DING DONG I’M GAY is a new, hilarious web series. In a positive way, it points out and pokes fun of aspects of modern Australian gay life.
There seems to be something of a mini-renaissance happening in the gay web series world at the moment.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the incredibly talented Artie O’Daly, the writer and co-star of the ‘Bad Boy’ series, and serendipitously, I’ve now come across another brilliant web series, ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’.
What’s nice about ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ is that it’s Aussie (like me), original (like me too), smart (oh my God, also like me) and hilarious (hmmm….OK, so that’s where the similarities end :-)
So what’s ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ about?
OK, so here’s the basic plot:
After moving to Sydney and coming out, Cameron (played by Tim Spencer, who also wrote the series: pictured above, left) was certain he would be flooded with invitations to parties in tasteful apartments and weekends away with jaw-lined boyfriends who could fly planes and knew CPR. Perfectly normal, right? That’s exactly what I thought when I moved to Sydney in my 20s too.
Turns out, life didn’t exactly go to plan. It’s now six years later and Cameron’s hopes and dreams have flatlined. He suspects his pregnant neighbour is stealing his wi-fi and his Chinese student flatmate may or may not be a secret agent.
It’s at this point that Cameron’s hopelessly naive cousin Toby (picture above, right) arrives with some news (don’t worry – there’s no spoilers here). The ensuing relationship between Cameron and Toby becomes one of the main focal points for the series.
At the time of writing, three episodes of ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ have been released online. And you can watch all three of them below!
Episode 1 – Ding Dong I’m Gay (Pilot)
Episode 2 – Instagay
(This one’s my personal favourite – so far. Bitingly funny and original!)
Episode 3 – Dress Code
Despite being super funny, what really grounds each of the episodes is an underlying sense of loneliness and isolation.
For all the promise that big cities offered gay guys from remote and rural areas, or the connection we’re all meant to be feeling as a result of being glued to our social media feeds, the stark reality is that we’re actually living in incredibly fragmented and disconnected times.
In the words of the writers, Tim Spencer and Zoe Norton Lodge (who I have harboured a massive gay crush on for years (in that I’m gay, not her), at least (I don’t know if she’s gay, I don’t want to mis-label her)…Oh shit, I’ve just realised I’m now three sets of brackets in and have no idea how to get out of this bracket hole.))) Forgive me, grammar police!
“The longing for authentic connection runs through each episode, but is
usually thwarted by the character’s self-preservation tactics.
Both Toby and Cameron can be selfish and stubborn, but it is these traits that give themuniversality.
Lucy and Sweetie are so wrapped up in their own worlds to ever provide any worthwhile advice and so each episode is a complete car
crash of mixed messages and over compensation.”
The series is directed by the incredibly talented Sarah Bishop. Sarah is one third of the comedy trio, Skit Box, which achieved over 120 million views for several viral videos including Activewear. They were named amongst the 10 Australian Female Comedians You Need to Know.
Here’s what Sarah has to say about what she and the entire team were trying to achieve:
“Our goal on this project from day one was to create something bright, energetic and FUN that felt like a show we hadn’t seen before. We wanted to create something uniquely Australian that had both humour and heart and wasn’t afraid to be a bit absurd or weird in the vein of broad comedies like 30 Rock or newer edgier dramedies like Atlanta.”
With a team this talented, it’s hardly surprising that ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ is a) sooooo bloody good and b) blowing up on YouTube right now. I’m not going to list numbers because they’re growing bigger every day – but thousands of people all over the world are discovering and falling in love with the series.
Interview with Tim Spencer
I recently had the chance to speak with Tim Spencer, one half of the super-talented writing team behind ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’. I’m always fascinated by the ways minds of creative people work, so I asked him a few questions to find out what inspired ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ and whether his initial vision of the series is what we’re now seeing on screen.
I also asked him a couple of “Aussie” questions. The series takes a funny and sometimes biting look at contemporary LGBT culture in Australia at the moment. I was curious to get Tim’s take on a few things. Specifically: last year Australia passed marriage equality (finally). But to get there, we had a non-binding, non-compulsory postal vote. Definitely not ideal. Check out what Tim has to say about these things (and more!) below.
I’d like to thank Tim for taking time out of his super busy schedule to speak with me. (Also a special shoutout to the wonderful Rosie from Wintergarden Pictures for helping to make this all happen!)
