Those crazy Auckland Daze of summer

Outrageous spoof of entertainment industry returns with a bigger budget and more celebs.

Millen Baird.
Millen Baird.

It seems that a show that follows four mates trying to make a living in Auckland's entertainment biz, and mocks their trials at every turn, may be just what audiences are looking for. The enthusiasm for making fun of themselves, cutting one-liners, opportunities for audience participation, and a multitude of hilarious celebrity cameos has given Auckland Daze a cult following. And now that audience could get much bigger.

The mockumentary style show, which started out as a low-budget web series, has been given a larger slice of funding for its second season, and will be premiering on TV One before it becomes available online.

"When we started on the web, we got about $350,000 from the NZ On Air digital media fund," co-creator and star Millen Baird explains.

"It was pretty loose, but TVNZ were very tolerant of the way we worked. Usually it's quite a lot more regimented, you know, you do it by the script, and there are certain formats and ways of doing things, but we're a bit loosey goosey on Daze."

They improvised a lot, and had a very tight turn around, with each episode shot over a weekend, and edited in the following three days, before it went online. They solicited feedback online from fans, and asked them for pick-up line ideas or creative insults, and added these things in as they went.

"We had scripts, but we kind of worked out a methodology where we would say, 'okay, here's our start point, and here's our end point, and this is what needs to happen with your character, let's see how you go from A to B. These lines are a guide, but if you've got any better ones, throw them in'."

For season two, there's been more preparation and the bigger budget has given them a little more scope.

"The script was written well in advance so we could percolate the ideas longer, and the bigger budget meant we could fit more stunts in, and we had loads more celebrities that we could lure in. So it's kind of like going from intermediate to high school, and now we're playing for real - but there's still lots of freedom and TVNZ have still been great in terms of censorship."

So, where has that led the boys for season two?

Well, Millen meets a Christian girl (played by Sophie Henderson); Jimmy gets a job as a body double in a film being directed by Alan Dale, and finds himself being ordered to get hammered for the part, even though he's trying to stay sober; Glen finds his stuntman skills are underappreciated, and his relationship with Millen's mum, Wanda (Jennifer Ward-Lealand), hits a rocky patch; and Fasi gets cast in a home intruder advertisement, but finds himself being tormented as a sexual deviant by the public.

Once again, the events are all drawn from personal experiences of the cast, or friends.

"I've got a limited imagination, so it kind of has to be like that," Baird laughs. "We write about what we know, and that's the Auckland entertainment industry. There are so many classic egos in the game, it's too good to pass up. Every job, or audition, can be a sketch, or something we can throw in to the show."

And the industry they've been sending up - well, it has embraced the show with open arms.

"People really want to come and have a play with it. Everyone we've approached, in terms of actors or celebs, to come and work on it, have been really keen. I think people feel the industry is ripe for a bit of mocking. That's why Ricky Gervais can lambast everyone at the Golden Globes.

"You've got to cut people off at the knees in this game. Not vitriolically, but there's a certain reason why most people get into this, I'm certainly one of them, and that's for the attention. And there's a lot of humour to be found around that."

The guest actors don't even mind when they're written in as screaming ex-girlfriends, or alcoholics. "I usually write with someone in mind," Baird nods. "In season two we've got Martin Henderson in Alcoholics Anonymous with Jimmy, and I knew we needed someone with a bit of gravitas, and a bit of LA pull, and it turned out he was totally up for it."

Other appearances include Shane Cortese, Kimberley Crossman, Tammy Davis, Brendhan Lovegrove, Rose Matefeo, Anna Hutchison, and Urzila Carlson. That list says something about the distance Auckland Daze has come in the past 18 months, particularly given recent news about several local drama series not being renewed next year, and Baird is adamant there are still plenty of possibilities for the local industry - people just have to be creative. They even shot a Halloween special called End of Daze, available for purchase online. "We shot that to test the waters around monetizing things available on the web, you know, people pay $4, and they can watch it on Vimeo. We're really keen to explore the web possibilities further, and we're hoping to get into creating some more web series next year.

"It's not all doom and gloom out there as some people say. It's just about making things happen yourself. Getting out there and doing it."

Who: Millen Baird, star, co-creator, co-writer, co-director
What: Auckland Daze, season two
Where and when: Tonight, TV One, 10.05pm

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