Making people look twice at the nightly news. That's what Live at Six co-writer Dean Hewison hopes audience members take away from his stage show.
Having already caused a splash in Christchurch, Wellington, Nelson and Tauranga, Hewison and Leon Wadham's media satire finally hits Auckland this week with a five-night stay at the Aotea Centre.
Set in the sometimes cut-throat world of television news in New Zealand, Live At Six tells the story of anchor Jane Kenyon (Jess Robinson), who falls victim when footage of her (apparently) misbehaving at a party goes viral - rocking both her life and her career.
With the story out, the race is on for both her network and the competition to package the footage and the story. Whose version will the public believe and, more importantly, whose will they tune in to?
What sets the production of Live At Six apart is its incorporation of on-the-fly footage, on-the-night footage and a very real deadline.
Each performance begins as the "incident" occurs pre-show, captured by specially fitted security cameras.
Audience members are also implored to use their smart phones to shoot the action and upload to the show crew, with these and audience interviews at the interval forming part of both networks' final edit.
Hewison says his original idea for the show revolved around a reality TV programme. "I wrote about seven or eight pages of that before I brought it to Leon and we decided that was too expected, that it would be more interesting to target something where footage manipulation was less expected."
Bringing Live at Six to life has involved plenty of challenges, Hewison says, especially getting the necessary budget to do it right. "You also have to find two actors who can also edit or two editors who can also act."
He describes the show Aucklanders will see as the "best version of it so far".
"This is our third iteration of it. Before each season Leon and I revisit the script and make quite substantial changes based on what's changed technologically or in the media environment."
When it debuted in 2009, Live at Six's plot involved someone selling a tape of footage to somebody else who put it on YouTube.
"Eventually we wrote that out," says Hewison.
"We got rid of our bad guy and made the audience the bad guy."
Despite the changes, the message is the same, he says. "We want people to wonder about who is telling them what's news and what agenda they may have."
Hewison would love to see the black comedy head offshore ("most countries have two main networks competing with one another") but says the logistics may make that cost prohibitive.
However, one of the New Zealand Broadcasting School graduate's other projects has recently achieved international acclaim.
Feature film How to Meet Girls From a Distance (only made as a result of Hewison and his team winning the inaugural Make My Movie competition in 2011), which Hewison directed and co-wrote, took out the Le Grand Prix du Jury (Best Feature) at the Festival Des Antipodes in France.
A surprised but stoked Hewison says he would love to see a French overdub of his "peeping Tom rom-com".
"The woman who was doing the French subtitling for us would send lots of emails asking us ‘what does this joke mean? and ‘surely it doesn't mean this?"'
He says the film is still slowly going around the global film festival circuit, been sold to Australia and they are now weighing up whether to release it as a video-on-demand.
In the meantime, Hewison is writing his second feature, a comedic crime-noir set in the world of the "closest thing New Zealand has to the criminal underworld - the people that own the two supermarket chains".
He's also developing a TV show with the Wellington-based Gibson Group, which he describes as the "most fun job" he's ever had. "It's a couple of us in a room trying to make each other laugh."
The collaborative approach is something Hewison is well used to having taken part in the annual 48-Hour Furious Filmmaking Challenge for the past nine years. Describing it as "a pretty extreme film school", he says he would "absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in making films".
"Every year we try to make a better film. We used to write until midnight Friday and now we'd be lucky if we finish before 5.30am Saturday morning."
That focus paid off earlier this year with victory for Hewison's Traces of Nut team's crime movie The Sleeping Plot in the Grand Final (his 10-year-old daughter Nova Waretini-Hewison also won best actress), something which he says has definitely opened doors.
"We're on a watchlist now of people that the New Zealand Film Commission is interested in supporting."
He's also not ruling out another stage production. "I like to think people crave interaction with their theatre. I think the great thing about Live at Six is the audience don't actually have to do anything and yet they become part of the show."
Live at Six, Aotea Centre, November 12 to 16.
- © Fairfax NZ News