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Podcast – The making of TV series Bad Behaviour

Screenwriters Pip Karmel and Magda Wozniak join director Corrie Chen in breaking down the scripting through to post-production of new Stan television series Bad Behaviour.

Bad Behaviour Director Corrie Chen poses for a selfie with the cast on set. Photo credit Jane Zhang.

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

Back in 2015, screenwriter Pip Karmel heard the author Rebecca Starford talking on ABC radio about her memoir Bad Behaviour.

“I bought the book and zoomed through (it),” she says. “I just thought it was so rich in terms of relationships and teenagers and was really powerful, so I took it to a producer, Amanda Higgs, who I'd been wanting to work with, and I said, 'are you interested in adapting this book for television?' And that's when I started.”

Now a four-part television series, written by Karmel and Magda Wozniak and directed by Corrie Chen, Bad Behaviour is available to watch on Stan and is also screening at Berlin International Film Festival. It follows the story of Jo (played by Jana McKinnon), who as a teenager went to an exclusive girls' boarding school where they spend one year away in the Victorian wilderness – it’s a place of intense friendships, shifting loyalties and the critical choice of whether to bully or be bullied. A decade later, Jo is still navigating the fallout of that year: even more so when some of her old classmates appear in her life again.

On the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast, Karmel and Wozniak talk about the development period, their writing process, challenges of adapting the memoir for screen and advice on adaptations in general. For Wozniak – who has written on teen series Mustangs FC and Crazy Fun Park – this series was tonally very different, even in its approach to themes bullying and power dynamics.

“The way that Rebecca has written the minutia of those power dynamics is so fascinating,” she says. “I feel like she had written these quite immature behaviours with this very adult darkness to them – this darkness that's caught between, I guess, kid and adult, and it's so rich and complicated…. that for me was something I wanted to explore and write more about.”

Also joining Wozniak and Karmel is director Corrie Chen, who details some of the choices they made in the shoot and post-production, such as her process once she gets the scripts, collaborating with composer Caitlin Yeo and sound designer Emma Bortignon to explore the act of remembering, working with Intimacy Coordinator Amy Cater (also listen to previous podcast episode with Cater here), and how they created seamless transitions between the past and present storylines.

“I've actually always wanted to do a show where the past and present are in constant dialogue in this like pressure dance with each other,” Chen says. “Ultimately the transitions, it was a combination: we did storyboard some sequences and more discoveries were found in the edit, and I really left myself open to visual connections between the timelines going into the shoot because I knew the play of the story structure was really going to change and evolve quite a lot from the script.”

To hear more, listen to the full episode on the Screen Australia Podcast. Also watch all four episodes of Bad Behaviour on Stan now.

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, our very first for 2023, we are doing a deep dive into the making of the new Stan series, Bad Behaviour, which was selected for Berlin International Film Festival and all four episodes are available to watch now. Based on the memoir by Rebecca Starford, it follows the story of Jo, played by Jana McKinnon, who as a teenager went to an exclusive girls boarding school where one year was spent in the Victorian wilderness. It's a place of intense friendships, shifting loyalties and the critical choice of whether to bully or be bullied. A decade later, Jo is still navigating the fallout of that year, even more so when some of her old classmates appear in her life again. For the first half of this podcast episode, we'll be talking with screenwriters Pip Karmel and Magda Wozniak about the development period, the challenges of adapting the memoir for screen, their writing process and more. Then, for the second half of this episode we will be joined by director Corrie Chen to talk about the shoot and post-production, including reuniting with Mustangs FC producer Amanda Higgs, creating seamless transitions between the past and present storylines and working with music and sound to explore the act of remembering. Speaking of remembering, 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 don't forget, you can also subscribe to Screen Australia's Industry eNews for the latest funding announcements, opportunities, videos and more. First up, here's Bad Behaviour screenwriters Pip Karmel and Magda Wozniak. So just to start off with, can you tell me a little bit about your role in the industry and some of the projects that you've worked across? So, Magda, you first.

[00:02:28] Magda Wozniak Most recently I've worked on a few different shows. I've just been moving into the adult space a bit more since Bad Behaviour, so working on The Messenger, which is coming out on ABC soon and While the Men are Away, which is currently in production for SBS with Arcadia. Before Bad Behaviour I had mostly worked my way through Home and Away and Neighbours, into like kids and young adult and Bad Behaviour was sort of the perfect bridging experience to work on a show that was about young people but through a very adult lens.

[00:03:05] Caris Bizzaca And we'll come back to that point in just a minute, but before we do, Pip, can you also tell me about your pathway into screenwriting?

