When Kacie Anning met Greg Daniels, creator of the US version of The Office, over breakfast in Los Angeles he discussed a futuristic comedy series he was developing.
He related his vision of the show and she responded with her ideas. That was in 2018. Several months later, Daniels made her the biggest offer of her career: direct two episodes of Upload, which had been commissioned by Amazon Prime Video.
Last year Anning went to Vancouver to work on the production, which, co-incidentally, had Simon Chapman as the DOP and Daina Reid among the directing cohort.
Now streaming on Amazon, Upload is set in the near future when people who die can be uploaded into a digital afterlife – if they can afford it.
Robbie Amell stars as Nathan, a young app developer who winds up in hospital after his self-driving car crashes into a truck. After a hasty conversation with his vacuous girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), he elects to be uploaded to the seemingly idyllic Lakeview resort.
As he starts to find the virtual afterlife is far from ideal, he turns to his customer service “Angel” Nora (Andy Allo), who becomes his friend and confidante.
Anning is grateful to Screen Australia, which sent her to Los Angeles in 2018 as part of the Talent USA: LA initiative, where she secured representation: WME as her agent and Mosaic as her manager.
Robbie Amell in ‘Upload’.
Her reps, who set up the meeting with Daniels, had sent him a showreel of her work including Fragments of Friday, the Screen Australia funded comedy web series which she wrote, directed and performed in, produced by fellow AFTRS alumni Courtney Wise.
The Amazon series was a big jump for Kacie after she directed the first series of The Other Guy for Stan, three episodes of the ABC’s Hardball and the ABC children’s sketch comedy You’re Skitting Me.
However she took it in her stride, observing: “It’s such a well-oiled machine and you are very well supported. You are asked to jump on the train and hold on.
“Within the first half day I thought, ‘It’s just directing, I know what to do.’ The budget and the scale of the storytelling were certainly intimidating but I had a very high-level creative team to facilitate and support me, particularly on the VFX front.
“I found that really liberating and I used the camera in ways I had not had the time or resources to do previously. My background in Australia, where we make super-fast productions, was a useful boot camp that enabled me to step up.
“Upload is set in a futuristic world but for me it was a rom-com about two people who have an impossible relationship, who like each other but can’t be together.”
After that she directed one episode of Diary of a Future President, a Disney+ commissioned comedy about a 12-year-old Cuban American girl who aspires to be President.
Since then she has been developing her own work, including a female ensemble comedy set in Australia for Matchbox Pictures and a series with Ian Collie’s Easy Tiger.
Reflecting on her career, she says: “I’m a poster child for Screen Australia’s talent development, starting with Fragments of Friday, which led to working in the US and now the dream of creating my own projects. And I’m very grateful to Stan for taking a punt on a new director, which doesn’t happen a lot these days.”