Nowhere Boys producer Beth Frey reveals the unique challenges the creators of children’s TV face – and why we’ll be seeing a new cast this season. By Caris Bizzaca.
You can’t argue with that logic. Nowhere Men wouldn’t be a children’s TV drama anymore.
“I think a reality of financing children’s TV is that decisions take a long time,” Frey says.
“Even with Screen Australia’s funding support opening up more opportunities, there’s still a limited pool of money…
“By the time a decision is made in the next lot of funding, and then by the time you get to shoot, your actors can be 18 months or even two years older potentially.”
Frey and Matchbox Pictures encountered this very problem when it came to filming series 2.
On the page, it picked up as if it was one day later from the events of the first series. But because it had been over a year since the shoot, the physical change in the teenagers was dramatic. When it came time for season 3, some of original cast were by then in their 20s and over six feet tall.
Another unique challenge is the restriction on the amount of hours young actors can work. This affects the shooting time, which impacts the budgets per episode and in turn, the length of series.
For Nowhere Boys each series has been 13 episodes. This was initially an issue when it came to international sales.
“It was a dilemma, because those short-run series can be hard to place internationally,” Frey says.
But once series 2 was in the can, they had 26 episodes all up and a newfound momentum.
“Once we had 26 episodes that gave us better prospects for the international market, who felt they could make more of a statement with it than they could with 13 episodes. Also a number of broadcasters like to run two major series a year.
“So certainly in kids TV, volume is important.”
The first two seasons of Nowhere Boys has made 42 individual sales internationally, although it can be seen in many more countries than that thanks to multi-territory deals with various buyers. It sold to the BBC in the UK and the second series won an international Emmy award in April this year.
The Screen Australia-supported series is still set in Bremin, where newcomer Luke (Kamil Ellis) arrives and finds himself part of a new gang of Nowhere Boys (including the first Nowhere Girl), who have to figure out how to save the town.
“For us, it’s sort of a mantra that while this is set in a sci-fi fantastical world, we don’t ever make magic the solution or an easy fix, because it’s not satisfying,” she says.
It’s one of the ingredients that have enabled Nowhere Boys to resonate so potently here and abroad.
For the first series, which came from the mind of Matchbox Pictures producer Tony Ayres, not one of the creative team had ever worked in children’s TV.
The writing team – including Craig Irvin, Roger Monk and Elise McCredie – tried to create dilemmas that were credible and truthful. And young imaginations were entranced by what they saw, regardless of gender.
“This was a series that was initially to fill a gap. Dance Academy was for girls and ABC were looking for a show for boys. That became Nowhere Boys. But what we found was the girls came in equal numbers.”
For young Australians, it also meant seeing their accents and stories reflected back to them. Particularly with the aforementioned costs and limited support available for children’s TV, Frey says it’s more important than ever to have locally made content on screens.
“When you crunch the numbers and ask yourself, ‘how many live action shows can Australian broadcasters and networks afford to do a year’? It’s limited. And those limitations mean we’re buying lots of shows from overseas,” she says.
“It’s a problem because for our kids, growing up, I think it’s really central to our identity to see ourselves on television.”
And if their social media is anything to go by, there is an appetite for it.
“Kids in this social media age, they are fearless about reaching out to connect and interact.
“They’ll find me, the cast, and (producer) Tony Ayers online.”
It provides filmmakers with a direct link to their audience, but also invaluable commentary – good and bad.
“It’s about getting feedback. It’s about not living in isolation, and just delivering something and putting it out.
“And it’s powerful to hear those young voices.”
Nowhere Boys: Two Moons Rising premieres on ABC Me with a special double episode on Friday November 11 and will be available on ABC iview.