Category Archives: Review

Interview: After Nightfall

After Nightfall is a web series that has me hooked. It’s a refreshing new mystery surrounding the murder of gay teenager Troy McLeavey. It’s not set in the 1950s, doesn’t take place in the outback, has nothing to do with either world war, and thank heavens for that. In March and April this year, I reviewed the entire first season. And, full disclosure, in September I spent two days on set with the cast and crew filming a brief cameo for Episode 1 of Season 2. Everybody involved could not have been nicer, although part of me wondered if that was because I was known as ‘Superfan’ to most of them, having written such glowing reviews. I’m joking by the way. Wayne and his team of actors, camera crew, DOP etc are all professionals of the highest order.

With Season 2 due to be released in early 2019, I sat down with writer/director/star Wayne Tunks for a spoiler-free talk about the process behind filming such an ambitious project, and what we can expect in Season 2 and beyond.

For a writer, inspiration can come from anywhere. Where did the inspiration or spark first come for After Nightfall?

I was actually going for a walk late one Sunday night and the idea came to me. I walked for about an hour and the ideas kept rushing at me. By the time I got home to write everything down I had the basic premise, the name, many characters and the killer. I barely slept that night and the next day started writing. It was a story that needed to come out of me.

Did you map out every detail of the story before writing or did parts of the mystery happen organically?

A combination of both. To start I usually just write and let it flow out but then as the project continues I make a more detailed story map. The first 2 eps just came out organically and then the rest was planned. Having worked as a storyliner on Neighbours, our job was to plot story, so I still use a lot of what I learnt there.

What was the biggest challenge with shooting?

Independent filmmaking is an exercise in shooting on the smell of an oily rag. Shooting on a tiny budget is challenging but also rewarding. So as director I end up as production manager, set dresser and caterer as well as directing. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The entire world of After Nightfall is about the murder of a gay teenager. However, Troy himself remains shrouded in mystery. He’s mostly seen as a ghost and has had maybe five lines of dialogue so far. Was this a deliberate choice?

For Season one, definitely. It’s about the people left behind and how they react and which of them is the one that killed him. I like that Troy is a mystery, at first you’re even asking if his ghost is really there or if his Dad is going mad. In Season two we will see a lot more of Troy, including a flashback episode – so the mystery will slowly be revealed.

Troy is gay, and one of the things I personally love about After Nightfall is how this is portrayed as being completely normal. However, let’s be honest, the majority of LGBTQ characters in pop culture seem firmly rooted in stereotypes and coming-out stories. Why do you think this is the case?

For me all gay stories are important, whether it be a coming out story or others. For the 19 years I’ve been writing I have always tried to put gay characters in my work. When I am watching things now, especially TV, and there are no gay characters I get a little angry. Gay people are in every part of society and deserve to have our stories told. So whether it be coming out, a love story or just a gay cop, I’ll take any gay themed stories and characters.

After Nightfall has a large ensemble cast with many interesting characters. Do you have a favourite character to write for?

I love them all, my characters are like my children. But I have always enjoyed writing a good villain, living vicariously through them. So characters like Kobie, Oscar, Dave and Faye are fun. Plus, writing for myself is fun, guarantees I get some good lines!

My favourite character is Nathan Kelty. His harrowing storyline involves being trapped at a conversion camp. This is a reality for many LGBTQ people, but it’s very swept under the rug especially in media portrayals of the LGBTQ community. Were you at all apprehensive at tackling such a sensitive and rarely-seen issue?

It is our society’s big shame at the moment. I am constantly confused as to why certain religious people seem so obsessed with gay people. They are ruining the lives of young members of the LGBT community and governments let it happen. We like to believe it is just an American thing, but these horrendous places exist in Australia as well, so we need to talk about it. And we need to stop them hurting more innocent people.

What are the challenges of appearing in a project you wrote and directed?

I have been doing it in theatre for a long time but doing it in film is new. It is often intimidating but I was lucky to have an amazing crew around me to help out. But I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, I’m just one of these control freaks who likes to have a finger in every pie.

Obviously, we don’t yet know who killed Troy McLeavey. How have you managed keep the secret with so many actors and crew involved? Was it difficult?

Season One it was just myself and the actor playing the killer who knew. So many people would ask but we were both good at keeping it a secret. I loved hearing the cast and crew’s theories. Now, naturally, after filming Season two, a lot more people know. It was a relief to reveal it and now hope they can keep the secret.

