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Podcast – Tig Terera: creating Swift Street

Writer and director Tig Terera on the inspiration for new series Swift Street, and his journey to the small screen.

Tig Terera, Cliff Curtis and Tanzyn Crawford in Swift Street

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From pictures on a secondhand 35mm to his acclaimed short films, Tig Terera's work has always borrowed heavily from life, and that was equally important in the development and creation of new series Swift Street.

Described as Afro-punk heist drama, the Zimbabwe born-Melbourne raised Terera is keen to stress the series isn't biographical, but Swift Street is close to home…literally. Growing up on the eponymous Swift Street in inner Melbourne, Terera was also keen to ensure any longform project reflected the community, the culture, the people of the area.

"My narrative work is sort of a border between narrative and documentary," he says. "If all my footsteps throughout my life could just glow on the streets [of Swift Street], every location we saw would have my footsteps around it."

The series sees 21 year old Elsie (Tanzyn Crawford) compelled to help her hapless hustler father Robert (Cliff Curtis) repay $26,000 to local crime boss or suffer the loss of a limb or two. They're helped and hindered by a motley crew of locals in Keiynan Lonsdale, Bernie van Tiel, Alfred Chuol and Eliza Matengu amongst others.

As his first longform project, Terera had a clear vision for the series, and to help maintain that vision surrounded himself with a creative team, cast and crew that understood the area and characters intimately - director Nicholas Verso, cinematographer and other HODs were locals, and intimately knew the world, lending their own experiences to the tone and aesthetic of the series.

But as creator, Terera was central to the balance of comedic and tragic that shapes the drama. "I really do think it's just got to do with speaking to me for hours and hours. You know, I think that's what it is. I'm one of those people, you know if we're not laughing, we're crying. So let's laugh," he says about the pitching the crime-family drama and crewing the series.

"We started quite small with [a] video I made, just talking about everything apart from the story of Swift. This is a sort of five minute video I'm talking about everything apart from the story, and I intercut it with the different films and clips that I've resonated with throughout the years, and that also feels very Swift. And that really was a major asset. It gave investors something more than just words on a page. […] - whether to investors or the other writers, and then plenty of different types of Bibles and lookbooks had that specific tone. And luckily it came out on screen."

Throughout the podcast, Terera shares his experiences creating Swift Street with Magpie Pictures, his hands-on approach to skills development, how to authentically reflect community through storytelling, and advice for early career storytellers.

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