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“My Dad always encouraged my creative spark and allowed me to be myself. Everyone needs someone like that.”
Written by Aisling Rose McGrogan (Writer, Director)
I started out filmmaking through acting. When I was at Drama school, I worked closely with the filmmakers, who were also studying screen as they would cast us (the actors) in their shorts assignments for school. I would often think about how I would like the dialogue to go or how I would flesh out the characters. And I realised much after I graduated and made my first short years later The Interview, which premiered at Revelation Perth International Film Festival last year (plug/humble brag/female filmmakers doin it for themselves), that it wasn’t acting that I solely loved, but storytelling in all capacities.
When I decided to make my first web series, Dadmate, I met my match (at an amateur short film screening event) in sometimes Dadmate DOP, director and editor, Justin Villar. I asked him to come on board for the first episode just to help film some shots and realised soon after he was in it for the long hall. A lot of our production meetings go way over the intended time and we end up talking about everything from Dadmate, to our favourite films, to sharing filmmaking tips to talking about life in general.
I have learned so much from Justin and Dadmate has given me some life long friendships. I know that is probably not why you are reading this article and you are probably thinking shut up lady, “I just want to know how to get a web series off the ground!” but I promise I have a point. That point is this: (from the small knowledge I do have) the basis is finding a great team to work with.
Always be respectful to everyone on set. Without all parties realising, you are auditioning and people are deciding whether or not they want to spend their likely unpaid time with you in the future. Being kind will get you everywhere and it feels pretty good too. Ask people what they would like to work on. You want people to want to be a part of it and to feel like they are finding value in being there. Teamwork is key. Although I am the catalyst for the series, it takes a village and Dadmate taught me skills in my personal life too, like: it is okay to ask for help. I also want to be available to help other people. People like that, it seems. When you show up for other people they show up for you.
I started writing Dadmate in any spare moments I had (on the train, in my day job toilet, at the doctors office, that one time I was stuck in an elevator) it takes hours and hours of work. It is the compound effect though really, and you just need to find those small moments in the day and write. Even when you don’t feel like it. Do it. Then watch your hard work come into fruition. Or nothing might happen. You will learn a lot either way!
The filming for me is the best part. I like watching the lines I have written come to life. It is the ultimate high. Before filming, Justin and I go over the script and block out the scenes. Justin and I work differently in that he loves storyboarding and I like to find extra shots and use more intuition on the day. We have both directed episodes, so it is good to learn from each other and I now realise how vital storyboarding is. FYI this video Justin showed me during one of our own sessions that includes the Coen Brothers storyboarding process is really neat and features Francis McDormand (the real reason I was on board for watching this thing in the first place): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsGRhaPpGh0
I then schedule all the actors and organise catering and Justin organises the crew. We would shoot on weekends whenever everyone’s schedules aligned. I tried to think of straight forward locations, so we mainly used my house, the local park, Justin’s sister’s university and the Improv Conspiracy Melbourne (A wonderful theatre for live comedy FYI). After shooting, Justin edits the episodes and we have bought Doug McNeil on to colour grade and the talented Josh Hackett who created the graphics in the credits. Our friends Esther Lin and Jeremy Teh are the main parts of our crew and they are up and coming filmmakers on the rise. (As I write this, they have come on board to help direct the final episode.)
Dadmate really came about because I often think about the times I was happiest growing up and it was probably when I lived with my Dad. My Dad always encouraged my creative spark and allowed me to be myself. Everyone needs someone like that. I feel at my most intelligent and funniest whenever I am talking with him. He says that even if he wasn’t my Dad he would show up anyway, because he enjoys my company. The nicest compliment I have ever been paid! (Okay I will shut up. Again, more sap you are not here for).
I think it is a want somewhere deep down that I could live in a share-house with him( “She is still going?!”), as stupid as that sounds. I know the reality is, we would probably end up squabbling a few days in.
Dadmate is supposed to be dumb fun and about the character’s imperfect traits and lives. Mostly, I just wanted it to have a lot of heart, like all the films and tv series that have comforted me. Made me forget about life for a while.
I was very lucky to get the sensationally funny Edward Chalmers on board who is much too young to play my Dad. David Todman who is an excellent comedic actor. Emily Joy, a wonderfully warm and endearing actress on the rise and Julie Strini, plays my mother and is one of the most positive people I have ever worked with. I sent Julie an update on Dadmate one time, it was kind of a nothing email that she didn’t even have to respond to and she replied, “Sometimes life is just too much fun. Aren’t we lucky!” That attitude will get you everywhere.
Whatever happens, I just want people to enjoy it and hopefully have a laugh. If not, I had one heck of a good time making it and learnt so much from the talented actors, filmmakers and my friends who made up this team.
From the Dadmate team, we hope you enjoy it!