With the ever growing popularity of web series taking over the internet two Melbourne based filmmakers have joined forces to create a comedy web series of their own. We caught up with local writer and producer Nikki Tran and producer Simon Trevorrow who have just got back from the LA Film Festival where episode 6 of their web series FRESH! just finished screening. We chatted to them about all things FRESH!, how they got into the film and tv industry and what’s on the horizon for them now that FRESH! has wrapped production.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you do?
Nikki: I am a writer and filmmaker based in Melbourne, and also a member of Footscray Community Art Centre’s West Writers Group. I’ve always loved writing and telling stories, but it wasn’t until I watched the DVD ‘Making Of’ featurette for the first Harry Potter film that I knew I wanted to tell stories on screen. My first film was a German language short about a girl who finds a magic basketball that transports her to the future where no one knows what exercise is. It was for a school film competition, it was fun, so I kept going. I studied media and film and television production at uni, and eventually realised what I really loved was the screenwriting aspect above all.
Simon: My background is a producer/directer and writer. I’ve worked on a number of different projects from short films, corporate and music videos. FRESH! is the latest project that I’ve been lucky enough to be apart of as a producer and director of the episode Mayonnaise. What attracted me to this project when Nikki first mentioned it to me was the world in which the series is set. I saw the potential to explore stories that were socially relevant to the Australian experience, but done in a way that allowed the audience to explore these issues with a lighter comedic tone.
How did you get into the film making industry?
N: I grew up in Footscray, in Melbourne’s west. I never thought much about the area until the last few years when I started to recognise and appreciate that I grew up in an area with a diversity of cultures and that it’s not always the case in Melbourne. You pick up on different world views and learn about how other families live without knowing, I’d like to think that it helps me understand my characters a little better when it comes to writing. FRESH! was inspired by Footscray’s own market.
S: I actually started in the industry as an actor, and from there I became interested in creating my own work. Film was something that was always present in my life and I spent a lot of time in cinemas growing up, initially more because of my desire to be an actor. But once I started to make films my desire to learn more and to explore different characters and ideas ignited my passion to work in the industry as a way of giving back and creating experiences for an audiences that created empathy and understanding.
Tell us a little bit about your amazing new web series ‘Fresh’ and the role you played in making it?
N: FRESH! Is a 6 part dramedy Web series about a group of market staff that desperately want to be taken seriously, but struggle to stay professional in the face of family, gentrification and customers being customers. The series speaks to the joys and pitfalls of living in a multicultural community in Australia.
S: Fresh is a web series that explores a group of people that either work or visit the market. The world of FRESH! was unique by allowing us to explore a wide range of characters with a multi-cultural background. At the heart of the project we were interested in the inherent conflict between tribalism and community. My role on the project was a producer of the series and I also directed the episode ‘Mayonnaise’ which was a lot of fun to make.
How did you guys meet and have you previously worked on any projects together before ‘Fresh’?
N: We both studied at the Victorian College of the Arts. I specialised in producing and Simon writing/directing. We first worked together when I crewed as Production Manager on a graduate short film by Meleesha Bardolia, Match, which Simon produced
S: From this initial project we had an enjoyable experience working together, so when Nikki told me about FRESH! It was an easy decision for me to be involved with the project. The time we have spent collaborating on FRESH! has allowed us to developed a real trust in each other opinions and I feel like our skill sets complement each other well. I think when you find collaborations like the one Nikki and I have created you want to continue working with those people, not only because it’s enjoyable, but because the collaboration challenges you and makes you a better filmmaker than you were before.
What was your favourite episode to work on and why?
N: I love them all but I do feel closest to episode 2 ‘Pig’s Blood’, just because the world is drawn from my own Chinese heritage and culture. Episode 5 ‘Mayonnaise’ was the most enjoyable to write just because the premise – a healer claiming to cure people with the power of mayonnaise – is just so absurd
What is next for ‘Fresh’, are there any film festivals or screenings coming up?
S: We’ve just returned from LA Film Festival where we had two sold-out screenings of episode 6 ‘Egg’. The response from the audience was fantastic, which was promising as we had hoped it would translate for a western audience overseas with similar multi-cultural societies. On the home front we have had people asking us about season 2 and what our plans are for it. The common feedback from audiences is how refreshing and enjoyable it is to see representation of diverse communities in the series and the celebration of that difference. Both Nikki and I see the potential for FRESH! and are continuing to develop the series, taking the lessons we learnt and applying it to a longer format for second season.
What is next for you now you have finished ‘Fresh’, do you have any other exciting projects coming up that we should keep a look out for?
N: I am producing a new project and working with a writer/director Grace Feng on her web series THE INTERPRETER. The series follows a Mandarin/English interpreter from China working in Melbourne, she gets thrown into scenarios where she’s required to interpret not only the two languages but the Chinese and Australian culture to her clients during very intimate or confidential moments.
I am also beginning a creative fellowship at the State Library of Victoria and will be using the opportunity to research and begin writing a stage musical. It’s always been a dream of mine to create one!
S: I have a couple of projects at different stages I’m currently working on. A short film called NATURE which I co-produced and was written and directed by Beth Fermanis. The film tells the story of a newly pregnant mother and her fears around her position in the world. In late January I’m moving into production on a short film called MARY, written and directed by myself which explores the complexity of an estranged brother and sister relationship.
What advice would you give to those considering pursuing a career in film making?
N: It’s most likely a long slog getting your foot in the door, especially in Australia. So stick to it, but the most important thing is to take care of yourself. Some people can throw all their time and energy into pursuing a career in the industry and that’s fine. But, if you need to spend some time working in another field to get by while pursuing your passion that’s okay too. If you need to take a break completely for your health and sanity or family that’s also fine. It may be slower or you may lose momentum, but in the long run you will be better off!
S: There are many pathways to develop a career as a filmmaker, I think the best way to figure it out is to ask yourself what it is you want to do in the industry. From there look at the people who have done those things you’re interested in doing and find a way to do those things. The best piece of advice if you want to make films is to pick up a camera and figure out how to make one.
Where can we find and stalk your work online?
N: You can find my work on my website nikkitran.com.au and on Twitter @tranikki
S: You can check out my vimeo page https://vimeo.com/user4585505.