Gary Brun: Up Shit Creek With A Paddle

June 7, 2016
Director, writer, editor, and star, Gary Brun, lifts the lid on the blood-bullets-and-bad-language extravaganza that is his new web series, Shit Creek, featuring Johnny Boxer, Tony Bonner, and Terry Serio.

“We’d definitely hold the record for the use of f*** and c*** in a 15-minute episode,” laughs Gary Brun, the co-director, writer, editor, and star of the new Australian web series, Shit Creek, a thundering wail of foul language, violence, sex, bad behaviour, and seedy, seamy characters…you know, all the good stuff. Made on fumes by a bunch of like-minded souls, Shit Creek follows the misadventures of Mo (Brun) and Curly (Andrew Lindqvist), the two not-exactly-hard-as-nails sons of gentleman criminal, Diamond Jack (Tony Bonner), who checks out and leaves his debts to his layabout offspring. And that brings them into the orbit of the vicious mobster, Mr. Motherfucker (Terry Serio), whose signature move involves the removal of his enemies’ most sensitive body parts. Throw in a deranged psychopath called The Professor (Johnny Boxer), and Mr. Motherfucker’s compromised main squeeze, Alisha (Alex Stamell), and the scene is set for eight online episodes of lewd, crude badness. Welcome to Shit Creek

Gary Brun

Gary Brun

When and how did the idea for Shit Creek first hit you?

“I had the idea to make Shit Creek years ago. Back then, it was called Without A Paddle as I didn’t think the name Shit Creek would fly. It was a different cast and crew, but the premise was the same: a couple of morons trying to make fast cash and digging a deeper hole. I was fresh out of drama school and desperate to work. There was literally nothing happening, but in the end, I didn’t make it as I had no resources. Fast forward three years and I’ve got my own production company, Sundown Picturehouse, with my brother, Chris, and a close mate, Reuben Gibbes. We were filming models for a while, and a few mates got in our ear about making a series. I headed off to Spain to write it, but mostly just drank a lot. I did come home with one episode, and everyone was all for it. I knuckled down with a few of the creatives, and the scripts began writing themselves. I thought that the language and the content would turn people off, but the opposite has happened. People think that it’s refreshing, and there’s an honesty in it.”

Was it always designed to be a web series? What was the appeal in that for you?

“It was always a web series. We didn’t know how to get funding for a TV series. We were rookies in every sense. Having said that, we also wanted complete creative control, and the internet allowed for that. A friend of mine smashed it with her web series, SYD2030, so we met up with her for advice and she made it seem possible. It gave us a lot of energy. So we got started.”

Andrew McFarlane and Andrew Lindqvist

Andrew McFarlane and Andrew Lindqvist

Can you talk us through the funding process a little?

“In order to make it, we needed cash, so we jumped on Pozible, a crowd funding platform. At the start, we had a team of ten or so involved, including Terry Serio and Alex Stamell. We created a makeshift set in Alex’s living room and shot a trailer for the campaign. It’s really great actually; I’m proud of it considering that we had nothing at that point. After this, we spammed the hell out of Facebook and raised $9,000 from family and friends. There was no shame in the spamming; we wanted to make films, and this was the only way possible. We threw a party for everyone who helped. Almost 400 people turned up, and the energy was electric. It was like an independent movement was forming. Then we started showing episodes live in bars and taking a cut from drink sales. After episode six was released, we had spent the lot, so we got back on Pozible, and another two grand appeared. I highly recommend crowd funding for independent artists. You’ll be amazed by the level of support out there – people are desperate to see you succeed and will give generously. It definitely made us feel like we were wanted. Before that, it felt like no one gave a shit. We stretched that initial $9,000 like you wouldn’t believe. We begged, borrowed, and stole whatever we could…we burnt some bridges, but not as many as I expected.”

You’ve got some great people doing great work in the series. Can you talk a little about the casting process? Were people reticent about getting involved with something as relatively untried (in a mainstream sense) as a web series?

“The casting process was a real adventure. I wrote the character of Curly for Andrew Lindqvist, and Jason for John Harding; they were mates of mine from NIDA who weren’t working as often as they ought to be. No one else could play those characters. Alex Stamell was an old friend, and she’d been studying furiously at acting school. She was actually very inspiring. It was her voice in my ear which made the whole project happen, so we created Alisha together. I played Mo as he is boring as batshit, and I figured that no one else would want to. Next we needed a Mr. Motherfucker. It needed to be an actor with a huge screen presence, great improv skills, and preferably a name. Terry Serio ticked those boxes. He was teaching Alex at the time, and I knew him from ten years prior. He thought that we were mad as hell, but he was attracted to the chaotic energy. He also liked the script. Once he was onboard, the cast snowballed. I’ll always respect Terry for taking the risk. You can track down Tony Bonner outside The Tropicana Café [in Sydney’s Kings Cross] most mornings, so I had a few coffees with him, we did some rewrites together, and he was onboard. Heather Mitchell and Andrew McFarlane are close friends of mine and super supportive of independent artists. They said yes before they’d seen anything. Johnny Boxer dropped in to The Shakespeare Hotel while I was working the bar; I gave him a free bourbon and sealed the deal. Hunter Page-Lochard and Sean Keenan are in our circle of mates. They were stoked to be involved and we were stoked to have them. No one really knew what a web series was, ourselves included, but the script was fun, and everyone was allowed to swear a lot, so they took the chance.”

Alex Stamell

Alex Stamell

What was the biggest challenge that you faced during the production?

“Winter was hard. We’d begun serious work in February, and by August, we were well and truly over one another. We spent so much time together – most of us lived in the same house – and it was really tough to find the energy to film. We had to reshoot so much stuff from that period. But we manned up and got it done. By summer, we were all in love again. Scheduling was also a nightmare. Not a single person was paid for this project, so we had to fit shoots around people’s jobs, study, and professional acting work. Episode 8 required 20 people together in one location for an entire day, and I wasn’t able to find a day that worked until mid-January…eleven months after we started! Marketing is another mountain. We’re at the base camp of Everest right now with no idea how to climb. None of us know a thing about marketing. We can’t afford a publicist, but we’re trying everything. We asked a lot from a lot of people, and a lot of time and energy. We have a good product, and we need to find its audience. That’s the battle ahead.”

Do you see web series as the way of the future, or just part of the ever expanding way in which we watch and discover content?

“Web series are absolutely a part of the future; they have to be. No one watches TV in its old format anymore; it’s all moving online. There’s something so exciting and refreshing about making content for the web. There is no voice limiting you, and no censorship. You can do whatever the hell you please. It mirrors the independent film movement coming out of Hollywood in the late 60s. You had people like Dennis Hopper bypassing the studios and making whatever turned him on. He found an audience with Easy Rider and that created a revolution in cinema. The artists were given control, and the executives could jump off a cliff. It’s the same energy now: Get out there and make something, and find an audience. There is no longer anyone to tell you no.”

To watch all eight episodes of Shit Creek right now, head to the official website.

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