Step Dave - Two series of touching drama-comedy.
Step Dave is a significant investment by NZ On Air in local drama. The first season aired in 2014, with an NZ On Air investment of $6.6m. Made by South Pacific Pictures it targetted a prime time audience. Having achieved a loyal and strong audience Season 2 received $6.8 m support from NZ On Air and aired in 2015. Our investment in drama is an important part of ensuring New Zealanders can see a diverse range of stories about themselves on screens.
The central character Dave, a 24-year-old Kiwi slacker, faces major life changes when he falls in love with Cara, an older woman with three kids and “baggage”.
Series creator Kate McDermott has previously written for Nothing Trivial, Go Girls, The Blue Rose, Outrageous Fortune, Shortland Street... the list is extensive. So with all that experience, we thought we’d find out from Kate a bit more about writing drama for NZ audiences.
NZ audiences are made up of a lot of different types of people, all with diverse preferences and likes, so it’s a hard one. What I’ve noticed is that New Zealand viewers seem to quite like spending time with down to earth kiwi characters they can recognise or identify with. In Go Girls series 1-4, Cody the rugby-loving, beer-drinking, down-to-earth kiwi chick was a really successful character. A lot of audience feedback was from young women who would say “I am Cody, she’s exactly like me”. Kevin was also a popular character – a North Shore mechanic whose answer to everything was “yeah nah”. Humour also seems to be really important. I don’t think we like to take ourselves too seriously, so even in moments of high drama, suspense, romance, danger, we always try to find room for a saccharine-cutter.
The easy answer is that the stories and characters have been created by New Zealanders. The story team is made up of seven writers who come from all over New Zealand (Auckland, Raglan, Palmerston North, Martinborough, Wellington) and if “write what you know” is true, then the stories are often inspired by our own experiences, people we know or have met, places we live or visit in our own country.
The characters in Step Dave are ordinary kiwis trying to find love, happiness and success in urban and suburban Auckland. For example, Cara’s sister Julia is a Waikato girl turned JAFA. Cara’s friend Jen is a single woman struggling to achieve the classic kiwi dream of owning her own home, and Cara’s mother-in-law Marion lost everything 10 years ago when her new townhouse turned out to be leaky.
While the story of an inter-generational romance and a blended family can be universal, it is the characters and writing which makes Step Dave a uniquely New Zealand drama. The characters have a humility which is common in New Zealanders and the writing and performances never get too earnest or moralistic.
When I was little we all used to play make-believe using American accents, because that was predominantly what we heard on television. My daughters have grown up with their own accents on television five nights a week, on Shortland Street. They’ve watched Being Eve, graduated to Go Girls and are now quickly making their way through the box set of Outrageous Fortune. For this generation of young Kiwis it is a given that they can turn on the television and hear their own voices, see their own cities and scenery and get to know characters that they can identify with. Pride in our own stories, characters, our talent, our music – that matters. And we should be proud because we are not the only ones watching – we get a lot of feedback from many other countries where audiences are discovering and loving New Zealand drama.
Step Dave - South Pacific Pictures for TV2
Step Dave is a Drama programme.
South Pacific Pictures for TV2
Series 1 : 13 x 60mins
NZ On Air funding $6,672,500
Series 2 : 13 x 60mins
NZ On Air funding $6,820,420
Pride in our own stories, characters, our talent, our music — that matters.— Kate McDermott, creator Step Dave
People aged 5+ on average watched the second series, sourced from Nielsen Television Audience Measurement
Of people aged 5+ on average watched the second series, sourced from Nielsen Television Audience Measurement
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