[00:03:15] Pip Karmel I started off training as a film editor way back when, and then I went into directing and writing from there. Mainly worked in film, for a very long time, and then a little while ago I decided that TV was the way to go and one of the first jobs I got on TV was on Total Control. I'm working on the third season of Total Control now, so I did an episode in the first season and the second season, and I'm writing two episodes in the third season. I also wrote an episode on New Gold Mountain and I'm developing a show at the moment with Goalpost.

[00:04:00] Caris Bizzaca And two questions based on that - you started out in editing, what drew you to screenwriting? And then, what about TV?

[00:04:12] Pip Karmel I started off in the editing department in film, and then I went to film school. While I was at film school, I edited a feature film so when I went back to film school, I then went into directing. And in those days, everybody got to make a film in your final year of film school and I asked a friend to write me a script, and at the last minute she said she was too busy. She couldn't do it. And I thought, 'Damn, I'll have to write it myself.' So I wrote it myself and as a result of that, I won the Graduate Filmmaker Award, which was actually a year's employment as a writer and director at Film Australia. So I got into writing by accident really. I didn't have any intention of being a writer. Then I worked as a writer/director, and I just focused more on writing when I had children because it's an easy thing to do if you're trying to bring up a family at the same time. And getting into television was just a decision - film writing was terrific, but it was very hard to see projects onto the screen. You do a lot of work and the films never get made, and it just felt like it was getting harder and I thought that the beauty of television is that you can work on programmes and the in what seems like a nanosecond, they're on screen. That's sort of why you're writing in the first place, to get things on the screen, not just for the pleasure of writing a beautiful script.

[00:05:42] Caris Bizzaca And so similarly, Magda how did you get into screenwriting?

[00:05:48] Magda Wozniak I was originally interested in studying, I suppose, more cinema and cinema studies. I was actually more interested in writing critically. I thought I might become a reviewer or something of that nature at university. And then I ended up just taking a lot of creative writing classes and discovering that other side of myself, which was a very exciting thing to find as a young person. And then I ended up doing a Masters in WA at a place called the WA Screen Academy, which is attached to WAAPA. Through that course, which was which is great, we developed like a showreel portfolio of work and one of the short films that I wrote did very well, went to a few festivals and won some awards. So I was able to get an attachment on a TV show through Screen West, which was originally I was in Sydney, and I was attached to a show called Rescue Special Ops, which was my first proper television experience, and I loved it immediately and was able to move through that to other work originally at Neighbours, which is what brought me down to Melbourne. And then through all the usual process of doing lots of notetaking and script coordinating and all those different experiences, found my way to writing probably like five years ago.

[00:07:10] Caris Bizzaca So you really went through the Neighbours, Home and Away stepping stones through the different roles?

[00:07:19] Magda Wozniak Very much so. I think that journey where I was able to move from job to job and learn so much through those lower roles and to feel that frustration that I'm sure every notetaker feels, where you want to be the one writing for a long time and I luckily just found some people who were very kind champions and who supported me in taking that next leap.

[00:07:47] Caris Bizzaca And you mentioned earlier about having written for some other series that deal with teenage characters. Things like Crazy Fun Park and Mustangs FC and now Bad Behaviour, these are all very different takes on teenage characters. But did it mean that you came to Bad Behaviour feeling like you had been in that mindset a little bit already, did it make it any easier or It's just such a different take?

[00:08:16] Magda Wozniak I think I'm very drawn to stories about young people in general. That's a space that I felt very comfortable entering, in the world of kids TV and it is different in tone. Obviously, a show like Mustangs [FC] is quite different in tone to Bad Behaviour, for various reasons. But at the heart of it you're still talking about the intensity that young people experience which I think is really incomparable to what it feels like to be an adult. You feel everything at one hundred and even in a kid's show, you're treating those big emotions with the same amount of gravity that your audience would and learning to do that and taking that seriously was probably a really good foundation from which to then move into Bad Behaviour where the whole thrust of the show is the intensity of those emotions and how they stay with us and how significant they are.

[00:09:14] Caris Bizzaca And on that note of Bad Behaviour, Pip had you been aware of the book before coming on board to this project? Can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:09:26] Pip Karmel Well it's based on a memoir by Rebecca Starford. I actually looked it up this morning so it's nearly eight years since I heard an interview with Rebecca on the ABC Conversations Show in 2015. That was when the book had been published, and I heard her interview and I was immediately engaged with what she was talking about. And I ran out and bought the book and zoomed through the book, and I thought this is great stuff. I thought it was so rich in terms of relationships and teenagers and was really powerful. So I took it to a producer, Amanda Higgs, who I'd been wanting to work with, and I said, 'Are you interested in in adapting this book for television?' And that's when it started.

[00:10:22] Caris Bizzaca You were saying features take a long time, but eight years.

[00:10:24] Pip Karmel Yes, as soon as I said that I thought it's a long time.

