For Connor Fairclough and Tristan Barr, ‘Cursed’ is taking them into untested waters. Rather than going the traditional route of pitching a series, the duo have taken the teaser for their proposed series to the web in the hope of building up buzz for the slacker horror-comedy and landing a distributor for the show.
“In terms of the networks and distributors, it’s an exciting space to be in,” Barr said.
“Connor’s great mates with a lot of these online comedians and influencers who feature in the show;which works because they’re (distributors and networks) looking to push out more online content. We were lucky enough to receive a grant through Screen Queensland that allowed us to shoot the pilot. And this is really a test for us, to see if this methodology works in terms of shooting one thing and using that momentum.”
The idea behind the series is simple enough - Isaac (Kyle McCallion) inadvertently gets himself cursed after a drunken night with a ouija board and along with his housemate Ned (Omar Al-Sobky) subsequently has to deal with an otherworldly entity (Elliot Loney) and a series of different hauntings, each in the style of a different horror film. In addition to offering them the chance to have a bit of fun with horror film conventions, Fairclough and Barr say they can also use the series template to expand the cinematic skills.
“The idea is that for every horror film we parody - for lack of a better term - we use the aesthetic and shooting style used in that particular film,” Fairclough explained.
“Chopping and changing allows us to experiment and explore what we like and what we don’t like about different aspects of cinema,” Barr said.
“It’s a great concept for us as filmmakers, because we can gain a whole wealth of knowledge and experience through the one concept.”
With that in mind, the filmmakers have a vast array of recent, popular horror films that they intend to borrow from in their first series.
“We plan to do episodes around Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, Annabelle; the really well-known horror franchises, so we can make a bit of an imprint,” Fairclough said.
“Then, depending on what happens, we can expand, or get into the lesser-known horror films that have more of a cult following.”
Fairclough and writing partner Harry Smith have nearly finished writing the first season, with the project’s fate depending on where things land with potential distributors, with hopes that the online debut of the teaser will help generate buzz.
“Every view helps,” Barr said.
“If you get a following you’ve got a lot more leverage in those kinds of discussions.It’s often quite hard, because television networks have their own thing they’re looking for. It’s not just about the content, it’s more to do with the time slot that the networks are trying to build. What’s so exciting about the emergence of streaming platforms is they’re after anything and everything.”
But, the new landscape - and the decision to debut online - also comes with its challenges, they say.
“You can do anything and push everything out, but it’s also an oversaturated landscape,” Barr said.
“There’s a lot of people out there trying to define themselves, and some of the stuff that goes viral isn’t necessarily good content, it’s just got mass appeal.It can be hard to stand out… and for us this is an interesting test, because this is quite a niche concept… and it can be very hard for filmmakers to get recognised, because they can be lost amongst everything else that’s out there.”
“It’s easy to make things, because anyone with an iPhone can shoot something,” Fairclough said.
“But the attention span online is so small. There was a statistic I read that within the first three-seconds, someone will either click off a video or continue watching it.So it becomes a question of how you keep someone’s attention when there are hundreds of thousands of videos going up every dayand you can’t really do too much in three-seconds of a scripted pilot.”
“Our hope is that if you invest in character and story, people will fall in love with those elements, and that’s where you get the return audience.That’s the distinguishing factor between the online landscape and something that has potential for a series,” Barr said.
Barr said waiting to see what form the series may take was an ‘exciting’ place to be in.
“Streaming services would probably be the best, but we don’t know it could go anywhere or be anything; it’s exciting,” he said.
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