‘Interview with Michelle Melky and Dylan Murphy, Creators of Feedback’ / Georgia Ketels
I met Michelle and Dylan last week to talk about the webseries they’ve made over the last 3 years, Feedback - “A roommate comedy, but it’s not about the roommates, and they’re not in the house.”
The series follows two twenty-somethings - a writer and a guitarist living in a Melbourne sharehouse. Its absurd authenticity is something really special. It features music from Tram Cops, Gamjee, Cool Sounds and Pseudo Mind Hive, and was shot in heaps of iconic Melbourne venues like The Workers Club, La Mama Theatre and the Brunswick Mechanics Institute.
Feedback is a testament to what can be made when young people come together and dedicate themselves to something huge. It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s touching, and it’s so, so relevant.
You can watch Feedback, back to back, right here: https://www.feedbackseries.com/
I watched - I consumed Feedback yesterday. I loved it.
Michelle: I’m so glad you liked it.
It was so funny, and so deeply relevant. It’s hard to capture something as it’s happening, in a zeitgeist, in a culture, but you do it really well, and parody it really well. And it’s still so tender.
Michelle: The show feeling like Melbourne was super important to us. We filmed at heaps of locations in the city, we featured real bands, real writers reading their pieces.
How many people were involved in the production?
Michelle: Core team, I was the producer with another girl named Manou. Dylan and Tom wrote the show, Dylan directed every episode, and we had our cinematographer the whole way through, Jackson.
Dylan: We had a team of 7-ish people that we would rotate, based on availability. We tried to be as small as we could.
Michelle: Also, we were amateurs! We didn’t know we were meant to have more people than that!
Dylan: It was important early on to surround ourselves with people who could fill the gaps of our knowledge. For the first episode we had a 1st AD from VCA, he was really helpful in teaching me what the procedure was. I’d made a lot of stuff before that, but never with the protocols of onset filmmaking. We threw ourselves right into the deep end.
Michelle: The show is extremely low budget. Think of the lowest number you can think of.
Dylan: One dollar.
Michelle: We have 100 minutes of onscreen content, and I’m not shy about throwing around the budget, because I think it’s good for other people to know you can do it on a low budget - which was around 3.5K.
Insane. You’ve essentially made a feature film.
Michelle: Essentially. You know, that’s everybody working for free. And we don’t like to pull those favours. We really only wanted to do it this one time. So our next project, whatever that is, no one’s working for free.
We had a team working on this, but it took 3 years of on-and-off filming and writing. The team kept coming back to it. We were really lucky that people were even in the country still. Or still interested. It was a small team, but a dedicated team, and it took a long time.
The absurdism in your show is great. I love that you’re thrown into it, no life jacket, sink or swim. Particularly Edmund’s blog world.
Dylan: That got such a good response that we were like, ‘we need to keep finding interesting ways to show how these experiences feel rather than just showing them. How do we represent what it feels like to do that, in an interesting, visual way?’
Michelle: Particularly with the blog - I personally hate any kind of representation of a digital experience on screen - like text bubbling up on a screen, dialogue being typed up. It feels, not lazy, but not like a real way you experience being online. How else would you show someone being on their blog? When the guys came up with the idea that ‘it’s a blog, but they’re in a gallery’, I was like - that makes perfect sense, it’s gonna be funny, it’s gonna look good, so let’s do that.
“oh, this is a legitimate thing.”
I’m dying to know - do Edmund and Levi continue to be roommates? Do they make up?
Michelle: It’s funny, the original ending of the show was a big fight, where they break up as roommates. But it felt, I guess, cheap. The show’s not really about the two of them being friends. They just happen to be two people living together. So we kinda scrapped that ending where they’re like ‘I’m movin’ out!’
Dylan: In my head, they don’t need to live together for the show to still work. I think when we first started writing it, it was a roommate comedy thing. But it evolved from there, cause we weren’t as interested in the sitcom aesthetic.
Michelle: The way I’ve always explained Feedback to people who’ve never heard of it is ‘it’s a roommate comedy, but it’s not about the roommates, and they’re not in the house.” We filmed in over 20 locations, but the house takes up maybe 10-15 minutes of onscreen time, in 100 minutes.
Dylan: We shot the first episode in a house that we ended up losing. We filmed in a different house, actually…
Michelle: And then we lost that house too.
Dylan: By necessity, and by trying to challenge ourselves, we were like ‘let’s just not worry about shooting in different locations, and figure it out when we get there.”
Michelle: Dylan and Tom kept coming up with great ideas. It was like: “Let’s film a golden statue, and it’ll be here. And then Levi will audition in front of these guys, and it’ll be a yoga thing. So we’ll need a yoga studio. And I was just - yeah! Sounds cool! Let’s do it! Which meant we needed to go out and be in places.
It was hard, but one of the things I found really rewarding. Being able to find those cool spots, locations, working with the people onsite either for free, or trying to get the money down to where we could afford it. All that part of the hustle was really enjoyable for me. f you ask, people are pretty willing to help out.
Dylan: I think for me, that was one of the biggest hurdles. Not worrying too much about asking people for things. I’d always done stuff independently, but without ever having help, I was really incubated. It was weird having to ask “can you help us?” Can you do these favours?
Michelle: I was happy to ask.
Dylan: Yeah, and I’d be like “no, don’t do that!” Yeah. Haha. You gotta just ask people. People generally wanna help.
Michelle: If people are into your ideas - this was part of our strategy in making Feedback, and this is why I think we got away stuff we probably shouldn’t have. We made the first episode in 2016, in June-July. We made that in like, 6 weeks, all for free. We got that done and used the pilot to crowdfund the rest of the show. We didn’t actually make that much money crowdfunding. I wouldn’t do it again. But, I always had that episode to point to when we were asking people for help.
Dylan: It was really useful for people to see “oh, this is a legitimate thing.”
Michelle: People are really willing to help when they see you can deliver. I would send the pilot to artists that I wanted to use songs from, locations I wanted to film in, people I wanted to help crew, actors - they would see the pilot and say ‘I loved that, yeah, I wanna be in this.’ The pilot was how we pushed out the rest.
“God! You’re so close to just...being what you are.”
An interesting point in episode 5 was when Edmund realised that he was a straight white man, and that nobody ‘up there’ wanted to hear his story. Do you think that’s a problem for creatives?
Dylan: Me and Tom talked a lot about that. Straight out of high school the idea of ‘naming’ the straight white man as a category became way more apparent to us. People feel kinda uncomfortable about it because they’re like “No, I’m just a...person.” Because for the first time, straight white men are being named as, almost, an other.
It was important to us that we touched on that discomfort. But we didn’t want him to do a big speech about it to make you feel sorry for him. For him, and something we realised about ourselves too, is it’s easy to be like ‘nobody cares about what I have to say’ as a straight white man in this landscape. But if that’s the thing that stops you from making stuff, then you don’t deserve to be successful. That’s bullshit, and that’s a cop out, and that’s what Lucy then says to him - that his actual problem isn’t that he’s a straight white male, it’s that he’s scared to put stuff out there, and that he’s lazy.
Michelle: I was able to put myself into Lucy’s speech when she says that “Interesting people aren’t always good people”. It’s something that’s worth saying, and I like that it comes from her voice. Interesting people aren’t always good people, but you should be interested in what you’re doing. That’s where you start as any kind of creative, you have to just be engaged. Edmund’s so disengaged from that community.
Dylan: Part of Lucy’s character not being creatively inclined at all was so that in that episode she can have no stakes in the artistic economy. She’s bored completely by the people that are there - she’s hear to see her brother read a piece, she’s really proud of him. She doesn’t give a shit about this cultural malaise that he’s obsessing over, that isn’t real.
I think it’s cool that Edmund’s in the middle of reading his piece, and he has this memory of the beach. With that realisation, he turns to his family. That feels like the beginning of him making good work as a creative person. I have no doubt that Edmund actually is a good writer, it’s just he was probably writing pretentious shit that nobody wanted to read.
Dylan: Yeah, and he was being blocked by that fear.
Michelle: You can tell he’s going to be good in how he speaks. He’s funny, and you’re like “God! You’re so close to just...being what you are.”
Dylan: Yeah, but he’s just channelling it into bitterness, being an asshole.
It’s really worth saying that once you shop being a cynical person, you engage with people and you’re honest about being interested in other people, you start making really great work.
Dylan: It was the most honest thing we could make.