Social media platforms have long been avenues for filmmakers to experiment with form and story. YouTube, Vimeo and Snapchat have had varying amounts of original content from filmmakers. For many, TikTok is a new terrain still being experimented with. This is why the new web series Scattered is so exciting. To draw on Marsha Berry, filmmaking with and for the smart phone generates ‘innovate forms’ that engage the ‘imagination in novel ways.’1 Funded by Screen Australia and Film Victoria, the series was co-created by Logan Mucha and Kate Darrigan. The pair co-wrote the series with Adolfo Aranjuez. 

The series follows three friends – Jules, Sami and Bo – dealing with the unexpected passing of their friend Will. As a way of saying goodbye, the three take Will’s ashes for a night out in Melbourne, only to wake up the following morning on the beach with hangovers – sans Will’s ashes. The three must retrace their steps so that they can recover Will’s ashes and give him the send off he deserves. Stuart Richards chatted with Mucha and Darrigan about how they had to adapt to this new format of filmmaking. 

Stuart Richards: How did the project come about? 

Kate Darrigan: Logan and I originally conceived it for a Screen Australia Snapchat Initiative. We weren’t successful but they did give us some really encouraging feedback and notes on the pitch and so at that point we thought ‘OK well maybe we will engage some producers’ and it was at that point that the producers had suggested perhaps the platform that we could consider would be TikTok because they had recently had success with Love Songs. It wasn’t something we considered but I think because of the nature of Snapchat anyway they require a lot of similarities with the vertical framing and the short timeframe and we just started thinking about how it would work in one minute episodes and it went from there. We applied for Screen Australia funding and they were very, encouraging, supportive and they loved the idea, which was fantastic.

Logan Mucha: We like to write about grief and funerals. I think it’s kind of our topics and so I think it’s a way to reflect on some experiences we’ve had and process those through writing. We were just so fortunate that Screen Australia and were so encouraging and that they gave us development money straight off the bat and money for production funding straight after that.  I never thought it would go through so quickly or so seamlessly. We did the writers’ rooms as well during lockdown last year as while the country was open, we [in Melbourne] were in lockdown. While developing it in lockdown we brought on  board another writer, Adolfo [Aranjuez] and then went straight into production in February this year [2021]. It was all quite quick.

SR: So, it did receive funding from Screen Australia and Film Victoria…

LM: Film Victoria came on board with a little bit of extra funding.

SR: Could you tell us about your experiences on this grant application process? Are there any tips you have for younger young students who are thinking about applying for similar programmes or projects?

LM: We had producers who did all the boring bits, the nitty gritty, the budget and all that kind of stuff. We were left with the creative side, the story, and characters. I think my advice would be, because I come from an advertising background, where you learn to waffle and fill space, don’t waffle with these; be straight to the point. Really know your characters and I suppose I think the biggest trap a lot of people fall into is telling a plot, outlining a series of events as opposed to telling the emotional story which is what they’re interested in. All the [Australian] funding bodies are really on board with authenticity and how you relate to this story. Speak about how it connects to you in a real authentic way. They want to know that there’s going to be something truthful about what you’re going to be making. 

KD: I think the authenticity is important. I would say specificity is a real big plus. I think that the funding bodies are looking for something that is niche. I think sometimes people are worried things can be too niche but often that’s the strength of the project. Lean into that.

SR: What does it mean to be authentic? When we’re saying that in applications we have to be authentic to the project and present an authentic narrative, what does that mean?

LM: It’s something that I’ve been learning a lot about recently coming from a doco background, which is easy. You can make it authentic straight off the bat [in documentaries]. I think in writing something authentic with fiction, I think a lot of people have tried to cover  up or try to obscure their personal experiences and what they can offer because it can be fearful to have that out in the world, but I think you have to literally have your heart on your sleave. I think it’s all the detail, it’s all the nuance. There are so many different love stories or stories about death. You just have to approach it from a baseline, this generic note. Then you’re bringing something unique, specific kind of experiences and feelings and things that have happened into it; I think it’s just something you can learn overtime. I think you realise when you’re writing if you’re hiding or not and I think you have this breakthrough moment, you get past that point and you know start the therapy and it’s the good stuff.

