by Dov Kornits

Your career as an actress seems to have stalled, I imagine due to motherhood, so, was Sonia & Cherry a response to that? Not in the sense of commenting on the situation, but just you creating your own work?

“To be honest I think my acting career stalled largely due to the natural order of these things in a small industry! But certainly, becoming a parent meant I had far little time for myself and so I had to reassess my priorities. While I will always love acting, I realised that my greater love was writing and directing and that’s where I needed to put my energy. Acting in Sonia & Cherry was a decision partly made out of convenience. We made some pilot episodes in 2016 and we had no money at all, and I came for free! One of the joys of performing in the show with Petra [Yared] is that we’ve both had a similar career trajectory, with a lot of acting work and modest success in our youth, which has petered off for various reasons. I have always loved comedy, and certainly in recent years the acting roles I’ve had have been guest roles in drama where I have to turn up to set and inevitably dredge up tears, so being able to indulge in a comic role has been a joy, and I think Petra’s comic abilities deserve to be showcased and seen by the world. She has shades of Julia Louis-Dreyfus!”

Web series are their own thing, did you study other ones that are out there before embarking on Sonia & Cherry, and if so, which ones?

“Look, I didn’t study web series so much as the craft of a good sitcom. Comedy writing requires such a high level of skill, and you can apply those principles to any length of story. Since I’ve just mentioned Julia Louis-Dreyfus, you won’t be surprised to hear I’m a big fan of VEEP, it’s so sharp and pacey. And I grew up on British television and I think that sensibility is ingrained in my writing; character driven and with a deep respect for good dialogue! I also watched any other shows that touched on our themes; The Letdown of course, and also Grace & Frankie, which is probably a good template for our show – an odd couple comedy – just for women in a different stage of their lives. Ours is definitely edgier though, and comes with a much stronger language warning!”

Was Season 2 always on the cards, or was it based on the success of Season One?

“When we filmed Season One, I think we just had a short-term goal of getting something out in the world. We’d had a bit of success with a short film called The Kingdom of Doug which won Best Australian Short at Flickerfest in 2014 and Best Director at St Kilda Film Festival, and we had been busy applying for more funding and just hadn’t got over the line. 2016 was drawing to a close and Naomi [Mulholland, producer] and I were both just about to have our second children. We realised that if we didn’t make something soon, we’d disappear into that fog of dealing with newborns and lose what little momentum we’d built with the short. So, we pulled it all together really quickly and then it took us almost another two years to complete it, simply because we were pulling on favours for post-production – that’s the nature of independent filmmaking! Once we saw the final product, we realised it was worth investing in, and so we worked incredibly hard to pull together an application for Screen Australia to fund Season 2. Essentially, working on the motto that the application has to be so strong you can’t give them any chance to say ‘no’.”

What did you learn from Season One, that you have tried to implement into Season Two?

“I think with Season Two we wanted to push ourselves a bit more, particularly as the funding meant we could add some extra characters, make it visually a bit more compelling and with longer episodes, could explore issues in a slightly deeper way. One thing that was really clear from Season One was that the audience really engaged with the concept of ‘Are you a Sonia or a Cherry’, and so protecting the clear delineation between the two characters and continuing to explore that in a really fun way was crucial. I also had grown as a director, and so I took some really basic learnings from the first season into Season 2, like making sure I knew how I wanted to visually open each scene and where my cutting points out of the scene would be.”

Was this something that was pitched to the networks/streamers, or was it always made for the web, and why?

“This was always made for the web and that’s purely because it was the best format for us at this stage in our careers as filmmakers. Unlike ten years ago, where short films would be the primary means to showcase your work, online short-form series have really taken over from that, particularly in terms of what funding is available. The upside of a web series is that it really does give you freedom of creative expression and it’s supposed to be a bit of a playground for the filmmakers to learn and improve their craft, so we tried to remember that, and rather than putting pressure on ourselves for it to be perfect, we tried to experiment and gave ourselves permission to take risks.”

What are the themes explored in Season 2?

“We have an overarching theme which is the difference between fantasy and reality; what’s the difference between the image of the ‘perfect mum’ that women often try to present to the world, versus the messy truth that is the reality. We tackle some serious topics; when does ‘wine time’ start showing its dark side, what does post natal depression look like, what’s the reality of what labour can do to your body; but the number one rule was that the show had to be really funny. So, while some of these topics are confronting, we tackle them in a way that we hope results in lots of laughs for the audience.”

What’s next for you?

“My creative partner Naomi and I have a number of ideas we’re developing; one of which is a re-imagining of our short film The Kingdom of Doug into a contemporary tv series. It’s my passion project and a story that conveniently moves with the times, which is good because I’ve been at it for a while! I’m a big podcast listener and fiction podcasts have recently become a viable pathway for landing a TV show, so we’re working on the pilot for a fiction podcast based on the short, and it’s called Wake up Now.”

Watch Season 1 and 2 of Sonia & Cherry


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