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Welcome to the world of series drama

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I don't think this has been posted yet, at least I don't think it has. Can't see it anywhere else. :)


Meet Home and Away Script Producer Daniel Bennett!

Welcome to the world of series drama.

A world in which tragedy, romance, secrets and good ole fashioned drama lurk in every corner, where long-lost relatives will rarely stay lost, long-dead characters rarely stay dead and where everyone has a skeleton in the closet and a cat to let out of the bag.

Summer Bay occupies the lion’s share of this world, its idyllic ocean views housing sunny streets of faces familiar to us all. Not so familiar to us, however, are the people behind the scenes who create the fantastic storylines and memorable characters week after week, year after year.

Like many of the writers, producers and creators of hit TV series, script producer Daniel Bennett came to Home and Away first and foremost as a fan. “I’ve been watching the show since the pilot,” Daniel explains, “I was probably seven or eight years old and I’ve loved it all the way through”.

Indeed, Daniel’s path into Home and Away is any fan’s dream – after a stint of work experience during the first semester of a creative writing degree in Wollongong, Daniel was offered an entry level position of script assistant. He took it, quit his course and hasn’t looked back. Five years later after doing the hard years working his way up through the ranks, Daniel helps create the TV show he fell in love with so many years ago. “It’s very rewarding because you’re playing with the people you grew up watching, which is very fun,” he smiles.

Working alongside Daniel in-house are two associate script producers, a story consultant, two script editors and two script co-ordinators. Storylines and new characters are plotted as far as six months in advance by the team (along with the series producer), and after a solid episode synopsis has been developed, the team will call in one of 15 rotational freelance script-writers to flesh out the ideas into a script format. By the time an episode script is released to production (the directors and actors and so on) about six different people will have worked on each episode!

And as any fan of Home and Away would know, this means accommodating more twists and turns than the Dancing with the Stars dance floor. “I’m huge fan of big plot twists,” enthuses Daniel, “I love shocking the audience and I love being shocked. I like being able to throw in a curve ball so the audience think they’re going to get one thing and are genuinely surprised when they get another.”

Unlike TV shows like the deliciously devilish Melrose Place or the steamy daytime soaps, Home and Away and its contemporaries take place in a small-town community with a strong moralistic backbone, which is consistently plagued by betrayal, secrets, illicit romance, murder and more. The growing pains of adolescence will forgive some of these behaviours, but the consistent challenge is to keep audiences onside with characters behaving badly.

“What’s important is to identify the characters within the ensemble that can deviate and be bought back, and the characters who can never step over the line,” explains Daniel. “So for example, Alf – we call him the moral compass for the show - he’s the person who you know will set the tone. As long as Alf is stable and good and driving the moral line, we can take other characters off to the side. Some you can redeem and some you can’t. Also for the most part the problems come from the outside world, it’s Summer Bay taking on the bad people. Very rarely does the evil come from within the core characters.”

Daniel goes to point out that the audience had a greater empathy and sympathy for Barry Hyde after it was revealed he killed his wife because his motivation was pure love for his son, Kim. His actions were extreme, but human. He was flawed, but his heart was in the right place, just like real life. “Even Amanda, who gets up to the most bizarre and extreme things at times is grounded in a reality,” Daniel continues. “She is able to love her son Ryan and fall in love with Dan or Scott, so at the very centre of Amanda is goodness – she just choses the wrong path most of the time.”

It seems Daniel is very content creating the Logie-winning world of Summer Bay for his fellow fans but before we let him get back to master-minding the next stalker or Josh West storyline, we just had to ask: if he could create a H+A character for himself – who would it be? “I’d play a Vinnie-kinda character,” he decides. “The character you’ve gotta love – you smile when they come onscreen. To be universally liked would be a lovely feeling.”


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