Determined to reclaim her life after a near-death experience resulting from her alcohol abuse, 27-year-old newly-sober Ki Royce, must now make her way through a thicket of challenges. This includes online dating, unpredictable young men, baffling job requirements and a host of other modern challenges as she discovers what life’s like without dependencies.

We spoke with Help (AUS) creator, writer, producer, co-director and actress Fabiana Weiner about the series and the personal experience behind it’s creation, as well as what it’s like to put forward this type of story based around addiction. 

Why choose the web format?

As an emerging content creator, it’s important that I write content I can afford to produce so that I can get on with it and learn how to tell a story. Whether that be through web series, short film, feature film (I know content creators who have made beautiful features with 2-5k), it doesn’t matter. My experience is revealing to me that regardless of the format, I need to know how to tell a story and engage an audience – and I’m certainly a student of this craft, still learning myself.

I think web series are a great way to play around and experiment with ideas, but I’ve struggled to find a way to tell a story (which in my case is more suited to long-form series), in bite-size episodes that make the audience want to click on the next episode. The ongoing development of HELP is now working towards 8 x 30-minute episodes which I believe is much more suited to the story I’m telling. But I’m glad web series and web series festivals are there for us to figure that out!

Help trailer

Is HELP based on personal experience, if so, how was it to share this story?

HELP is based on my personal experience recovering from alcoholism and addiction and has been the start of what has become a longer story development process. Since finishing this proof of concept web series, I’ve written a new 30 minute pilot script and seven episode outlines for a long form TV series that is now ready to pitch. After producing this web series, I realised I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the story I really wanted to tell. I also realised I’d made something that was quite self conscious. I was (and still am to some degree), worried about what my family would think! I’ve had to get over that quickly (cringe).

Realising I had made something that was not quite what I’d intended, I felt really disheartened and frustrated. However, I’ve also had to assure myself that I’m in the process of becoming a better story teller and this was my first attempt at trying to tell a deeply personal, revealing and private story. I‘ve learned to be kinder to myself around this.

The production of this web series as well as numerous unsuccessful funding applications makes me recognise that despite these hurdles, I’m still deeply committed to this story because of how universal I believe the issues are. And not just for people effected by alcohol and other drugs, but for people effected by many different forms of addictive and behaviours that keep our lives restricted and painful.

I’ve had almost six full years of continuous sobriety during which I’ve had a fundamental change in the way I view my life and what I expect from other people. Ultimately my intention is to share a message of hope but I also wish to depict an accurate representation of a young life ravaged by addiction. This has been developed much further in the new pilot. America has a much larger market for addiction recovery content than Australia however.

What is your favourite part of the series?

Probably the delivery drivers deeply remorseful apology when he f*#k’s up KI’S food delivery.

If they only took one thing, one message, what would you like the audience to take away from the series?

Addiction effects so many people to some degree, you are not alone.

What was your greatest challenge creating the series?

Releasing it! Releasing a project that is so personal that I still feel to a large degree, isn’t finished yet.

What emotions did you feel when you completed the series?

Initially excitement, pride and relief. Which then quickly turned into uncertainty, embarrassment, shame and fear (haha – sigh). Now I can laugh about how seriously I was taking it and say to myself, just continue to work hard, get better at writing and keep trying to produce a story that means a lot to you. Sometimes it doesn’t help to take it so seriously because it can stop me from wanting to release the work. This project has really helped me be able to look more objectively at my work with more balance and compassion. I’m learning how to productively address the things that have worked and the things that haven’t.