A year of off-the-time-clock film shooting has finished for Aaron Haberfield and Glenn Cogan of Toybox Films of Newcastle, with the final result, a comedy mini-series, Bondi Slayer, launching last week on YouTube.
The seven-episode series, with a total running time of 42 minutes, is built for a mobile audience. Written by Victoria Beck, who also stars as vampire slayer Riley Fox in the show, it has edgy dialogue, sexual tension and lots of fighting action.
The series was shot over 12 months in Bondi and Sydney, with Bondi bar, Rocker Bondi, serving as one of the main shooting venues (on Mondays, when it's closed).
The series was directed by Jessica Grace Smith, a New Zealand-based actor who stars in the top-rating New Zealand TV series Westside, who is pushing into directing.
The acting cast includes several experienced actors, including Emma Leonard, Amali Golden, Elijah Williams and Craig Hall.
Haberfield and Cogan, both of Toybox Films, are the executive producers of Bondi Slayer along with Victoria Beck. They have self-funded the series, with additional assistance from Screen Australia, which helped with music, special effects and mastering.
"We definitely didn't go in it for the money," Haberfield says. "That's not what it's about."
"We were doing a lot of TVC's [TV commercials] and commercial work," he says. "At the start of 2018 we decided to take on some creative projects just to flex our creative muscle a little bit because commercial work became so straight and safe in last 12 months. It wasn't challenging any more. We took on projects to challenge ourselves."
Haberfield knew Victoria Beck from previous work, and when he reached out after seeing her in a TV commercial, they reconnected. She told him about her vampire slayer script and he showed enough interest to get it off the ground.
The young director was able to secure high quality actors, and the goodwill towards the project included making time in between other jobs. One of the stunt coordinators flew down from the Gold Coast on weekends while he was heavily involved in a movie project. One of the leading actors committed to the first day of shooting - August 1, 2018 - knowing they were flying to Los Angeles for professional work at 6.30am on the following day.
Chasing funds and distributors was also a learning curve. Both Netflix and Stan were pitched, but neither one said yes. Screen Australia knocked back funding Bondi Slayer on several occasions, but eventually came onboard with funding for certain aspects.
"We had to beg, borrow and steal for locations," Haberfield says. "Wherever we could get a location at a decent price. We did some weekend shoots. The final scene is a dinner party, at a location in Marrickville we secured on a Sunday at half price. We got it for $500, instead of $1000."
Working fast and light was important, with Toybox operating with two to five staff on a shoot, covering three or four locations in a day.
Beck has written a script for a second season, and, depending on viewer numbers and other factors, partial funding from parties besides Toybox is possible.
If there is a second season, Haberfield is keen to film some of it in Newcastle and the Hunter, perhaps with the plotline seeing the vampire-slaying Riley Fox "take a road trip" to the region.