What has been your favourite day on set so far?

Day one for sure. It was all so new and was a big risk. It was an experiment, we would do one day and see if it worked. It was a great success and I felt such a sense of achievement. After one day we knew it was viable and we began planning the rest.

Season One was definitely a success. It’s been screened all over the world and has won a number of awards. Were you surprised at how well people responded?

It’s always the hope that whatever you create, is a success. But I don’t think you ever really believe it will happen. People have been great fans and I feel very humbled. And the awards were the biggest surprise. It feels even more special that other people seem to enjoy the project as much as we do.

To the eagle eyed viewer, it would seem there are clues peppered throughout season 1. Is the mystery solvable to someone who is really paying attention?

100% there are clues, but to be honest, they are subtle. To me they are obvious, but the clues are small and there a lot of red herrings, as you would expect from any murder mystery. I hope when people discover the killer that they look back and see that it makes sense.

What do you most want people to take away from this project?

First and foremost, I want people to enjoy watching it. Love when I hear people binge the series. And I love when I hear people talking about who killed Troy McLeavey. And if we can also talk about important issues while entertaining, even better.

Now that Season 2 filming is done, what’s next for the world of After Nightfall?

We have one more season to go. There will be a new mystery and a lot of storylines to clear up. So after Season two, you will get to see your favourite and not so favourite characters. So watch out for Season Three.

Click here to watch After Nightfall Season 1

Reviews here:

After Nightfall Episode 1 & 2
After Nightfall Episode 3
After Nightfall Episode 4
After Nightfall Episode 5
After Nightfall Episode 6

I Have Returned

For the last year, my blog has been very quiet without any explanation to my subscribers and friends. I’ve posted very little, and very rarely. I wasn’t in any space to give notice or reasons, or to give a ballpark when or if I was going to blog again. This is all going to change right now.

Without going into all the gory details, or naming any names, in October 2017 my life fell apart in every single way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, in just a few moments, everything I was sure of was gone. Just like that.

It’s hard when other people make bad choices. It’s hard not to blame yourself and then come to terms with the fact that you haven’t done anything wrong. Especially when people insert themselves into a situation, thinking they know the truth when they really have no idea. It’s hard when you find out you were lied to and used, for absolutely no reason.
It’s hard when people you thought were your friends, who you would have trusted with your very life, betray you in the worst way. And thanks to social media, escaping it is also next to impossible. My whole identity was brought into question, through no fault of my own.
On top of this, and really because of it, I was battling some serious health issues. Still am, even though I’m a million times better than I was.

I tried to write. But I couldn’t. I was physically incapable of doing it beyond the occasional short review, and I was too afraid to share it around like I normally would.
Writing is something very dependant on mood, emotions, headspace and personal feelings. I don’t know how on earth J.K Rowling wrote the way she did with the kind of pressure she faced.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everything is perfect now. It’s not. I’m still rebuilding the person I want to be. But I feel I’ve reached a point to bring this blog back, and make it better than ever on top of everything else I’m doing.

I am sorry to all my subscribers and friends who’ve missed my work. I’m truly sorry for dropping off the radar like I did.  But I had to take care of myself first and foremost, and I have plans for my blog.

What’s coming….

  1. My Wanderlust recap of my incredible solo trip to Europe will be completed by the end of the year, as I plan my next overseas adventure. Travel blogging is definitely going to be a new venture for me, but obviously the arts are my number one passion and my site will ALWAYS be about them above all.
  2. As I take on new acting projects, you can expect to be kept in the loop and brought behind the scenes.
  3. My first artist interview is coming very soon, something I am hopeful will become a semi-regular occurrence.
  4. Yes, I have many critiques, reviews, lists and analysing blogs in my backlog. And they will be released as I see fit.

It’s great to be back.

 

After Nightfall Episode 6

You ever have that moment when a series leaves you on a cliffhanger and you’re suddenly filled with an urge to see more immediately, and simultaneously throw something at the screen because how dare they leave you hanging?

Trust After Nightfall to do this to me. And trust me to love them for it.

Episode 6, the Season 1 finale is the episode where the story starts moving forward, where things are happening, plot points are being explored and small incidents are finally becoming significant.

The episode opens with an insanely clever scene which appears to be a flashback to the morning of Troy’s murder, literally the first time we hear Troy speak or see him interact with other family members, and not as a ghost. However, this quickly morphs into the realisation that it’s a dream, which usually would drive me insane, but in this case it didn’t because Colin now knows the passcode to Troy’s iPad. As I said last week, the investigators could have opened it in seconds, but what do I know? Cliffhanger #1.

