sometime last year i had the accidental pleasure of flicking onto Melb’s local community TV station, Ch.31, and being transfixed by the controlled madness of a 6-episode series entitled This Terrifying Ordeal!. after subsequently tracking down the show’s Facebook and YouTube pages, and eventually watching all 6eps, the fanboy switch kicked in. everything about the self-described “zero budget” show was clicking with me somewhere deep in the loins, and i HAD to e-friend the minds who created it. after watching the series a few times over, i felt the need to help get the word out, & what better way then to pick the brain of one of the co-creators, Ms. Emmy Gates (Matthew “Rhombus” Macaulay being the other).
V: howdy doo! how are you doing this fine morn/day/eve/morrow? can you please introduce yourself to the folks at home?
E: hi there! my name’s Emmy (Emily) Gates. i’m one of the co-creating, Rhombus-wrangling, Norwegian-slaying members of the T.T.O! ensemble.
V: before we delve into the swirling miasma of turgid thoughts and misanthropic adventures that is This Terrifying Ordeal!, give us a bit of a background on your regular non-camera life thus far?
E: oh boy. i was born mousey-haired, freckled and shy. my greatest achievement in society’s standards is that i have done 3.8 years of a four year teaching course. then abandoned it. now i sell tickets, own ferrets, and am happy. i think that’s it.
V: as you may already know, i just happened to stumble onto your show while randomly perusing Channel 31 one night, and was thrown right into the middle of Episode 2, and was permanently stuck there until the credits rolled. i know i was one of the first fanboys to emerge, and was wondering what the response has been like from the general unsuspecting populace? was getting the word out about the show hard or did the online presence on Facebook and YouTube help?
E: i think it’s STILL stuck in a friends/friends-of-friends ripple. we got a few fan-persons, but i don’t think we’ve really found our niche yet. it’s hard to pitch a show to people when you can’t even describe it to them.
V: the show touts itself as being “zero budget”, yet you were all able to create entire worlds with distinct characters and present it in a way that seemed you WEREN’T zero budget. what is it like creating a zero budget project, where do you source all the materials & locations and was the lack of budget ultimately a blessing (to spur creative solutions) or a hindrance?
E: i loved it. as the Art Director, an unemployed student living off roughly $20 a week, everything was sourced from op shops and childhood dress-up boxes. and my braaaaaaiiiiiin. making essentially all of the props myself (though Luke and Lauren were quite a help when needed) was traumatic. we had deadlines, we had no money, and everything was made in one-go. if something didn’t work i had to make it work. God Bless Super-Glue.
V: i understand the individual stories were all written by different authors, with different directors. did the Rhombus/Emmy co-creatorship oversee these or was it left up to the writer/director? what individual responsibilities did the extended cast and crew have?
E: i’d like to take credit as the evil dictator of the project. i think we all collaborate well as a team. if we didn’t we’d all have killed each other years ago. we assigned certain roles to everyone for each shoot, but due to varying schedules and the sporadic nature of our shoots, we often just had to feel our way through it.
V: what was the process of actually getting the show on the air like? how did you approach Ch31: did you make the show first? or sell the pitch first and then make it? or did you show them a demo reel/trailer first?
E: i think we… half made the first episode first? it’s hard to remember. the stories all spawned from little ideas Rhombus and i had. we wanted to make comic books, films, adventure games… then just thought – why not combine it all and make a ridiculous anthology show!
V: being an avid fan of any and all things considered “stoner” viewing, i really cottoned on to the flow and vibe of T.T.O!. though i don’t necessarily think you were ALL on something to even conceive of such entertaining and creative stuff, the show does lean toward the abstract more often than not. what were your main inspirations, were there any homages we might have missed and how did you guys come up with and develop all the original characters?
E: personally, i’m as sober as can be. i just have the mind of an 8 year-old. and hence my main inspirations were shows and things i loved around that age. we were initially going for a ‘kids playing in their backyard’ kind of vibe for the show. which worked it’s way into cardboard/paper costumes and family dress ups. and filming in Matt‘s backyard! the Bacchus Marsh area was a huge inspiration for us. the range and beauty of the surrounding areas was magnificent.
V: is an episode fully scripted or are there a lot of on-the-spot additions and subtractions?
E: well… they start fully scripted! i’d say they wind up about 75-90% accurate in relation to the script. depends how much Luke is involved. that’s not a rip. he’s a great improviser. we did have to chop and change a bit though, depending on timing and improv.
