A series about market life, family and dealing with fickle customers.
Interview with director/producer Simon Trevorrow and writer/director/producer Nikki Tran
Congratulations! Why did you make your web series?
NIKKI: Thank you! FRESH! is a project close to our hearts, and inspired by the community that I live in and have grown up around. The western suburbs of Melbourne have traditionally been an area of working class families and home of many migrants and refugees when they first arrive in the country. The Footscray market is often a place where people from different cultural backgrounds cross paths, so a fictional market was the perfect setting for our stories.
SIMON: Nikki and I felt that representation of characters from diverse cultural backgrounds were always placed as side characters in mainstream television. We wanted to centre these characters in their own stories. Secondly, Australia is a multi-cultural society yet we never really see the depth of diversity represented on screen. It is usually focused on one particular race, so we wanted to explore these diverse characters in a setting such as the market which can be like a microcosm of Melbourne. Choosing to release FRESH! online allowed us as creatives to explore these stories and to take risks with our choices in how we approach the execution of each episode. We wanted to create a unique feel for each of the episodes and working in the online space gave us that control where we didn’t have to consider certain restriction inherent in other platforms.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this web series?
The elevator pitch is that the show is a bit like Dan Harmon’s Community minus the pop culture references, spliced with Kim’s Convenience on Netflix, set in a Melbourne fresh food market. FRESH! has something for everyone, people gravitate towards characters they can identify with. There is such an array of unique characters, which, pardon the pun, is fresh! The series has heart, but is also funny – kind of like watching someone cry over their dead cat, but we’re giggling because they’re unfortunately an ugly crier. Underlying all the emotion we also touch on some recurring issues for migrants living in the West – including the opposing forces of tribalism and community, gentrification, generational differences and racial tensions. Each episode is directed by a different director, and their distinctive storytelling styles shine through.
How do personal and universal themes work in your web series?
NIKKI: Each episode in the series is told from a different character’s perspective, taking a glimpse at an aspect of migrant experience. Although the stories are culturally specific, at their core are themes that we, as humans, all experience.
For example, in the episode Cannoli, Christina’s story is one of many migrants who have come to Australia from cultures where it is common for multiple generations of a family to live in close contact, often in the same household. This is not common in Australian culture, and the differences in the way we live can create isolation and loneliness for first generation migrants, especially when they’re older. For Christina, the isolation from a strong community exacerbates problems in her marriage. So, even though Cannoli is about a specific generation and cultural background, underneath it all the episode speaks to something quite universal to the human condition – the feeling of loneliness and being unseen.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
SIMON: The scripts have changed at different stages through the process. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted each episode to be told from a different character’s world and perspective. From there, it was a matter of choosing our protagonists and developing the scripts to a point where the characters wants and needs were clear and the plot reflected that. We then brought in directors for each episode who worked with Nikki and myself to shape the script further.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
SIMON: People love the characters and the world of the market depicted in the series. It’s something that is so familiar to us as a society. What was really exciting to hear is how audiences overseas have connected with it. Although the world and characters are intrinsically Australian, the positive audience feedback from our screenings at the LA Film Festival has confirmed that FRESH! is relatable to an international audience.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
NIKKI: I think the feedback and reaction to our finale episode, Egg, surprised me. The idea for the episode came about when I was in a YouTube spiral watching compilations of ‘racist rants’. As I was watching it, despite all the vile things hurled at people of colour just going about their day, I found myself laughing. The reasoning behind the hatred is so ridiculous and illogical, and quite often the insults devolve into repeating the same phrase over and over because the perpetrator has run out words to get a further reaction from their victim. I realised the videos are often of deeply troubled people who are very unhappy with their lives, looking for someone to blame. I expected the reaction to Egg to be somewhat the same as mine, a mixture of incredulity and humour but did not realise that for viewers who have not been at the receiving end of overt racism, or witnessed a situation like that in real life, the episode can be quite confronting.
SIMON: I agree, It’s been surprising to see of how audience have connected to different episodes of the series and the varied reactions to the same episode, especially Egg.
What are you looking to achieve by having your webseries more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
SIMON: We would love to reach more people with the series. It can be hard for anyone these days to cut through the noise that exists online. People are bombarded with content and most of the time things get lost. We Are Moving Stories is a great platform that supports independent voices and it has cultivated a community that are hungry for unique characters and stories. We are excited to be included in that community.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this web series’s message?
NIKKI: Sale agents, distributors, journalists, anyone who can help push the news about the series out and can get the show in front of as many eyes as possible! As this was a self-funded project, we did not have a budget to market the series as intensely and extensively as we would have liked, so we rely on social media, our festival success so far, our networks and word-of-mouth.
