Arden Pryor is a writer, director, showrunner, and the creator of the new TV series Fix-Her-Up. It’s a show for women, about women, written by a gay man.
As a child wrestling with the challenge of learning to speak English, writing gave Arden a voice, without the hindrance of a thick Romanian accent. At 21, he moved to the UK and started writing prose and features for gay magazines. Today, Arden is a Melbourne based screenwriter, and the man behind new sit-com Fix Her Up, soon to air on Channel 31.
Tania: Was it a big leap to go from writing stories to writing for the screen?
Arden: Yes and no. It’s very different. When you are writing prose you can be flowery or sit with the moment but especially writing for television you have to be really concise. You’ve got limited time to tell your story.
Tania: Where do you start when you are trying to get a TV series off the ground?
Arden: The advice I give people who are developing a show or a movie is to get that script tight and take the time to develop it. I start with the characters and then I think about what environment I can put them in. I write a lot, and most of what I do doesn’t get out there, but it usually helps formulate the work that does. A lot of the characters in Fix-Her-Up were from other shows that didn’t quite work. From there, Fiona who runs Cold Reading Series produced the pre-pilot with Rock Bottom Pictures and then I re-developed the show after we filmed it.
Tania: You make it sound relatively easy!
Arden: [laughs] I did it in phases. I got the show pre-pilot and sent it to channel 31 and asked if we could put it up and they said ‘yes sure we love it’. Then I spent a solid four-five months getting good scripts. I knew with no budget, the scripts would be how I’d get people to work on it. Initially I got a lot of ‘Sorry I don’t do unpaid work’ but every person who said that, and went on to read it volunteered their time. There’s a lot of stuff out there that hasn’t percolated or cooked enough and is presented prematurely. People focus too much on the look and not enough on the script, but it’s the story that’s going to get you the people you need to work on your project.
Tania: Was that the biggest challenge, getting people?
Arden: That and time. When people are volunteering because they like the project, they like you, they like the concept and want to be part of it, you have a lot of challenges in regards to availability and it just takes longer. You can get good quality and do it quickly, but that is going to cost you money. We didn’t have any money and I wasn’t going to sacrifice quality, so time it was. It took a lot longer than I initially thought it would. It’s definitely more of a marathon than a 5k run.
Tania: And you’re writing, directing and producing this marathon?
Arden: Yes, I directed the pre-pilot and the first episode, but I bought in other guys to direct the rest as I was producing those, and it’s really hard to write, produce and direct at the same time.
Tania: What do you enjoy most, of those three things?
Arden: I enjoy showrunning which is a combination of all of them. It’s basically driving the creative vision of the show and making sure it eventuates.
Tania: What is your vision for the show?
Arden: I wanted to do a female ensemble comedy, to show off the great comedic actresses we have here in Melbourne. My goal is to do an American style sitcom that’s genuine, high energy, a little bit campy, that has a lot of jokes, and is actually funny. It’s a show for women, about women, written by a gay man.
Tania: What inspired that vision?
Arden: Like most creatives in Australia, I have two jobs, a day job and what I really want to do. I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and it was inspired by the weird and quirky characters that you meet in those environments.
Tania: And what inspires you?
Arden: Inspiration can come from the weirdest places and circumstances. It’s just about being open. I say the people you surround yourself with should inspire you.
Tania: Is it important your work inspires others?
Arden: Yes. It doesn’t have to be life changing, but it needs to bring some kind of joy and make people feel good at the end of it. I want people to watch it and enjoy it. That’s the reason we watch television and film. To escape reality a little bit.
Tania: What’s your inner critic like?
Arden: Vicious [laughs]. I am definitely my harshest critic. It doesn’t seem like it because as I’ve gotten older I’ve become better at ignoring it; most of the time it’s wrong. You do need to look over your projects or scripts objectively and look at what’s working and what’s not. After we wrapped up filming and post, I did an analysis and looked at what learnings I had for the future. There will always be things that don’t work. You need to have the ability to learn from them. I cannot stress how much you learn about what works and what doesn’t work, from actually making something you have written come to life.
Tania: What keeps you going when it’s really tough?
Arden: I have a good support network, and if I feel like quitting, I take a break and ask myself, ‘if I quit, what will I do?’. I’ve got to do something, so I just get back on it. I heard this interview with Joan Rivers and they asked ‘Why do you do comedy?’ and she’s like, ‘I couldn’t do anything else’. That’s kind of how I feel.
Tania: What do you love most about doing what you do?
Arden: I love collaborating with people, that’s why I’m more interested in writing for TV than film. I surprised myself and really enjoyed show running. It’s stressful, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard. There were times when it’s like wake up, work on the show, have meals here and there, sleep, then do it again. It’s also nice to create something that I would watch. I love writing something I genuinely want to watch, and then hopefully it finds an audience.
Tania: How does it feel when you watch it?
Arden: Really good [laughs]. I’ve seen it so many times now I’m over it, but when you watch it with people who haven’t seen it before it re-ignites that excitement. It’s great to see people getting familiar with the characters and laughing because they know them a bit better, that’s really rewarding.
Tania: When do we get to watch it?
Arden: You can watch it on Channel 31 at 9.30pm on Monday 13th June, and in the mean time check out the trailer on our Facebook page..
Tania: Very exciting! Maybe you’ll be the next Katering show!
Arden: Hopefully [laughs]
Want to find out more about Fix-Her-Up? Of course you do, you've read this far! Now, head on over to their Facebook page to watch the trailer, find out more about the cast and stay up to date with screening announcements, show news and notifications for upcoming auditions and crew calls.