I’ve been putting off writing this installment. I am, I admit, notoriously unreliable when it comes to writing this blog but this time it was more than that. It was partly due to not wanting to sign off on what has been one of the most defining periods of my life and also because I don’t know if I have the words to do it justice and convey just how important Starting From Now has been to me. But, yes, mainly because I’m bad at updating this blog.
Ending Part 1 of this installment after the release of Season 3 was no accident. Looking back, the evolution of Starting From Now occurred in two distinct phases: Seasons 1-3 where we were operating on a minimal budget; and Seasons 4-5 where we had screen agency funding (Screen Australia and Screen NSW); corporate, industry and community partnerships (IVF Australia, Spectrum Films, Pavilion Entertainment, ACON, and Star Observer); and a broadcast deal with SBS.
That sort of seismic shift, and it was a seismic shift for those of us who’d worked on the series from the beginning, doesn’t just happen. It takes a great deal of hard work, tenacity, and forward planning. I mentioned in Part 1 that Rosie Lourde (who came on as a producer for Seasons 3-5) and I took stock at the end of Season 3. We knew that in order to achieve our goals – to honour the audience’s investment in the series; do justice to the characters and story by bringing them to a meaningful conclusion; pay our incredible cast who, up until this point, hadn’t been paid; challenge ourselves creatively; use the platform we’d built to explore issues not usually dealt with in a web series; and to elevate the production values and storylines beyond what we’d been able to achieve to date – we would need funding. This was around the start of 2015. We spent the better part of the next eight months working towards securing this funding.
Producing requires a vast array of skills. As someone who is organized, hard-working and driven, I possess some of them, but not nearly all of them. I have the temperament of a writer and am most comfortable in front of my computer. I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of partnering with people who possess a skillset that complements your own. Rosie and I have different personalities and complementary skillsets.
Securing funding is not just about filling in forms and ticking the right boxes (although there is a lot of that). It’s about believing in your project and having the ability to convince other people to believe in it. It’s about making connections, forming relationships, and eliciting advice from those in the know. This was why we were successful in securing funding for Seasons 4 and 5 and this was primarily due to Rosie’s work as a producer. It was her ability to see the bigger picture, to strategically place Starting From Now within the industry and to engage key people in not only supporting the series, but becoming its champions.
When you’ve worked without financial support it’s tempting to think that if you had funding, all of your problems would be solved. That’s not exactly how it works. With funding comes a whole new set of pressures, expectations and responsibilities. There are more people to answer to, more relationships to navigate and the stress of having to deliver increases. We shot Seasons 4 and 5 as one block – the equivalent of a feature film in 21 days. That shoot was simultaneously one of the most stressful and rewarding periods of my life. During times such as this people tend to show their true colours. You learn a lot about the people around you and you learn even more about yourself.
After Marcus Stimson, our DP, captured the final shot of that 21 days I went into the toilets of where we were shooting, collapsed onto my haunches and wept out of sheer exhaustion and relief. It felt like a weight had been lifted and a milestone reached. I’m just glad there was no-one standing over me at the time saying ‘if you think that was tough, wait till you get into post’.
There’s still a great deal more to say about the conception and evolution of Starting From Now and the impact this series has had on me both personally and professionally, but this feels like a good place to end this installment. After five seasons in three years (the equivalent of 30 short films or 2.5 feature films); over 30 million views (proof there’s an audience for female driven content); screen agency funding; 30 festival appearances; award recognition; and a broadcast deal with SBS, the series that asked more of me than I ever expected, but gave so much more in return, is finally over.
Thank you to everyone who worked on Starting From Now and who contributed to its success (particularly Bianca Bradey, Sarah de Possesse, Rosie Lourde and Lauren Orrell); to all those who championed both the team and the series; to our incredible audience; and to those people in my life who gave me the strength to keep going.
By Julie Kalceff