KD: I think when you when you notice yourself pulling away from something, it’s often that thing that you’re avoiding that is so essential to the story. I definitely felt that with this series, that I was avoiding writing stuff and finding it a bit too hard. That was often the stuff that was the most compelling and the most important.

SR: Is it true you finished production just before you went into lockdown?

LM: Two hours before yeah.

SR: What was it like to be in pre-production, production, and post-production during a pandemic with such a constantly changing landscape?

LM: It was quite hard. I like to be in person. The writers’ room still turned out well, but I like being in the room. Pre-production can be difficult to work together. You’re used to sitting in an office with everyone with stuff coming up and you build quickly. Not having anything face to face meant things went a bit slower. On set, Screen Australia had funds from the Federal Government that meant we got extra money to have a safety officer. They had to give briefings. We all had to wear masks and some stuff was slowed down a little bit because of that, which we scheduled for. I think the biggest difficulty for me was directing. It was so hard because a lot of what you do is reflecting on your emotions and so not being able to have those non-verbal cues is quite difficult. You had to find ways to make it work. There’s a lot more lot more effort after going to rehearsals to be able to approach that gap. 

KD: From my perspective, in terms of development, I think that even though the writers’ room went so well, you do miss that space where you are physically in a room together, where you just end up staring at a white board and mulling over it whereas there’s not that space in a Zoom room; everyone feels that they need to speak and you don’t get to go off and have a cup of tea together and shoot the breeze. Often, it’s those moments when you’re able to go for a walk together, you can come up with some solutions. We came up with the solutions eventually, but I miss that physicality. 

LM: Zoom very much has a talking stick rule to it. ‘You talk, now you talk.’ There’s a lot more pressure in that situation for people where what they say must be well thought out whereas when you are in a room, things just flow a lot easier in a lot of conversations that happen. I’m like most people with zoom fatigue now and it is a hard thing. The camera will spotlight you when you are talking, and the camera will change depending on who’s talking. It’s a different way of working and hopefully we don’t have to do it too much longer.

Logan Mucha

SR: Were there any unexpected hindrances during the production and were there any unexpected positives that came out from shooting during a pandemic?

LM: Time was always a thing. We had so much to shoot, and we were constantly on the fly trying to find ways to cut shots, make up stuff, how to change the call sheet, and be really flexible. We are used to that but, at the same time, that’s also where a lot of magic happens, where you plan for bunch of stuff and when you’re in there on set with everyone kind of working their magic together. You find amazing creative solutions for limitations. There’s nothing that can replicate the magic of shooting. Something will happen, and then you just go chase it. I remember one of the very last things we shot was the sunset scene, with their farewell on the pier and it’s this wide shot. The sun is miraculous, with the clouds parting with the sunset and our gaffer just started carrying the gear and running up to the top of this giant flight of stairs to capture that perfect sunset. I love that kind of stuff where something magic just happens or a performance happens, and you go let’s work with that. 

KD: It shouldn’t have been unexpected but the restrictions that come up when you are writing to one minute, I would say, created some really nice, surprising challenges and outcomes because when you are limited, you have to be very clever and very precise with what you’re telling. I think a positive outcome for me was me being able to communicate an idea quite succinctly and clearly and I would say that it’s a really good challenge to give yourself if you’re a writer. You need to write episodes with something that engages you straight away, but also has a hook at the end of each episode, that’s a big ask within 60 seconds. What you need to do is keep an audience there but also make sure they come back for another episode and that was something we constantly were challenged by but in a positive way. The hooks sometimes were big and sometimes they were really not so big, but they were still there – you want the audience to come back and see what the resolution is to that problem.

SR: Why TikTok? Is there anything about TikTok that drew you to it and that wouldn’t have been possible on Instagram or YouTube or Snapchat? 

LM: We hadn’t used TikTok before. The producers suggested it and we did a crash course in getting used to it. At the moment, I still don’t think it’s designed for what we tried to do. We learnt a lot along the way. Trying to do a 38-episode continuous narrative is quite difficult

KD: It’s too long for TikTok.

