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Wildside (1997 - 1999)

Drama series
60 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

A drama series set around an inner city police station and the crisis centre next door, run by Doctor Maxine Summers (Rachael Blake). The crisis centre’s clients are living at the edges of society and sometimes on the wrong side of the law. Maxine and her team offer medical care, shelter and legal support, often placing them at odds with the cops next door, who take their own approach to tackling the neighbourhood’s problems.

Curator’s Notes:

Wildside takes a rough-edged approach to depicting a rough-edged world. The winner of five AFI Awards in 1998, its raw style is characterised by intense, semi-improvised performances, observational camerawork and sometimes frenetic editing. To achieve this, series creators Ben Gannon and Michael Jenkins took working processes they had developed on earlier productions and pushed them further.

The scriptwriting team and actors worked closely with dramaturge Nico Lathouris who ran a full-time rehearsal space attached to the show. Actors used rehearsals to develop their knowledge of what each scene was fundamentally about and determine their character’s place in it. They were then encouraged to explore different ways of interpreting the scene during the shoot. This meant scenes were often not blocked in the traditional sense. In order to respond to sometimes unpredictable action, the camera team, led by Joe Pickering, used multiple movable cameras and took an observational approach to filming. Shooting ratios were high, with 20-25 hours of footage shot per hour of television produced.

Co-creator Michael Jenkins has a track record with gritty crime dramas that explore ambiguous moral territory, having directed the mini-series Scales of Justice (1983) and Blue Murder (1995). For Jenkins, Wildside is a show with an 'underlying democratic tone’, engaging with the stories of battlers and not just law and order. Using the crisis centre as an epicentre for the action allowed the main characters to connect with the areas of society the team was interested in exploring – as well as fulfilling the common dramatic function in crime, medical and legal shows of using central characters with a 'licence to intervene’ in dramatic situations. A full-time research department helmed by Deborah Masters investigated each subject explored by the show.

Jenkins first worked with Lathouris on Blue Murder (1995) and then on Heartbreak High (1994-99), where Lathouris ran a rehearsal space similar to Wildside. Wildside has had a lasting influence on Australian television, with directors who worked on the show, such as Geoff Bennett, citing it as a major influence on their working processes in future productions. Many of the Wildside creative team reunited on other programs. Jenkins’s Young Lions (2002) featured Lathouris, Bennett and cast member Alex Dimitriades, and Steve Knapman and Kris Wyld’s East West 101 (2007-08) was directed by another Wildside graduate, Peter Andrikidis.

Titles in this series

Wildside – Series 1 Episode 1 1997

A ram-raid on a clothes store by a group of homeless teenagers results in a high-speed police chase. Two officers end up dead but the teenagers escape. Two of them, Joe Pelluci (Paul Pantano) and Heidi Benson (Rose Byrne), seek ...