A series about four guys desperate to make it big in local entertainment is heading to a screen near you - on the web. Lydia Jenkin reports.
The line between television and real life is going to become pretty blurry with the arrival of new digital series Auckland Daze on October 27.
TVNZ's latest digital initiative is an online-only show which will be presented every Thursday in six 20 minute episodes, screening on TVNZ's OnDemand website, and on the Auckland Daze Facebook page. At a basic level it's a similar concept to Reservoir Hill, TVNZ's award-winning digital show which allowed viewers to text in and suggest what the main character should do. However, Auckland Daze is aimed at a different audience (18-35 year olds) and rooted in the Auckland entertainment industry.
Co-created, produced and directed by actor Kiel McNaughton (Shortland Street), his wife (also a producer) Kerry Warkia, and writer/actor/director Millen Baird (The Millen Baird Show), it stemmed from an idea Baird had after watching American faux-reality show The Hills.
"I couldn't figure out why I was so riveted to the material, and I thought, what would that show be like in Auckland. I started throwing some ideas around with [entertainer Jimmy James], and then I took the idea to Kiel, and we decided to flesh it out, so we shot a 12-minute pilot."
They eventually received funding through the NZ On Air digital media partnership, and got TVNZ on board.
Rather than follow four females a la The Hills, they've opted to feature four males working in Auckland showbiz, with the guys effectively playing exaggerated versions of themselves.
Though he's never actually done any modelling, Baird plays a 35-year-old male model.
"He's a bit of a useless mummy's boy, and the relationship between him and his mum (played by Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is a bit weird. We live in a mansion in Parnell, and she's a celebrity real estate agent.
And then we've got little Jimmy James, who's a dwarf entertainer, who can't get a job on The Hobbit because of his drinking. Then there's Fasitua Amosa, who's an unfunny comedian, always trying out his material on the guys."
The fourth member of their gang is Glen Levy, who's an aggro stuntman/ninja.
"He actually is a ninja - National Geographic profiled him as being one of the 20 deadliest men in the world. But he's got intimacy problems, and he actually loves older women, i.e. my mum. Which creates a bit of tension between the two of us down the line."
If that's all sounding a little male-dominated, don't fret, there are a selection of girlfriends, female admirers and co-workers who flesh out the awkward reality of the world these guys inhabit.
"I guess the thing is that they're all trying to find fame in Auckland," McNaughton laughs.
They're writing from what they know, Baird acknowledging that much of the material is an extension of his own experience.
"I've got a lot of horror stories about the industry."
Much of the show will be heavily improvised, the aim being to feel unrehearsed, with an emphasis on comedy and parody, and there will be an absolute truckload of cameo performances. Think something like a cross between Wanna Ben, The Jono Project, SuperCity and The Jaquie Brown Diaries for the tone it will take.
Shot during each weekend, the episodes will be edited between Monday and Wednesday before going "live" on Thursdays. This quick turnaround gives viewers a chance to participate in the direction the show takes via the Facebook page.
"We do have an arc for the characters, but we really want to encourage viewer interactivity, because we think there's a lot of fun to be had with that" McNaughton explains. "If the viewers really get into it, then they could feed directly into what the characters do. I think we'll start off trying to get viewers involved by chucking in particular lines [that they suggest] here and there, but if we find that viewers really want to say, 'oh Millen should do this, and he shouldn't be seeing that girl' and so on, then who knows?"
What: Auckland Daze digital series
-TimeOutBy Lydia Jenkin Email Lydia