Web Series Goes Back To The Future

We speak to the director and star behind a hilarious new web based series.

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Star of the recent blockbuster Tomorrow, When The War Began, Andy Ryan, was approached by his pal Matt Okine with a favour. "Matt rang me up and asked ‘if I would like to do this little thing next week,'" the actor recalls. "As it turns out that ‘little thing' was five long 12 hour days, but I have never had so much fun in my life!"

This "little thing" was The Future Machine, a made-for-web series created by director David Barker, comedian Matt Okine and Tropfest finalist Tom Sheldrick. The digital series - containing eight episodes each four minutes in duration - are released online over a month.

Barker says that the idea of "two idiots who build a time machine - one for fame, the other for love" evolved from the minds of Okine and Sheldrick, who recruited the director to help them write the script. "We became a team," Barker says, "and working with them on the script and show was a treat as they're funny guys - quite twisted really - and at the end of the day it was all about being funny. This helps when you're doing a low-budget, self-financed series."

Barker says that the series was a result of increased demand they noted among young people for quick and immediate entertainment online. When asked what he thought it was about The Future Machine that lent itself to this format, Barker explains, "Firstly it's absurd so that has definite appeal online. Secondly, it's short, sharp and free which is pretty important. Audience wise, we're hoping young folk will appreciate the tone, humour and format."

While Barker realises the potential of the internet for distributing films and reaching audiences, he also acknowledges the cons. "It's daunting. There's like a huge black hole in the internet that sucks content into a never-never land - it gets lost. But what we're trying to do is not only make quality content, but have it seen and heard - and that in itself is a production as big as the shoot."

In terms of production values, Barker says that the series has a DIY aesthetic in line with the spirit of the script. "The guys build a time machine in their lounge room from domestic appliances, so we wanted to follow that theme right through. While it does look good, it's loose and realistic... It's definitely good enough for TV, but the format is probably not what stations are looking for. We're keen to engage the online community, see what they have to say about the story and the characters, and from there we'll start implementing our cross platform ideas."

Indeed, the success of the series is largely riding on the performances of the three central characters - Andy Ryan and Matt Okine as the two best mates and Cariba Heine (who recently shot the Aussie shark thriller Bait 3D) as the love interest. Ryan - who is well versed in comedy having starred in the satirical series The Jesters as well as delivering a standout comedic performance in Tomorrow, When The War Began - seems a perfect fit. "Comedy is my thing!" the actor enthuses. "The most intimidating thing about working on this comedy was working with Matt Okine who is a hundred times funnier than I will ever be."

However, while Ryan praises the talents of Barker and his fellow actors, he says that they didn't stray too far from the script. "Working with David was one of the best actor/director relationships I have ever had and working with Cariba was a lot of fun when I wasn't distracted by her natural beauty," the actor grins. "Regarding improvisation, there was lots of collaboration before and after the take but when the camera rolled it was pretty much as planned."

With the second series of The Future Machine already in planning, Ryan is all too happy to sign on. According to the young actor, creating something outside the ‘norm' definitely has its perks. "I'm absolutely enjoying being part of something new. Shooting something for the web allows a lot more time to get things right, and a lot less crew, so when you're on your 39th take after 38 bloopers there are less people to be pissed off at you!" he laughs.

The first episode of The Future Machine is available to stream now. Find out more here.

Picture caption: Andy Ryan and Matt Okine on set.

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