At conversion camp, we see the adorable Nathan (Robert Miniter) and Yardley (Adam Haylock) get closer. These two are just….God, I love them. I have never ever shipped a couple like this. Unfortunately it can’t last, because camp leaders, Melinda and Peter, burst in and declare that “therapy” will now be increased. Cliffhanger #2.

During another drug deal, Troy’s uncle receives the video from Isobel of his girlfriend cheating with another of his cronies. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that’s why Isobel nicked the phone from that woman in the last episode. Of course, the police can also trace where videos come from, even if passed from phone to phone (I toured cyberbullying plays in 2016, ok? I had to do some research!) so Isobel might not get out of this one even if she is a minor. Anyway, from the look on Dave’s face, I’d say his buddy will soon have a perfectly flat surface where his face used to be. Should be fun. Cliffhanger #3.

Meanwhile, Hayden and company observe Kobie digging a hole in the woods where Troy’s body was found. This better not be going where I think it is.
Cliffhanger #4.

Meanwhile creepy Oscar breaks into Kobie’s house to retrieve Troy’s phone (by hilariously climbing through the open window…so that actually works?) only to be caught by Kobie’s mother Faye and causing her a serious injury/apparent death. Nice one there idiot. You leave a traumatised child in your wake and possibly a dead woman. Cliffhanger #5.

And finally, we return to lead investigator Simon, who is stabbed by a hooded figure. Before he dies, he chokes out “You killed Troy!” Cliffhanger #6 ends Season 1 and leaves me absolutely cheering (silently, because I was watching this at midnight).

This episode ends the season on the highest of high notes with great acting and the best use yet of cinematography, camera angles and the use of atmosphere. We have possibly two more deaths, blackmail, revenge, mystery and LGBTQ issues, but still not enough to piece together the entire mystery. Questions are being answered for sure, and action is on the verge of exploding, but the pressure cooker that is After Nightfall still wants to keep us in suspense.

We’re left hanging on for more, yet in pure satisfaction that there’ll be more great drama to dive into in Season 2. I gave up watching TV years ago, and a series has not had me hooked like this since I can’t remember when.

Hurry up Season 2. We all need to know who killed Troy.

Watch all episodes here

After Nightfall Episode 5

Episode 5 so far has been my absolute favorite. This is the episode where things got emotional. Yes, I realise that the entire time we’ve been following the mystery of a murdered child. I get that. But now, in the latest installment, things seem to have taken a turn into new territory and I am cheering from behind my Macbook screen.

The action begins as investigators question Nathan’s parents on his whereabouts. As this is my favorite storyline in the series (sorry Troy. Still love you!), I found myself silently pleading for them to realise what’s happened to him and swoop to the rescue. But for now it seems no dice. I’ve been too busy hating Nathan’s parents to really consider the possibility that they could be suspects. His father, at least, is on my list. I really hate that man. Not even sorry.

Meanwhile Hayden and his friends Grace and Xavier spot money exchanging hands and begin to suspect Oscar and Kobie (who has a gloriously hilarious intro shot looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It has to be seen to be believed!) “That kid needs a beating” says Xavier. I couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of criminal activity, we see that along with having a secret money roll, filming people’s affairs and apparently having blackmail on her mind, Isobel also seems to have some very sticky fingers. Seriously, what is with this brat?!?

Last week, I wondered out loud if Colin had handed over the iPad to investigators. And now we discover that he has not and doesn’t plan to until he examines it himself. But he doesn’t know the password. Uh, while I fully understand the character motivation behind this, you do realise the police could open the iPad in a matter of seconds, right? Also there’s the minor issue of potentially tampering with/contaminating evidence…. *crickets* Ok then. Go for your life.

All my serial nitpicking aside, the best aspect of this scene is we finally see some real interaction between Colin and his wife Justine. This is the first time we see some of how the murder and Colin’s behaviour is affecting their marriage. I truly hope we see more of this. And if the final frame is anything to go by, I have a very strong feeling that Troy’s disabled Grandmother has a major role yet to play. Her anguished cry left me with chills. I don’t know if this particular actress has been in anything else I’ve seen, but I can’t take my eyes off her.