[00:10:28] Caris Bizzaca And Magda, how did you get involved in the screen adaptation of Bad Behaviour?

[00:10:35] Magda Wozniak  I was brought on a little bit later, it was just before the start of the pandemic so it feels like a lifetime ago, feels like eight years. And Pip already had the foundation set up there and then it was really great to explore it all together and look at it again.

[00:10:55] Caris Bizzaca What about the the book? When you read it, what did you feel would translate really well to screen? What really grabbed you and made you feel excited about this being a TV series?

[00:11:07] Magda Wozniak Well, immediately I think it's the mood of those younger years. The way that Rebecca has written the minutia of those power dynamics is so fascinating. Obviously there's a lot of stuff about bullying, that's a theme that you see explored very often, particularly in that kids TV space. But there's a whole other layer to the nature of these power dynamics in the way that she explores them, and a word I love to use is psychosexual because I feel she had written these quite immature behaviours with this very adult darkness to them, this darkness that's caught between kidish-ness and adultness, and it's so rich and complicated. Immediately that for me was something I wanted to explore and write more about because it's very fascinating. You can have endless conversations about what everything means, and we did, and that's always the mark of a really interesting story for me.

[00:12:15] Caris Bizzaca Pip, similarly, you were talking before about how you read through the book, but what were some of the things that jumped out to you that you were excited about for TV?

[00:12:25] Pip Karmel We've all been to high school. We've all made those decisions about how we're going to behave and who we're going to be so I felt it was very widely relatable. I think girls of that age interact in a particular way and that very often you do spend your time either trying to reinvent yourself when you get out of school or examining who you've become and whether you want to be somebody different. And you get any group of well, particularly women, I'm not so sure about men, but women together to talk about high school and a lot comes out.

[00:13:04] Caris Bizzaca It's been a few since I've read the book but from memory it's quite internal. There's a lot of internal thoughts and things like that. I was wondering with creating this for the screen, was that part of the challenge of the adaptation? Were there other things that were like big challenges in terms of taking this material and turning it into a TV screenplay?

[00:13:31] Pip Karmel There were lots of challenges. It was a particularly difficult adaptation to do. We've had lots of iterations since we started, and you're always dealing also with the pressures of turning it into a commercial piece of television. So we've been through having a missing girl or a murder mystery, all that stuff, to try and make it appealing for networks to even be able to produce it in the first place. I think it is quite internal and I think it was a real challenge. I also think we had our work cut out for us, nailing the contemporary story and working out how to stay true to the spirit of the memoir while inventing story and changing characters. In the end, I think it's been inspired by the book, but at some point, you have to make a decision to depart from some of the stuff in the book. Although I think all the story in the past at the boarding school retains a lot of what was in the book, and I think it's a pretty good representation of the memoir in that regard. What do you think, Magda?

[00:14:50] Magda Wozniak I agree, certainly the younger story, I feel we stay quite faithful to Rebecca's telling of that. The challenge there was obviously structuring it in such a way that it fit that four-episode structure and in terms of the build so that every episode felt like a whole. Obviously, the memoir can sit in a slightly more free way as a retelling, whereas ours had to have that build to a climax and some sort of emotionally satisfying resolution at the end before we then restart the next ep[isode]. That was probably the biggest challenge with that strand of the story, and then as Pip said, the contemporary storyline, we really had to rethink that because as it stands in the book, it's quite an internal story. It's centred a lot around Rebecca's reflections on how the past is reflected in her present, but in quite an indirect way. So in the way that the past shapes her relationship with completely different people in the present, and I think we all sort of reached a moment where that simply didn't feel like enough for our show. We wanted a more direct link between the past and the present, and that was how we came across the idea of bringing those literal characters from the past into the present and taking the feeling and the emotion and the energy of the memoir and the intention, I think, that Rebecca had in her present day story. But using that instead, feeding that into the same characters. So she's actually having present-day relationships with the girls she interacted with in her high school experience.

[00:16:37] Caris Bizzaca Even the stakes around confronting someone from your past, that you haven't seen in a really long time. There's a lot you can explore there.

[00:16:47] Magda Wozniak You can make it a lot more dramatic and I think a lot more satisfying to a viewer, because you form a different relationship with characters when you're viewing something as opposed to reading something, and once you connect to those characters in the kids' timeline, you come to love someone like Alice and you want to see that character again. You don't want to let her go. You want to know what happened, what sort of an adult did she grow into, how did she deal with things? How did the other characters use their past, not just the main [character]?

[00:17:24] Caris Bizzaca How did you find writing a character who-- the main protagonist in Bad Behaviour at times does some questionable things, but was there a bit of a balance to get in terms of keeping the audience onside with the character and going through that journey with her? As she does make mistakes in the past, in the present, but being on board with her throughout that.

