In their mid-twenties, Jimmy, Ned and Ryan share an apartment together in Sydney. One morning, while walking home after a wild night, their friend Sonya gets approached by Hitch, a fashion designer who just has spent the night with Jimmy. Supertramps (AUS) follows their lives, punctuated by crazy situations and unforgettable encounters. It’s five Sydney slackers against the world in the sitcom that dared to do nothing!
Tommy James Green, actor, writer and co-producer of the show, told Melbourne Webfest about the ins and outs of the 2020 Spotlight Selection web series.
Why choose the web series format?
Funnily enough, we only decided to chop Supertramps up into episodes once we were in the edit. We were calling it a television pilot, but of course, no network had commissioned us to make one! Instead, we found some perfect cliff-hanger beats to end the “webisodes”, based around our gangster-film parody subplot in which one of our idiot heroes finds a bag of money, and it worked a treat. We love the way it’s turned out, and will be using it as a proof of concept for the REAL television pilot!
Which of the characters do you identify the most with? Why?
Well, I play Jimmy, who’s sort of our vanilla straight man. I like to think I’m the funny guy in the room sometimes, but not if that room also features the hilarious Jed Clarke, who stars the nefarious Ned, or Jessica Murphy, who plays Sonya. They’re awesome comedic talents and brought so much of themselves to the roles. I did write the damn thing, so I guess there’s pieces of me everywhere. Let’s hope it’s the first and last autobiography I ever attempt!
Has the end product strayed from your initial vision?
For sure. I started writing what-would-become Supertramps when I was fourteen or fifteen. I’d just watched British cult comedy classic Withnail and I, which is about these two hopeless actors living in this squalid London flat, and knew that was the kind of thing I wanted to write. Supertramps started out sort of gloomy and existential, with dripping taps and strange nudists who were there to buy drugs off Ned and never left. It was super conversational, almost theatrical – these sprawling five-hander scenes… I still like that version of Supertramps. By the time we shot it, almost ten years later, it had become this bright, punchy, rambunctious, action-packed, slapdash rollercoaster. I’m not sure exactly what happened along the way, but I like this version too.
What was your main inspiration for the series? How did you come up with the idea?
Talking with friends at parties at get-togethers, we’d always quote British or American sitcoms. For my generation at least, they’re very much at the forefront of our comedic malaise, and there’s no good reason why. When I met Jed Clarke and we concocted these characters, we spoke about doing an Australian Always Sunny In Philadelphia. We also love all of Matt Groening’s stuff, and we’ve taken to calling Supertramps “Millennial Seinfeld”. All of the above influenced the writing. But, yeah, I think a lot of Australian comedy gets bogged down in topical-political happenings, or whacks you over the head with a social agenda. I don’t know exactly what Supertramps does just yet, but it doesn’t do that.
Looking back, what was your best filming memory?
We were shooting over so many locations, at such a high speed, we had very little time to improvise or play, which is something Jed and I especially love to do. On the rare occasions we knew we had a punchline we wanted to play with, coming up with ridiculous variations was always a blast – if we could get the crew chuckling, we knew we were on to a winner. At the end of Ned’s storyline, he’s gotten this dog famous and the dog can suddenly talk and is breaking up with him, and there were many different takes from Ned defending himself like “But you’re in all my Tinder photos!”, “Can I still come to your poker night?”, and “What about our Halloween costume? I’m gonna look stupid as the other half of the centaur!” You had to be there.
Are you planning on making more episodes? What is the future of the series?
Supertramps the web series as we know it was a labour love carried on the shoulders of an incredible cast and crew, with a tiny budget for necessities. As much as we’d love to keep churning out webisodes, the only future we see as viable is getting picked up by a network! That’s very much the plan! We’re currently shooting ideas back and forth with writer-producer friends working in the industry, and are sitting on a fresh pilot script for television and all the sexy pitch documentation to go with it. It’ll be a new skin, but all the same flavour! The Supertramps ship is still chugging along.