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.
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.