By Michelle Pearson
Have you ever wondered how the big-buck producers of Hollywood received their entertainment industry break? It’s interesting to reflect on how these industry professional’s manoeuvred from student to stardom.
University students of today who are studying facets of media and production are constantly told that it is difficult to break into the industry.
It becomes embedded knowledge that the theoretical and practical skills imparted to them are only minor factors in determining an individual’s suitability for that very first paid production role – which another thousand people have applied for.
Disheartened and intimidated, media students often take a back seat after the multiple knock-backs forcing them to change career paths and no longer follow their dream as a result of the yearning job security.
Two AFTRS film students, Samuel Leighton-Dore and James Millyan, are determined to follow their dream and are taking a proactive, yet unconventional approach, challenging the traditional frameworks of the production industry.
After much discussion between the two about how teenage culture has been inaccurately depicted on shows such as Skins, the students decided to work collaboratively in order to create a teenage drama series.
Entitled The Flip (depicting both “sides” of Sydney), the doc-drama sheds snapshots of Sydney youth culture in a raw and honest light, without sugar coating the darker side of teenage life.
The series follows various teenagers from different upbringings and how they share particular social and cultural connections in ways the audience may not expect.
“The Flip revolves around the diverse, unique and rich teenage culture in Sydney and focuses on relationships, sexuality and family life,” the budding 19-year-old students told INSIDEFILM, indicating some collaboration days took 13 hours.
“The plot lines are exciting and realistic and we're thrilled by the rate the project is growing.”
Set to pitch to commercial networks ABC, Foxtel and various digital channels, the teenagers believe this production will be distinctive from any other teenage drama series we have seen before.
“We are shooting in a doc-drama style and not the typical Home and Away format, meaning it’s very raw and is visually unique through the documentary style. In terms of content it is much more upfront and blunt.”
The student’s visualise their age not as hindering their chance of success, but rather being advantageous to the portrayal of a more accurate representation of teenage culture.
“Because we have a young cast and crew, we are more in touch with the storyline, making it more realistic for our target audience; there is only a certain amount of realism a 45-year-old man can encapsulate in a young script.
“I really think young people should start sharing their stories in film and TV.
“There are a lot of talented young filmmakers, but because of the idea that this is a hard business and therefore unobtainable, people get disheartened.
“I think The Flip is an excellent example of youthful ambition and drive in film.”
Leighton-Dore and Millyan have solely scripted, casted and directed the show, seeing the production through from the initial stages of the creative process to the pilot episode.
More than 200 people attended the acting audition at Fox Studios.
Rather than providing a script for actors to rehearse with, the pair asked those auditioning to talk about themselves instead, basing the characters off the personality quirks and mannerisms of standout performers.
The final cast includes The Tree’s Christian Byers and Sydney fashion model Sophy Jones.
The Australian screen industry is often known for being constricted by tight production budgets.
Since the students have no funds, companies have come together to offer their support such as AFTRS lending them Canon HD camcorders and lights, Home nightclub offering their space for a night and Fox Studios lending their facilities for two days at no charge.
The students have also received personal mentoring from renowned producer Rosemary Blight (Panic At Rock Island (2010), Scorched (2009), Clubland (2007)).
This mentoring came about through Leighton-Dore’s voluntary work with Goalpost Pictures, which provided a greater insight into the workings of the industry and the facilitation of practical skills.
Leighton-Dore and Millyan have looked for innovative ways for the production to be seen, seeking exposure and feedback for The Flip from Gen Y on YouTube and Facebook.
The footage has been viewed on YouTube in multiple countries, including America, France, England, Ireland and Cambodia.
Collectively, YouTube statistics and Facebook feedback have deciphered the target audience, with the majority of viewers falling in the expected 16-24 year demographic.
This contemporary methodology has paved a way forward for the students to fulfil consumer interest and demand, directing characters and storylines on the primary basis of feedback received.
The dream job for these boys is ultimately to make quality television on a national and international level, sharing stories and ideas with as many people that can be reached around the world.
“There are two ways it can be looked at by the networks,” they said.
“It could be seen that we are two film students who don’t have much experience or knowledge – we aren’t saying we know everything, but on the other hand, we have an idea from a perspective that they can’t capture.
“We have written a quality script, and we have quality characters. We are the next generation of film makers and in need of a fresh perspective.”
The project will be completed early next month after two weeks of post-production and it will be pitched to commercial networks in December.
Cast of The Flip