The writer, producer, director and principal of Matchbox Pictures has his name attached to a formidable list: The Slap, Devil’s Playground, Nowhere Boys, Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Old School, The Straits, Saved, The Violent Earth, Bogan Pride, plus films including The Home Song Stories and Walking on Water.
Nowhere Boys, currently screening on ABC3, is now set for a feature and Ayres is executive producer of paranormal series Glitch and Laurence Leung comedy Maximum Choppage, both for ABC. The US version of The Slap, on which he is also an exec producer, launches in February.
Glitch, starring Patrick Brammall, is now shooting in Castlemaine produced by Ewan Burnett, with Louise Fox as showrunner and Emma Freeman directing.
“I feel like like I’m in safe hands so I’m back in development on other things. I’ve got a new slate of projects which are at various stages. And my feature film Cut Snake comes out in 2015,” he tells TV Tonight.
“Glitch has a genre element but it’s basically a relationship drama that combines the two. The term we’ve been using is Australian Gothic. There’s something heightened about it in terms of premise and emotion. It’s a big story told in a small place.”
Exploring such themes is not new to Ayres given the hit supernatural series, Nowhere Boys. Is Glitch a more adult approach to this world?
“There are parallels but the essential concepts are very different. There are parallels in the kind of location and the realism with which the central concept is dealt with. But Glitch is definitely adult territory.”
He is one of two Drama producers at Matchbox Pictures, having early input into projects such as Devil’s Playground, produced by Penny Chapman, who has also produced Deadline: Gallipoli for Foxtel. There are subtle differences in the work that appeals to each.
“I develop things that are of interest to me and Penny will do things according to her sensibility and taste. High Concept ideas are very appealing to me. The kind of ‘what if?’ ideas of sci-fi. But the two strands I tend to be operating in at the moment are the High Concept but also dark relationship dramas. I guess you would call it ‘soap-noir.’ That’s what we called The Slap, which I thought was a great term: a darker version of things,” he explains.
“But I’m also developing some early Comedy ideas.”
As a production company Matchbox is also busy with its Unscripted content such as Young, Lazy and Driving us Crazy and the noisy breakout hit, The Real Housewives of Melbourne.
Is it possible for a Drama-lover to be a fan of Reality too?
“Reality shows tend to be larger than life. But you can make a good relationship drama and you can make an ordinary one. You can make a good version of a Reality show and you can make an ordinary one. The thing we care about at Matchbox is trying to make the best version of whatever we’re doing, at the time,” Ayres says.
“If it’s a particular kind of show like Maximum Choppage, we’ll always be trying to make the best version of that. And it’s the same with Real Housewives. We’ll always be trying to make the best version of that franchise, which is distinguished by certain characteristics.
“(Housewives) a bit of a secret addiction of mine. It’s pretty compelling.
“The thing that was useful for me with watching Reality shows is that you learn so much about real human behaviour. The way that people genuinely respond compared to the way you imagine they will respond is always different. It’s in seeing with how people deal with anger, conflict, emotion -I find it fascinating. So there’s something to learn as a Dramatist.”
Openly-gay Ayres remembers being spellbound by the first season of Big Brother for its social experimentation and character interaction.
“I was surprised how deeply engaged I was with it,” he recalls.
“I remember the friendship between the gay guy Johnny, and Blair. For me it was a revelation. I’d never seen a real friendship between a straight guy and a gay guy on a commercial primetime show before.”
Ayres also believes a High End Drama in Australia is just around the corner, which leads me to wonder, what is it we are not getting in scripted content right now?
“It feels like there’s a pretty broad slate of things happening. But I feel like if we haven’t got it, the next bunch of shows I’m doing will have it!” he laughs.
“To find work that really speaks to national agenda is always one of the things that drives my creativity.”