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Pop CultureJune 13, 2017

The search for the greatest episode of a New Zealand webseries ever made

web series

In this completely unbiased search, we asked New Zealand webseries makers to pick their favourite episodes and tell us the stories behind them. 

Roseanne Liang of Flat 3

The absolute best thing about making webseries, for me, is creative freedom. The budgets are so low, and the viewership so niche that you can take risks that no network or studio would usually allow you to.

In the middle of Season 3 of Flat3, without warning, we swapped out our all Kiwi-Chinese core cast for white girls. We called the episode THE WHITE ALBUM. It was one of our most hated episodes. I loved it.

The other Flat3 episode that will forever hold a place in my heart is the series finale, THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. It’s got everything: gags, pathos, Madeleine Sami doing the world’s best Helen Clark impression, Pua Magasiva in fart denial, and Rose Matafeo out-sherlocking Cumberpatch.

Chris Parker of Stake Out

This is my favorite episode of Stake Out. It’s the cliffhanger for season two, and the reason we made the second season in the first place. Danielle Cormack emailed Tom and said she liked the show and made a joke about us saving her a role for the next season. So we wrote and shot an entire season and asked her to be in it.

I’m pretty sure she had just wrapped on Wentworth and was then shooting in Tom’s grubby little car. She is the real deal, the whole day shooting I was just laughing at the fact that she agreed to do it and wear biker gloves for the whole thing, too. This is why webseries rule, big stars are so keen to help out the wee guys and work for nothing.

The story was fun to shoot too, Tom and I really like the balance of high drama and trivial dialogue. My favorite line in it is “Any last words” “How do you like your vanilla?” which I don’t think makes any sense. But that’s what web series are for. Big silly risks.

Jaya Beach Robertson of PSUSY

My favourite episode is the one about abortion. Purely for the reason that some high school bro I hadn’t heard from in years messaged me out of the blue, and was shocked about the abortion laws in New Zealand. If I can educate even one person on something as important as woman’s reproductive rights, then I’m happy.

Laura Robinson of Burbs

Strathmore was the final episode we shot for season one. We had a crew of four people on set. The dressing room was a public toilet, the green room was a 1993 Toyota Corolla with the heater on full blast and the stereo pumping. For dinner, we ate tacos out the boot of my car in the freezing cold.

It was super DIY and super fun. The reason why I love that episode so much is that we evolved as a production company from the first episode we made together. The story is good too.

Maha Albadrawi of Friday Night Bites

“Guess I’m Coming To Dinner” was shot on the final night of a two-week long block of night shoots. Our outstanding cast and crew had endured two weeks of wind, rain, frequent location changes and dubious toilet facilities, but none of this mattered now because on this night, we were running ahead of time and everyone knew that what we had was really good.

Our writer and director Roseanne Liang managed to capture the complexity of that split second when you’re faced with a microagression when, in the space of about a second, you ask yourself “Did I hear that right? Do I respond? Do I let it go? How will this affect the room? What if I’m overreacting?” We had talked about this conundrum before, and she managed to distill the essence of this internal conflict and present it beautifully on screen.

Georgia-Jane Rippin of Dislawderly

Emotions were running high when we shot this episode and we were all a bit nervous. Marina, Caitlin and I had spent so many uni lunchtimes doing pre-production, but you never really know you can pull it off until you start recording.

My Mum actually features in this episode, playing my character’s psychologist. I was slightly nervous talking about my character’s sex life and Mum issues, particularly because my Mum is actually a psychologist and my character rants about how her own psychologist mother having “no empathy left for her”.

The shoot really brought home the strangeness of being a no-budget film maker. You’re making content based on your own experiences, but because you have no budget you also have to use actors and settings from your life. It can feel a little like a weird recreation sometimes.

Claris of The Candle Wasters

There are five of us on the team, so we don’t always have the same experiences in the writer’s room, on set, or in the edit suite. However, one episode that we all enjoyed creating at its different stages was episode nine of Bright Summer Night, titled “Awhina”.

It was a really satisfying episode to write, because this is the episode where you really get to know a character (Awhina) who’s been in the background of the whole series. It was also the first time we’d written a break-up. Awhina is on drugs during this episode, and that gave us a lot to play with visually, from projecting on the walls of the set, to doing fun editing tricks like jump cuts, and overlaying different shots on top of each other.

Another thing we enjoyed was exploring whether a character was actually in the room with Awhina, or whether it was a hallucination. The writing, the editing, and the performances were all brought together with the wonderful music in this episode composed by Indira Force.

Remember to vote for your new favourite web series in TVNZ’s New Blood competition, open until June 30.

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