A sad fact of narrative storytelling: A location does not a character make. Which makes it a bit hard to engage initially with Oz Girl, the successful Australian fauxumentary series documenting the journey of a country girl in big bad Melbourne. The first episode consists mostly of young Sadie wandering around the city and talking about how excited she is to be there and not in the country. As played by 20-year-old Sophie Tilson, Sadie has plenty of youthful idealism but not much definition beyond that. She’s likable, but that’s about all we have to go on.
However, Oz Girl is one of those series that rewards patience, and since its beginnings last fall has evolved into a pretty compelling teen drama-comedy with strong social media skills (the official web site has its own social network) and a loyal following. The adventures of Sadie begin to take form with the introduction of Megan (Shanrah Wakefield) and George (Richard Askin), Megan’s boyfriend, creating an awkward triangle that reveals how much Sadie has to learn — not just about the city, but about the people who live there. Entirely improvised by the cast, the series aims most often for realism over high comedy. The plots aren’t high in complexity, but provide plenty of interesting character moments within the documentary framework being used.
One episode deserves particular attention — Dragging Sex Into It, when Sadie agrees to go to the drag races with Tony (Joel Famularo). The show’s totally guerrilla production means that rather than see any of the auto action, we instead cut to immediately after the race, when Tony locks his car doors and tries to force Sadie to “stop playing coy.” She screams for help, and the camera man who’s been documenting the scene puts the camera down and comes to her rescue, allowing her to quietly slink back into her apartment building, crying. It’s a moment that could have been overplayed, either for drama or for postmodern effect. Instead, it is quiet, sincere and sad.
Oz Girl screened last week at the Independent TV Festival in Los Angeles to great success, taking home prizes for Best Acting and Best Overall Web content. And I suspect we’ll all be working for Nicholas Carlton in about five years — the 19-year-old Oz Girl creator is more professional and put together than some filmmakers twice his age.
Carlton is currently pitching a new series, Stitch, to advertisers and producers. Stitch gives the appearance of being a more mystery-oriented drama featuring some of the original Oz Girl cast, with six 20-minute episodes planned. There are also plans for an Oz Girl season two in the works. Now that we know Sadie a little better, I’m sure it’ll start with all cylinders firing.