But now let me go to my most beloved moment in this episode and possibly the season thus far. The stunning scene between Nathan (Robert Miniter) and Yardley (Adam Haylock), another boy trapped at conversion camp. To go into too much detail about this moment here would be doing a major disservice to the series. You MUST watch it. They don’t kiss. They don’t even touch. But the warmth, intimacy and beauty of the writing and performances just leap off the screen. Robert Miniter and Adam Haylock, I take my hat off to you for your performances. Wayne Tunks has a true knack for picking the right actors to bring his work to life and to me, nowhere is it clearer than here. The proof is that I was wiping my eyes by the end.

I didn’t cry in Toy Story 3. I didn’t cry in The Lion King. I HATE The Notebook. I sat through Inside Out and didn’t shed a single tear. The bottom line is that I will only cry if a dog is involved, which is why I will never watch Marley and Me again.

Damn you Wayne Tunks. You did it. You got into my blackened soul, hardened from four years of retail work, the shattered heart I’m currently nursing and a lifetime of loving British comedy. You broke down the barriers which surround my emotions during the viewing of any media and I will likely not recover.

Damn you Wayne Tunks. And please for the love of all that’s good and holy, keep it up.

http://www.afternightfallseries.com

After Nightfall Episode 4

Episode 4. Troy’s phone is still missing. Troy’s boyfriend tipped off the authorities about a drug deal by Troy’s uncle. Troy’s father Colin is apparently being haunted by his sons’ spirit. And what exactly does Kobie know? With so many subplots and mysteries piling on top of each other, it’s nice to get the hint of answers in episode 4.

And I’m sorry Troy, but so far the storyline that has me hooked to the screen is Nathan, exiled to conversion camp by his parents. This week, we meet the camp leader, Peter, played by Andrew Wang lightly snacking on the scenery, and I mean that in a very positive way. He’s so much fun to watch, but at the same time incredibly unnerving. Beneath that used car salesman smile, there’s an oily menace. I have a feeling he’s viable to explode any moment, and sooner rather than later. Whatever lies ahead for Nathan doesn’t look good.

Meanwhile on the investigation front, Troy’s laptop has been found (does that mean Colin turned over the iPad?) but his phone is still on the most wanted list. And chillingly, the sleazy book store owner Oscar is revealed to be pursuing relationships with younger boys in town, including Troy. And how do we discover this? Because resident thug Kobie is revealed to be in possession of Troy’s phone (anyone else call that? Just me?) and he has blackmail on his mind.

On the other side of the story, Hayden is visited by Troy’s uncle and brother, who make threats over his recent betrayal.  Troy’s sister seems keen to be getting into the school of blackmail too. Happy families, everyone!

We’re more than halfway through Season 1, and I feel like there’s a lot more going on and far deeper themes and character to explore. If the writing, directing and performances continue at the current rate, we’re sure to reach one hell of a conclusion, wherever that may lead. For as fascinating as the characters may be, Troy himself remains a complete enigma.

WATCH EPISODE 4 HERE

After Nightfall Episode 3

Troy McLeavey is dead. Armchair detectives may already have their suspicions, but the investigation is getting underway as Episode 3 opens.

Troy’s grief-stricken father Colin is practically catatonic, his son’s spirit having seemingly led him to his iPad, hidden in the cubby house for reasons unknown. Troy’s sister has a box of cash hidden in her room for apparently nefarious purposes. The police force begin questioning persons of interest, including resident bully Kobie, who was washing what appeared to be blood from a shirt in the first episode (which I’d like to think is a red herring because that would be an infuriatingly obvious solution), and Troy’s drug dealing uncle.

The beginnings of a darker underbelly were revealed in Episode 3. Troy’s boyfriend apparently gave a tip off about a suspect, the ever silent Viv seems to have her own suspicions, one of the investigators seems to be playing on both sides and Kobie apparently knows a lot more than he’s letting on.
However, the storyline which caused the most emotion for me is the fate of Nathan, who awakens handcuffed to a bed in a conversion camp, where his ghastly parents have banished him. The image of him literally being snatched up by masked intruders in the middle of the night may seem a bit farfetched at first viewing, but no, this is honestly what happens to a lot of “troubled” teens, especially in America. I don’t like to think about the horrors likely ahead of him, but at the same time I want to see him come out the other side. Kudos to writer/director Wayne Tunks for exploring this very taboo subject matter, and we’re only 3 episodes in.

