Celebrated sketch comedy crew develop pilot for iview

Sketch comedy crew Aunty Donna are developing a TV pilot for iView in a joint Screen Australia-ABC initiative, Fresh Blood.

Last year, more than 20 teams created 70 sketches as part of Fresh Blood, and now in round two, five teams are developing pilots. Round three will see one of the pilots picked up for a complete series.

We chat to Aunty Donna performer Broden Kelly about what we can expect from the comedy act in round two.

Screen Australia: How did you come up with the concept for your pilot?

Broden Kelly: A little bit of reality, a little bit of hyper-reality. In our fledgling years, Aunty Donna was a comedy quartet and one day we were rocked by the fourth member leaving! Our choices were to become a trio, or stop all together. This little crossroads for us was quite dramatic, and a good starting point for our log line! Of course, being us, we’ve gone rather farfetched and fantastical in the actual show, just to make sure we could keep our absurdist sketches at the core of our comedy. But to make it an engaging half hour, we wanted a narrative arc so the true story of Adrian leaving was our jumping-off point.

SA: Was it something new that you had developed specifically for Fresh Blood, or had you been thinking about the idea for a while?

BK: Yes, it was a completely new concept developed specifically for Fresh Blood. Although it does include some sketches from our live shows. Basically what we’ve come up with is a narrative-to-sketch hybrid, which means we have been able to play with some different ways to present comedy on screen.

Most of our writing for Donna has been for YouTube, which requires you to be quick, succinct and on-point of the joke. We have dabbled in narrative structure for our live shows, but really it was the opportunity presented to us by ABC and Screen Australia which meant we could combine the two.

For example, we’ve developed our characters and added some new ones with the incredible force, Sally-Ann Upton playing our terrifying agent and the gorgeous and hilarious, Miranda Tapsell in the role of Broden’s love interest (although she’s not in any way interested in him!), which carries us through the narrative.

But in our sketch world, we still get to keep the smorgasbord of completely different characters we play and the quick, silly jokes, which adds variety and a unique twist to the form.

It’s been a real creative thrill to make it.

SA: How far into creating your pilot are you?

BK: We’re currently in post-production and a few drafts deep into our edit. It’s exciting and a bit sad to think we’re almost done with this whole adventure.

SA: What’s the main point of difference you’ve found between creating a sketch and a TV pilot?

BK: There are two major differences for us. Firstly, it’s in the writing. We’ve had to be rigorous. We were lucky to have Andrew Knight as our script mentor who gave us some great advice and the ABC feedback and support has been really brilliant as well.

Secondly, and probably the most exciting for us, is the ability to add some production value to our ideas. The majority of the content found on our YouTube channel has been shot with very minimal crew: Our director on camera, our music-maker on the boom, and us actor/writers doing whatever other jobs need to be done. We shoot four or five [sketches] in a day and hope that they come out OK.

With the support from ABC and Screen Australia, it has been a real joy being able to bring on board a fantastic crew who helped this show come together. We spent a week shooting the pilot and it was a dream come true to be able to really focus all of our energies on making this silly show.

SA: If you could make a feature film, what would its one line synopsis be?

BK: “When a Jamaican sprinter is disqualified from the Olympic Games, he enlists the help of a dishonoured coach to start the first Jamaican Bobsled Team,” … Oh, wait.

Keep up with Aunty Donna on Facebook and Twitter.

Pilots will screen on iView soon, and until then enjoy one of Aunty Donna’s sketches from Fresh Blood phase one: