I was lucky enough to interview Cheeky Moon’s own Claire Coe and Alastair Craig. The writing, filmmaking and sketch comedy act are based in Brisbane and have seen plenty of success already. They have been featured on Funny or Die, the ABC and film festivals all around the world. But perhaps at the centre of this is their upcoming movie length comedy series IT’S A CULT. As soon as I saw this announcement, I knew an interview with them would be perfect for 44 Clovers. We dove into their upcoming show, the struggles along the way and the teams writing process. Also, becoming viral in a nudist community…
What is IT’S A CULT?
“It’s an 8-part comedy web series with a healthy dose of drama. It begins as an anthology about 4 different vulnerable people – a former master chef contestant turned crook, a writer and a couple struggling with infertility. All these people converge on this self help pseudo-scientific organisation which is run by a literal puppet.” – Alastair
Where did this idea stem from?
“I have always been interested in cults (as a non-cult member). In particular, the stresses of running a cult like the office side of it. Alastair and I met and worked for 6 or 7 years now, and we really wanted to write a narrative together. We both loved PT Anderson and how he made Magnolia, splitting facets of his personality into the work.” – Claire
Biggest struggles and problems of creating a web series by yourself?
“Filming wise, it is getting a lot of busy people into the same space at the same time. I also had just had a new born baby…“– Alastair
“For writing, keeping track of structure, pacing reveals, and especially keeping the balance of drama and comedy was fun but definitely took a lot of time. Also, in production, we were shooting through covid, wearing masks, and socially distancing.” – Claire
What are your goals for releasing It’s a Cult!?
“Our plan is to put it on YouTube. We explored potentially pay walling, but we realised we just want as many people to see it as possible. We do hope to rent out a cinema and make a large scale event since it is feature length.” – Alastair
What shows, writers or directors were big inspirations going into this project?
“I consumed a lot of West Wing, especially the back end of it. I wanted this Sorkin rhythm to it. Also, Mad Men. Even though I am never in the mood to watch it, I always think, I have never seen a scene like that. It never feels cliché and the trajectory, dialogue and emotions always surprises me.” – Claire
“The main character we were writing had a kind of Fleabag energy to it. It feels like a cliché now but we constantly took that show to heart and compared our show to Fleabag. Phoebe Waller Bridge said that when the audience’s mouths are the widest with laughter cram down the drama. That’s something we definitely took to heart because there is a lot of drama in this series.” – Alastair
Why should audiences pay attention to this web series?
“We hope the strange energy of it is something that compels people. It is a genuinely surprising show. There are comedic episodes, dramatic episodes, experimental episodes. We really hope people are going to enjoy that unpredictability and that ride. And also PUPPETS.” – Alastair
“We also include a lot of our own personal struggles. It’s so worth while to explore our own anxiety and depressions. You just hope people connect to these ideas and feel a bit better.” – Claire
Cheeky Moon’s Writing Process
How many hours a day were writing during the peak period?
“I write everyday personally. And we write together 2-3 times a week.” – Claire
“It took a solid year to get from new parent to a functional writer again.” – Alastair
Do you challenge with keeping focused and how do you combat this?
“Writing together is definitely a huge tonic to this. If one of us isn’t feeling motivated, we can bring it to the other person, and they can find what works. I have been very lucky to have such a talented writing partner that I am accountable to. But if you find the right partner it offsets a lot of the problems of being a solitary writer.” – Alastair
“I’m not good with the internet…” – Claire
How did you know It’s a Cult was finished?
“I probably didn’t when we were writing. I was constantly and constantly revising. Writing was quite intuitive, we really wanted to consider each character as they all go through a lot of grief and heart ache. We just wanted to do right by each character.” – Claire
“We just kept polishing scripts up until we were filming. I do remember when we wrote the final scene, and we could finally put full perspective and context on the characters journeys. The sense of closure on nailing that scene was amazing.” – Alastair
Cheeky Moon went viral in a nudist community. Please explain?
“Actual nudist communities thought that what we did was an example of a healthy message. As a result, they shared it around nudist communities where it gained a following. We also entered into a clothing optional film festival in Texas where it won best nudist film despite being completely censored. It ended up just being a tagline we use for marketing now.” – Alastair
Advice for people wanting to write / perform comedy but are afraid of diving in?
“I think I am a poster child for shy and awkward person who thinks their funny who took the leap into comedy even though I was super anxious socially. But if you think you are funny and if you are at you’re day job and you are not doing it because you are making little videos or cant help but be funny you are probably onto something.” – Claire
“Consuming as much great comedy as possible from as many sources as possible. Armando Iannucci, Shaun Micallef, Mitchell and Webb are all people we keep referring back to for great energy. Just asking what they do and dissecting sketches on a technical level. It’s impossible to not to get something great from asking these questions.” – Alastair
Where do you think the future the future of film in Brisbane will be and where do you want to see it in 5 years?
“It would be great if it felt like a larger world. There are so many extraordinary people out there and it would nice if they made it to the film industry. Casting far and wide would also be a wonderful thing because there are just so many comedians laying low. I just want it to be bigger and as exciting and unpredictable as possible.” – Alastair
“Definitely more recognition. The crew were super talented and funny, and it would just be nice to see more attendance.” – Claire
Dream project you could work on or get off the ground?
“I have always wanted to reboot the Jurassic Park franchise…” – Claire
“The dream would be for Shaun Micallef to adopt us and put us into his writer’s room as his adult children. “ – Alastair
Any advice you have for filmmakers for getting stuff started and made?
“We live in this age where you can just make it yourself. We have had far less luck with funding bodies or grants or competitions then we have with just putting a little of our money into productions and putting it onto Youtube.” – Alastair
“Its very much a team project. If you meet someone whose taste you admire, just ask them. If they say yes in a committal way, follow it up.