[00:17:56] Magda Wozniak That is such an interesting question and I can't speak to Pip, but when we were in the room, certainly we all spoke about that main character of Jo, who is a reinvention of the character of Bec from the book. When we spoke about Jo, it was with a lot of understanding and kindness and we spoke about her whole character and the complexity of her experience. I don't think there was ever a point when we weren't on her side as writers. I think we always felt that we were on her side and that we were telling a really prickly, complex story. But I think we knew where her actions were coming from and we hoped to put that in the writing and that's the whole the point of the series, that's the juice of it. Why do people make such bad choices even when they're not bad people?

[00:18:55] Pip Karmel That was what was appealing about the book also, is that she wasn't painting herself as a victim or innocent. She was taking responsibility for some of her bad behaviour and weakness. I think most of us can relate to that - when you're put in that situation, it's a matter of survival.

[00:19:19] Caris Bizzaca  I'm keen to talk about the writers' room. So Pip, how many writers' rooms were there? Who was in the room? Can you talk to that a little bit?

[00:19:32] Pip Karmel I think we had our first writers room in 2017. We had Shirley Barrett in the room and Kylie Needham, and that was thrashing out one iteration of what we could be doing. I think that was when we had Stan interested in the show, the first time round. It's all a bit of a blur, but with the next writers' rooms, [that] was when Magda came on board and that was just before COVID and I think we did a lot of [writers'] rooms on Zoom.

[00:20:09] Magda Wozniak We did.

[00:20:10] Pip Karmel I don't think we got together till after 2021 when I came to Melbourne.

[00:20:17] Magda Wozniak I think so.

[00:20:18] Pip Karmel That was the first time we actually met. So a lot of writers' rooms on Zoom, which is my least favourite mode of working. I find it really difficult. I would prefer to be in a real room any day.

[00:20:30] Magda Wozniak I agree completely, I very much prefer being in person. But I will say that for this project for which there were so many different versions of the script and the story, particularly the contemporary story, I feel like we were constantly reinventing it in the drafting process, trying to land what in essence feels like the most obvious option, that it was always that all along, but it was quite hard to get there. In a way having the possibility of Zoom was quite helpful for that process because people are in different cities and the fact that we were able to jump on as a team with Corrie and Amanda as well and have these immediate team chats was, I think, very valuable because especially with a four part-er, you do all have to work so closely as you change and write things.

[00:21:27] Caris Bizzaca Something I always like to ask of writers is, do you both have a specific process when it comes to actually writing the scripts? Are you a wake up in the morning, get to writing straight away, or are you a night owl? What's your process? Magda, you first.

[00:21:49] Magda Wozniak I am such a sleepy baby, so I'm not very good at all in the night-time hours, I am best in the middle of the day. Honestly, a 9 to 5 schedule is quite good for me. Although, as it is with writing, sometimes you need to work later and sometimes you only need to do a few hours of writing, but you have to do five hours of thinking. So I like to kind of follow whatever the process demands, and sometimes that does mean I'm going to wake up in the morning and clean my entire house for six hours while I think about a particular scene that I don't understand and then I'll sit down and find that writing it actually comes quite easily. And other days I feel like I just have to be at the computer until I crack something. That's what I do sometimes as well. Just kind of mix it up.

[00:22:45] Caris Bizzaca And Pip, yourself?

[00:22:46] Pip Karmel I think it depends on what stage of the process you're in. So from the first draft, I find that it's agony and slow and I do a lot of napping.

[00:23:00] Magda Wozniak We're both sleeping.

[00:23:03] Pip Karmel You do your best when you're asleep.

[00:23:06] Magda Wozniak So true.

[00:23:08] Pip Karmel In terms of the routine, I like to exercise in the morning. I've got to get my exercise out of the way before I can work. I don't end up being really in the zone until the afternoon, generally. When I'm past the first draft, I can work into the night, depending on how close the deadline is. I think I get more focused as the day goes on. So I've learnt that I'll do my dog walking and my gym and everything first and then I can settle down to concentrate.

[00:23:38] Magda Wozniak No, I definitely do that in the evening. That's almost like my end of day, when I'm done for work, that's where I exercise and it's like the full stop on the day.

[00:23:47] Pip Karmel Interesting.

[00:23:48] Caris Bizzaca It's your way of being like, 'No, I'm done.' Because I've heard of a bunch of people [who] will go for a walk in the morning because they'll start that thinking process. I thought when you said, Magda, if you're cleaning or something, it's kind of like your mind is still working while you're doing some kind of active task.

[00:24:11] Magda Wozniak Definitely, even if that's going to get a coffee, sometimes that's a really useful thing to start the process for me.

