I'll never forget it. I was driving away from the final shot and it was night. And I thought to myself, 'Marta, just listen. What is it that has been the biggest thing for you in all of this?' And I thought 'no one got hurt.' And I hadn't realised just how important that was to me that no one on our watch got hurt. So I think that's health and safety is everything and I think the producers in Australia do it as well as anyone in the world. So hats off to everyone for that. So it's just keeping up that strict health and safety protocols, making sure that everyone is safe. That's a huge challenge with 150 people, remote location. We had some pretty wild weather, so our Covid officer, Cam Stevens and Clay, our safety officer, did such an incredible job. I think as well, development. Development of scripts is everything and we need to give them time. And that, of course, is money. So who supports that? Certainly for an independent production company like mine? I haven't got those types of resources, but also to sell the idea is very difficult to get your head around. IP now is becoming more and more important and I'm hearing those conversations internationally. Who has the IP? Who owns this, this product, this idea? So I don't know how we how we help the smaller companies without having to sell our IP to certainly the big streaming services who want own it. And I get why. But it's not fun to let your baby go and go and live in a boarding house with weekend visits. Nobody wants that. So I was very lucky to be able to navigate that and keep my ownership of it, which kept really the creative control, which is what you're asking for. It's not so much about down the line and all of that. It's about how do you tell the story you want to make? And it's something that Greg Sitch drilled into me and still does to this very day. He said 'your next project Marta, how do you keep your creative control over it?' Because, you know, life is short and you want it to be authentic. And because I have such a small outfit - me and my husband and the kitchen table - I don't necessarily want to throw it to... And people aren't wolves. They've got businesses they're trying to sustain massive overheads. I get that. But what I can bring is authenticity and a strong hold on the story so that it doesn't get thrown around to the next best idea.

[00:29:10] Caris Bizzaca Authenticity is something that was also important to Esther Fwati, who's the series creator, showrunner, co-producer, co-writer and actor in No Ordinary Love. In the K-Drama inspired romantic comedy, which you can watch now on YouTube, two exes have to reunite at a wedding where they find themselves navigating cultural differences, as well as a secret about the reason why they broke up. No Ordinary Love was supported through Screen Australia's online funding, and Esther says the idea for the series, which comprises five 10-minute episodes, was formed during the early days of the pandemic.

[00:29:44] Esther Fwati It was sort of like through the early stages of Covid when everyone was in lockdown. I was getting back into watching K-Dramas, but also thinking about just as an actor, how dissatisfied I was with the auditions that were coming my way. A lot of the auditions were characters that were pretty stereotyped, and you could tell that they were only just surface level ideas of who I am as an African Australian. And so I didn't feel like I was being seen for roles that I would enjoy playing, such as in romantic comedies where there's not a lot of representation of black females. And so I was talking with a couple of friends in Sydney who are also from the Korean community. And yeah, I was just sharing about how I wanted to create something that I loved watching, which is k-dramas and romantic comedies and that sort of where it began.

[00:30:38] Caris Bizzaca And how did you kind of choose the, you know, online as a platform for this story?

[00:30:44] Esther Fwati So definitely as a consumer of K-Dramas and Korean content in general, all of the fan base lives online. So everybody is on YouTube, not only watching K-Drama content, but also creating like fan edits and their favourite scenes from K-Dramas. And they also live on TikTok quite a bit engaging with K-Pop, their favourite music bands, other fan members and again doing the same thing on TikTok, where they're creating great montage scenes of their favourite moments from K-Dramas. So when it came time to deciding what platform the series would live on, definitely online was the first and only choice for us because that's where we knew our audience and k-drama watchers lived.

[00:31:34] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of the actual production itself, you know, when did you shoot? How long did it go for? Tell me a bit about the team involved.

[00:31:45] Esther Fwati So the team involved included myself, lead producer Joanna Beveridge, who was sort of like our mentor on the project. There was Helen Kim, who was a producer, co-writer and an actor on the project as well, and she comes from the Korean Australian community. Mina Kang was one of our other writers who completed the writing team and one of our two directors on the project. And then Chase Lee was our final director on the project. And so that was the core creative team and the series we shot in Sydney just because that's where the majority of the team are based, and we shot from April through to May over ten days. And the crew that we organised to be a part of this series all came from culturally diverse backgrounds. That was something that was really important to us, that we weren't just creating a series or a show that gave opportunity to actors on screen, but that we were also creating job opportunities and talent escalators for crew members behind the scenes.

[00:32:57] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of that production, you know, what was some of the big challenges do you feel like?

[00:33:03] Esther Fwati Yeah, there was definitely a lot of challenges. Being a first-time producer and also first-time director for one of our directors. I think there was the challenge of learning, learning how to produce firstly and also working with a funding board for the first time, but then also just working through different things that are sort of just like cultural things, also our age and gender in relation to more seasoned crew members on our team and just learning how to work with those factors to lead the project and have our voice respected as well. So I think those were the main challenges that came with producing on this project.

[00:33:46] Caris Bizzaca And if we're talking about producing in the online space more generally, just expanding on that challenges question, what are maybe some of the big challenges are for online producers at the moment?

[00:34:03] Esther Fwati I think at the moment, online is like one of the best places new producers and independent producers can can go to create content. I think the challenges would be if you're not considering who your audience are and exactly how they exist online. So what they're listening to, what platforms they're on and how they're engaging with each other on those platforms. I think that's where the challenges come into the picture in terms of there might be some differences in what you're creating versus what your audience may be expecting from you. So I think those would be the biggest challenges to consider when creating for online.

[00:34:45] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, because with No Ordinary Love like you was saying that TikTok and YouTube are the two kind of key places where this audience lives. And while it was released on YouTube, you used TikTok as a platform to also get that audience over to YouTube. Is that right?

[00:35:01] Esther Fwati That's correct, because we didn't have an online presence at all before we began. And that was already a big challenge because we didn't have an existing fanbase and so we had to build that from scratch and building it on YouTube - if this was maybe like a couple or ten years ago where YouTube was used much more differently than it is now, I think it would have been easier. But we definitely understood that we needed to engage our audience on TikTok with all of the fun content that they were expecting from us and funnel them through to YouTube. And I think if it wasn't for that system, we wouldn't have been able to build an audience for the series.

[00:35:46] Caris Bizzaca That was as Esther Fwati and a big thanks to Esther, Marta Dusseldorp and Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason for joining me on the podcast. Remember, you can subscribe to this podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes, and you can also subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter to keep up to date with new initiatives, opportunities, videos, articles and more. Thanks for listening.