Young TV audiences can't be patronised

Dead GorgeousDead Gorgeous executive producer Ewan Burnett says creatives cannot talk down to the 8 to 13-year old audience, because they have become very sophisticated.

“This audience has grown up with Harry Potter and fabulous feature film visual effects. They’ve seen it all and won’t be talked down to,” Burnett told Encore.

“Children don’t need to be patronised. Dead Gorgeous respected the arts involved in creating a television show, and it’s a pity that it has to be singled out as being unusual. The dumbing down of television is to the detriment of our cultures and our future,” added producer Margot McDonald.

Dead Gorgeous is a co-production between Burberry Entertainment and Coolabi Productions, with support from Screen Australia and Film Victoria, and finance from the ABC, the BBC, UK distributor Cake Entertainment, and Nickelodeon Germany. The 13 episodes are currently airing on weekdays at 5:20pm on ABC 1, and will screen on weeknights at 8 on ABC3 from tonight.

The idea for the series – about three teenage sisters who died in a tragic accident in 1861 and, after 150 years stuck in limbo, return to their home to discover it’s been turned into a school – was originated by Coolabi in the UK, who approached Burberry for its existing relationship with the BBC and experience in comedy/drama for the 8 to 13-year audience.

The scripts were written in the UK and the story was set in Australia and shot in Melbourne in 2009, using an Australian crew and cast – except for British actress Poppy Lee Friar.

According to Burnett, Australia is very good at creating character-driven comedy/drama for younger audiences, a genre that is distinctly different from the “gag-driven, American-styled sitcoms for kids”.

In the case of Dead Gorgeous, having teenage ghosts as protagonists required visual effects to bring the stories to life, and the producers had to accept that their budget would not allow them to deliver feature VFX.

“If we tried to compete with feature effects on a children’s television budget, we would have only been able to make a couple of episodes for the money.

“Our approach from the very beginning was to have two or three ‘wow’ effects in each episode and as many smaller effects as possible created by edits, shifts in light, unexplained prop movements and the kind of low-tech trickery which worked so well on classic series like The Ghost & Mrs Muir and Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased,” said Burnett.

Burnett believes there is a ‘strong market appetite” for a further 13 episodes, but a second series is not a certainty and still depends on the ratings success of the show in the UK and Australia.

Cake Entertainment has secured a number of international sales, which will be announced at MIPTV in Cannes next week.


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