My Lesbianism & Other Secrets

Nikki Si'ulepa, Anji Kreft and Tess Jamieson-Karaha

Nikki Si’ulepa, Anji Kreft and Tess Jamieson-Karaha

Around eight months after the first episode was released, Ness Simons’ webseries Pot Luck has just completed its six-episode first season. The extended roll-out was in large part due to the way in the series was funded.

Billed as “NZ’s first lesbian webseries”, Simons put together a first draft of the script in January and February last year.

“It was an idea I’d been thinking on a while,” said Simons, adding that producer Robin Murphy came on board very early. “We applied to the Wellington-based Emerging Artists Trust (EAT) for funding.”

The application was successful, the funds being used to make the first episode. Pot Luck wasn’t one of 109 projects that put itself in the hat for NZ On Air’s 2015 webseries funding round. Like another female-led Wellington-made webseries Bright Summer Night (which was one of the recipients of NZ On Air support in the 2015 webseries funding round), Pot Luck ran a crowdfunding campaign late last year, using the first episode as a proof of concept. Both Pot Luck and Bright Summer Night were successful in meeting their crowdfunding targets.

PotLuck_Poster

While the $100,000 NZ On Air was offering would no doubt have been useful in making Pot Luck, its absence isn’t obvious onscreen.

“There was about a six month break between filming the first episode and the rest of the series,” said Simons. “It was beneficial. We worked on the scripts and with the cast, and then shot the first season’s remaining five episodes in a 10-day block in early February.”

When Simons spoke with Crewed, the team had just completed post on the season’s final episodes. While not receiving NZ On Air support, the series has attracted sponsors, including The Film School. That association has been a good one and it turned out that 22 of the cast and crew – including Simons – have graduated from the Film School over the last decade or so.

While the show is all about lesbians (with nary a look-in on-screen for gays, bis, transgenders or straights of any sex) Simons notes that the team wasn’t restricted to card-carriers, although she’s proud that Pot Luck gave opportunities to people “often on the wrong side of diversity statistics”.

Tess Jamison-Karaha and Kate Ward

Tess Jamieson-Karaha and Kate Ward

Simons says that wasn’t intentional, but happened naturally. “Our kaupapa was people who engaged with the material.”

Cast and crew on the series were 69% female; over 20% identified as LGBT, and over 15% as Maori and/or Pacific.

One of the challenges for web content is discoverability, a challenge that’s both compounded and eased for material about niche subject – especially in a population as small as New Zealand’s.

“It was important to address subject matter that isn’t being made locally,” Simons says. The approach is supported by NZ On Air which, over the years, has directed a significant proportion of its funding for digital projects to material for identified target audiences. Those haven included children and people of Pacific origin, audiences for whom there’s limited local TV programming. Apart from semi-regular series from the Topp Twins, it’s hard to recall much programming on TVNZ targeting lesbians since the broadcaster pulled off American drama The L Word a decade ago.

Just as the crew for Pot Luck was extremely diverse, Simons hopes the audience will be. There’s already been strong support from within the gay community.

“It’s been a great network to tap into,” Simons says. “GayNZ has been supportive as has Lesbian Radio. The Lesbian Newsletter also gave the show a great review.”

The challenge is to walk the line between capitalising on the unique selling point (“NZ’s first lesbian web series”) and promoting the fact that the show’s subject matter – relationships – is universal.

Getting the show out there and generating some income from it are the main intentions now. TVNZ OnDemand now has Pot Luck, which joins a growing number of NZ webseries there, including other gay-focused shows such as The Aroha Project. Internationally, Pot Luck will mostly head to networks which are LGBT-focused or -friendly, such as One More Lesbian. There’s a range of BTS and interview material which the team can use to individualise the offers to various platforms.


Pot Luck BTS: Happiness on Set

Like many other creators of online content, Simons is keen to find a more financially sustainable footing for Pot Luck – funding. The natural target is NZ On Air’s web series fund, but last year’s experience demonstrated clearly that it’s one of the most highly-contested funds the agency operates. For now, Simons is planning as though there will be a second series.

 
 
 
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Written by Keith Barclay

Keith is the editor of SCREENZ, and the co-creator and founding editor of CREWED.

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