Stu, My Name is Stu (GBR) follows the adventures of Stu, a wannabe actor in London, a city full of dreams, doomed auditions and awkward flatmates. You’ll get to meet his compulsive liar agent, his unsupportive mum and all the crazy Londoners that’ll cross Stu’s path on his journey towards success.

Stu, My Name is Stu is a refreshing web series with an endearing and relatable protagonist that will take you on an adventure in London’s busy streets. And the best part about it? You can watch it directly on your phone for a better experience!

Capucine Tavoillot, Director of the 2020 Spotlight Selection web series, told Melbourne WebFest about the making of the show and the equipment used, the people involved in the series, and the message she hopes to convey.

Why did you choose this specific format to convey your story?

Observing people’s behaviour evolving around us, seeing people watching Netflix shows on their phones while commuting, millennials spending hours scrolling on social media looking for quality content, we saw an opportunity to adapt and create a show that would fit their new habits. We aimed to create a TV-quality series made for the digital world. We shot in portrait with cinematic cameras, creating a more immersive experience and a series perfectly adapted to the medium we use the most today: phones. We wanted to merge social media and TV series.

What type of camera did you use to film your series in order to fit the phone format? Why that choice?

I will let Hamish Saks, the DOP, answer this question because I know he will have a lot to say about this!

There were two options, either shoot horizontally in 4K and then crop into the image for the 9:16 aspect ratio. Or shoot 1080p and physically flip the camera 90 degrees to achieve the vertical aspect ratio. We opted for the 1080p route to allow for a much smoother quicker post-production process. Therefore, the decision for what camera mainly became practical. The camera choice was a toss-up between the Canon C300 Mark 2 and the BlackMagic Ursa mini 4.6k. These both offer fantastic quality for their price points. We knew for speed the style was going to be almost 100 percent handheld, and we loved that look for the nature of the story. The c300 could give some flexibility with its monitor that can be positioned in many different ways, but it just wasn’t comfortable on my shoulder.

However, the Ursa Mini was the clear winner. I was able to rig the handgrip plus extension to the top handle and when rotated 90 degrees this allowed for a perfect handheld mode. The large flip-out screen was great for shooting vertical as it was similar to a phone size and gave us a clear viewable image of what would be the final shot.

I also wanted to elevate the selfie videos that the characters would take themselves. Giving a much more polished, flexible look. Using a phone ran into issues of storage space and battery life. So I decided to use the Sony A6300. This has the ability to shoot slog2 which gives great post-production options and the XAVC codec was far more preferable than the iPhone H.264 codec. The only downside was the screen did not flip out for the actor to see them-self. This didn’t prove to be too big of an issue however, as I was using a wider angle to lens to give help the audience feel closer to Stu and more in his personal world.

Stu, My Name is Stu Trailer

How long was post-production?

As we were working with a new format, planning to release it on Instagram, post-production was a real challenge. We had to experiment a lot to find the perfect rhythm, format for Instagram (and IGTV). Originally, Emmanuelle Rey Magnan (Creator and Executive Producer) wrote the series thinking it would be four episodes, but these were too long to be released on Instagram.

Did you know that on social media, the average time you have to grab the audience’s attention is only 30 seconds?! So we had to rethink our edit halfway, and the length of our episodes to make sure people would watch Stu, My Name is Stu on IGTV, which made the post-production process much longer. We ended up with 8 episodes of around 6’ each! We are about to shoot S2 now (when the current COVID situation gets better) and now that we know our way through social media habits and how to release online, I believe the post-production will be much much faster.

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

It might sound a bit cheesy but I would say, « Believe in your dreams so deeply that no one will make you doubt them ». Stu is the story of a young actor trying really hard to make his dream come true, though everyone around him seems to be making sure it will be a struggle! I feel like anyone can relate to Stu, it’s his story, but also ours, young adults trying to make their way through life and believe in our dreams despite the challenges!

I am French and having seen Helene et les garcons as a kid, I was agreeably surprised to recognise Lynda Lacoste as the talk show presenter. Considering that she hasn’t been in any recent TV series, I was curious to know how you managed to convince her to appear in Stu, My Name is Stu?

In addition to being an incredible actress and anchor, Lynda is a person who is always ready to encourage and support young talent. Emmanuelle Rey Magnan, well-known French Showrunner, and creator of Stu, My Name is Stu, met her when they both moved to London. She decided to write a bespoke part for Lynda. Lynda accepted to join the adventure as soon as she met the team, especially Seb Carrington with whom she got along right away. The quality of the production finally convinced her to help with this ambitious and unusual project. We were truly grateful that she accepted to be a part it, and you will see her again in Season 2 of Stu, My Name is Stu!

What was your greatest challenge while making the show?

Definitely filming 46 minutes worth of content in 4 days. But the team made it so much easier!

What emotions did you feel when you completed the series?

The filming ended by a party scene, shot at night. The final clap was around 4am. Everyone was exhausted but we could still feel the positive energy and the unity of the whole team. I felt extremely lucky to have worked with such talented people, coming from so many different backgrounds, and countries (France, UK, US, Spain)! I felt fulfilled and at ease. I remember that we all went home in a shared cab, I was with Seb Carrington aka Stu (who was also my flatmate at the time!) we were looking at each other with tired eyes and at this moment I think we knew we just created memories we would never forget.

I have to say I also felt grateful that so many people believed in our idea of making a show of a whole new format. Filming a series in vertical, meant to be released online, specifically designed for phone… many could have been reluctant to it at first. But we gathered a team of brilliant talents who were seeking a new challenge, who believed in new media and mobile storytelling, and I think in the end we are all proud of what we have achieved! And now the next step is Season 2!