[00:24:20] Caris Bizzaca We've been talking a little bit about adaptation today. There's a obviously a lot of projects out there that are based on existing IP: books, plays, things like that. Do either of you have any advice for people that are tackling adaptations? Pip?

[00:24:38] Pip Karmel I think every adaptation is different. I don't think you can generalise very easily, but I think the main thing to remember is to try and stay true to the spirit of the source material, but not be too constrained by it, if that makes sense.

[00:24:54] Magda Wozniak  I agree with that, I've worked on a few adaptations now, The Messenger is also an adaptation and I've got another YA novel that I've been adapting and I think it's different for every book and every team. But I do kind of agree with Pip that I find, especially for a first draft, putting the book away is really useful. Like just not looking back, not trying to refer to it and match it too closely. Instead trying to capture the feeling or the vibe or what stuck with you from the book when you move through the writing process, at least at one stage, can be incredibly useful because you might strike something, you might hit something completely unexpected in you, or at the very least you're really discovering what it is that stayed with you from the book and what you loved the most, which I think is very important. And then with Bad Behaviour, I found that I would do that for one pass of the draft and then maybe I would go back and have a look at particular scenes and see if I had missed something that could enrich the scene and then go back again and put the book away and try again just from my own instincts. And I did find that quite useful.

[00:26:06] Caris Bizzaca Bad Behaviour, the characters in this series, they are so rich and so complex, and I was just wondering if either of you had a favourite character to write, a favourite to get into the voice of and why that is, if so. So Magda?

[00:26:24] Magda Wozniak This is such a cute question and also very hard because it's like choosing a favourite child. Actually my favourite character to write, I really loved writing the modern day share house with Ruby and Saskia because that was a complete step away from what was in the memoir. So it was something that we got to invent entirely on our own, and particularly the character of Ruby, I loved writing because it was a chance to give the character of Jo this really pure friendship where there was no power at play and she was able to be fully free and herself. And it was kind of the heart of Jo's relationships and what she stands to lose. I loved being in that space with her and allowing her to be her best self, at least at the start. No spoilers.

[00:27:13] Caris Bizzaca Similarly [I] love that character of Ruby and shout out to the actor, brought to life so well by Mantshologane Maile in that role. Pip, same question, favourite character?

[00:27:29] Pip Karmel It's a really interesting question. I have never thought of it in that way, about having favourite characters. My instinct is that I'm more with the main protagonists, that's my comfort zone because you're more in their head. But every character has their own charm, and especially writing Portia, writing the bad character is usually pretty fun.

[00:27:55] Caris Bizzaca Lastly, another advice question, but just a general advice for writers. Do you have any words of wisdom, any advice for any writers listening? Pip?

[00:28:13] Pip Karmel I am not going to say don't do it. I think the main advice would be to try, if you can be choosy, just try and work on material that really speaks to you and to work with people that you want to work with.

[00:28:31] Caris Bizzaca And Magda?

[00:28:33] Magda Wozniak I feel like whenever I listen to your podcast, I'm loving the advice that all the other writers give and I really want to soak up that advice myself. I suppose if I had to offer some advice, I feel like it's also to appreciate how lucky we are as writers. I think sometimes we work ourselves into a lot of bitterness and complaining, which is maybe the writer temperament, but sometimes it's really nice to stand back and think that we are so lucky to get to play in these worlds and bring these stories to life. And I don't know if that's really good advice or if it's just my philosophy, but I like to remind myself to be grateful.

[00:29:20] Magda Wozniak That was Magda Wozniak and Pip Karmel, the screenwriters of Bad Behaviour. Next up, we're joined by the series director Corrie Chen, whose other directing work includes New Gold Mountain and Homecoming Queens for SBS, as well as episodes of Wentworth, Mustangs FC, Sisters and more. Here's Corrie talking about how she came across the memoir Bad Behaviour.

[00:29:42] Corrie Chen I was first given the book by Amanda Higgs back in 2018 or 2019, so a number of years ago, and I was actually directing the last series of Mustangs [FC] for her at the time. And she was talking about the book and was like, this could be something that you're interested in. At the time there was a bible and maybe a very early draft of one episode, I can't remember, but it was definitely a bible. And reading the memoir, it was it was actually quite a slow burn in that I obviously loved the world and the tone, and I knew a lot about the school that it was set in, in real life, because for a brief moment in time, my parents actually thought about sending me there as well. Very brief moment, and then they had heard about the terrible bullying that was going on and [thought] maybe you shouldn't be going. So there were a few personal connections to it in that I also did go to a girls school and we had a few camps, not to the extent of what happens in Bad Behaviour, but I certainly could visualise it really clearly and it was this slow seeping, like a mould that grew outwards inside me and I say mould in a good way because it just took over my system. But it was very, very slow in that, I read it and I was like, 'Oh yeah, I can see I'm enjoying this.' And then I just couldn't stop thinking about it, and that took place across a number of years, all the way up to the shoot where it just became a little bit insane, to be honest, where I was just completely obsessed.

