This year Melbourne WebFest has been inundated with web series that have kept us on the edge of our seats, exploring intense themes like love, lust and murder. No better series’ showcase these themes more than Chateau Laurier (CAN), Two Weeks (AUS), Natural Selection (COL) and After Nightfall (AUS).
In the immortal words of Nat King Cole, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.” But how can love flourish when it’s being forced?
Set in 1912 Ottawa’s grand hotel on the eve of a young couple’s arranged wedding, Chateau Laurier offers a wry slice-of-life glimpse into romance in Canada in the 1900s.
James Stewart, producer and director of Chateau Laurier, grew up in Ottawa and always wanted to tell the story of the grand hotel. “The Chateau has always contained so many historic stories with politics, crime, intrigue and celebrity criss crossing in the lobby every day since it opened in 1912,” says Stewart.
Set in the 1900s, the main challenge for the series was to make the scenery era specific. “The wardrobe designer Joanna was an amazing talent to have on the show. She is a rock star of the Toronto wardrobe designer and she was able to bring together a huge wardrobe department for a reasonable budget. We have a cast of about 20, including extras, with 3 wardrobe changes and hair, wigs, make-up, so having a pro like her was a huge asset,” Stewart says.
“I love the idea of the country girl coming to a very luxurious place, and I love the romance of hotels. The glorious Chateau seemed like a perfect place to tell a romantic fish out of water story,” says Emily Weedon, co-writer and co-producer of Chateau Laurier.
CHATEAU LAURIER – Episode 1Web SeriesExclusively Free on Facebook
Posted by Chateau Laurier – The Web Series on Tuesday, 13 March 2018
Inspired by the likes of Shakespeare, Weedon wanted to create a love story with all the twists and turns, in the same vein of Viola and Orsino in Twelfth Night. “I knew from the get go that I wanted to show a young woman actively pursuing what she wanted, despite being a good Victorian Girl and despite being backed into a corner, romantically speaking,” says Weedon.
“The appetite for this kind of drama is universal and everyone seems to want ‘The Next Downton Abbey’. We seem to have found that in Chateau Laurier and the enthusiastic fan base and viewer numbers speak for themselves,” says Stewart.
“One of the most compelling aspects of the web series for me, and what seems to resonate powerfully with audiences is being whisked away by the lush period aspect,” says Weedon.
A whirlwind romance is something we all dream about from time to time, but sometimes a fit of passion can have its consequences.
Two Weeks is an original web series which explores the struggles several 20 year olds face in the precarious turning points of their lives as they strive to define themselves and their place in society. On a camping trip with Lucas’ best friend and her boyfriend, he finds himself in hot water after an unexpected kiss causes tensions to run wild.
Mary Duong, series creator and co-producer, has endeavoured to build a strong reflection of the queer experience, after seeing the apparent lack of representation as she was growing up.
“All I wanted was to reflect parts of myself on screen; I believe this series honestly shows who we are…when I was growing up I searched for anything resembling myself in the people I know and love on screen – seeing yourself, hearing yourself, recognising yourself in media can make such a difference,” says Duong.
Rachel Anderson, co-producer and director of episodes seven to nine, says that the creatives involved really put their heart and soul into this series. “All of the key creatives have been able to see a part of themselves reflected in the characters…and it’s exciting to know that our audience will be able to experience the same thing,” says Anderson.
“The stories that we’re telling in the series have been drawn from real lived experiences. I think it’s so important to tell stories that are honest and true, coming from places that you can’t deny,” says Duong.
“I could tell you which characters are based off which creatives but that might be too spicy,” says Anderson.
While they could’ve made their series into a short film, choosing the web format allowed for much more creative liberty. “There was so much room for experimentation and collaboration! By producing it as a web series, we’ve been able to play with style, narrative, and format. I also loved the idea of being able to connect directly with an audience,” says Duong.
“The web is a really exciting space to be for a filmmaker. There is so much creative freedom, a community at your fingertips and you’re immortalising a story that you’ve worked really hard on!” says Anderson.
“I hope the audience can feel the heart and warmth of the series because that is what has been driving it for me,” says Duong.
Representation of the LGBTI community is more important than ever, and as such Melbourne WebFest is proud to be boasting a plethora of different web series that feature many different sexualities. Natural Selection is just one of many using the web series platform to spread the love.
When a transgender woman is murdered in cold blood, a can of worms is opened that explores not only the potential suspects, but also Colombia’s skewed views on the LGBTQ+ community.
“Natural Selection was born from a special interest to create a message of tolerance,” says Sergio Carreño, director and screenwriter of Natural Selection. “Columbia had growing numbers of violent cases against LGBTQ+ community: harassment, physical and psychological violence, and apathy from the country’s law system. We saw that colombian audiovisual history had a debt to the community because it had years and years of mistaken stereotypes shown on television and sometimes on digital content. We felt the need to do something about it…to expose our political context, the rottenness beneath politics and justice and to make a public complaint about our own society.”
Carreño’s aspiration for Natural Selection was to create a series that empowers and shows the natural lifestyle of the Columbian LGBTQ+ community, and while it stays true to the initial vision, it strayed into political commentary.
“The story deepened into politics and social points of view from Colombian context, this was the main evolution that the story gained from its first impression… Natural Selection was inspired by real events and the characters are based off public Colombian political figures. Our main characters, Antonia, Guillermo, Alejandro, are built and based on different and real political reference,”says Carreño.
One thing that Carreño would like his audience to take away from his web series is that “sexual diversity is a reality, it always has been, but we’re still on time to recognise and value its right to be free and to feel safe in any social context in order to evolve as a thinking and empathic humanity. We have a big mission with this project: to break all kind of repression, not only from the establishment of the society but also from the inside of each individual.”
Australia is known for being deadly in a number of aspects. We have snakes, spiders and other bitey animals that will make your life a living hell, but nothing is more dangerous than the person that murdered Troy McLeavy.
When 18 year old Troy McLeavy is murdered in a small Australian town, every man and his dog becomes a significant suspect in the case. Wayne Tunks, writer, director and co-producer of After Nightfall, created the web series to leave you questioning who is guilty and who isn’t.
“I have always loved a good murder mystery and as a writer it gave me a great opportunity to create a whole bunch of flawed characters, each one of them capable of murder,” says Tunks.
The inspiration for the series came to Tunks quite suddenly, and wouldn’t let up until it was actualised. “The writing of season one was very quick. The idea came to me late one Sunday night and wouldn’t let me rest…. The next morning I got up and starting writing. In fact, it wouldn’t let me stop writing until it was finished.”
Productions are known to evolve and transform during the course of creation, but After Nightfall didn’t stray far from the initial vision. “Everyone was very careful to stick to the initial goals and really delivered a honed product that I am bloody well proud of,” says Tunks. “I knew we had something special, and people seem to really like the series – so that is amazing!”
When you spend days on end on set, the crew around you can become a makeshift family, which Tunks is very familiar with. “This series has such a massive ensemble cast. It was a great chance for me to work with some of my favourite people in the world…. everyone was passionate about the project and time on set felt like a hang out with my friends.”
Throughout the series, you’re left with one single burning question. WHO KILLED TROY MC LEAVY! I have some bad news for all you vivid watchers, you’ll have to wait with bated breath a little longer. “We have just started filming season two, and we are very excited to reveal to everyone who killed Troy McLeavey,” says Tunks.
Catch these series and more at Melbourne WebFest 2018.