Inside an elaborate multi-platform world

In a  feature that first secrets&lies-0502-day1 appeared in EncoreBrooke Hemphill explores the extraordinary multi-platform world of the upcoming Ten whodunnit series Secrets and Lies. 

In the boardroom of Hoodlum’s Brisbane office, a group of production staff are gathered to hear creative director Lucas Taylor deliver an explanatory presentation about the upcoming multi-platform whodunit series Secrets and Lies. Taylor has his delivery down pat and while it is evident Hoodlum founders Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield have heard the spiel before, as has Hoodlum board member Deanne Weir, webisode and multi-platform producer Emma Morris and Derryn Watts the multi-platform director have come especially to hear how their work fits into the elaborate world that spans across traditional television, social media, online video and a TV companion app.

“I don’t know how much you know about multiplatform,” Taylor says, “so I’ll explain it.”

The world in which the characters of the Ten series live is built using what Taylor calls a “content matrix” which turns out to be a fancy term for an Excel spreadsheet which he dutifully brings up on the plasma screen on the boardroom wall.

“I never thought I’d spend so much time in Excel,” he says.

The document is made up of colour coded columns that point to links between plot points and “clue bombs” that coincide with cliff hangers within each of the episodes.

While many traditional production companies are still trying to wrap their heads around companion apps, webisodes, social media management and moderation, Hoodlum is playing on an entirely different level. The multi-platform nature of the work created by the Queensland production house isn’t an add-on to a show or a strategy implemented after the real work of shooting the TV series is complete. The strategy is in place from day one of the project’s inception and online elements are treated with the same level of importance as what will

appear in the show itself. “It was never an afterthought,” Taylor explains.

“It’s part of Hoodlum’s IP,” Weir adds.

Indeed Hoodlum has become known for their work in the multi-platform space and could, perhaps, be considered a little ahead of their time, particularly in the Australian market. The Australian series that best demonstrated their capabilities was SLiDE which, to borrow a term from Hoodlum, had Foxtel as its ‘mothership’ with a raft of supporting content available online. While the series, according to Hoodlum, did reasonable numbers for the pay TV broadcaster, it was not picked up for a second run.

But it’s not just locally that the production house is making inroads into multi-platform – the company has picked up two BAFTAs and two Emmy awards for their work developing multi-platform strategies for productions including TV series Lost and the blockbuster film Transformers. The trophies, which the Hoodlum guys will let you hold if you ask nicely, are positioned on a shelf in the boardroom.

Against the wall adjacent to the impressive trophy display, a whiteboard acts as a vital key to explain the platforms Secrets and Lies will utilise.

The Ten logo represents TV and is labelled “the mothership”. This is where the six-part drama series will play out and the Hoodlum team is quick to point out that viewers who chose to merely opt in to the TV series in a traditional sense by watching Ten won’t be left out. “We won’t be punishing them,” Taylor says.


The world first aspect of the multi-platform approach being employed by the project involves Zeebox, Ten’s companion app. When each episode of Secrets and Lies airs, not only will audiences be able to use Zeebox to keep up with conversation across social media, an extra layer of the show will sit on top of the TV experience with additional unseen footage. Taylor shares the example of a scene where a character is watched through the window of a house. While we can see, from the main character’s

perspective, that she is speaking on the phone, the TV viewer is unable to hear what she is saying. But for Zeebox users, a close up shot of the character reveals her conversation clueing the audience into a sub-plot that will eventually play out across the various platforms.

Hoodlum staff are currently working with Zeebox developers to make this happen and the approach is likely to impact the future purpose of companion apps. When asked whether they have drawn inspiration for this from any international shows, the team says no. No other examples of this exist, according to Hoodlum and Zeebox. In fact Zeebox says that American networks and channels including HBO are keeping a close eye on the evolution of Secrets and Lies as this could well be the first production to truly utilise second screen apps in a drama environment.

Rick Maier, Ten’s head of drama, says the series could have an impact on its future forays into the multi-platform space. He says: “If the series works as we hope, then clearly the argument for greater investment and focus in this area will be compelling. Not just for Ten.”

Robertson and Mayfield first approached Ten with the script written by Stephen M Irwin. When Maier read it, he was just as excited as the Hoodlum team. When asked what attracted him to the project, Maier says: “A fantastic script from Stephen Irwin. The idea for the series was crystal

clear. It was a very straightforward commission. If you read it, you just had to find a way to make it.”