LM: Yeah, it’s not like Snapchat or Instagram where you have people that come back day after day at a certain time. TikTok is not built for that. It’s built for chance and stumbling across things. Obviously, we had our loyal fan base, but the episode numbers can go up and down because you don’t have that stability of an audience that you do with other platforms. I think what worked for it, is that it was easy to get our target demographic. We connected with LGBTQ audiences a lot easier because of how the hashtags and algorithm works. I think doing it again over, now that I’m deeply immersed in TikTok for this pandemic, I’ll probably approach a lot of it quite differently. I think the benefit of it as well was Screen Australia never funded anything like it before, so they were very keen to get it funded. We leveraged atop of that. 

SR: Kate, you mentioned that it was too long.

KD: Yes, just knowing how it was received. I just think it is too long for TikTok. It could have been significantly shorter and that is something that we have learnt from it. It was still an amazing process in making it and being supported to make it. Maybe the heaviness of some of the content as well adds to it feeling long. Under 38 minutes doesn’t sound long but in TikTok world it is. I think what adds to that is that there aren’t that many narratives being told. It might be that TikTok might be ready for this sort of thing a little bit later but there’s not that many of them out there at the moment and so people are still just sort of scrolling through.

LM: What I’ve seen work with Love Songs was they were quite episodic. You could drop in and out at any point. With some of our episodes, you could drop in and out and have some sort of experience but a lot of them you’d need the context. I think trying to build something that was so intrinsically tide to a large narrative is probably our downfall or if we were to approach it again, I’ll probably look at a more fragmented approach so that you could get a complete feeling or a story or a message out of one episode regardless if you had watched what came before or not.

One of the big problems we faced when looking at a traditional setup was that you have to build your first act. Our first act is quite heavy; we had the funeral…

SR: It’s a great opener

LM:  It’s a great open. I love the first scene, but we needed to find a way to fragment that more because when you have a few episodes back-to-back that is set in the same spot like that it doesn’t have the momentum. I think that was kind of a little take away I’ve been thinking about.

KD: It’s too isolating if you just come into one episode because you need too much background. 

LM: There’s too much backstory to get the story started

KD:  And we worked really hard on that back story by the way!

LM: There’s a lot to it!

SR: I love how it’s a road movie in a way. They get one clue and then they go to the next venue and then they get one clue there and then they got their next venue. It’s connected really well.

LM: I think that was still a smart choice because unlike a traditional narrative which would just linger here or there, having that structure allowed us to at least have some momentum terms of changing locations, changing focus to different characters and had we not had that it wouldn’t have had so much diversity [of spaces] and I think the producers probably in hindsight should have pulled us back because they didn’t say no to any of our ideas. We shot in way too many locations in what should not have been feasible for a budget of our size.

SR: And it was an 8-day shoot?

LM: Yes.

SR: That’s a very tight production schedule!

LM: Yeah, 8 days for something this length is quite short. 

SR: You’ve mentioned vertical filmmaking and short form in filmmaking a bit now. How did this approach to vertical filmmaking shapes the project? Does this change the nature of the camerawork, such as the use of wide shots and close-ups? 

LM: Completely, most purists think shooting verticals is inherently wrong. Once I started doing research, there’s not too much out there and what’s good that’s out there is even smaller. There have been some amazing, beautiful, short films shot in vertical and some other series that we’ve drawn from. I think what excited me was realising all the possibilities and structuring meaning through your compositions. It’s something that hasn’t been done much before at a big scale. It doesn’t seem to have a language developed around it. The cinematographer was hesitant and initially wanted to shoot the whole thing normal and just cut out the vertical frame and then do another release for it horizontally. Once we started drilling down on what the possibilities were and seeing what had been done before we could be completely bold and turn the camera sideways. We tried to form a lot of our compositions around how people present themselves on TikTok in terms of the face and body in positions that look more claustrophobic and intense. It’s a pain to try to fit three characters into a vertical shot. We did some amazing dancing positions, but I think it complete changes the way you look at landscapes. 

