The hit series on ABC Soul Mates that is written and directed by brothers Christiaan and Connor Van Vuuren, brings Soul Mates II with Christiaan and Nick Boshier as a couple of buddies continually drawn together across the course of human history, past and future. The second instalment introduces viewers to a new world of Ancient Egyptians, as well as new cast members, Doris Younane, John Howard and Ian Roberts. Hush Hush Biz had a great chat with Christiaan and covers a lot of ground with how it all come about!
Interviewer: How would you describe Soul Mates? Soul Mates is a comedy show about two guys who are best friends, who reincarnate throughout the course of human history and are bound together through different life times. One of the things which we’ve made common amongst all lifetimes is that they are both the source of each other’s problems but also the exact person each other needs in each different lifetime.
Interviewer: Do you have a favourite skit or timeline in Soul Mates? It’s funny because to me there’s different reasons why I like all of them. From a performers point of view it’s really fun to do the hipster characters who we’ve been performing since 2012, so for four years or so now. We’re just so comfortable playing those characters and it’s really fun, you don’t feel particularly vulnerable when performing characters because we know them so well.
The Kiwi assassins is just so much fun from the point of view of the world, doing action/comedy genre is so much fun and the characters are fun, my character in particular is very childish and I really enjoy it. Lots of cool 80’s hair and make-up, props and music. I really enjoyed the ancient Egyptian theme, it was just decedent and we shot it like it was Game of Thrones or Vikings, we just treated it really seriously and got to get very dark in that storyline which was fun – which appealed to my darker side.
Then the cavemen are so much fun because it’s so silly, we’re just running around bare foot in a forest and it’s so simple. I literally couldn’t pick a favourite anymore, it’s just all fun for different reasons.
Interviewer: When did you and Nick first meet/work together? My brother, Connor and I first cast Nick in another pilot we made as the villain and we had so much fun doing that, that the next step was let’s create something together. And that’s how Bondi Hipsters started and it eventually grew and opened up the door for us to pitch Soul Mates.
Interviewer: When did you first start writing and has Connor, your brother, always been involved?
I was hospitalised in 2001, with drug resistant tuberculosis and had to spend 6 months in quarantine and an additional 12 months for the treatment. But inside the hospital my attention span was so short and I was so bored and I was just going crazy from all of the different drugs they had put me on, which had all kinds of unknown side effects. Isolation its self was doing all kinds of things to my brain and since I was there for so long I didn’t know what to do with my time so I just started making videos and weird songs. Then one day a friend of mine convinced me to upload one to YouTube and one thing led to another, the video went viral and I just decided to keep uploading videos.But at the same time Connor, who has always been a writer and has studied writing and the craft, had just finished a film degree of which he majored in screen writing. He had just writing and directed a couple of short films that he then put into film festivals and was just starting to realise just how difficult it is to get people to watch the stuff you’ve made. So around that time he came into hospital and was like “man, I can’t tell you how hard it is to get people to watch stuff and right now you’ve got people subscribing to your YouTube channel – let’s just make more stuff!”
Interviewer: Do you take inspiration from anyone?
Huge inspiration from my brother, he’s taught me so much over the past few years, huge inspiration from Nick, who’s been amazing to perform with, and comedically I’m obsessed with Broad City at the moment, I just love that show and those two girls – I think it’s hilarious. I’ve always been inspired by South Park, it’s to me and always will be the funniest thing ever. I just love the way they can get so silly, so random, so across the line but always tie it back to an intelligent idea.
Interviewer: What was the inspiration behind the intro for Soul Mates?
When we did our teaser, the guy who writes music for us, Lance Gurisik, he wrote this song and I couldn’t get it out of my head and so I started singing a melody to it and Connor suggested “maybe you want to make a song out of that”. Once we had the song, we approached a friend who’s graphic designer and whose partner is a director and we asked if they wanted to help handle this.
The idea was to create something that looked like it was costing time and had different frames from different seasons, and it’s about these two guys who are reincarnated throughout different lifetimes so what if they’re just bald and naked, so we can imagine them as being an empty shell before we start layering different characteristics on top of them.
