Northern Pictures head of factual Karina Holden on ABC show Luke Warm Sex
Karina Holden is the head of factual entertainment at Northern Pictures.
Her list of credits include Go Back To Where You Came From for SBS, and Changing Minds for the ABC.
Her new show is Luke Warm Sex, a six-part series which follows comedian Luke McGregor as he tries to get better at sex with help from sexperts, therapists, scientists, tantric practitioners and sexual empowerment coaches.
Luke Warm Sex aims to fill the gap in sex user guides in the factual landscape, said Holden.
"I had been previously at the ABC and one of the shows I had developed there was Redesign my Brain with Todd Sampson. That kind of immersive journey, where a host gets better at something, was a very successful format for the ABC. The idea was that we could do something similar but unique about sex".
One of Holden's researchers pointed her towards McGregor.
"They said that he was fantastically funny and was quite open in the way that he talked about relationships. I liked the idea of the person who was non-intimidating, who represented the awkward amongst us – rather than the person who was great at something telling us what to do".
Holden enlisted McGregor, known for Utopia and Dirty Laundry, before approaching ABC Entertainment.
"Jon Casimir had been in the job for around a year at that point and I hadn't pitched him anything", said Holden, "but when I took him something I wanted it to be a project I thought was going to be really successful for them".
After an uncertain period – "[Casimir] liked it but there was a new management structure in there, so it took a while to work out whether everybody was going to engage with it" – Luke Warm Sex was given the go-ahead.
"I worked closely for about six months with the development producer and we mapped out all of the sex experts who were coming and going from Australia and what Luke could learn. It was about finding the therapists that could give him a real sense of a journey".
Holden knew McGregor had anxieties about sex, but not quite how extensive they were.
"When I first approached Luke I knew he wasn't experienced – he talked about how he hadn't really dated – but what I didn't realise was that he hadn't really had much sex at all. In fact he'd only had sex twice in his entire life. I didn't know that at the time, I just knew that was an issue because he talked about it around the edges in his stand up".
"He had major issues with his body confidence, which I think a lot of people can relate to. He had this almost OCD thing about touching where he found it really intimidating. He had cleanliness issues as well".
As the series became increasingly personal, McGregor began to drive the narrative.
"He probably threw away half of the things we wanted to do and came up with a whole list of other things that he and Hayden Guppy, the director, worked through".
"Then we had Anna Bateman, the series producer, who was able to achieve a lot of the things that Luke felt were going to be more important".
The production started shooting around June/July and wrapped around October, followed by post.
"Probably around 8-9 months total, after a whole year of development with the ABC", Holden said.
McGregor was in post every single day, said Holden, and has been profoundly changed by shooting the series.
"Even the way he walks and talks today has been affected by doing the show, which he is just so grateful for".
"In this day and age where young kids are learning about sex through pornography, there's a whole lot of awkwardness for people. The fundamentals of the series are communication, respect, consent and intimacy, and that's a part of sex that we hardly ever get to see in the media".