Interns and innovation: Q&A with the team behind Internment

Supporting new talent and innovative content

After four years making sketches for Facebook, the team behind Leftovers has made a savvy move to branch out into longer form content and take their loyal fan base with them. Introducing Internment– thier brand new web series about the trials and tribulations of internships, starring co-creators Helena Ruse and Pippa Mills.

Ahead of its release on YouTube on 3 July, we caught up with Producer, Mark Ruse to hear about the road to Internment and why web series are the perfect home for comedy.

 

Where did the idea for Internment originate? Tell us about the project’s relationship with the YouTube series Leftovers and the thinking behind using the same characters.

Internment comes from the team’s desire to make a longer form series with the Leftovers characters. Having made sketches for Facebook and YouTube for the last four years or so, the team had a passion to create something longer.

We’ve have had a great deal of success online with the characters, who have a large and loyal following, so we wanted to give the fans something new and fresh. But rather than going straight to half hour episodes, we thought it would be good to hone our skills by creating ten minute episodes. Also, for fans used to sketches, we thought the ten minute format was a good interim step.

How did you become involved in this project and what drew you to it?

I have been involved with the team since they first started doing Leftovers sketches for Facebook and YouTube, more than four years ago. In this time they have created well over 50 sketches. More recently they were part of the ABC’s Freshblood series and made sketches for Foxtel’s The Slot and have won awards at the Online Video Awards and been nominated for Junkee’s Breakthrough award. Their Leftovers sketches regularly attract a large, loyal audience with sometimes up to a million views.

There is a growing trend towards online TV series, how is producing a web series different from producing a traditional TV series? What are the advantages and challenges of this format?

I think the natural home for comedy is online. All comedy is, at its roots, subversive and free from the formalities of traditional television, creators have no restrictions and can do whatever they like. Comedy particularly thrives in this environment. The comedy audience is also largely online now so this is where you need to go to find them. You can see from the numbers how much larger the online audience can be. And it’s international.

What makes Internment different from other TV comedies and dramas set in the modern workplace?

Internment comes from a very real place. All three creators have had a host of recent experiences doing internships and the series is inspired by these. The characters are perfect vehicles for conveying these experiences. The audience is able to peek into the unedited conversations and the raw intimacy between them and follow their hilarious but painful tribulations in the workplace, where the intern is mercilessly exploited.

What do you think Internment has to say about the female experience, especially that of young women today?

I’ll let Helena and Pippa answer that one.

We’re not sure that Internment ever set out to highlight just the female experience – it was our own personal experience and we happen to be women. But of course this does come through in what we’ve created, and sometimes does highlight gendered issues in the work place. For young women I think this series is a bit of a comical exaggeration of the issues that arise in a work place and the sexism that still exists. We hope it provides an insight into what it’s like to be a young person starting out in their career and how difficult it is it avoid discrimination in any form.

Talking about the ‘the female experience’, is limiting as it implies that all female experiences are the same. If anything, Internment subverts our expectations of a female experience because the girls are thrown into and react to situations that would otherwise diminish their place as empowered young women. By highlighting the absurdities of their behaviour in response to the onerous tasks asked of them, we allude to and call out the idea that there must only be one way for women to behave, and that in itself is a funny thing.

It’s exciting to see a series for and made by young people. As a producer with years of experience, how important was it to you to mentor and support early career writing, acting and directing talent?

I am just amazed and enthused by their talent and it’s inspiring to see how dedicated and professional they are. I consider myself lucky to be involved with them, it’s a real privilege. I think they could well be ‘the next big thing’ in comedy and their trajectory is only upward. Their characters are ‘every person’ characters, which are rare. They have a big dose of warmth, are hilariously truthful and full of great observations about life, people and the society around them. It’s a rare combination and there are huge possibilities for the future. The team have worked together for many years and that too is a huge advantage. And they create, write, direct, and perform – it’s the full package.

What advice would you give early career performers and producers keen make screen comedy?

I think working in a team is a huge advantage in comedy. Many successful comedy shows and brands come out of teams that have honed their skills together over time. Having a supportive producer focused on making the team’s vision happen is a big help and having a diverse team where there are multiple skills is good. Creating and writing comedy is often much better done in teams. Concentrating on building this team and making it work is important I think and worth concentrating on.

How has Film Victoria funding helped bring this project to life?

Film Victoria was incredibly supportive. We received funding through the API program and they took the risk on a new web series without a traditional broadcast partner which was fantastic. Without support like this it’s tough to fund web series, particularly by fresh teams that are still building their track records. Film Victoria has a knack of identifying and backing upcoming talent and was pivotal in getting the series made.

What’s the future for web series?

Web series are only going to get bigger and better and their audiences larger. It’s a whole ecosystem of its own and it’s global. There is a whole generation now that mainly consumes media online and web series are a big part of this.

They’re also the perfect breeding ground for emerging talent and an ideal place to grow large and loyal audiences. And once a show has grown an audience it has huge capital to leverage when looking for support from Networks and the streaming services which are looking to grow their own audiences. I think web series are perfect vehicles for comedy, where there are no limitations on form, length, content and innovation.