Subject: Dad (NZ)
Retelling a story can be complicated. As that moment of dread settles in as a scene is set, your expectations of the retelling it deserves can be tough.
Luckily for Official Selection series Subject: Dad (NZ), The Twist (AUS), What Could Go Wrong (AUS) and Last Breath (AUS), the retelling of personal and intricate stories hit those expectations and captured a moment in time through the use of creative storytelling, hard-hitting tales and interesting novelty that caught our undivided attention.
New Zealand web series Subject: Dad takes us into the life of David, a retired civil engineer who lives on a farm. After the passing of his wife, son Josh convinced David to send him daily emails recapping the hot points about his day.
Director Josh Thomson explained that emailing his father became a comedic enjoyment and that all things David would send would give him warmth and laughter.
“It was a good way to make sure Dad was looking after himself, and still doing all the stuff Mum made him do. Dad is a retired civil engineer and his emails seemed to touch on what might be hot points for other retired civil engineers, the flow rates of the local river or soil erosion,” says Thomson.
Things got interesting when bizarre sentences started peppering through the messages, like when he got the sunscreen mixed up and ended up wearing almond milk on his bald spot for 3 months. The emails were sweet, bizarre and hilarious.”
Each episode highlights the day in the life of David, read through an email. Thomson explained that he’d been telling stories about his amazing Dad and the crazy farm where he grew up, with friends often thinking the stories told were being bent. Although Thomson went on to deliver a series that indeed retells the story of his Dad.
“When I first showed them the footage of Dad and the farm – which is completely as it is – there is no set dressing here – all my stories made sense. In receiving an email once that read, ‘Goats next door’. What the hell does that mean? We don’t have goats. Nor do the neighbours. To this day, I still don’t know what he meant.”
Delivering another creative way of storytelling, The Twist is an animated documentary series bringing the lives of some of Australia’s most intriguing crime stories – complex, real stories with real victims and real perpetrators to life.
Producer Navid Bahadori says they were cautious in the way they executed their subject matter, creating a challenge when executing the series to audiences. The chosen animated format allowed audiences to respond more positively and feel intrigued.
“The animation style had to take into account the fact that we are dealing with deaths and murder, victims and their families, some of whom are still alive today so that played heavily on a lot of discussions around the style and scripting as well,” says Bahadori.
“True crime audiences are definitely on a spectrum of those who want the full details, uncensored, however, we were definitely of the view that the first series of The Twist needed to be more accessible to an audience who are intrigued by the unravelling of the crimes rather than the graphic nature of the detail.”
Bahadori explained the research process of the web series was somewhat overwhelming, with several sources collaborating in order to dig up some true crime stories. “… Discovering stories involved getting some ‘true crime heads’ to collaborate with us on this series (Peter Butt & Anna Preistland). They presented a number of stories to us that we then selected 15. As the series unfolded, we had to dig further with our research which became the predominant job for the producer, which involved finding books on different stories and reading the linger details.”
Another web series that takes a turn into the true stories of individuals is, What Could Go Wrong. An attempt to answer the age-old question of ‘what could go wrong?’ – revealing 16 of Australia’s maddest, craziest, and excruciating real-life stories. From genre mashups, puppetry, satire and puppetry each episode tells a story.
Producer and co-director Rob Innes explains that retelling a story in order to gain a positive audience reaction is much harder than it looks.
“I think we all found it as challenging as we thought. We knew it would be difficult to gather 15 great stories, and then even more difficult to find a way to approach each story in a unique way, and then with our small core team execute each script within our timeframe and budget was also a challenge but we made everything work,” says Innes.
In order to reach audiences and execute real-life stories in a comedic and fun way, each What Could Go Wrong episode opens with a title sequence that quickly explains the premise of the series. Innes explains with the use of Triple J presenters, Veronica and Lewis, they were able to give the web series a relatable ‘Aussie’ feeling.
“… With commentary by Triple J presenters Veronica and Lewis who discuss the theme of the episode and state what kind of story they’re about to see. Once the story was told, Veronica and Lewis would then unpack the story using their own responses to it.”
The series seeks to make audiences laugh, in telling stories that surprise and thrill, with each story having that kind of question, or moment where you’d imagine someone saying ‘what could go wrong?’
Don’t hold your breath, as Last Breath takes audiences into the stories of real-life Australian women executed or imprisoned for life.
The series is focused on the moment before each character is brought to the gallows or about to be brought back into court for sentencing. The final breath before everything changes.
A partnership of Girls Act Good and F Word Films, Last Breath creative directors, Perri Cummings and Jennifer Monk explain that the series is inspired by real Australian women. By providing creative opportunities to women, they are given a voice to people and their stories that normally go unheard and unnoticed.
“Just because these stories are dark, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard. I think of them as real stories rather than dark. Girls Act Good have always shown a light on real stories and these ones need to see the light,” says Monk.
“Art that springboards off real stories, especially in a moment of such fear and vulnerability as the Last Breathe before execution gives a depth to the work that has the chance to truly resonate,” says Cummings.
At the start of each episode, the series displays different parts of the women’s bodies, mainly focusing on their upper bodies. Cinematographer, Laura Jane Turner says a big part of creating the series was to keep things stylistically and technically achievable.
“We have our primary shot which allows the women to connect directly with the audience they are speaking to, while our second camera captures fragments of the story from various angles, detailing different parts of these women to signify the complex, multilayered humans they are,” says Turner.
Last Breath will leave you with intense and anxious curiosity, as each episode digs deeper into the lives of these convicted women. Cummings explains the idea is to not be able to look away, to draw closer and closer to see and feel seen. To feel a little judged, just like the characters did.