Interview with Gavin O’Grady; Director of ‘Happy Now’

Arts Muse were lucky enough to get some time with the Director of the hilarious web series ‘Happy Now’, Gavin O’Grady. The series, which we are a big fan of, follows a number of different couples, navigating through daily life. 

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First of all, we loved ‘Happy Now’ and the hilarious snapshots into the lives of the different characters. It’s a very funny series – do you particularly enjoy being involved with comedy projects?

I’m always naturally drawn towards comedy but there’s got to be a layer of tragedy too.  I like comedy that is anchored in reality where the characters are three dimensional and believable.  Working in comedy is always really fun in the early stages when you’re coming up with ideas and trying to make it each other laugh but actually it’s very challenging when it gets to the filming stage – comedy is so subjective and on a film set when you need to shoot things multiple times and from multiple angles it can be hard to keep the energy going.

As the episodes are relatively short, is it difficult to try and establish characters in such a short space of time? 

For me the greatest challenge of working with such a short time frame is not so much character but story.  We wanted to tell fairy ambitious stories that would still be entertaining, unpredictable and satisfying for audiences.  It’s very hard to do that in under 7 minutes and trying to figure out ways to end the films was always the hardest part.  It didn’t feel right to conclude the story and tie everything up neatly in such a short space of time but of course you needed to finish your story.  We tried to keep the ends of each film fairly conclusive but without compromising the believability.   They’re quite open ended but I like the idea that audiences are left guessing at the end of each episode if the couples will still be together in a year’s time.

Online series are fast becoming the way to watch TV nowadays. Are there any other ‘web’ series you’re a fan of? Or any you are looking forward to watching in future?

Watching TV online is absolutely becoming the way people watch TV now but with Netflix, Sky Go, iPlayer, All4, Amazon etc. I think that’s where most people go to for their content, audiences don’t need to seek out the smaller, independent projects.  Five years ago if you wanted to watch a series online you didn’t have the kind of mainstream choices you have today, there are so many great indie web series out there that I don’t think are being seen because of that choice.  I love High Maintenance which is probably got the best success story in terms of a web series going mainstream as it’s been bought by HBO.  I also love The Outs which is on Vimeo.  

Would you consider revisiting the characters from Happy Now, or do you prefer to keep their stories to one episode each?

Looking forward we would love to revisit some of the previous characters and see where their relationships are a year forward.  We have so many ideas of how those characters would have developed and what new issues they might have in their relationships.

When you first came up with the idea of Happy Now, what did you hope to achieve with the series?

We were hoping that HBO would buy our series like they bought High Maintenance…  just kidding, we never set out with any big plans other than to make a series that was our own and that we had complete autonomy over.  We always said we wanted to provide a platform for up and coming writers and performers so it would be great to see the series work as a launchpad for new talent.

‘Long Weekend’ was a particular standout episode for us – was the surprise trip complete with yurt something one of the creative team had experienced? Or just a funny addition to the script?

The yurt actually came really late in the day for that story.  The initial idea was that the characters would go to a cottage by the sea or something.  I was looking on Air bnb for potential locations and came across the yurt, I instantly got really excited about the comedy potential.  The location we found was beyond perfect, it’s one of those great happy accidents that doesn’t always happen when you’re filmmaking but when it does it’s incredibly exciting!

Do you already have ideas for new episodes?

We have loads of ideas for new episodes and ideas for our existing couples.  It’s such a rich area for story that we could make at least another 50 episodes.

How did you get into the industry? Was directing something you were always interested in pursuing?

I’ve always wanted to direct as far back as I can remember, I was that teenager making films with their camcorder at the weekends.  I got into the industry the old fashioned way – I started at the bottom and worked my way up.  I was a production assistant on music videos, TV shows and the fifth Harry Potter film.  In my spare time I was constantly making films and entering them into festivals trying to get as much experience as possible, some of them were more successful than others.  I then worked my way up the ranks and as a result of one of my shorts I got to direct some comedy sketches for Channel 4’s satirical news show ’10 O’clock Live’ which led onto numerous other comedy projects.  Projects like Happy Now, which are entirely your own are still the most exciting.  In many ways I still feel like that teenager making films with their camcorder at the weekends…!

Thank you for you time, Gavin. We hope to see more episodes soon!

 

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