A new generation of Australians are flocking to the web to create fearless, gut-busting comedy, and grabbing the attention of the decision-makers and fans alike. By Caris Bizzaca.
Given free rein to be as edgy and experimental as they please, it’s not surprising local comedy talents are finding their audiences online.
Michael Shanks started out on YouTube, with his channel Timtimfed racking up millions of hits through its VFX-driven comedy sketches. He says the beauty of online, is “you just make stuff without restrictions”.
“You can absolutely be yourself. People who are anarchic and people who are fringe can find their audience,” he says.
Shanks believes online is clearly the home for short-form comedy.
“The internet is weird. Everyone is kind of on it, but bored. They’re just dawdling, scrolling down Facebook, waiting for a 12 second video to automatically play, so it can hold your attention for five seconds before you move on,” he says.
“You use it almost like a drug in that you push a button, you laugh, you get stimulated and then you immediately move on until you do it again. To tell somebody, oh I was scrolling through YouTube the other day and I ended up watching Schindler’s List, I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
And Shanks says the kind of comedy emerging online is tapping into a different generation than what most television offers.
“It doesn’t surprise me that someone who’s 50 or 60 would hate Aunty Donna and would hate the stuff that I do but 20 year olds would like it,” he says.
“On YouTube, we’re all the young ones and we’re all crazy and it’s wonderful we’ve proven that an audience exists for that stuff.”
And gathering 12 million views for a 1 minute video on YouTube does make people sit up and pay attention.
Shanks was granted funding from Screen Australia to make his own web series The Wizards of Aus and after the cameras stopped rolling, got the call from SBS. The Wizards of Aus is now screening on SBS2 and SBS On Demand.
“It was going to be for web, but it wasn’t until after we shot the show that SBS got in touch. It was crazy,” Shanks says.
And he’s not the only YouTube star to find success.
From Mighty Car Mods to Dr Derek Muller, multiplatform series have grown from strength to strength and Screen Australia’s Development Manager Mike Cowap says: “Screen Australia is thrilled to have supported all these talented online content creators.”
“Every one of them had already done the hard yards of self-funding production and building up impressive audiences, earning the opportunity to make properly funded videos. We could see the importance in assisting them to capitalise on their hard-earned momentum, growing their audience wider, and taking steps towards sustainable careers in the screen industry.”
Here’s a guide to just some of the Australian names making waves online:
In 2015, cult online video creators RackaRacka gave us Versus which attracted close to 60 million views on YouTube, making it Australia’s most successful web series launched this year. With 210 million views on their YouTube channel, RackaRacka will be able to build on that online success, after being selected for Screen Australia’s Enterprise People. The industry placement scheme will have the RackaRacka team working with Triptych Pictures on their feature film and television slate.
DR DEREK MULLER
A physicist, engineer and creator of YouTube channel Veritasium and 2veritasium, Muller is best known for his science and engineering videos, which feature experiments, interviews and demonstrations on everything from “World’s Roundest Object” to misconceptions about venomous animals living in warm climates. He has spoken at TEDxSydney, hosted the Google Science Fair 2015 Awards celebration and last year was the presenter on the SBS three-part documentary Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail.
Created by Christiaan and Connor Van Vuuren with their friend Nick Boshier (from Beached Az acclaim) in 2011, Bondi Hipsters became an internet cult phenomenon, as it followed two pretentious eco-conscious hipsters from, you guessed it, Bondi Beach, as they desperately tried and get their nameless fashion brand off the ground. The Van Vuuren’s and Boshier then expanded the tale into the ABC2 comedy series Soul Mates, which premiered last year while Season Two is on its way.
THE KATERING SHOW
Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney star as a celebrity chef and her food intolerant friend in this hilarious and witty hit series that looks at food trends like quitting sugar and using a Thermomix. It’s found national and international acclaim, winning gongs at both the Online Video Awards Australia and New York Television Festival. In fact, the ABC is also a fan – signing the Kate’s up to premiere Season Two on ABC iview this year.
YouTube star John Luc, aka the creator of mychonny, first began uploading videos about high school and being Asian in Australia back in 2008, but has since uploaded hundreds of shorts and gained millions of views. In 2015, he ventured into making his first narrative comedy outing with MyChonny Moves In, which generated 1.37 million views across the series on his YouTube channel. His comedy also caught the eye of Lawrence Leung who cast Luc as a young fictionalised version of himself in his feature film Sucker, which is out on VOD and DVD now. Luc is also developing a feature film script co-written by Western Australian comedian Tien Tran.
Melbourne sketch troupe Aunty Donna had early success with their YouTube channel and were selected for ABC Fresh Blood. They made it to the final round, as one of the five groups chosen to create a pilot episode that now has the potential to win and be made into a TV series. At the same time, they were also chosen as one of five groups to participate in Google and Screen Australia’s talent development initiative Skip Ahead. And in January, it was announced that the new Comedy Central Australia has commissioned a new web series from the trio for their on-going Not For TV series (where Broad City first got its start).
MIGHTY CAR MODS
An online DIY car show, Mighty Car Mods was ranked by Variety as one of their ‘top 12 stars in the digital world’ list. Featured in the 2015 #Famechangers issue, the show was ranked at no. 12 in a list that included “those whose influence stands head and shoulders above the rest”. Created by Aussie duo Marty and MOOG, the popular show gives viewers tips and tricks on how to customise and improve their cars. It was one of the five recipients of the inaugural Skip Ahead funding initiative with Google, delivering the online doco-comedy Lend us a Ride in 2014.
Stay tuned for more news about how Screen Australia is helping emerging film makers embrace the digital space, in the next few weeks.