Hay Wanna Wk 4 D3nt0n?
Do you think you run rings around most of the people you see on TV? Consume all sorts of media voraciously? Get fascinated by the bizarre and infuriated by bullshit? Just know that there’s more to the story? Know how to make people laugh? Have stamina beyond that of normal human beings? Instinctively know where to look? Want to rattle some cages and receive lots of mail beginning, “Dear Sir or Madam, I have never been so enraged in all my life…”
Well if you’re over 30, you’d better take all your innovation, fearlessness and smarts elsewhere, because Andrew Denton doesn’t want you. His production company, Zapruder’s other films, is currently seeking talent for Project Next, a new TV show being co-produced with the ABC – but applications for reporters, producers, camera/directors, editors, graphic artists, researchers and web content producers are limited to those aged between 18 and 30.
It seems like a pretty arbitrary cutoff – especially to this 31-year-old writer! – but series producer Andy Nehl insists Project Next will not be a ‘yoof’ show. “The age of applicants is limited to under 30 because we are looking for people who are fresh to TV and the media and have new ideas, not to people who have been around for years or who are already well established in the media,” Nehl told The Enthusiast this afternoon.
He also pointed out that it will be very different to the youth-oriented programming already produced for the ABC by triple j and triple j TV. “Just because people who are under 30 will work on it does not mean it is a ‘youth’ show,” Nehl maintains.
Project Next will be a series of ten 30-minute episodes with a likely current affairs focus: the presser describes it as “topical” and “an irreverent TV and web program about serious things”. And it seems an integral part of the show will be the involvement of its young staff in every aspect of production.
“The program will have room to be both serious and irreverent, so we are looking for creative talented people who also have a sense of humour,” says Nehl. “The show will be topical but the exact format will not be determined until after we have recruited the people who are going to work on it, because they will be involved in shaping the format of the program.”
Any program not planning to work across platforms “is a dinosaur,” says Nehl, who explains that Project Next will take multi-platform programming to a new and more integrated level “where the web program has its own content and does a lot more than just recycle clips from the TV show as most TV program websites do.” (According to the Project Next website, the show is slated to be screened “on ABC1, ABC2, the web, mobile phones and on-line”.)
Applications are due by close of business on Monday, 16 March. As well as a portfolio of previous work, applicants are being asked to submit detailed information on their education, experience, media consumption habits and membership of social networking sites, email lists and other online forums. (This is a canny move, as the applications are providing de facto market research for the finished series.)
Despite Nehl’s protestations, The Enthusiast believes Project Next is youthsploitation: the conflation of novelty, iconoclasm and originality with youth, and the solicitation of young people’s cultural contributions primarily because of the qualities that being young confers on them.
But encouragingly, this is youthsploitation for skills, not the egregious youthsploitation for ‘personality’ and ‘audience appeal’ seen in such shows as Big Brother and Australian Idol. In parts, the application form resembles a media studies exam: questions include, “Provide an example of a factual TV program you think fails in its objective and describe how and why it doesn’t work?” and What do you think are the key elements necessary for good storytelling in factual TV programs?”
Associate Professor Kate Crawford is a research fellow in the Journalism and Media Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and the author of the award-winning book Adult Themes: Rewriting the Rules of Adulthood. She’s currently researching the role of mobile and digital media in youth cultures, so The Enthusiast asked her for her thoughts on Project Next.
“We are well overdue for a news and current affairs TV show that employs non-baby-boomers as journalists and commentators,” Crawford tells The Enthusiast. “Once it was common for young people to have prominent political anchor and journalist roles. Take Mike Willesee, for example, who at the tender age of 25 was starring on the ABC’s nightly current affairs program This Day Tonight as a political reporter. But in the last decade, agenda-setting news programs such as Lateline, Sunday, The 7.30 Report and Insiders have offered us an endless parade of baby boomer hosts. [Zapruder's other films] is right to intuit that it’s time for a change.
“The tricky part,” Crawford continues, “is to produce a program that doesn’t degenerate into a parodic ghettoland for ‘yoof’ issues. The Young Ones did it best in their priceless spoof, Nozin’ Aroun’. In the words of Ben Elton: ‘It’s a program for “Young Adults”, made by “Young Adults”, and concentrating on all the subjects that “Young Adults” are into!’
“But if anyone can pull off a show like this well, it’s Andrew Denton,” Crawford emphasises. “So I remain hopeful, and I trust that they are looking at Nozin’ Aroun’ as a cautionary tale of what not to do: no hosting from the dance floor of naff nightclubs, no interviews with careers officers, and no gratuitous shots of scaffolding. Please.”
At the very least, an insistence on applicants aged over 18 means they can participate in an activity beloved of ‘yoof’ and journos alike – going to the pub.
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