Interviewer: How would you describe your creative process?
Long, painful, like giving birth and just as rewarding. We try to keep a really open, creative and energised space at the beginning and so we start with lots of ideas, lots of crazy settings, lots of jokes, throw any joke out there, anything’s possible, don’t let budget restrict us, go as far as we can and in every direction we can. Then we kind of funnel down from there.
Interviewer: How do you go about deciding who plays which character? And has there ever been an instance where one of you wishes they could play that character instead?
In the writing process we try to write the characters to our own performance strengths and sole traits. So there are similar sole traits that ripple through the characters and the different timelines, for example my characters tend to be more dominating, self-obsessed, ego driven. Nick’s characters tend to be more creative, inclusive, needy of the other friend and in general would have done better in any given lifetime if the other guy wasn’t part of his life.
Interviewer: What has been the hardest act to execute?
In Soul Mates season 2, there’s a scene on the beach where Dom is buried in the sand and Adrian is pushing him to open up and be honest about this thing that’s happened. And it turns into this really dramatic, really intense thing where they’re shouting at each other and you had to go to certain places emotionally. It was fun but there was high pressure to nail it.
But also the Ancient Egyptian timeline, we didn’t get too much opportunity to rehearse those characters so I had a bit of performance anxiety playing that character on a few occasions, just because I wasn’t sure if I pitched it right or I wasn’t super confident in the performance of the character. Yeah, there were a bunch of things that were tricky with that timeline because we had super high production expectations and it was a new storyline.
Interviewer: Soul Mates season 1 is available on Netflix and the latest season was recently released on ABC’s ivies.
Additionally a new partnership between ABC and Seeso in the US means that Soul Mates is receiving airtime all around the world. Did you ever expect it to receive the amount of coverage or attention?
We never try to plan too forward or expect too much stuff out of any of these things, even now that it’s out in the states I try not to think about it because you never know, it could just disappear without making a drop in the ocean, or it could blow up, or it could go anywhere in between, or it could just get put online and disappear. Anything could happen so we just try to stay focused on making the next thing and what’s going to keep us creatively excited. I find personally, I can fall down the rabbit hole thinking about tv steps and then that affects me creatively or makes me act counter intuitive.
Interviewer: Did you guys ever expect to make it to DVD?
I just kind of thought DVD would be phased out by the time the first season landed. In fact, me and the guys had a talk and said “this isn’t the best time for us”, because it wasn’t until Chris Lilley released We Are Hero’s on DVD that it really pulled up and people started hanging on the DVD, and we were like “we’re not going to be able to do that when Blockbuster, Sanity or buying DVD’s isn’t even a thing anymore!”
Interviewer: Well you could say you’re changing that, I would definably buy the Soul Mates DVD.
Thank you! Hopefully a few people share that feeling.
Interviewer: Your facebook page Bondi Hipsters has over 190,000 (190 thousand) likes. Do you or Nick personally monitor that page? Because there’s some incredible responses on there.
We both do but I’d say that 90% of the time it’s me running that page. I kind of made that my responsibility early on, to keep the content updated and respond to the comments. I usually do that whilst I’m sitting with my kid, watching tv or eating dinner, and that’s one of the funniest things because people will message us like “hey man, we’re in Bondi, want to come out and party?” and I’m like “I’m at home building IKEA with my kid or watching The Bachelor.”
Interviewer: One of my favourite lines was
That’s so funny that that’s your favourite because Nick wrote that. But yeah, that’s the fun thing because when you’re writing you write as the characters and you can always nibble back at the trolls. And when we first spoke to the ABC we made it clear that it was very important to us that we maintain all of our social aspects like our Youtube channel and the Facebook pages, because we like having a dialogue with our audiences and we like writing back to people, we didn’t want to have some drone in an office somewhere.
Interviewer: In late 2014 the Bondi Hipsters Facebook page received plenty of attention for posting statistics relating to a spike in Tony Abbott’s Facebook page and was referenced by media outlets in Australia & abroad. Did you anticipate that blowing up like it did?