SR: The composition of the karaoke dream scene is fantastic. 

LM: The shot of them outside the kebab store was composed in a way that felt very organic. Sometimes it was difficult to include them all in the frame but other times it worked better than had it been horizontal. I think doing something that replicated the intimacy with the content that you find on TikTok was important. 

SR: Kate, did the approach to vertical filmmaking shape the writing process?

KD: A little bit. I would write a scene and then I would be like, ‘oh I need to strip it back a little bit’ but then I would also start to see things in the vertical frame and get very excited. For instance, we were talking about the club scene in the cubicle toilets. It’s made for vertical framing! When I was writing the scene where Sammy’s listening to the voicemail message on her phone and just getting quite excited about the vertical tram tracks. I just had to see things through a different lens and just try to be mindful whenever I could of what needs to be in frame. At the end of the day, we had these three lead characters so that was always going to be a challenge. I guess in my head it was something I thought of later. I think the fortunate thing was we had the director in the writers’ room so it’s not like it was forgotten.

LM: I had to pull the plug on a few things, like ‘that just won’t work.’ Having two characters talking in a wider space is not going to work. It can be played on sometimes with single take, then single take, but it gets a bit static and kills the energy. I think the other problem as well we shot in vertical, but we had to accommodate the amount of shit that’s overlaid on TikTok. You have to make sure that you’re not putting any essential information in those spots. Our poor cinematographer was like, ‘we’re now vertical, we have this much space for information.’ Accounting for that was quite a challenge. 

SR: Kate, earlier you mentioned how TikTok shapes the nature of the script editing and breaking up the story in little moments. Could you talk further about that in terms of how writing for social media shapes the structure of these episodes. How did you go about the script editing process?

KD: We plotted everything out and we had pretty solid episodes across the 38 [videos]. We Often would get to the end of an episode and it didn’t have a hook, for example, and we had to make sure that we were creating something that’s enticing for the audience to come back to. Sometimes that was something really small; sometimes it’s something really big, like ‘Oh my gosh they just found the urn — spoiler alert! Other times, it’s going to be a question; that they’re knocking on the door and the next episode they are inside. What was really helpful was having Anna Barnes as script editor, who had experienced this before; not with such limited time frame but was very good at telling us when things might not get people back. The online department at Screen Australia were good with their notes as well and telling us when something didn’t land as well, because they were a little bit removed. They’re not in the writers’ room so they’re not as attached to things as we are and just coming in and being like: ‘you allowed too much time for that. You’ve already lost viewers.’ I think while, for example, the first episode was always pretty tight, it was never as tight as it ended up being. It was more languid. I think notes from Screen Australia really tightened that up. It was just looking at things in a different way. One episode is just over a page and that is no time at all. You’re having to think about getting across what the intention of the scene is; making sure that they stay for the scene and then also making sure they come back for the next scene. It was like we were doing a scripting master class challenge at times because I’ve only ever done stuff like that at uni where they’re not episodes. I think it was extremely great in terms of developing my craft and being challenged. At times I hated it. 

LM: Shooting that as well, you know, where you go: ‘Easy. Landscape. You have an establishing shot and you slowly go in.’ You can’t do that with this. You just have to go straight into the action. I think that’s something we have learned early on as well. You can’t slowly ease into each episode. You just have to go straight into the heart of it much as possible. In the editing process, as well, you’re like; ‘this is too wordy,’ or something. You find out you’re cutting bits and pieces just to make it snappy and punchier. 

KD: I love a slow show so that was the biggest challenge for me. I love something that is a slow burn, so it was my worst nightmare, but it was great. I got myself into it. I made my bed.

Kate Darrigan

SR: This series has a really thoughtful approach to the representation of women, queer folk and people of colour. Could you share your thoughts on your approaches to how you wrote these characters? Where there any influences on your approach? 

KD: That was at the front of everything that we did from the beginning. Being a woman, a white woman, having all the privilege of that and just being aware of what I’m able to write about and just knowing your limitations as well as a writer and your experiences. I think that it was a very democratic writing process. We were very supportive of all of the ideas and the voices. I think that the best idea always won.

