Q+A with Superwog
Forging new territory for television series
In 2008, comedy duo Nathan and Theo Saidden began uploading sketch videos to their Superwog YouTube channel, growing a loyal audience and laying the foundations for what has become a massive success in comedy and a pioneer of the innovative new ways in which television series can be made and viewed. The six-part series of Superwog, which was made with production support from Film Victoria, was the first Australian long-form series to be released on YouTube, followed by ABC linear channel, and at its conclusion had reached 13.5 million people across YouTube alone, with another 1 million plus reached across ABC.
In our interview with the brothers, we find out about taking Superwog into long-form video, what made Victoria an attractive location to make series, and what motivated them to forge this non-traditional pathway to an audience.
Superwog has reached more than 13.5 million people across YouTube alone, with another 1 million plus reached across ABC. Did you expect to reach such a huge audience, and what’s it like knowing so many people are watching your show?
We honestly did not expect to reach that many people – we are thrilled with the response. It feels so great to know that so many people share our sense of humour!
Who is your main audience and why do you think is appeals to them?
The majority of our audience are Aussies and I think it’s because our comedy is uniquely Australian. We grew up watching Australian comedy and I think that’s reflected in our work.
Tell us about the genesis of Superwog and how it has developed since then? What was the creative inspiration for the production, and how does the content of the series differ from earlier videos?
Nathan and I have always had a passion for writing and performing comedy. From a very young age we would perform impressions in front of our parents and make short videos on our handi-cam. YouTube allowed us to share our work with others.
The longer, half-hour format meant Nathan and I could explore more deeply the characters, themes and story which otherwise couldn’t be done within the confines of a short sketch. It also meant we could write more jokes!
Through the Google/Screen Australia Skip Ahead initiative, you explored long form video, and then brought on Princess Pictures to make the half hour pilot, followed by working together to create the series that has just screened. What is it like working with an experienced production company and making longer pieces?
The Skip Ahead Initiative was amazing because it allowed us to finance the half-hour pilot. It was great to work with Princess Pictures who were able to introduce us to an excellent network of industry experts who would fulfil Nathan and my creative vision.
Superwog is the first Australian long form series to be released on YouTube – followed by the ABC linear channel. What was the motivation for it to premier on YouTube, other than the existing audience there?
Our preference was always to stay on YouTube because that’s where are fans are and that’s where we built our career; it felt like the natural place to premiere our series.
One of the reasons Film Victoria was keen to back Superwog was this innovative approach to online content. Has Superwog paved the way for other long form series to screen first on YouTube?
We’re extremely grateful to Film Victoria and all the other partners that made this series possible, we’re optimistic and hopeful that this may be a model for future projects.
Marketing for Superwog was quite unique in that it focused around and relied a lot on your existing YouTube audience. Can you tell us about the approach to the marketing strategy?
ABC did a great job assisting with publicity and we used all our databases and social tools to market every episode throughout the series.
The show has also broken new ground in terms of a financing structure, being the first ABC/YouTube co-finance deal. Why is this deal unique? Will there be more like it?
We hope it has broken ground in a changing VOD environment where established networks are rethinking their partnerships.
What advice would you give to others pursuing a career in creating online content?
What’s great about YouTube is you are free to constantly change and improve your work while receiving feedback from an audience. Get out there and try!
While you’re from Sydney and Superwog is set there, the show was produced in Victoria. What appealed about Melbourne as a place to make Superwog and what’s your experience been of working here with local companies and crew?
While we wrote the series in Sydney, we shot our pilot in Melbourne and we were happy with the crew and location and we were keen to replicate that for the series.
What’s your secret to making such a successful series?
Hard work, conviction and dedication. We are so lucky that so many people and organisations backed us but I think most importantly we spent almost 10 years developing and working on our craft before we made the series.
What’s next – is Superwog going to be made available to an international audience, and can you tell us about any other projects you hoping to work on in the future?
We’d love to make a second series. We are also working on a national live tour and hope to make a feature film!
Superwog is a Princess Pictures production for YouTube and the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Film Victoria and YouTube. Created and written by Theodore Saidden and Nathan Saidden. Produced by Paul Walton. Directed by Theodore Saidden. ABC Executive Producer Rick Kalowski (with Lauren Merolli).