[00:31:30] Caris Bizzaca The mould had really taken over.

[00:31:33] Corrie Chen I mean, talk about The Last of Us, I was really zombified by Bad Behaviour by the time we got to make it. So, that was how I came across it.

[00:31:44] Magda Wozniak You mention Amanda Higgs, and you were filming on Mustangs FC at the time so was that one of these relationships in the industry where you're working with someone and you're like, 'We definitely should work again' and you were looking for projects that you could work together again on?

[00:32:01] Corrie Chen I think so. I mean, by that time of Mustangs [FC], [Amanda] Higgsy and I had worked together on quite a few seasons of the show, so we knew how to collaborate and that we could collaborate really well and also in taste, that we had similar taste and instincts for story. That's a connection that doesn't happen every day, to feel the same about what characters should be doing. When it happened at the time, I remember I was thinking to myself 'Oh, I heard about stuff like this happening. When I was coming through the industry, directors would always [say] 'and then so-and-so gave me this book and I ended up making the show' and I used to think, 'what the heck, how does that happen?' And then it happened to me.

[00:32:59] Caris Bizzaca And now you can pass on the story.

[00:33:03] Corrie Chen Yeah the very annoying story where things land in your lap. Obviously it still took five or six years later. It wasn't quite the overnight project that sometimes these anecdotes end up being but, I felt very grateful.

[00:33:25] Caris Bizzaca  Talking about Mustangs [FC], this is something that Magda and I also spoke about on the podcast, but that Magda's worked on a few different teen series. Similarly Mustangs deals with coming of age and teen years and identity, and then I was thinking about some of your early short films which have similar themes. Do you feel like you're drawn to projects that cover this territory?

[00:33:56] Corrie Chen Definitely. In many ways a large part of my identity is probably still at high school, unfortunately, for better or worse. So I've made quite a number of shorts and shows now that work with younger actors as well. There's something in that feeling when you're at that age and every day you're experiencing something new for the first time or you're feeling something new for the first time. It's this wonderful volatility that harbours so much drama. I find that really interesting as a filmmaker because we're always wanting to push into the extremes of the spectrum of emotion and high school is this box that allows people to clash and to grow.

[00:34:55] Caris Bizzaca With Bad Behaviour, getting involved in the screen adaptation, were you in the writers' rooms much, where you on board as the scripts were being developed?

[00:35:08] Corrie Chen When I came on board there was only, as I was saying earlier, a draft of one of the scripts and in my mind I felt like I was in a lot of the rooms. I can't quite figure out how many, but certainly at the very start and then in the last chapter of development, which is really when the story cracked open. There's been a lot of iterations of the script, especially with regards to the present tense timeline of Jo. And I have this memory in mid 2021 where Amanda Higgs, me, Pip and Magda were locked in this Zoom room because we're on a really tight deadline of having to turn the scripts over, but also really needing to break what the purpose of the present tense timeline was and in the midst of a lockdown. So that was a fun and dark time. But it's really rare, in television that a director can be so hands on with the scripting. Certainly for me personally, with New Gold Mountain and Bad Behaviour because of lockdowns and delays in the shooting it just meant I was really able to engage in that. What's fulfilling is reading the book of Bad Behaviour, what was really clear to me was that the voice is so personal and so authored and that was what was exciting about the adaptation. The challenge was 'how do we achieve that in television where you have so many different voices coming in across the board,' not just in the writing, but the actors and crew, our commissioners as well. So me having the time to figure out how to get the emotional expression of the visuals and the cinematic performances on paper in a way so that everyone had a unified vision, that was what was extremely valuable about the development process.

[00:37:23] Caris Bizzaca I imagine it would be quite different to coming into directing a block of episodic television where there's been a set up director and an established tone. In comparison, coming on to Bad Behaviour, being involved as the scripts developed, what are some of the things that you're doing when you are directing all four episodes? Are you making notes in the script? Are you finding other tonal references from shows or films to match what you want to achieve? What are some of those steps?

[00:37:57] Corrie Chen Part of my process is pretty early on I create a visual bible for the show with my own statement of intent, of what I think the show is and what I want it to be. I did one for New Gold Mountain and I did one for this, and it ends up being like forty or fifty pages in the end, of photos and stills and whatever bites of random thoughts I might have at 3 a.m. in the morning. But in Bad Behaviour I said very, very early on that to me, what I want it to be is a show about what it means to feel. And at every turn whenever we're in doubt about anything, the story just actually doesn't matter to me, that's not what's unique about it. It's the feeling, everything about it has to be so overpowering. Certainly that was kind of the brief given to all the HoDs [heads of departments]. I remember Paul Walton, who's our locations manager, really took that on and he was saying that he only presented locations where he felt something when he first saw it, as opposed to [asking] is this going to work for the scheduling, is going to work for plot. Obviously that all plays, but there was something very, to me hearing that, inspiring and moving because it's all these reminders of the very original, inspirational impulse that you have when you're making something. That's generally one of the first things that goes out the window when you're under a lot of stress, which people are in television and in COVID especially. So I think that was the first pillar in the ground of what the visual tone of the show is and for Bad Behaviour, it was also about setting the gothic importance of environment, and everything grew outwards from that.

