Big fans of the Encounters column in The Monthly magazine, we (Duncan Imberger and Josh Moore at Suitcase Murphy) acquired the rights to develop it for television in July 2010. Another 18 months down the track, we finally secured production funding, and set a very optimistic completion date of October 2012.
Ten columns were selected (from more than 60 published in The Monthly magazine) and we set about adapting them for tv with the help of script editor Brendan Luno. Shane Maloney lent a helping hand when he felt it was required.
Then Geoffrey Rush signed-on as narrator. Wow! Newly crowned as Aussie of the Year, he spent two afternoons with us and absolutely nailed it.
The very talented group of Gerry Connolly, Tyler Coppin, Lucy Holmes, David Cotter and Kamahl performed the 20-odd character voices. Gerry kept us very entertained with his uncanny impersonations of everyone from Paul Keating to Lee Lin Chin. Tyler was incredibly versatile. Lucy is a world famous Kylie impersonator. David was the only one who came close to nailing Sinatra. And Kamahl was simply hysterical – after his voiceover session, he invited us to remain in the studio to listen to his new single, and then took us on a tour of Sydney in his brilliant blue Rolls Royce.
Meanwhile, back in country Victoria, our ever-reliable collaborator Aaron Davies, was busily turning the scripts, narration and voiceover recordings into moving storyboards – giving us the first real taste of what was to come.
As each moving storyboard was completed, the one-and-only Chris Grosz set to work. Holed up on an isolated farm in New Zealand with his 28 cross-dressing sheep, Chris pumped out more than 1000 original drawings over an unrelenting 14-month period. (Just a little longer than we all initially and naively anticipated.) He’s a truly unique talent.
As the drawings arrived in Australia, it fell to Steve Watkins and the team at XYZ Studios to work their magic. Slowly but steadily, Chris’ pictures were brought to life in breathtaking fashion. XYZ’s patience, professionalism and output over more than 15 months was extraordinary. They were also incredibly accommodating of our endless requests for “final-final-final” changes.
Jazz violinist, composer and cofounder of the Raah Project, Tamil Rogeon, knocked out the series theme music. And sound designer AJ Bradford applied his seemingly endless talents to the audio postproduction. Believe it or not, the sound design in each episode is comprised of more than 300 separate sound files – and what a difference it makes to the overall production quality.
In June 2013, more than three crazy years after it all began, 10 episodes were finally dispatched to ABC HQ in Sydney.