Robertson describes the process of making the drama “scary” finding the hardest part of producing handing the project over. She says: “You give it to a director you don’t know…”

The series is directed by Kate Dennis (The Time of Our Lives, Offspring, Rake) and Peter Salmon (Mr & Mrs Murder, Outrageous Fortune).

Mayfield says: “We’ve done this a few times and understand that handing it over is part of the excitement because you’re entrusting it to other key creatives to take it to places yet imagined. I love that part where you create this story and create all those mechanics of how you’re going to pull it together and then giving that to other people to take to another level. You are trepidatious. You are nervous in some ways but again, you have faith that you have great people.”

Back in the boardroom, the next logo on the whiteboard is YouTube where all content from the series – apart from the episodes themselves – will be available to viewers.

The Secrets and Lies website will

also host rich media content and will act as a roadmap for viewers trying to piece together exactly who committed the crime at the centre of the show’s plot. While the TV series portion of Secrets and Lies follows the narrative of a neighbourhood rocked by the death of a small child, online it’s a slightly different story. The inside workings of the Police case, and the attempts of one officer in particular to find out who did it, will play out in an in-depth Police procedural. At the heart of the online content is actor Anthony Hayes known for roles on The Slap and Bikie Wars.

The word ‘watercooler’ is next on the board and as Taylor points out, today’s watercooler is social media.

Despite this new-media-savvy approach, the production team are also tying the show to the traditional concept of “event TV”.

It’s a term that networks are bandying about a lot these days as viewers look away from the box to other sources of entertainment. The idea of event TV is that although audiences can catch up on the action later, viewers will feel compelled to watch the show when it airs to be a part of the experience. It’s a theory that applies to sporting matches and the finale shows of major reality formats and was seen at its peak in the drama space for the recent finale of the American series Breaking Bad.


What’s happening in the boardroom at Hoodlum is, of course, just one part of the puzzle. A short drive away in the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove an entire street has been commandeered for the production with one homeowner vacating their property and allowing the crew to repaint their entire house. The script called for a very specific location – a cul de sac with a park at the end. Finding the street, and getting its residents on board, was a major coup for the project. Mayfield says: “It took us a little while to find the location because the geography of the houses and the street was vital to the storytelling. It was pretty fortuitous that we came across a street that was perfect for the location and backed onto bushland. When we started talking to the residents, we managed to get a consensus so we took over the entire street for the shoot period.”

The crew set up camp on the street for seven weeks shooting internal and external scenes in the houses and backyards of the street. For a sequence set during the holiday season, the residents even consented to decking out their properties with Christmas lights.

Mayfield says: “There were a couple of major scenes – street party type scenes – that all of the residents got to be a part of the filming of.”

The day Encore visited the set, Ten local news dispatched a reporter to come and see what the fuss was all about. The reporter stopped a local

whizzing down the street on his bike to ask how he felt about the production taking over his suburb. In true laid back Queensland fashion, he didn’t seem at all fazed.

The series is currently set to air in early 2014 with Ten expected to maximise its winter Olympics audience to promote numerous upcoming shows including Secrets and Lies.

Big things are expected from the series – not just in terms of the multi-platform elements but also on account of the stellar cast. The leading role is played by Martin Henderson who now calls Los Angeles home and is best known for roles in Bride and Prejudice, Cedar Boys, The Ring and Little Fish.

Mayfield says: “What’s amazing about Martin is that he set a fantastic professional standard for the entire crew. He was just a pleasure really.” The residents of the street thought so too with Henderson arranging for a juice van to come in the final week of shooting to treat them.

Henderson returned to Australia for the part alongside Ben Lawson who has also been making a name for himself in the US with roles on the short lived TV series Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 and the film No Strings Attached. Rounding out the cast are celebrated Australian actors Diana Glenn and Damon Gameau.

This week, the Hoodlum team are putting the final touches on the series bringing all of the multi-platform elements together.

They expect to deliver the final product to Ten by week’s end and while audiences won’t get to see it come together until next year, the team suggests that there is more news to come around the project in the coming weeks.

Encore Issue 33This feature first appeared in EncoreDownload it now on iPad, iPhone and Android tablet devices.



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