the producers of ‘girt by fear’ know what australian millennials are afraid of

GMO food, non-vegan options, no wifi — a new horror series explores what nightmares are made of in 2016.

by Wendy Syfret
31 October 2016, 1:05am

What you find scary can be deeply personal. Our nightmares aren't just the product of history, but of our family, our home and our entire generation. Our parents feared nuclear war, communists and computers — so what are us Australian millennials afraid of? Genetically modified food, retiring at 85, never buying a house, and shitty wifi?

That's the question the team behind the web series Girt By Fear have been asking themselves. They wanted to brush off the cobwebs of horror stories, wade through the red corn syrup and gore of the movies, and look at things from a distinctly young Australian perspective. Why are we afraid of ghosts and vampires, but apathetic to the news? And if one of us found ourselves in a truly paranormal situation, could we resist the urge to make a joke?

They've just released all six episodes, making it perfect Halloween comedown viewing, so we caught up with one of the producers Madeleine Purdy to talk about what young Australians fear when they turn the lights out.

Web series have been hugely popular recently, but they tend to be smaller, more personal stories. Why did you want to make this?
Joel, Yiani, Dave, Josh and I (the co-producers) met studying film, and didn't want to be people with a film degree with nothing more than uni assignments to our name. More importantly though, we saw a gap in the market. Not everyone has time to binge watch TV series, or films for that matter, but short and sweet web content is something you can access whenever. We wanted to give people an option that wasn't a mumblecore narrative set in a Williamsburg apartment.

If that's what you were avoiding, what were you striving for?
As simple as it is, we wanted to make something our friends would want to watch. So we built our story in our cultural context. Fear is always relevant, but the things we fear in horror films — not so much. We wanted to combine cinematic horror with our own everyday fears, so it was a combination of those that drove the stories. We draw similarities between these things too — we have alien horror in a migrant family, possession via an internet connection, and a girl that fears GMOs confronted with killer organic plants.

It's cool to see a contemporary take on what actually freaks people out. How did you fold that into the more traditional horror tropes?
I think our treatment of horror is inherently a distortion, because the tropes we borrowed from areso rarely are seen in an Australian context. The way our characters treat the 'horror' is very different to the way characters traditionally react in American or European horror. Our characters treat paranormal horrors in the manner we treat everyday horrors that we might see in the street or on the news — with nonchalance, detachment, and humour if it's possible. Taking the melodrama out of horror is our biggest distortion.

It's interesting to consider how culture plays into all this. You're releasing this product to coincide with Halloween, which is obviously a very American creation. How do you feel about our growing national obsession with it?
Our parents generation had a distaste for Americanisation that we don't share. I think Halloween is embraced by our generation simply for the reason that we're more globalised, our culture is less geographically based. So I think it is a cultural shift more than anything — though that decentralisation of culture is a commercial thing of course. What is fun about Halloween is exploring fear — fear drives every aspect of our society, but on Halloween it's public and you're allowed to make fun of it.

Are Australian's fears unique?
Yes and no. Definitely a yes if you look at the American cinematic tradition of exploring the landscape vs the Australian tradition. In America, when a group of kids get in a car and travel across the country on film, it is liberation, cultural enlightenment, coming of age. In Australia, traversing the landscape means isolation, hallucination, death. I think that speaks volumes about our unique relationship with the environment that despite the similarities in our cinematic exposure, our treatment of the physical environment is so different.

The producers behind 'Girt By Fear'.

We're making it all sound very serious, there is a lot of comedy here. Why do you think comedy and horror sit so nicely together?
Our horror is more a homage to the genre than about being horrifying. Girt By Fear makes fun of our collective social fears — why are vampires considered scary, but people sucking the lifeblood out of scenes or cultures is normal? Why do we revel in the wildness of nature but so deeply fear its power? There are lots of ways comedy and horror are more effective together, but obviously it's a lot more fun too.

You've mentioned that this is also about refreshing our "cultural cringe," what do you mean by that?
When it comes to national identity, you've got to laugh or you'll cry. When you see your own identity in things that make you cringe, it is a fear of what you might become or how you might be seen — perfect fodder for horror for our generation. Such a huge part of our sense of humour is self-deprecating, and it might be one of the best things about us as a society.

This looks pretty slick, and you guys are clearly a smaller production team. Tell me about making something look so good on a budget? It's clearly the central concern for the current web-filmmaker generation.
Our crew had a lot of heart, believed in the project, and enjoyed what they were doing with or without money. Sharing and caring is the lifeblood of creative industries, but even with crew and cast willing to work without Hollywood pay, the huge costs of filmmaking are prohibitive to a lot of filmmakers. Luckily for us the horror genre is perfect for lower budget filmmaking. We didn't have a budget for CGI, so our art and make up departments made all our creepy stuff by hand. It makes it look more tactile, and it's a hark back to the types of films we grew up watching. Filmgoers demand slickness in other genres, but in horror people love imperfection.


Check out all the episodes online now.


Text Wendy Syfret

Web series