Saturday, 10 December 2016

Sonnigsburg: Episode 5 – Executive Producer, Fiona Eloise Bulle


Episode five airs on Monday night. It was directed by John Erasmus and written by Fiona Eloise Bulle.

I’ve known Fiona for about eight years; we met online and through mutual friends who obsessed about musical theatre and, in particular, Wicked. We didn’t really get to know each other until a couple of years later, when she founded Cold Reading Series (CRS) in Melbourne and she invited me along to have a short script of mine read.

We were both writers, but we had different goals: I was starting to get stuff on stage and Fiona wanted to make television. But Cold Readings was a great monthly get-together, one of those nights that promises to be a good networking event – and actually was. We both met Glenn Triggs through CRS; Fiona went on to produce his feature film 41 and he’d later co-direct the pilot of Sonnigsburg.

I have met several other collaborators through CRS, most notably after the first public reading of a short play of mine, Like A House on Fire – which you can download from my list of plays. This led to a show I did in 2012 called Painting with Words & Fire.

Fiona and I had lots of mutual friends all along, but the more I made theatre and she made films and her web series, the more people we knew in common. She also worked around the corner from where I worked for a couple of years; I’ve stayed in the same job and Fiona has moved on. But we used to have lunch together and complain about Hawthorn.

Somewhere in the time I knew her, she made a great little short called All the Little Pieces – directed by Jessica Brajoux. This was the first time Fiona worked with Ian Stenlake.

It wasn’t until Fiona tweeted her infamous tweet that I ever really thought about working with her. We have a similar sensibility, though we don’t always agree on the films or TV shows we like. We both love television and think about stories the same way. In the writers’ room, we worried more about how the characters felt and acted more than exactly how the plot went.

In the three years since we started work on Sonnigsburg, we are both better writers and we pay attention to story structure much more than we once did. But our characters and their relationships are central; our stuff isn’t necessarily driven by plot.

As the instigator and inspiration for this TV series of ours, Fiona had the massive task of writing the first episode. We talked about it a lot, but she had to find the way the characters spoke and acted and how they related within a scene before any of the rest of us.

When we divided up the rest of the series, I was lucky enough to get to write the finale – no pressure! Fiona chose to write episode five, which brings the story of Savannah and her search for Jade to a head. It’s dark, it’s unsettling, it’s claustrophobic and there’s some really funny stuff in there, too.

As I said in an earlier post, we all did what we needed to make this TV series work. As Executive Producer, Fiona did a little bit of everything – and kept an eye on the rest of us. She had the final say on each element and even now is working to make this show the best she can.

She’s had to make tough choices. She’s had to re-write and restructure and reschedule. She’s had some tough days and weeks and months but the show kept going because of Fiona. It’s as great as it is today because she’s tough, determined and really smart about making television.

She’s even written the theme music for the show. She’s like JJ Abrams. Really.

A lot of people talk about making television. When Fiona said she was going to make a show for C31, I knew she would. So I jumped at the chance.

Fiona is really proud of episode five of Sonnigsburg and I’m excited for everyone to see it.


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