BEAST FROM THE UN­KNOWN

The ABC is trust­ing that a crew of new faces will be able to put a fresh spin on the news. Guy Davis spoke with two of the peo­ple in­volved in An­drew Den­ton’s new project Hun­gry Beast.

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FEATURE -

This year has been one in which sev­eral tele­vi­sion net­works have sought to rein­vent the wheel in terms of the way news and cur­rent aff airs are pre­sented.

Un­for­tu­nately, many of th­ese ven­tures haven’t been greeted with en­thu­si­asm by view­ers – Nine’s THISafter­noon lasted less than a month, Seven’s Sun­day Night has strug­gled to at­tract an au­di­ence and Ten’s much-hyped 7pm Project is limp­ing along.

In such a cli­mate, the ABC may be seen to be rolling the dice by launch­ing what even its own peo­ple call “ a mas­sive ex­per­i­ment” that in­tro­duces a va­ri­ety of new faces on both sides of the cam­era. But Hun­gry Beast, the lat­est pro­duc­tion from An­drew Den­ton’s com­pany Zapruder’s Other Films, isn’t fo­cus­ing so much on a new for­mat as it is on the pre­sen­ta­tion of con­tent.

Re­cruit­ing 19 rel­a­tively fresh faces – pre­sen­ters, web­mas­ters, re­searchers, graphic de­sign­ers, ed­i­tors and shooter/ direc­tors – from a na­tion­wide pool of ap­pli­cants num­ber­ing more than 1100, Hun­gry Beast is out to pro­duce a weekly half-hour news pro­gram ( and daily in­ter­net con­tent) that ven­tures out­side the tra­di­tional news cy­cle.

“ We’ve been de­scrib­ing it many diff er­ent ways, and I think the best way may also be the vaguest: it’s kind of an al­ter­na­tive take on news, me­dia and cul­ture,” said pre­sen­ter Marc Fen­nell, per­haps best known for his movie re­views on ra­dio sta­tion Triple J.

“ The idea be­hind this is that the for­mat isn’t get­ting in the way of the story. So we’ve de­cided to ap­proach the sto­ries in a diff er­ent way. Some will be se­ri­ous, some will be funny, some will be ab­surd, some will be short, some will be long.”

How­ever, in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing a diff er­ent take on the events shap­ing the world, the peo­ple be­hind Hun­gry Beast hope the project acts as an in­cu­ba­tor for new tele­vi­sion tal­ent.

“ When you look at tele­vi­sion of many years ago, the pro­grams spawned many fan­tas­tic broad­cast­ers of the fu­ture,” said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Anita Ja­coby, whose cred­its in­clude 60 Min­utes and Zapruder projects Enough Rope and The Gruen Trans­fer.

“ In the in­ter­ven­ing years, there hasn’t been nearly as much train­ing of young peo­ple to cre­ate fu­ture broad­cast­ers. So we went to the ABC two-and-a-half years ago with this con­cept and they were re­ally ex­cited by this idea of cast­ing all around Aus­tralia for up-and-com­ing tal­ent in diff er­ent ar­eas of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion.

“ We’ve brought th­ese 19 young peo­ple on in a range of roles and they’re work­ing with ‘ sil­ver­backs’ like An­drew and se­ries pro­ducer Andy Nehl and my­self, peo­ple who have a fair amount of ex­pe­ri­ence who can teach them the way tele­vi­sion works and the way ideas are de­vel­oped and ex­pressed in this medium.”

It’s the hope of Ja­coby and her col­leagues that this com­bi­na­tion of sea­soned ex­pe­ri­ence and youth­ful en­thu­si­asm will re­sult not only in the de­vel­op­ment of “ the lead­ing broad­cast­ers in the next 10 years” but also a mul­ti­me­dia plat­form that could re­defi ne the pre­sen­ta­tion of news and cur­rent aff airs.

“ It’s still very much a work in progress be­cause th­ese peo­ple are bring­ing their in­di­vid­ual styles and quirks, but the com­mon thing we’ve asked them to do is look in non-tra­di­tional places to fi nd sto­ries and to tell us some­thing new and diff er­ent about the world,” she said.

“ We’re de­scrib­ing Hun­gry Beast as un­clas­sifi able but I guess it could be seen as like go­ing on the in­ter­net and vis­it­ing a whole lot of diff er­ent sites, fi nd­ing stuff you didn’t even know ex­isted.

“ I know it sounds pat to say this but we want to chal­lenge peo­ple. And it’s pos­si­ble to do that when you’ve got 19 peo­ple who are fresh to the in­dus­try and there­fore un­aware of the bound­aries.”

For Fen­nell’s part, he sees the bound­less cu­rios­ity and di­verse range of in­ter­ests within the Hun­gry Beast team as some­thing that will make the pro­gram an in­ter­est­ing, re­ward­ing watch.

“ We love stum­bling across things we didn’t know, and there’s noth­ing bet­ter than shar­ing those things with other peo­ple,” he said. “ So we’re looking to un­cover things we fi nd fas­ci­nat­ing and re­gur­gi­tate it out in the most in­ter­est­ing way we can.”

Think­ing out­side the box : The cast of un­knowns in will present news in a novel way.

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