[00:40:01] Caris Bizzaca There's a shot of all these trees that grow like really close together, really tall trees, and I as you were talking, remembered that shot because it's so haunting and so evocative of the tone of the series, but it's just in this location and in the shot.

[00:40:23] Corrie Chen Really early on in pre-pre [production], because I'm quite first-person in how I direct in that I almost need to completely go through the actions of the main character to see what they're seeing, so I did what Jo did in ep[isode] one. So I opened up my old high school box of things and flicked through the photos and looked through my old diary and I just needed to feel it. And it was quite weird because whatever feelings it triggered, it gave me a lot of inspiration in how that scene was covered, and I just felt the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I became really aware of every sound I was making, like flipping through the pages. I could feel the wind coming through the windows of the school bus I used to catch and sounds from my memories coming back, even though I intellectually knew that was not possible. But that collision, the act of remembering and what remembering feels like when you're in the moment, that was what I really wanted to evoke in people. Certainly looking through my old photos, I found a lot of my camp photos from when I was fifteen and I just remember feeling so small and the trees were so big, and that's where a lot of those shots came from. It's also about just being in Jo's point of view. It was interesting because New Gold Mountain had a lot of environment stuff as well where it was about Shing being an outsider and the alien landscapes, but in Bad Behaviour I didn't really see the environment as a character, which was what it was in New Gold Mountain. I saw the landscape as a projection of Jo's emotions, which grew more and more volatile as this series unfolded, and that was how I approached it.

[00:42:17] Caris Bizzaca As you were talking about having sounds coming to you as you're remembering things, do you feel like music and sound were a really crucial element in making Bad Behaviour?

[00:42:31] Corrie Chen Absolutely, music is something that I start working on quite early as well, especially with Caitlin Yeo, and that's how she likes to work. In Bad Behaviour [the character of] Alice plays the cello, so that immediately was the first big tonal reference in terms of score because the cello is so, talk about yearning and melancholy right? As you hear it I feel like my chest just opens up and everything about my heart is exposed. So to me, I was immediately like, all right, that is where we have to go with music. We have to lean into that feeling, there's no avoiding it. Really early on, we started talking about feelings and themes, and Caitlin is a really emotionally driven composer as well, so our process generally starts with key emotional words that form the backbone of the themes of the show, which is power and desire and melancholy and lust. And for me, the score had to be Jo's interior monologue that we never get words to, because, in the book, that's how you knew how she felt and we didn't want to use voiceover in the show, so we just needed these really bold, emotional pieces that always come to the precipice of overpowering, but it cannot cross that line. It's always just walking that very edge of the cliff, and it's a really delicate and dangerous tightrope. But that's the show, right? And I knew Caitlin was going to be able to execute it. With sound and Emma Bortignon [sound designer], she's also extremely talented and incredible attention to detail, which is the key to the soundscape in going back to what I was saying before about the act of remembering. What I had said to Emma was I wanted that feeling of when people listen to ASMR, it doesn't happen to everyone but for me I get just completely at once triggered, but also really calm and relaxed. It's in the details, all the unexpected details of sounds that might transport you. So we really did a lot of ADR with Jana, who plays Jo, where we were just like, 'Can you just breathe through this scene right into a microphone?' Because the breathing patterns subconsciously, it makes you aware of how someone might be feeling, as well as highlighting, flicking through pages and also grabbing a lot of dialogue from the past and placing them at different times in the show as well and that play of timelines.

[00:45:34] Caris Bizzaca Just a note for people listening: Caitlin Yeo, Corrie worked with Caitlin Yeo on New Gold Mountain and you can check out a previous podcast where Caitlin talks about working on that series. But also when you were talking about bringing elements of the past into the present, the series has these seamless transitions from the past to the present, and they're linking images, I suppose. You can see hints of that in the trailer. But creating that effect in the series, was everything storyboarded to create it, or did you find these moments that you could link on the fly, or was it created in the edit or maybe a combination? Could you talk through that a little bit?

