Auckward Love is a new comedy web series that shines a light on what it’s like to be a single 20-something-female in today’s dating game.
The series was created by Holly Shervey, who also plays the main character, and was written by Jess Sayer (also an actor in the show) and Emmett Skilton, who also directed and produced the series.
The main cast includes Holly Shervey, Luci Hare, Jess Holly Bates and Jess Sayer with appearances from a range of local talent.
We asked Holly about the series that was her brainchild.
What was the inspiration for the web series? How did it all come about?
The inspiration came from true stories that had happened to me in my teens and early adulthood as I took on the dating scene. The situations were certainly embarrassing, but also entertaining every time I shared them with people, and so putting them out into the world seemed like a strangely logical step.
Why a web series format?
I think the web series format allows for simpler viewing – each episode can be about one thing at a time, which in our case was one experience in the dating scene. So in that way we are learning about each character and their world in a simple format – which when put together creates a whole.
What was the goal of creating the show for the main team personally?
The main goal of Auckward Love was to create a stepping stone to create feature films. As most creatives in New Zealand know, it is difficult to get funding without a track record, so with Auckward Love we had the opportunity to not only create some work for ourselves and give exposure to the actors and crew but start a reputation within the industry as creators.
What it’s like writing and also starring in your own show? And for Emmett with an acting background being director?
Being the creator, writer and actor meant I was so much more informed when it came to shooting – I think actors can often be restricted as they question what the writer meant by a line or a situation, but for me I knew these stories from my own life, as well as knew the dynamic between characters and situations that I could enter a scene very prepared.
I know for Emmett, working so extensively in front of the camera prepared him well as the director. He is a person who asks a lot of questions of other crew members in order to understand their role and how he can better serve the story telling, so his direction for us onset was heavily informed by his desire to tell our story clearly.
Can you tell us about timelines; from when the concept evolved through to releasing online?
From the first story being put on paper to it being released online was five months. When I gave Jess Sayer the briefs for each episode, within about six weeks we had first draft scripts, which Emmett then prepared as shooting scripts. Then after preparation and rehearsals we had a 10 day shoot, then just over five weeks of editing and onlining.
How did you get cast/crew involved? And how many were there?
Our cast and crew very much grew with us as the idea was conceived and they were very dedicated from the beginning. Some cast had their roles written for them, others were perfect for roles already written, so when it came to casting, we knew how the stories needed to be told and we knew who was best to tell them.
The crew came on board after hearing the concept and enjoying how we wanted to create. Many of them had worked in television or film but not in the roles we were suggesting they take. Our DOP is Nina Wells, who is very experienced behind the camera though often an assistant to DOP’s on larger New Zealand productions. Our editor is Enny Benzonelli, who has worked extensively with TVNZ as well as owning website building company Webkea. Our Sound Designer is Amy Barber, who is behind much of the foley for the recent NZ TV shows. And our Publicity Photographer is Sacha Stejko, who works heavily in fashion and promotion.
After creating Auckward Love with the limited crew we had, it has become very clear to us how many crew we will need next time in order to create an even stronger result.
How was the project funded? Did you apply for NZ On Air funding?
The project was partly self-funded and funded through Random Films, with meal support from Burger Fuel NZ and transport from Hyundai NZ. The process happened very fast and we were not wanting to wait for the next public funding round in order to create our work. It can be a little disheartening relying on funding to tell stories, so we ensured our process would be affordable and got straight in to creating the show.
Can you tell us about the equipment used for camera, sound, editing etc?
Our main set up onset was shooting on a 5D Mach 3 with various lenses and often on a Gimbal. This created the smoothness of a steady cam but a bit more freedom.
Our lighting was simple red heads and led panels, with as much natural light used as possible, and our sound was recorded through a boom mic being mixed through a hand held zoom. In the editing studio we edited fast and simply using Final Cut Pro, which proved the most effective for what we were building.
How are you promoting the show and finding an audience?
Word of mouth on Facebook has been our biggest way of promoting so far, as well as major radio stations and publications. One thing we found useful is placing the entire series on our website – auckwardloveseries.com – because it offers a one stop shop for locating and viewing.
Any funny incidents while filming you can share?
In general, we were so surprised by how our guest actors interpreted the script. Emmett and I had certain ideas about how something might be said or played but then an actor would come along and make us laugh hysterically with what they had to offer.
What were the highlights of making Auckward Love? And the challenges?
I think the highlights and challenges come hand in hand in our case. Working with such a small crew on such a fast timeline meant the challenges were great and the roles each person played were pushed, sometimes to great limits, but that also gave us a real sense of ownership over our work. We have worked extremely hard to make this series what it is, so when it was so well received by the audience, that feeling of great accomplishment was stronger than it ever could have been.
I also know that Emmett would sit at home each night watching the rushes/dailies, sometimes in disbelief, at how well the stories were coming across at such an early stage in the process. He knew that when it came to editing, there was some real gold to play with which drove him to get even better the next day on set.
What do you like most about the web series format?
Simplicity, and ownership. We can tell simple, short stories with enough bite and fun to entertain and keep an audience watching while simultaneously only answering to ourselves when it comes to the decision making.
What’s next for Auckward Love?
Our next direct step is to develop Season two while simultaneously entering Season One into international Web Festivals. Exposure is a big hope for our work, as it brings with it credibility within our audience as well as our future producers.
And what do you think is the future for consumption of digital content?
Digital is the future. Our networks are already losing viewers as our viewing habits are changing as a nation. I think we will see many more makers for digital with much more money available as advertisers and networks begin to shift their investment strategies.
Do you think there is a danger of good web series being snapped up by broadcasters for ‘on demand’ or subscription channels – and then not being available on YouTube for the general public to enjoy?
I think a series, particularly ours, is made for a particular audience and should always be available to them. We as makers would be extremely disappointed if our original intentions were shifted because of a restriction by someone we partnered with. That’s not to say we don’t understand how advertising and exclusivity operates, it just means that subject would be a major part of our decision making.
Was Auckward Love inspired by any other web series?
It wasn’t inspired by other web series as such, but viewing other web series showed us that our stories were the perfect format for them to be told in.
What are your favourite web series?
We really enjoy Fragments of Friday, an Australian series which we were introduced to half way through shooting. Hilariously entertaining and a similar vein to ours which gave us even more confidence that our work would find its audience.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
One of our biggest pieces of learning was to commit fully to it and make without fear, even when it comes to asking an editor or a DOP for advice or help – the worst they can say is no.