Just scissor sisters at Project Runway Australia

Richard Campbell, producer of Arena’s Project Runway Australia, was very relaxed last week when TV Tonight dropped by the workrooms of the fashion reality show.

In fact, everybody was so relaxed, it was hard to believe this was the home of the show known in the US for its hissy fits, bitchy comments and metaphorical scissors-in-the-back.

One contestant even asked if another would, “care for a cup of tea?” What’s going on?

According to Campbell the contestants on the Aussie version, are all keen for glory, but that doesn’t stop them showing a little mateship -hardly what you’d expect on reality telly.

“These guys are very supportive of each other. Whereas I suspect in the American world it may be a little more cutthroat,” he explained. “They share their materials. They help each other.

“Very often you’ll hear them saying to each other, ‘I don’t quite know how to do this,’ and that information will come from another contestant. It’s not like they’re on their own. It’s been a team process. Although that’s probably becoming less and less so as the game goes on.

“But I do think there’s something about the Australian character that ‘we’re in this together’ and it really surprises me how much they’ve supported and helped each other.”

Campbell, who has previously worked on The Gift as well as producing science television for the ABC and productions for the Discovery Channel, sees Project Runway Australia as a feelgood show.

“The designers are having a great time, and it comes out,” he said. “You do get the tension from living together and working together, but 90% of the time those people are laughing. They tell us when they are eliminated, ‘Thankyou this has been great for me, I’ve learned, I’ve grown as a designer.’ You can actually see that in the show.”

But in storytelling, conflict equals drama. It’s doubly expected in reality. Campbell is confident all bases are covered.

“Most of these designers are naturally flamboyant characters, so their peaks and troughs throughout the day are probably lower and higher than you or I,” he said. “So you do get those moments of pure hell for them, when they’re feeling terrible. But they bounce back.”

The Aussie series will stick closely to the US format, with a few subtle, local tweaks. Launching in July, it is hosted by model Kristy Hinze, with judges Sarah Gale and Jayson Brunsdon. Henry Roth assumes the ‘mentor’ role made famous in the US by Tim Gunn. Guest judges will also include Kelly Rowland, Peter Morissey, Camilla Franks and Karen Webster.

“We haven’t cast a good judge, bad judge,” notes Campbell. “They’ve been cast more for their particular interests and skills so we have Sarah Gale who’s very much a buyer and comes at it from a commercial point of view and has a very frank opinion about whether something would sell.

“Jayson obviously at the moment is one of the hot designers so he comes at it with his point of view. The guest judges depend on what particular garment it is that week and Kristy comes on (asking) would she wear it?

“You’ll get a passionate opinion from a judge, and that may appear to make them be the nasty judge that week, but the next week it will be someone else.”

Arena finished shooting the bulk of the series just days ago at its base in Bourke St., Melbourne. Now the finalists have two months to create their collections with $10,000 each supplied by the show. Plans for a glitzy grand final are being kept under wraps.

“The things that have been really good to watch is how designers have grown in the few weeks they’ve been here,” said Campbell. “Most of them admitted when they came in they had a particular style. One of the things they wanted to do was break out from that. And I think all of those who remain to this point have done so.

“It’s been great to see them go ‘oh I’ve never done this before and look what I’ve done.’”

Project Runway Australia premieres 8:30pm Monday July 7 on Arena.

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