LM: Kate and I originally came up with the idea and we were probably, like everyone else, being in that mindset that a lot of people were in at the time. We obviously wanted to have diverse characters. There were certain characters that we couldn’t write so you would normally have an advisor to help guide those characters. Then at the time late last year there was a lot of things going on. Michelle Law had written an article about people coming in to give their story but not actually being involved in a meaningful way.2 I think that woke us up. We can’t do that anymore. We put our foot down. We were like: ‘we want Adolfo [Aranjuez, co-writer] but we want Adolfo as a writer. We want him brought in. We don’t want to take these experiences.’ Even though Adolfo hadn’t written for the screen before, we wanted him to be a part of the process and to be integral. We wanted them to write their own stories. The producers were on board with that. 

The character of Bo was based off of Adolfo and their background. Having a South-East Asian non-binary person who could act and was based in Melbourne – because you couldn’t get anyone interstate at the time because of the state borders – was difficult. We did do blind casting for everyone else. During rehearsal processes, we asked everyone to talk about their unique experiences and allow them to share. Bo was originally written as a nonbinary character and allowed them to shape that in their own way. You can say you want to diversity, but you have to bring in the right people and allow them to do that in their own way.

SR: What role did Melbourne play in the narrative? Being from Melbourne, I picked up on a few spots, such DTs where they sing Kareoke. I’ve been there many a time. Was it deliberately written as being uniquely Melbourne?

LM: It just happened naturally. Kebabs are obviously such an Australian thing. That might get lost on international audiences. It was a result of knowing the northside better than the south side and also not wanting to wake up too early for the shoot. We naturally picked places that were northside that we knew. The church, for instance, is a 2-minute walk from my house. We just based these experiences on us being northside. 

KD: I would agree. We just wrote about our experiences. It was basically what a night out used to look like. We went back from there. It was very organic and not a stretch. 

SR: What advice do you have for students who are close to finishing their degree? What advice do you have for them, as they go out into the world and begin their careers?

KD: Coming from a writing background and having worked on a little bit of production, I would say just get in on productions. It’s hard because often people don’t want to pay you. Don’t undersell yourself. Really value yourself. Be involved in as much as you can. Get people to read your stuff if you are a writer. This is something that took me ages to do, and Logan would attest to this because it was ages before I ever sent him anything of mine that I had written. I still struggle a little bit. Get people to read your work because it’s really valuable to have people give you feedback. People are never as harsh as you think. Be open to it and you don’t have to take on all of the feedback. That comes with time – knowing what to take on board and what not to take on board. Basically, get involved and if you are a writer, WRITE, and make sure people are reading your writing. 

LM: Take as many people as you like in your class with you. Some of these relationships will last you a lifetime. You need to start with a network of people to go on this journey with and just make films. Don’t overthink. They might be shit, whatever. You only learn through making. There’s only so much theory you can read. That obviously helps sharpen your skills and help you think about things in a different way but a lot of what you learn is through making. I have made a lot of short films. Some have been successful. Some, very few people have seen. You learn so much through all these experiences. 

Go to networking events. Be involved in the community. There are always film festival openings, working events, join your guilds. Go to those kinds of things. I ended up being a shit-kicker for a few years at an advertising and production company. After school I had never been on a ‘proper’ set. I spent four years working full time for an advertising and production company, being able to work on set with more money that I’d never get now for my narrative work. Learn how to be on set with crews, see how they operate in the actual industry and make connections. Build those as soon as you can. Don’t procrastinate. Make stuff.


  1. Berry, M 2017, ‘Making Films and Video Art with Smartphones’, in Creating with Mobile Media, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 131
  2. Law, Michelle

About The Author

Stuart Richards lectures in Screen Studies in the School of Creative Industries at the University of South Australia. His first monograph The Queer Film Festival: Politics and Popcorn is published as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s ‘Framing Film Festivals’ series. He has previously worked with both the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and The San Francisco Frameline International LGBTQ Film Festival. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association.

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