SHOOTING two seasons of a series at the same time might sound crazy, but the creator of hit gay web series The Horizon finds it easier in the long run.
Boaz Stark, who is currently waist deep in post-production on season seven and eight of his groundbreaking web series, describes the process as “hectic”. It took 15 “long” days to shoot the 16 episodes which make up the next instalments, but Stark says the good outweighs the bad in the end.
Both season one and two of the series had different casts, but they have managed to keep the same solid roster of actors since season three.
“We’re producing over two hours of drama by the time it all gets edited,” Stark says.
“It’s long, intense days and we don’t always get all the shots we want. There’s an expression ‘you shoot Gone With The Wind in the morning and Home And Away at night’.”
The series has been made possible, in part, by an ongoing partnership with ACON (the AIDS Council of NSW). The organisation has sponsored the series since the beginning, which Stark says has given it a “noble purpose”.
“ACON is amazing – they have been generous with us both in terms of supporting us financially and giving me artistic freedom with telling our HIV stories,” he says.
“Even though it’s quite subtle, we’re talking about HIV and gay men’s health issues by naturally weaving them into the storylines.”
The new seasons will centre around a PrEP storyline, featuring the series’ serodiscordant couple Jake and Mickey, and a “super hot” new character Tyson played by Daniel Needs.
Stark sees the PrEP storyline as an opportunity to present a well-rounded representation of the views in the community, while also educating them about what it is capable of.
“Everyone gets a voice – The Horizon allows me to show PrEP from different viewpoints and raise concerns through different characters,” he says.
“I spoke to a lot of people on PrEP and it tends to be younger people embracing it a little more readily.
I think people of my age went through the AIDS crisis, lost a lot of friends and had condom usage drilled into our brains.
“It’s difficult to let go of that and it’s raised in the storyline.”
Casting the new character Tyson was a struggle for the production. Three gay actors were cast before they ended up settling on Needs.
Stark says one really high profile, gay and out actor accepted the role but backed out when he discovered how racy the storyline would be.
“It took a straight boy who loved the idea of a challenge to take on the role,” he says.
“(Needs) is very ambitious, very open to playing a gay character and finding himself in situations that might make other actors uncomfortable.”
The creative team behind The Horizon was also granted funding from Screen Australia last year to produce a 45-minute pilot in hopes of replicating the success of the web series on television.
Even Stephan Elliott, the director of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert, was brought on board to direct it.
Stark says they haven’t been able to sell the pilot yet, but it’s not dead.
“It’s going to be released on iTunes in the next few weeks so people will be able to watch it,” he adds.
The television pilot is basically a reboot of the first and second seasons of the series, using the current cast with higher production values.
“Stephan took it up a level which is fantastic. Audiences loved it – we had a standing ovation,” Stark says.
If the pilot isn’t picked up, Stark plans to keep producing the web series for as long as he can.
“I wrote these two seasons with an open story at the end so I want to keep it going to at least bring those stories I set up to light. There’s a lot of stories to tell, it’s a very exciting time,” he says.
“There’s still hardly any gay-centred programs and I think it’s one of the reasons we’re so popular.”