I didn’t, it just exploded! It originally popped up on my Facebook page and I just thought it was funny and so wrote something about it on the Bondi Hipsters page. But that sometimes just happens. It’s become a thing for us where we take the latest celebrity photos or big ad campaign and recreate them with some sort of ironic twist on themes behind the photo-shoot. The first one of those we did was a nude photo-shoot of Miranda Kerr for a magazine, where she’s saying stuff like “yeah, I joined the mile high club” and we re-created that with a nude man and had him say “yeah, I had a wank on a bus one time”. We just wanted play with the idea that in the media we’re so used to seeing female’s sexualised, advertly and questions that lead them to talking about sexual things.
Interviewer: You have a lot of different projects posted on your Facebook page, does the ABC also fund those or are they private projects?
It depends, there are some. We try to maintain a relationship with the ABC and do as much as possible with them, but you know there are still something’s that are fun to do separately and with different people. We’ve got too many things we want to do to be able to do with one person, Connor and I have feature films aspirations and ideas for other tv shows. Whereas, Nick also has other things and with other collaborators, and we’re doing others things together like working on the Bondi Hipsters movie.
I guess we just understand the realities of this industry, you have to work hard and constantly be putting out new work and keeping your basis covered, because most of the time it’s a miracle if you get anything up. At any time you can have the rug pulled up from under your feet or you can have money in the bank, ready to produce something and then that thing can be scrapped or the network can go under or a ceo can decide to cancel all the existing shows and decide to put on new ones. So we just try to focus entirely on doing new stuff as much as possible and our long term goal is to do that with lots of different people to keep things moving. But the ABC and Screen Australia have been such big supporters in all of that and we’ll absolutely be doing more stuff with them.
Interviewer: What’s it like working with the ABC? Is there anything really awesome that has happened thanks to them?
It is really collaborative, really unreal. They’ve just been super supportive and exclusive with us, they’ve generated a lot of opportunities for us. They moved us from the second channel to the main channel for the second season, they love the show. So it’s a bummer whenever I see them attacked in the media because I just think it’s such a special organisation and the people that work there are the best kind of people because the people working for the ABC don’t get paid as much as people working at the more commercial networks. At the ABC people are doing their jobs with a focus of creating great stuff for the purpose of creating great stuff not creating massive revenues.
Interviewer: Because of the ABC have you worked with someone you really wanted to or were excited to work with?
That’s starting to happen, I just got cast in the second series of Top of the Lake and I loved the first series. So I was working with Elizabeth Moss who I think is an incredible actor, but the big thing for me that blew my mind because I’m a gigantic Game of Thrones fan was that I got to actor alongside Gwendoline Christie who plays Brienne of Tarth and she is my favourite character in the whole of the Game of Thrones series. That was mind-blowing for me. We were on set one day and I was playing an undercover cop and she was playing a uniformed police office, so we both have guns, and I turned around, pulled the gun from my holster, dropped to one knee and I held out my gun the same way Brienne of Tarth holds her sword out to Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones and I said “You have my shield, I will protect your back. I will keep your council and give my life for yours if need be.” And Gwendoline pulled out her gun, pointed at me and said “I swear by the old gods and the new, arise” and I was like yeeeeeessssss! But yeah, that was by far my favourite thing.
Interviewer: Is there anything exciting coming up from either you, Connor or Nick in the near future?
I think everything is exciting so I don’t know what’s exciting for other people, but we’re writing a Bondi Hipsters feature film which feels like it’s really going somewhere. Connor and I have a couple of other films in development and are writing a couple of other feature films which I think are exciting. And we still have a couple of other online videos and other content to put out for Soul Mates and for Bondi Hipsters. We’re just really stoked that this thing we created out of passion is starting to become a bit of a career and other people are starting to want to make stuff with us.
Soul Mates II is created by Nick Boshier, Christiaan Van Vuuren and Connor Van Vuuren for ABC and Seeso.
DVD includes Special Features: Ksodomi Documentary, I Pipi: The Movie, Extended Scenes, Trailers