At Melbourne WebFest we are privileged to receive so many stories that inspires us – this year, three series that inspire us are Hitting Zero: A Legacy (Aus), Woke (FRA), and Prisoners and Pups (AUS).

While the content of each of the series is very different, they are all emotionally charged. Each brings their own individual message to the screen and leaves the viewer questioning their preconceived ideas.

Hitting Zero is a documentary series that follows SCC Legacy, an Australian cheerleading team, and their journey to the World Championships.

Director and producer Josephine Croft wanted to show Australians what Cheerleading really is and how much dedication goes into the sport.

“There are thousands of people flocking to cheerleading every year, it’s the fastest growing sport in Australia.

I do, however, hope that non-cheerleaders gain respect for the sport and understand it for what it really is; a huge athletic undertaking. I hope it changes people’s perception,” says Croft.

Despite the challenges of working on a low budget and restrictions on filming their final performance. Croft is confident that Hitting Zero achieved it’s initial vision.

“When we first started shooting we had no idea how the series was going to end, as we didn’t know how the team would perform at finals. It was either going to be a triumph or a loss. The main idea was to see the work behind the scenes though, and I think we succeeded in that.”

While Hitting Zero was always intended for the web Woke was not. Woke was initially created as a half-hour TV series, but it proved difficult to develop such a project on French television and was reinvented as a digital series. Studio 4, the French public broadcaster web series platform, decided to back the project, screenwriter Sullivan Le Postec explains. 

The series follows the tale of Hicham, a young man running away from home in search of Thibaut, a friend who tried to kiss him a few years before. Thibaut is an activist at the local LGBT Centre. Hicham, who discovers his world, apprehensive but enthusiastic, begins a journey to find his own identity. The series is challenging and leaves the viewer motivated to question their own beliefs about activism and self-identity.

Le Postec believes that “activism, engaging with society and challenging the current world order” are very important ideals.

“It is hard to be an activist…so much of the energy spent is wasted in pointless internal struggles, it sometimes feels like it’s impossible to make a difference” Le Postec explains.

Woke aims to represent parts of the LGBT community who do not normally see themselves on the screen. “Representation does matter…a lot of stories have not been told.”

Prisoners and Pups , similarly to Woke, also aims to challenge social perceptions by presenting a human side to prisoners. “Prisons are typically places that people associate with hardness and violence” says writer, director and producer of the series Shalom Almond. She hopes to be able to show the audience “that they can also become a place for redemption, love and compassion”.

Prisoners and Pups follows a small group of female prisoners who have signed up to foster retired racing greyhounds and get them ready for adoption. The women have just eight weeks to transform these institutionalised dogs into house-friendly, obedient pets.

Almond was surprised by how comfortable she felt while filming in the prison, “from day one, the women prisoners welcomed me into their world and trusted me with their stories. 

I never felt threatened or afraid, despite the fact that I was filming alone with the women for the entire four month shoot.”

However, difficulties arose within the prison environment itself, Almond says. “Some days I would arrive at the prison with a particular event in mind I needed to shoot, and I wouldn’t be allowed in, as a serious incident had occurred in another part of the prison, which meant the whole prison was in lockdown and I couldn’t enter.

The lockdown could continue for a few days, which meant I had missed filming what I needed to make a particular storyline work.  So I had to become very flexible in my approach to shooting and be prepared for anything to go wrong along the way.”

You can watch these series and more at Melbourne WebFest 2018.