[00:46:23] Corrie Chen I've actually always wanted to do a show where the past and present are in constant dialogue in this pressure dance with each other. Ultimately the transitions, [were] a combination of storyboard[ing] some sequences and more discoveries were found in the edit, and I really left myself open to visual connections between the timelines going into the shoot because I knew the play of the story structure was really going to change and evolve quite a lot from the script, but I wasn't quite sure what exactly that connective tissue was meant to look like. I didn't want to constantly do visual match cuts because that's become quite a trope. I wanted to figure out why the timelines are changing and how do we expose that feeling. What I really love is when it's done well in shows like Station Eleven and Sharp Objects, is a person in present tense, almost physically experiencing a memory like a constant, and I wanted to explore the act of remembering, as I said before. So when I was really early on in pre-pre [production], I saw the first few episodes of Station Eleven, and that was a bit of a lightning bolt for me in how timelines intersect and why. What was interesting was during the shoot, it just so happened we shot most of the teen years first and those scenes really became like a bank of memories for myself that I could draw on as we continued to shoot the later years. I remember quite vividly as even in certain scenes in the teen years as that was happening, I was immediately [thinking] I see the link to a scene. Itwas never intended to be a link, but structurally they started to punctuate each other and new meanings were found.

[00:48:45] Caris Bizzaca To then talk about the actual shoot, so we did an episode of this podcast with intimacy coordinator Amy Cater, who worked on Bad Behaviour as well as a number of other shows: Safe Home and things like that, had you heard of this particular role prior to Bad Behaviour and what did you feel like it added to the shooting of this series?

[00:49:14] Corrie Chen Yes, I had read quite a bit about it. I mean it was always a role that I was so excited about, including as part of the crew and the team. I hadn't done many intimate scenes before Bad Behaviour, maybe one or two, and I always found them extremely difficult and very awkward for everyone involved. So the idea of having someone that is a warm safety blanket for the actors as well as for myself to be honest, was really incredibly exciting and on Bad Behaviour, we were very keen to find someone who was queer, given the story content. Also for me, I really didn't want to be the person on set being like, 'yes, this is what queer people do in the bedroom.' It just felt too, I don't think that's good for storytelling, to be a dictator like that.

[00:50:19] Caris Bizzaca Being a sole spokesperson on set.

[00:50:22] Corrie Chen Exactly, that wasn't a role that I was interested in playing. I really just wanted it to be a conversation, which Amy was absolutely fantastic at, and we were in constant dialogue on set and we had a lot of rehearsals with the actors on the weekends before the shoot where it was just me and Amy and the actors in the space that they were going to perform in. I think that made all the difference as well. On the days what I had said to Amanda and our first AD is the days we're doing the sex scenes; I just want the entire crew to vanish. I don't want to see them at all. I just want the actors to be able to have the most intimate space that we could facilitate. In the rooms itself, on set, I think we only had Tanya, our DOP, who was operating and moving the cameras around herself in the room and our boom operator and everyone else was either just away from the house or it was the split that was really restricted to only the people that's required. So three or four of us behind the monitors and I think really creating that intimacy was invaluable.

[00:51:53] Caris Bizzaca Bad Behaviour, when you're watching it, it does feel unique. In a way it's also what made watching New Gold Mountain feel so unique in that yes, there is an element of the stories themselves being that, but also that these are two series and there are others out there, but they are series that are empowering creatives to bring their point of view and their specific lens to a project, whether that's female lens or a queer lens or cultural background and whether it's in the role of a director or writer, or heads of department, and I think it means you get to discuss things like identity, race, sexuality, gender on a deeper level. I wonder, did it feel that way in the making of Bad Behaviour?

[00:52:44] Corrie Chen I think when there's any facet of your identity that's underrepresented, people are really desperate to celebrate that, which is really wonderful because that's the era we're in. But I think it also means that sometimes there are very straightforward summaries of what that means and what I feel is special about Bad Behaviour is the makeup of the team. And when I say team, I mean cast and crew as well, it's sort of, it's quietly queer. I think that's something that I'm quite proud of. I don't mean that is to say it's the first queer show or anything, absolutely not. We're really on the shoulders of giants. But I was, as I said before, really conscious of wanting to create a safe set, in terms of queerness and sexuality. I really feel like that was definitely the case for the cast. We also had two extremely talented, non-binary actors who played Ruby and Saskia, so for them to tell me how safe and supported they felt on set, it's really pertinent for a lot of queer people, this thing of chosen families to find a space where they have the courage and room to be all of themselves. That is what I felt on Bad Behaviour, especially for me as well, and to have that courage to really find your voice, that's the meaning of authentic storytelling.

[00:54:26] Caris Bizzaca That was Corrie Chen and a big thanks to Corrie as well as to Magda and Pip for joining me on the podcast. Remember, you can watch all four episodes of Bad Behaviour on Stan now. And if you're enjoying this podcast, you can subscribe to it 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.