The Housemate (AUS)

We’ve all experienced tasks and situations that are impossible to find the humour in. Instead, we mindlessly switch to autopilot so we can remember as little as possible and get through said tasks and situations as quickly as possible. 

What happens when we do the complete opposite and begin to analyse and breakdown these mundane moments in our lives? Answer: You mine nuggets of comedy gold. 

This year, The Housemate (AUS), The Oxford Circus (AUS), Askaran (AUS) and BC Explained (AUS) prove to us that humour can be found in every nook and cranny of our everyday lives. 

2019 Official Selection The Housemate joins Alex and Gemma in their quest to find the perfect housemate to share their humble abode with. The web series draws inspiration from elimination-style reality shows akin to The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Something that co-creators, writers and actors Alexandra Keddie and Gemma Bird Matheson proudly admit. 

“We didn’t exactly go out of our way to watch more reality TV than we usually do… we’re (unashamedly) big fans of The Bachelor/Bachelorette so a lot of knowledge is deeply embedded in our psyches,” says Keddie. 

Beneath its parody of reality television, The Housemate delivers characters and personalities that are oddly relatable. Especially if you’ve ever had the daunting task of either looking for a place to live or previously looked for a housemate to move in. 

“We’ve both had many experiences with housemates (some better than others) so we had lots of material to draw from. However, we didn’t want this to reflect only our experiences, so we also went on Fairy Floss Real Estate to check out what people were posting and asked people we knew about their own horror stories. Then we married that with the Bachelor archetypes,” says the co-creators. 

Both Keddie and Bird Matheson found success in choosing a web series format by being able to utilise the shareability that comes with social media for their teaser trailer. They also managed to partner with ABC iView through this. 

“Our success with the trailer came back to a combination of things… it was a very marketable and relatable product that was well executed, but it also came down to the fact that we were able to demonstrate an audience with the teaser trailer, and the fact that ABC are great champions of new work!” 

It’s impossible for time to feel any slower if you’re working a Wednesday night in the hospitality industry. Unless you work hospitality in Sydney, then every night can feel like a mundane version of Groundhog Day. 

Although an exception exists for the staff who work at The Oxford Circus, who are constantly kept on their toes by the vampires and owners of the bar. Ironically, the series pokes a stake of fun at Sydney’s lockout laws, something which completely sucked the nightlife out of the city. 

“Politically it comments on Sydney’s lockout laws so it’s inspired a little by that, but in actual fact there used to be a bar in Sydney called The Oxford Circus that I went to one night and loved, and just thought it looked like a bar vampires would own and the idea came from that. Unfortunately, the bar has closed now…because of the lockout laws,” says creator and director Paul Layton. 

The Oxford Circus (AUS)

The Oxford Circus is in the style of a mockumentary. The catalyst being a student film crew who go to document the after-effects of Sydney’s lockout laws but end up staying for a whole other reason. Layton explains his intention behind approaching the series as a mockumentary:

“A lot of the choices in the series were geared toward making it as cheap as possible while still being interesting and entertaining. The decision to make it a mockumentary was a money saver, but I also think limitations on storytelling are important, it forces you to be more creative.” 

The series is bolstered by veterans such as David Collins (Umbilical Brothers) who Layton says, “was invaluable on set, he is so great that he makes everyone better (and funnier) just by being around.”  

Askaran is another web series that delivers humour out of everyday life on a shoestring budget. Writer, producer and animator Seaton Kay-Smith spawned the idea for an animated web series through his stand-up comedy. “… [I] had a whole heap of jokes and ideas that were just sitting in notebooks and digital folders… having grown up reading Garfield, I started turning these jokes and ideas into three-panel comic strips,” says Smith.

“I still had all these longer, bigger ideas and jokes that didn’t fit this structure, so I sort of had a think about the best way to repurpose them… so I came up with a way to make a web series primarily by myself; a crudely drawn gif-based animation of dubious quality.”  

Askaran (AUS)

Smith’s archive of jokes and his method of creating his series worked harmoniously in web format, and in the online sphere. They may only be one-minute long episodes, but they’ll leave you questioning some of life’s most mundane things for hours. To those dealing with social anxiety, Askaran’s focus is relied on highlighting the thoughts of one dealing with mental illness, in a positive light. 

“Film is such a collaborative process that takes time and a whole lot of talented people coming together to create something,” says Smith.

“But sometimes you just want to make something without taking the time to put all that stuff together, you just want to sit alone in your house, drinking drip coffee and eating unsalted mixed nuts. And an animated web series turned out to be the perfect way to achieve that.” 

Askaran (AUS)

As a society, we’ve often left certain topics, issues and systems unquestioned. Either due to our lack of understanding or because we’ve been desensitised by the normalcy of the subject. 

BC Explained on the other hand comically leaves no stone unturned by explaining these questions in the historical setting of 698BC.

Image: BC Explained (AUS)

Actor David Gannon explains how the idea hatched from a casual conversation one night.

“It all started with a sketch. We have a good mate Dan (everyone seems to have this mate) who continuously harped on about bitcoin. The more he talked/preached about cryptocurrencies, the more we found ourselves confused… this lead our hilarious head-writer Carl J. Sorheim to write ‘Bitcoin Explained’, which compared the then somewhat new fad to the introduction of Gold. Due to its success, we quickly realised the potential to explain an endless amount of confusing/current phenomenon in the same setting. History always repeats itself. 698BC teaches us nothing is original,” says Gannon.

Drawing the parallels between current trends and historical moments serves to further develop an understanding in a short space of time for viewers. “We chose the web series format to build our audience online and YouTube is the way to do it,” says producer Julian V. Costanzo. 

Viewing the change in viewing habits in the online space, writer & director Carl J. Sorheim says that the series worked well in short form, with the additions to Netflix shorts collection.

Critiquing current issues, the team behind the series relies on the most important aspect in human life: “everything can be explained.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything you can’t find a parallel for; the challenge for us is just making that parallel clear and concise, and also somehow broad AND niche at the same time… Oh yeah, and hopefully hilarious.”

Get your tickets to Melbourne WebFest 2019 here.