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Bright Summer Night

New Zealand web series stars The Candle Wasters have launched their new ten episode comedy-drama series Bright Summer Night, inspired by William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first three episodes are streaming on The Candle Wasters’ YouTube channel and The Wireless NZ’s Facebook page. New episodes are released every Friday. The Candle Wasters’ previous Shakespeare inspired web series have amassed over 4.5 million views on their YouTube channel. The new series has been supported by the NZ On Air webseries fund, British Council NZ and generous Kickstarter backers.

In Bright Summer Night the ideas and themes of the iconic play are explored by a group of modern teenagers losing themselves at a summer-time house party. No parents allowed. The series has been described as “Shakespeare Skins” and features dialogue such as, “Drink, dance, make-out, go!”

Each episode follows a different character as they attempt to escape their issues. Episode 1 introduces mischievous Puck (Meesha Rikk) as they navigate their way to and through a midsummer night’s party. In episode 2 a group of high school sweethearts are introduced, through the nervous eyes of Lena (Kalisha Wawasala). In episode 3 we meet the youngest group of people at the party; a performance art group going by the name The Mechanicals, led by ambitious Petra (Thomasin McKenzie). The party, in the bewildering heat of New Zealand summer, brings together a motley group; high school sweethearts, uni student activists, and even a troupe of theatrical year nines. Break-ups, new love, drugs, and performance ambitions all make this one chaotic night.

Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, including “I love it soooo much!!!”, “This is brilliant”, “i love puck and i love love love the style of this series!!!! it’s so cool”, and “I already really love Puck! … it’s gonna be spectacular and really clever.” New Zealand blogger, photographer, designer, film maker and writer saycheeselouise.com wrote “centering it in contemporary New Zealand youth culture makes it so much richer… They are real, authentic characters who reflect the lives of the audience, and the performers who play them.” There’s a series trailer and also a unique 360 view into the party, both live on The Candle Wasters’ YouTube channel.

The Candle Wasters are a group of talented young New Zealand women who have succeeded in the tough and cluttered world of online content. The group’s previous work, the award-winning literary inspired webseries Nothing Much To Do, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and Lovely Little Losers, inspired by Love’s Labour’s Lost, have together amassed over 4.5 million views on YouTube. They’ve collected a loyal fan-base of over 20,000 subscribers across various YouTube channels and their series have inspired the making of fan art, fan fiction has been written and there have been several fan meetups across the globe (including New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the USA).

“Our name, ‘The Candle Wasters’, comes from a Shakespearean reference to people who stay up late at night ‘wasting candles’,” explains Candle Waster Minnie Grace. “We’ve been up late quite a lot over the past few years working on our series.”

The four members of the film-making collective are all writers and editors for the new series, plus they also each take on specific roles for the production: Minnie Grace is The Candle Wasters’ producer, Claris Jacobs is production and costume designer and sisters Sally Bollinger and Elsie Bollinger share director duties across the 10 episode series.

Writer/production designer Claris Jacobs says, “the Bright Summer Night storyline is inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the modern setting re-contextualises the play’s themes of escapism, environmentalism, sexuality, and consent.” Writer/director Sally Bollinger explains further, “Just like the world they live in, we see some of the characters are determined to keep dreaming; putting off tomorrow to indulge in the night.”

For the new series Bright Summer Night, The Candle Wasters have collaborated with writer Robbie Nicol (White Man Behind A Desk) and producer Bevin Linkhorn (Good Times Company).

“We care about social issues,” says writer Robbie Nicol. “We’re feminists, which means that we believe that all genders are equal. We’re terrified of Trump and climate change and we want to put all of that passion and care and terror into our webseries.”

“I was a big fan of The Candle Wasters previous Shakespearean-inspired vlog series,” says producer Bevin Linkhorn. “As a group they know how to create engaging characters and hook an audience with stories that are both familiar and yet presented in an entirely fresh way. It’s been great fun working with The Candle Wasters and Robbie to create Bright Summer Night and we’ve been lucky to have the support of so many talented and experienced film-makers who have worked on the project. In particular DOP Jess Charlton and her lighting and camera team have helped create the magical wonderment of the party.”

The series was filmed in Wellington over three weeks in April this year. There are thirteen core cast roles in the series, plus another eight guest speaking roles, making for a large cast on screen representing a range of ethnicities and genders. Cast range in age from 13 years old to early 20s. Two of the characters (Puck and Deme) identify as non-binary in regards to gender and it was important to the production team to cast actors who also identify as non-binary. The cast includes Meesha Rikk, Kalisha Wasasala, Dani Yourukova, Madeline Adams, Shane Murphy, Thomasin McKenzie (Pixie in Shortland Street, Consent – the Louise Nicholas Story, Lucy Lewis Can’t Lose), Gala Baumfield (Everybody Else is Taken), Nova Moala-Knox, Brendan King, Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, Freya Milner (When We Go To War, The Lovely Bones), Mouce Young (Lovely Little Losers) and Jack Buchanan.

The series also features a wide range of new New Zealand music selected by writer/director Elsie Bollinger who has also served as the series music supervisor. “I love that we’re able to showcase so many New Zealand musicians within the series and they’ve all been very generous in allowing us to license their work. Listen for beautiful tracks from Hans Pucket, Fazerdaze, Drax Project, Kip McGrath, Kane Strang and more. Indira Force has also composed some stunning music especially for the series.” Elsie is also a songwriter and has work that features in one of the later episodes.

The 10 episode series is being released on The Candle Wasters’ YouTube channel and on the Facebook page of The Wireless. New episodes are released every Friday. Alongside the 10 episodes there’s a variety of behind the scenes videos being released on The Candle Wasters’ YouTube channel.

Bright Summer Night by The Candle Wasters, produced by Good Times Company, is supported by NZ On Air’s webseries fund, The Wireless, the British Council and The Candle Wasters’ Kickstarter backers.

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