Little Gay Blog – Firstly congratulations on ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay.’ It’s brilliant. From the writing, to the acting, to the music and production. As a co-writer, do the ideas you and Zoe had in your head about, match what we’re seeing? What was your original inspiration?
Tim – Thanks so much! Yeah, I think the director Sarah Bishop and my fellow producers Joshua Longhurst and Rosie Braye did an incredible job of translating our scripts to a unique and visually stunning set of episodes.
Zoe and I weren’t very prescriptive in our scripts about the look of the production, we were focused more on character and story. We wanted to create a world which had a license to explore the surreal blips of modern life with a really charming sense of humour. We started by building these characters and all the humour really comes from their traits, so even if it slips into a cartoonish fantasy, we’re still anchored by their personalities.
Creatives like the Director of Photography Mike Steel and Production Designer Jean-Pierre Yomoma really took these scripts and thought about how to build a look that stands out from the crowd. The online space has so much content now. I know that our team was very keen to create a series that looks and feels sophisticated, even though we’re joking about bad hand jobs. I think they succeeded in that goal one hundred percent. The very specific aesthetic is so interesting to watch.
At the moment, you’ve released three episodes online. What’s the reaction been like so far?
The reaction has been outstanding. Since launching last week we’ve had 36,000 views and a heap of subscriptions along with some really positive feedback.
This is my first online series and already I feel way more connected to the audience than I have been for theatre and short film projects. The audience can react right there under the video. It’s great. We’ve got some super fans already and it’s so heartening to feel that connection and know that these episodes mean something to other people.
What’s the plan for the series? How many more episodes will there be in the first season?
We have three videos on YouTube right now. We always intended to put them up first and we’re really excited to see that they have found an audience. Now that the premise is set up we plan to come back with a series of six short episodes that explore the characters and world further.
After that, who knows? I’d love to do some musical numbers, I think breaking into song is completely possible in this world. It would be ‘Sing Song I’m Gay’.
On a personal note, how much of you is in the character of Cameron that you play?
Uh…an embarrassing amount. I can be pretty neurotic.
Cameron can get worked up about a lot of different stuff, but it always comes from a place of caring about the people around him. He overreacts to everything and his solutions to problems are always much more extreme than they need to be.
Thankfully, my life is not as chaos-filled as Cameron’s. but if I was living with a Toby, Sweetie and Lucy I might regress into waking fantasy too.
‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ pokes fun of aspects of the gay community. In your view, what do you love the most about the gay community and what annoys you the most?
I love the LGBTQ community, I think there is a lot of meaningful connection and support to be found in the right places. But it’s certainly not one size fits all, nor should it be.
But I am annoyed sometimes by the lack of respect between subgroups. There can be a lot of judgement between groups and people who only value a narrow idea of what homosexuality should look like, or do or be.
And I think this is inflated by the internet. If you want to find validation for your idea of gay you can find it in your own home and never be challenged to consider different points of view in the community at large. That’s something I hope ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ can explore and challenge as the show develops.
I was in Europe last year and missed most of the marriage equality postal vote debacle (thankfully). But I had a hard time explaining it to people, as most people assumed Australia was a progressive country. How do you look back on that period of time, now that some time has passed?
I think it was sad that the parliament failed the LGBTQ community. But this is our political reality, where leadership on issues is nonexistent.
I was very lucky in that I could live inside the Sydney bubble and feel insulated in some sense from the whole debacle. I know there are people who love me and care about me for who I am.
I know that a lot of LGBTQ people outside the bubble would have had much more difficulty. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for some people in rural areas. I think a national popularity vote on same sex marriage would have felt more like a popularity vote on their very existence.
And that makes me angry still. It should never have come to that. But the government has been failing our community for decades and whilst the postal vote had a positive outcome, I don’t think we should become complacent.
And lastly, what are you working on at the moment? What can we expect to look out for from you?
At the moment our production company Wintergarden Pictures is working on the ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ series. I’m also working on an animation with Ben Toupein who created the ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’ animated titles. He’s a brilliant animator and we leapt at the chance to create more with him.
We also have a short film called ‘Wilco’ in the mix. The script was short listed for the Australian Writer’s Guild Monte Miller Awards which was so rewarding. It’s about a gay man with a disability surviving on his own after his secret lover is conscripted to World War II. So it’s almost the exact opposite of ‘Ding Dong I’m Gay’.