How an emerging Australian filmmaking team gave Canada Sexy Herpes

Madeleine Dyer and Daniel Milvhill.

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A talented group of emerging Australian creatives have sold the rights of their micro-budget TV show, Sexy Herpesto a major international production house.

And now they have their sights set on taking it to the rest of the world, including a long-form series at home in Australia.

Originally released in 2017, Sexy Herpes is set in a faded and jaded sexual health clinic which houses a family of sexual misfits. Wading through their own personal insecurities and obscurities, the series sets out to explore their many issues of sexuality and gender identity.

The original dark dramedy stars Zoe McDonald (Open Slather), Genevieve Morris (No Activity) Jay K. Cagatay (Open Slather, The Slot Comedy) Mark Silveira (Pawno) Chloe Ng (Neighbours) Rohan Nichol (Home and Away, Star Wars) David Todman (Utopia) and Katie Castles (I Love Man Tits).

The origins of the series goes back to 2016 during a chance meeting between co-producer Daniel Milvhill and co-executive producer Duy Huynh.

Mulvihill had just finished a tough shift on the phones at a popular wine distributor, and Huynh, lured by the promise of free booze, agreed to meet a friend at Friday night drinks. The two quickly hit it off, commiserating over how tough it is to get film projects off the ground.

“Let’s just make something. I just want to feel joy about this industry again,” Huynh groaned following five years of failed attempts to fund a feature film.

Mulvihill and creative business partner, Madeleine Dyer, had been trying to get projects greenlit for years too, but the hurdles were great and many.

“We might have a project for you…” Mulvihill and Dyer offered.

Genevieve Morris in Sexy Herpes.

Following the meeting Mulvihill and Dyer sent Huynh a script for a pilot episode of their series, then dubiously titled Herpes.

Huynh reported back that he fell out of his chair laughing while reading the script, thrilled by the way the series explored sexuality, gender diversity and mental health in a quirky and sensitive way.

Huynh agreed to be a part of the project immediately scraping together a small budget with partner Andrew Kelly and Dyer’s friends and family also contributing.

Instead of a pilot, which would end up in some executive’s inbox, the team agreed to make a six episode web series. It would mean they could use it to build an audience rather than just going straight to longform.

Begging, borrowing and not-quite stealing, the team made up of Mulvihill, Dyer, Huynh and Kelly, set out to make the series.

Bringing together a cast and crew willing to do it on deferred payment. Madeleine Dyer would write and& direct, Mulvihill would write and produce with Huynh and Kelly bringing their executive producing-nous, as well as being on kitchen duty – literally, cooking for the nine day shoot.  

Championed by Mike Cowap, Sexy Herpes received Screen Australia completion funding going towards post-production.

Worried that the title may be “off-putting”, the team agreed to change the name of the series to Sexy Herpes.

Sexy Herpes hit the local and international film festival circuit in 2017 – officially selected to screen at 19 festivals and winning awards at NZ WebFest, Minnesota WebFest, London Short Series Festival and Asia Web Awards. Following that, Sexy Herpes found a following and was picked up and screened by Channel 9, Virgin Australia InFlight, Seeka TV and Revry.

Magalie Lépine-Blondeau stars in Sans Rendez-Vous. Photo by Aetios.

But more importantly, it found it’s way to Fabienne Larouche and Marie-Andrée Labbé at AETIOS in Canada, who reached out about buying the TV format.

AETIOS adapted Sexy Herpes to a French-language ten-episode series and renamed it Sans Rendez-Vous.

Sans Rendez-Vous will premiere on Canadian TV this October, with another season already on the cards.  

The team have joint-ventured with AETIOS to take the format to the rest of the world, whilst negotiating to retain rights in Australia.

Following this success, the Mad Dan team are in the final stage of pre-production of a new feature film, Blood Sisters with Roaring Entertainment, and black comedy Trouble Karma Christmas with Hoodlum Entertainment, set to go into production in 2022.

The Beyondedge team are in post-production on a new documentary about happiness called How to Thrive which received Screen Australia and Film Victoria production funding and over $550,000 in philanthropic funding.

What started out as a commiseration over how tough the industry is, has become a success story for the collaboration, with Sexy Herpes providing returns and inroads to international markets to support their ongoing work as content makers.

You can watch Sexy Herpes for free here.

Sans Rendez-Vous stars Magalie Lepine-Blondeau and is available here.

 

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