Australian online content creators, both established and emerging, are at the front and centre of the Comedy Channel’s new skit series, The Slot, produced by Princess Pictures.
Hosting the show – which will showcase original and classic viral sketches – are accomplished YouTubers such as Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nick Boshier of Bondi Hipster fame, the RackaRacka twins, Superwog, Sketchshe, Skitbox, Natalie Tran and Aunty Donna.
The 10 x 30 minute series is the brainchild of Princess Pictures’ partner and producer Paul Walton, who wanted to spotlight online creatives producing “remarkable content” within a curated format. He tells IF each episode will be hosted by one established creative team, with the rest of ‘the slots’ dedicated to emerging creators.
“The reason I created it is I really wanted to achieve a few things. One, to give these creators exposure to a professional environment and the need to deliver on time, on budget, for a network and what that means – so it’s about giving them some professional hours. The other thing is I wanted to create a marketplace for this content outside of purely relying on ad revenue or on very small licence fees.”
“But mainly I wanted to get exposure for these creators outside their own fan base. The big pitch for me was: these are the most famous faces you’ve never heard of.”
Princess Pictures has long identified YouTube and the online video arena as a hot-bed of exciting new talent, and has established a digital arm to work with and develop creators.
Walton says the company is fully committed to the space with several initiatives on the boil, and hopes The Slot will see a broader audience begin to engage with “this amazing talent pool”. In the long-term, Princess intends to start to develop different longer-form projects with individual creators, all of whom he hopes will go onto be the “future guardians of the industry”.
“Working with all those creators on The Slot has really connected us to a lot of talent. We’ve been able to identify the ones that we want to work with closely and want to develop over time,” he says.
“The challenge for us now is how we continue to do it without Foxtel’s money and not go broke. We’re looking at other partnerships, whether that’s branded partnerships, or whether that’s some kind of ongoing slate funding.”
Out of The Slot, Princess also plans to launch a digital channel for female comedy creators, which Walton is actively trying to raise finance for now. “We found doing The Slot we didn’t have enough female comedy creators breaking through and getting the numbers, so we wanted to do our bit to try and promote them.”
The producer also recently helped to create a half hour pilot with Superwog, aka Theodore and Nathan Saidden, as part of Google and Screen Australia’s Skip Ahead initiative.
The work has already racked up over 2 million views, generated interest in a TV series with a network and seen the team nominated for an AACTA Award in the inaugural Best Online Video or Series category.
Of the AACTA nod, Walton says: “The boys are so chuffed.”
“This exciting phase we’re going through with the success of the pilot, [and] the official support of Google and Screen Australia is making them feel like they belong in this industry… so to get the tap on the shoulder from AACTA is mind-blowing.”
Walton cautions Superwog’s success hasn’t come overnight; it’s been a eight year slog to grow their fan base, and involved “hard work and commitment to the craft”. However, the merger of their talent and entrepreneurial skill with the traditional, professional world of film and television has been a rewarding experience for all involved.
“We’re learning a lot from them and I know they’re learning a lot from us,” Walton says.
Walton will speak next week on a panel at Screen Producers Australia’s Screen Forever conference about how Youtube success is driving the careers of Australian content creators.
While Walton says YouTube is not necessarily a ‘fast track’ to a screen career, it does give creators a chance to bypass the gatekeeper and to develop their craft online in full view of an audience.
“Rather than traditionally having to go and earn your stripes, then go and meet network executives and pitch your idea and go through the process, what they’re doing is, they’re forcing themselves in to the sights of these people.
“The audience is giving them real time feedback and that’s really valuable to the traditional gatekeepers, who want to take risks but they want to take risks with certainty… the certainty is their numbers and their fan base.”
“You can force yourself through that door rather than having to wait for permission, which is super exciting.”
Walton is interested to see what conversations come out of the conference session, “because it’s uncertain territory for a lot of traditional screen producers”.
“For a while there I think YouTube was seen as the enemy. Whereas now, we’re starting to understand that there are positive elements to having this incubator of remarkable talent. It’s just us working out how we, as producers, find a way to work with them and not go broke, but also harness more raw creative talent, as opposed to disciplined talent that’s come through the traditional means.”
The Slot will air on the Comedy Channel Thursday December 14 8.30PM.
IF Magazine is a media partner of the Screen Forever conference.