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New way to develop TV pilots being tested in Adelaide

Arts & Culture

A new project by Adelaide-based video production company 1UP Digital is giving SA creatives the opportunity to present a series of live performances as a way of developing a unique idea for a television show.

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The Black Box Experiment began last week, and will see each of the participants test their ideas in front of an audience at the Rhino Room comedy club over several weeks.

The creatives will make weekly adjustments before their final performance is filmed as a TV pilot at the end of the month.

Jason Chong, director of 1UP, says he developed the idea over years of being a comic and juggling film school, TV and radio employment before setting up his video production company.

“I thought, ‘How can I create something here in Adelaide that they don’t make anymore?’” Chong says.

The purpose of The Black Box Experiment project is to give Adelaide creatives an opportunity to pitch their ideas to large production companies.

Chong says the concept is new to Australian television production and he believes it has the potential for a nationwide uptake.

“There’s nothing really stopping anyone else from doing it. If this works and if I can find some people nationally to do it, potentially it could roll out.”

The expansion of TV channels and multi-channelling, as well as new technology that allows broadcasters to distribute content through online portals and streaming services, has given emerging creatives the opportunity to forge a career in TV production.

“It used to be that you had to know people to get permission to make anything. Now there are more channels than there’s ever been.”

He says the cost of technology for TV and film production in the last 15 years has also dropped, and large studios can now be bought or hired for a lot less.

“It used to be that a camera might cost $60,000 and then you’ve got to buy a lens and that’s another $40,000.

“I bought a camera the other day and it’s way better than those cameras in terms of resolution and all the tech specs, and it was $1500.

“You don’t need the kind of backing of the big studios to actually go out and make something”.

Chong says film production in Adelaide is increasing, despite Sydney being the undisputed production hub in the country.

“When I was in film school, there was maybe a film in Adelaide, or half of a film made here and the rest made in Sydney.

“But I think the SAFC (South Australian Film Corporation) has done a lot of good work in trying to bring production back. They’ve got fantastic studios and a lot of office space to make it easy for production companies.”

However, Chong believes the situation is less positive for TV production.

He says The Black Box Experiment pilots filmed at the end of each month will be pitched to broadcast, community and online channels.

“We’re trying to get mentors involved so that each week creatives will get a chance to spend a bit of time with a mentor, whether that will be interstate on the phone or somewhere here in person.

“The mentorship is just important to let bigger production companies know that this is happening”.

The project is being filmed each Wednesday at the Rhino Room, starting this month with radio host Kat Jensen and her pilot “Eggplant and Peach” – a live chat show that explores dating in the digital age (see performance dates here).

Other pilots will include game shows, improvised comedies and live readings of unproduced sitcom scripts from comedians and actors.

This article was first published on The Lead South Australia.

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