We’re currently working on developing the series into one with longer episodes for television or SVOD, but require funding to hold a writer’s workshop and ensure that the stories represent the community and its characters with cultural authenticity, so we’d definitely welcome any financial support.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this web series to have?
SIMON: FRESH! is a show that emphasises that there are multiple definitions to what it means to be Australian, and for anyone who feels that their culture and experiences have so far been excluded in the mainstream Australian narrative, we hope that this series adds to the growing number of creative voices assuring that change is coming!
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this web series?
SIMON: How do we create harmony within diversity? I think this is an important question for us as a nation and in a wider context, globally. The series definitely explores this question from a humanist perspective and doesn’t necessary give us nice easy constructed answers, instead it makes you think and discuss it further.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now
SIMON: I’m in post-production for a film I produced which is written and directed by Beth Fermanis called Nature. I’m is also In pre-production on a short film that I’ve written, and set to direct called Mary which explores the estranged nature of a brother and sister relationship. (https://vimeo.com/user4585505)
NIKKI: I’m working with a writer/director Grace Feng to produce a new web series Girl, Interpreted, and as currently a creative fellow at the State Library of Victoria, will be researching for a new stage musical work, Six Days on a Leaky Boat. (http://nikkitran.com.au/)
As for our other directors, they have each been busy developing their own projects.
Elizabeth Fermanis (director of Ma’amoul) is in post-production for her short film Nature, the film explores a newly pregnant woman’s fears around motherhood.
Bec Peniston-Bird (director of Pig’s Blood) is developing for feature film Petrova, a Cold War thriller set in 1950’s Australia.
Cart Stella (director of Hairy Red Balls) is a currently working as a director at YF Agency in Tokyo, Japan and developing his revenge drama feature film, Dark Inks.
Amie Batalibasi (director of Cannoli) is adapting her short film Blackbird into a feature, Blackbird takes a look at Australia’s dark history with South Sea Islanders and forced labour on sugarcane and cotton farms in Queensland and New South Wales. Cart Stella (director of Hairy Red Balls) is currently based in Tokyo, Japan. Grant Scicluna (director of Egg) is in development for his new feature film a thriller set in Cambodia.
Interview: October 2018
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A series about market life, family and dealing with fickle customers.
Length: 33 mins
Director: Elizabeth Fermanis, Bec Peniston-Bird, Amie Batalibasi, Carl Stella, Simon Trevorrow, Grant Scicluna
Producer: Nikki Tran and Simon Trevorrow
Writer: Nikki Tran
About the writer, director and producer:
Since completing her post-graduate studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, NIKKI TRAN was a 2016 Shorts finalist of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. She has received professional development through programs supported by Film Victoria, Screen Australia, and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. Nikki is currently undertaking a creative residency at ACMI X and is a 2018 creative fellow at the State Library of Victoria. Tran says, “Footscray Market was integral to how my family connected to the wider community. As a child of parents who were once refugees, it’s important for me to create something that honours the experiences and stories of migrants in Australia, but not romanticise them.”
SIMON TREVORROW is both a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts and The Atlantic Acting School in New York. His short film There’s a Bluebird in my Heart was recognised at the Australian Director Guild awards and at Worldfest Houston with a Gold Remi. He produced Match a short film which premiered at the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival and has directed a number of music videos for European dance label Armada. He is currently undertaking a creative residency at ACMI X. Trevorrow says, “It is a great honour for FRESH! to be included in NYC Web Fest. As storytellers we are drawn to the diversity of experience of the people around us, so the fact that it resonates with an international festival indicates there is a growing demand for these stories to be told.”
GRANT SCICLUNA, director of ‘Egg’, debuted his feature film Downriver premiered to sold-out audiences at Melbourne International Film Festival in 2015, and subsequently had its international debut at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Scicluna’s previous short film The Wilding, premiered at the Berlinale International Film Festival, and subsequently receiving awards at the Iris Prize – the largest LGBTQI film festival in the world – and Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Scicluna says, “Being involved in FRESH! is a real highlight for me, for the chance to work alongside such a diverse and talented cast and crew, but also to help make something unifying. This is a grassroots project about what brings us together at a time when those at the so called ‘top’ focus instead on what keeps us apart. We are better than that.”
Key cast: Maia Absberg, Shrut Parmar, Nyawuda Chuol, Adam Hetherington, Olivia Choi, Tony Ting, Kevin Summers, Pauline Grace, Rosa Nix
Looking for: sales agent, buyers, distributors, journalists
Facebook: Fresh! web series
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? YouTube, direct link: https://goo.gl/jA3rFd