V: okay, we’ve come to what i’m calling the stream-of-consciousness-happy-funtime-thing-with-the-thing-rapid-fire-questions. they are a result of me re-watching all 6eps in one sitting and taking various notes:
–who came up with the funkyass intro sequence?
hahaha! that was made in five minutes. after about 20 hours total of messing around to make our intro sequence work, we’d hit our submission deadline. so we took a screen capture from the original pilot, added a kaleidoscope effect and i added a nifty font. the theme tune is what really makes it work in my opinion, which is entirely Rhombus‘ genius.
–who is Eduard, and why is he obsessed with Pavlovia?
i have no idea.
actually, Pavlovia was a ‘we don’t want to be able to be pinned down as racist so let’s invent a country.’ originally it was an erratic homage to Pavlov, then people kept thinking of Pavlova, so we ran with it. both reference salivation anyhow.
Rhombus originally made T.T.O! as YouTube shorts, years ago, edited from old movies in the public domain… and presented by Eduard…
–if it was in your power, would you like to see the world switch to a Bag Of Rats-based economy and why?
God yes. maniacal laugh economy would suit me better, though. i’d be the richest gal in the world.
–i found the music to be highly complimentary to the entire series, who handled the tunes/soundtrack/score?
RhombusRhombusRhombus. there were other people involved, and although their involvement was amazing, i’m giving all credit to Rhombus. because he magicked up whatever we needed, and it was always brilliant.
-what are the pros and cons of being a Slinky Pompadour?
pros: slinky arms. ridiculous voice. adorable offspring.
cons: unflattering angles of my bottom available to the public. being unable to see/breathe.
-socks vs shoes: which is the superior race?
shoes gots the funk.
-approximately how long did TBWFF (“The Boy Who Found Fear”) wander for until happening upon an advanced superior race of dog, presumably some time in the future?
i would say approximately 37,000 years. but it’s debatable.
-would you guys ever consider releasing a soundtrack? the song that the Ravenous Flesh-eating WereBear boogies to is quite fonky.
Dunk‘s to thank for that one! i’d love to. Rhombus has this crazy idea of us starting a family band and playing the songs live. i’d love to make music videos for some of the tunes.
-aliens vs a family of angry dolphins. who wins?
depends what kind of alien. ask Zombie Douglas Adams.
-if PumpkinLove could retrieve his legs from the garage with ease, what would be the first thing he did?
i really like to hope he’d shave.
-what makes a Hobo Tree grow?
wistfulness. the urine of homeless dogs.
-speak briefly on the hidden dangers of Apple Schnappes?
it turns you into a pompous git. but that’s barely hidden.
-“The Desert Ballroom” is one of my personal favs (up there with “Pumpkin Patch Epiphany”). the story manages to maintain plot and narrative within the disjointed and twisted nature of the looped story (which cleverly involves our ‘host’, Eduard (not really a question, im now realising)).
you liked P.P.E? masochist.
–historically speaking, whenever a tv show did a musical episode, it would always require extra work. was there more prep time and rehearsals involved for “Pumpkin Patch Epiphany”?
OH GOD IT WAS HORRIBLE DON’T MAKE ME THINK ABOUT IT. we had to cut out our favourite character! i played a stoner platypus! he was amazing. and completely superfluous. we also got rained out about… 3 times? dang Melbourne weather. no rehearsals, though. never any rehearsals.
–explain the origins of The Messenger Man?
flying pie man. don’t question it.
okay. am i going to do this? Naked Earl Maxal is an anagram of Alexander Kalma, one of our crew. based on a mad lib i did regarding Rhombus and i about 3 years ago.
that’s right Alex. you’re the flying pie. that explained nothing, sorry. the whole pie part? i don’t even know.
–how much does a coffee cost in The Escherland?
–what is the Winding Deathowl’s dayjob?
door-to-door trumpet sales.
–the crowning glory in the series is without a doubt “Dios del Rabano” (aka The Radish God), which also features one of the series’ truly terrifying moments courtesy of Emmy and her machete. where did you guys shoot the majority of this episode, and what was the length of time everyone spent, on average, creating each episode (from beginning to end?).
we spent approximately 1 weekend filming per 15 minutes of final footage. that’s it. no rehearsals. that’ s not including the two years Rhombus and i spent discussing everything. 24/7. hoo boy.
V: and i guess finally, how can the good people of Earth get in touch with you guys for: praise, criticism, possible future work, sexual propositions, Hobo Pie recipes etc.?
V: thank you so much for your time and for sharing your creative brains with the rest of us. hope to see more of your work(s) in future. any final thoughts you’d like to add before i disappear under water into the bathtub, Eduard-style?
E: i don’t actually use my real voice once in the entire series. and… i’m not as disgusting in real life. i promise. thanks for watching us faff about. and if you didn’t watch… thanks for nothing.