In 2014 Ryan Chamley was a guy making TV ads to pay the rent with a yearning to make TV comedy.
He turned to his 7 years working in an electrical store to come up with a script for Rostered On and posted an audition notice onto the Star Now casting bulletin board, gathering a troupe of unpaid performers and mates to shoot scenes in Geelong.
“I almost didn’t show the script to anyone because I was terrified,” he tells TV Tonight.
“I don’t consider myself a writer. I’d never studied writing. But I had a real love of comedy.
“Everyone was a volunteer from myself, cameras. We filmed for 2 days in an electrical store.”
Cleverly, he began posting short clips and memes onto social media, with comedic workplace scenes and encouraging people to re-post with lines such as “Tag a Mate who is Late for Work.” The strategy worked and with Rostered On gathering a following, he then posted the full Pilot on YouTube.
“I was more scared because people were anticipating it. In the Comments people said ‘This better live up to my already-high expectations,'” he explains.
“My goal was to get 10,000 views and we would know we were a success and to move on from there. We got 10,000 in the first night.
“Our Facebook followers all went to You Tube. Over a few months it was around 100,000 mark, so we were ecstatic.”
Buoyed by the reception he wrote another 6 scripts and proceeded to a series.
“Black Magic Cameras gave us 2 cameras to shoot on if we put their logo at the end, and the crew of 6 were all doing 10 jobs each.
“We shot a whole season in 6 days in store and 2 on location.
“But the store we’d filmed at didn’t want us to do anymore because it was visibly recognisable as their store and they didn’t want to be associated with it. So we got really thrifty and found a store in Waurn Ponds which was amazing.”
The series was another YouTube success but making the leap to Television would require some muscle.
“I paid for a 1 month LinkedIn trial and head-hunted some network execs. One was very supportive and said it was really good ‘but not right for us just now,'” he recalls.
A friend introduced him to Ruby Entertainment’s Stephen Luby and Mark Ruse, producers of Kath & Kim, The Secret River, The Games, while he got a UK agent after Comedy Central posted a clip that generated a whopping 60 million views. Season one would eventually rack up more than 250 million views online across Australia, USA, UK and Canada.
The agent got him into a room with Netflix execs, ironically for a meeting over another script.
“It was like something out of a movie. They said ‘Oh yeah should buy that show!’
“Ruby brokered the deal and exactly 1 year after we released Season 1 on YouTube, it released on Netflix, which I think is a first for an Australia long-form.”
Then Seven came knocking, the idea of a second season for 7mate.
“It’s been a dream scenario. We never thought network TV would touch us,” Chamley admits.
“(Seven head of comedy) Michael Horricks was alerted to the show by Screen Australia and said he really liked it.
“I was just waiting for it to all fall over, so when they came on board it was a nice validation for everybody.
“Seven said ‘You’ve got the fan base, so whatever you’re doing works. Just bring it along to 7mate.’”
7mate screened the first season while Ruby Entertainment has co-produced a new second season, with funding from Screen Australia and Film Victoria. It becomes the first narrative comedy commissioned for the channel.
Pleasingly, the original volunteer troupe are still his core cast and crew.
“Every single one of the main cast has come along for the ride.”
So what is Rostered On about? Like Superstore and Trollied, its set in retail and customer service -but with an Aussie flavour. The characters include Shaun (Paul Moore), Adam (Doug Lyons), Tess (Tara Vagg), Brett (Lliam Murphy) and Beeanka (Diana Brumen) and guest roles include Bondi Hipsters‘ Nick Boshier & Christiaan Van Vuuren and comedian Bob Franklin.
The workplace comedy gives it universal appeal.
“It’s about everyday heroes who get up, go to a job where they’re made to feel inferior or put up with people’s bullshit. It’s about customers being twats really.
“But there’s also the friendships. Someone you want to strangle one minute you’ll be having a drink with the next. Then there’s all the characters you meet: the gossip, the over-the-top chauvinistic guy, the predominantly male sales floor, and predominantly female sales counter.”
Chamley believes anyone who has worked, or possibly shopped, in retail franchises will recognise the situations in Rostered On.
“Officeworks, Good Guys, JB…,” he suggests.
“30% of our reach is in the US alone. So we’re getting a lot of Best Buy people watching too. It’s very encouraging that a very Aussie comedy has transcended so well overseas.”
Rostered On season 2 begins 9pm tonight on 7mate.