The beauty of After Nightfall is that even though there’s a huge ensemble cast, they all feel real. We don’t know all that much about them yet, but the mystery is intriguing rather than frustrating. We aren’t in Lost territory, where the writers were just making it up as they went along. There’s a sense of purpose here, like the answers are tantalisingly close but not within grasp. Not yet anyway. There’s certainly a lot of subplots, but it’s told in such a way to never feel over saturated or pretentious. There’s no other way to put it. The writing in After Nightfall is simply masterful.

It’s a shame that episodes are only ten minutes long, but I suspect the purpose of this was to leave the viewers wanting more. In which case I say, mission freaking accomplished.

CLICK TO WATCH AFTER NIGHTFALL

 

After Nightfall Episode 1 & 2

Maybe it’s the remnants of the Jack the Ripper walking tour I did on my recent trip to London, but I have a longstanding love affair with crime drama and mysteries. After Nightfall, a new web series written by celebrated writer Wayne Tunks, seemed right up my alley, so I was quite excited to check it out. The night it premiered, I finally arrived home from acting class at 11pm, settled down with a bowl of pasta, and pressed play.

We all know the saying. If you want something done right, do it yourself. Australian artists are taking this to heart. Our industry is suffering enough with never-ending tax cuts and general indifference to the arts. Hence, artists have to be more creative than ever when it comes to sharing and constructing our craft. Here, the creators have funded this ambitious project with the tried-and-true method of crowdfunding, and we should all be thankful for every cent poured into this absolutely wonderful series.
After Nightfall follows the aftermath of a young gay teen, Troy McLeavey, brutally murdered in a small rural town. Everybody is a suspect. His parents. His boyfriend. His ex-boyfriend or his ghastly homophobic parents. His drug lord uncle. The school bully. Predatory members of the community. The investigators themselves. Maybe even the butler did it.
A deceptively simple premise, but from the very first frame, the message to the audience is clear: you are in for one hell of a ride.

The first episode of course goes about establishing the world, the story and the characters. Many key players are unnamed initially but the strength of the actors makes the viewer able to glean exactly what they’re about. Therefore, the relatively short moments give you an eerie sense of what’s to come. Many scenes have minimal dialogue, allowing for greater atmosphere and mystery. Are there clues peppered throughout the silent moments? It certainly seems that way to an eagle-eyed viewer, but only time will tell.

Episode 2…well, the short answer is, it’s great. Troy’s family begins their struggle with grief, and members of the town start behaving suspiciously. Washing blood from a shirt, seemingly innocuous comments, silent looks of anguish from new faces. What will this all lead to? Mercifully, I was not watching this with my older brother who has that infuriating habit of predicting twists and answers out loud, so I only have my own thoughts at this point.

How very refreshing it is to see contemporary Australian work that isn’t set in the outback, doesn’t involve either World War, and doesn’t scream 1950s. Instead, the series dives into real people in relatable situations. There’s no pretence here, just the straight up story and characters. The audience is treated as intelligent, thinking adults. Visual and silent moments, lingering camera shots draw you in further. There’s none of the dreaded tell-don’t-show, there’s no excessive expositional dialogue, the pacing is excellent and from a production/photography point of view, it’s highly impressive how the cinematography can maintain the hair-raising darkness without descending into Tim Burton territory.

After Nightfall stars a host of talented and unknown actors, but of course the real star here is the writing. My regular readers will know exactly how critical I am of bad writing, and I honestly can’t think of a single criticism here. The writing is nothing short of brilliant.
Tunks doesn’t shy away from the violent reality of the subject matter, but he isn’t afraid to show subtler sides of everyday suffering either. One particularly moving moment for me, being the daughter of a single mother, was the heartbreaking scene of a mother going without food to make sure her child can eat. I can’t remember the last time I saw something like that on screen, and yet it’s an every day occurrence for many.

I guess if I had to nitpick anything, and I mean ANYTHING, about After Nightfall, it’s that the timeline can seem a tad out of order. Yeah, it’s a small town where everybody knows everybody, but would the police really inform the family before the body of a murder victim is even examined? Still, this is the first two episodes, so I’m not going to worry too hard about that.

The biggest compliment you can give any piece of art is that you want more. And in all sincerity, that’s exactly what I want here. I want a LOT more from this world. I want to see what will happen next. I want to get to know these characters. I want to dive deeper into the town. Most of all, I want the question answered.

Who killed Troy McLeavey?

WATCH HERE: https://afternightfallseries.com/