Australians have entered a new and exciting age of television, says the director behind shows including The Beautiful Lie, Gallipoli and Puberty Blues.
By Caris Bizzaca.
Television drama isn’t changing, it’s already changed, director Glendyn Ivin says.
With moody, atmospheric series such as The Code and Top of the Lake, television has become more cinematic in look and is presenting itself as a strong alternative to the movies.
“It’s also not just the look, but in the storytelling and the kind of storytelling. It’s smarter if you like,” Ivin says.
“Whereas it’s very hard to get an audience to go to the cinema to see that sort of story, it’s far easier and the audience is much greater, when it’s delivered either free-to-air, or catching up on streaming services later on.
“It’s almost like the new dawn of drama, that’s where it’s ending up.”
Traditionally, when you talked about the notion of exploring characters in a long-form production, you were referring to a 90 minute feature film. But Ivin says he’s relishing the chance to tell stories over a number of television episodes like with The Beautiful Lie, a modern-day adaptation of Anna Karenina.
“If you look at The Beautiful Lie, it feels cinematic, it feels like it could be a film but it goes for six hours,” he says of the Melbourne-set show starring Sarah Snook.
“So whether its six hours or 13 hours, long-form television series feel like the new way of telling dramatic stories, particularly in Australia.”
And as an audience member, it’s also exciting.
Ivin, a self-confessed Mad Men fan, says even the notion of ‘binge-watching’ was unheard of just a few years back.
“It’s such an unusual term, but being able to tell a story like that and being able to watch it when and how you watch it, it’s so much better for the audience… the fact that streaming has provided a multitude of different ways to consuming good storytelling, (shows) we are in a golden age of television.”
Ivin directed the 2009 feature film Last Ride, but the vast majority of his work has been in TV, working with producer John Edwards on Offspring, Puberty Blues, TV movie Beaconsfield and miniseries Gallipoli.
It was actually that collaboration that led to The Beautiful Lie.
While working in the dark editing suite on Gallipoli and dealing with the heaviness of war stories, Edwards would keep raving about a new project screenwriter Alice Bell was writing.
“I think he was just tempting me with it or baiting me,” Ivin says, particularly because Edward knew how much he enjoyed working with Bell (who was a writer on Puberty Blues).
Toward the end of 2014, Ivin got his hands on a screenplay and by March filming had kicked off.
Ivin, who directs three of the six episodes, says when dealing with adaptations like The Beautiful Lie or Puberty Blues he doesn’t necessarily feel like he has to stick to the story religiously.
“Great adaptations aren’t just saying ‘oh they’ve got the story right’, but that they’ve got the feel, the energy and the spirit of the text,” he says.
“For me, trying to capture the way that someone felt when they read the book is just as important.”