How easy was it to approach the television stations with this new series?
Well, the movie was successful and really kind of hit a mark with the teenage audience in Australia . Alex Dimitriades, who we discovered literally in school to play the lead in The Heartbreak Kid, became a teenage star very quickly; when the movie was released he was on practically every magazine cover.
The network were very interested in him because he was getting all the coverage, so we said ‘how about we take the world of the movie and the high school, put Alex in and surround him with all these other characters'. They went for it immediately.
We found though that the network was forever trying to get us to water the show down – the issues and the grittiness of it. We were constantly at loggerheads with them about that. They wanted it to be softer, and felt that some of the issues we dealt with were too tough, or that the way we did them was too real, so we were in conflict with them all the time.
Ultimately, Channel Ten dropped the show, but by then it was being shown in Europe and was doing very well. And so even though they dropped it, because we got fresh orders from these European broadcasters – we continued making it.
We then sold the show to the ABC, but there was a gap between when Ten dropped us and before the ABC picked us up – when we didn't even have an Australian broadcaster and it was being driven and financed entirely by European sales.
Why do you think the show gained a strong following overseas?
Heartbreak had many of the usual things you would see in a show for teenagers such as romance, sex, and so on. But it was also trying to deal with other issues, which other shows weren't really looking at.
It felt like an American show because it was pacey, fast moving and looked good. We put a lot of effort into the way the show looked, so shot on film, and the music was also very important. Heartbreak High had a lot of the values of those very polished American shows, but also a good deal of substance.
We've found that the soundtrack to Heartbreak High is one of the most talked about aspects of the show on the website. Was it a deliberate decision to use a lot of Australian artists?
Definitely. We went to the record companies and requested material from their new acts. Again, when we started, they were a little wary of ‘giving' their music to our show. But when they realised that it was a very good way of exposing new artists, they then started coming to us. It became a really good relationship.
We have a very good music coordinator Christine Woodruff, whose job is to source music for movies and television all the time. Once we were able to show that people were listening all over the world, the record companies were right into it.
How much input did you have on the show as Executive Producer?
In the beginning, a huge amount. The show was in production for five years, and for the first three, I was completely involved in basically every aspect of it.
During the first few years I was very involved in the story creation itself. In the fourth and fifth, I'd read the story outline as the story department had prepared, then give comments on it. I'd get a sense of the outline and then read the first draft, give notes, read the second, give more notes. I'd always go to the final edit – of every episode, and I was also involved with the casting of any major new characters.