Creating a monster
By Adam Coleman
The new ABC Series Hungry Beast began with no format, it has inexperienced presenters and reporters, and it is likely to be "raw" and "a bit messy". But that is just how the producers like it.
Known as Project NEXT in its infancy, Hungry Beast will introduce 19 newcomers to television, recruited after an extensive nationwide search for young talent that saw over 1100 applications submitted.
Series producer Andy Nehl told INSIDEFILM that the weekly half-hour topical TV program is “unclassifiable”.
“It is an evolving beast. You can’t put a label on it and say it is current affairs – some of it will be entertainment, some performance and some serious stories.
“We deliberately started this show with no format and have been evolving the format with the team we have created, because we wanted to involve them in its development.”
Applicants for the program were asked to complete a form “that would take at least three days” to finish in order to weed out the half-hearted or the lazy.
The 19 media rookies who made it through the rigorous selection process have been given one instruction: “tell us something we don’t know”.
The show is the brainchild of executive producer, Andrew Denton, who intends for it to become a hotbed of new ABC talent, like Australian documentary series Race Around The World was in the late 1990s.
"What ABC TV has embraced here is something it has done to the viewers’ benefit many times before…it has thrown open the doors to new talent and given them a serious shot at learning the ropes and making their mark," he said in a statement.
Nehl said: “A decade ago, Race Around The World was a fantastic project that found a heap of really talented young people out of a similar nationwide recruitment.”
Hungry Beast aims to feature stories that aren’t part of the regular news cycle – or to cover stories that are from a fresh angle.
The fact that most of the show’s presenter/reporters have little or no prior journalism or media experience is not a concern to the show’s producers.
“It is not strictly what you would call current affairs. While we undoubtedly will have some serious stories, it will be pretty different to the stories you will see on 60 Minutes or the 7.30 Report or Dateline,” he said.
“We will still be subject to the ABC’s editorial and policy guidelines the same as any other show on the ABC.”
Hungry Beast on the web will feature new original stories each day and plans to be a community where the audience can contribute stories themselves, and potentially have them broadcast on the TV program.
“This show is taking the web very seriously,” he said.
When asked what Hungry Beast will eventually look like, Nehl is unsure.
“It is a very different approach to how you would usually form a TV show, how well that works remains to be seen.
“Maybe in hindsight everyone will go ‘well, that was a terrible mistake to do it that way [laughs]. Who knows? But, we think it will deliver an interesting, watchable show.”
Hungry Beast starts Wednesday September 30 at www.abc.net.au/hungrybeast and at 9pm on ABC1.