This Aussie filmmaker made an entire TV show for Instagram

“The Out There” is an Instagram-exclusive series and it’s created, written, and produced by a badass filmmaker from Australia, Hannah Lehmann.

Hannah is even the main actress for the series. One episode was released every day for thirteen days, at 60 seconds each, and you have to watch it from the bottom up on its page, @theoutthere.

Instagram has made an accessible platform that is perfect for young filmmakers — there are no funds, connections, or pitch meetings necessary to release a video on an Instagram page, allowing anyone to distribute their original content on their own terms.

Hannah and “The Out There” work with US global youth studio Adolescent Content, run by Ramaa Mosley and Hope Farley. The company’s goal is to get young artists paid for the work that they do. They have conducted projects for Nike, Target, ESPN, and more. Adolescent Content is the executive producer of “The Out There” series.

“The Out There” follows 20-something Sydneysider Francis, played by Hannah. She drunkenly falls in a graveyard and hits her head, resulting in her being followed by a 1970s ghost named Thomas.

The series is quick, fresh, and beautifully shot. The actors are also pretty talented, and had me captivated within seconds. You can watch the entire first season of “The Out There” in less than twenty minutes — not a bad way to spend your nighttime screen time! Don’t forget to follow them in order to follow along with Season 2. Check out our interview with Hannah and Ramaa below.

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What made you decide to use Instagram as the platform for the release of “The Out There?”

Hannah Lehmann: I knew that this sort of episodic filmmaking had not really been explored or produced before for Instagram, and especially not by a young woman. l knew it would be pretty innovative and an exciting way of telling a story and that, hopefully, the use of format would drive a lot of intrigue to the account. I really wanted my work to be accessible, and have the ability to be easily viewed by lots of people. Using Instagram over any other platform for the series just made the most sense. I love how accessible my series is — anyone can tag their friends, save it and watch it later, and revisit it with ease ahead of future seasons of the show.

On top of that, I liked the idea of developing a micro series. I wanted the creative challenge — to see if a series and a story of this breadth could be told in a micro format. It’s a dynamic way of using transmedia to tell a great story and l learnt a lot about writing simply by doing.

Ramaa Mosley: Hannah and our other creators utilize Instagram for creative expression and it was an obvious choice as a platform for “The Out There.” The structure of 60-second episodes created an amazing opportunity that we felt would lead to some highly creative work. Instagram is where our key audience lives and we were excited to give them entertainment in a new way.

Do you think that having the Instagram platform is important for young, independent filmmakers? Why?

 HL: Yes l do. Being able to showcase and share my work through the platform has been crucial to my success as a filmmaker and an artist, and especially as a young, new artist. I don’t believe l would have been able to receive so many views and as much interest in my series had l released it on a more traditional video platform. Instagram can be a wonderfully supportive place for artists, irrespective of genre, medium, wealth and location. We are a generation who lives to share ideas and art with our friends, and Instagram is the easiest way to do this online.

RM: At Adolescent Content we are focused on empowering youth to tell the stories they want to tell. Having diversity in media extends beyond gender and skin color to age. It’s crucial that young creators get to tell their stories. This is the brilliance of releasing a series on Instagram because there are no barriers for young filmmakers to making their work and getting it seen. They can envision it, make it and then post it.

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I noticed there were a few episodes that had two parts. Did you find it difficult to work within the 60-second limit of Instagram?

HL: During the writing process, l actually found it quite freeing. I was forced to really strip back all of the dialogue and land only on the selected reality that would drive the story and characters forward in a way that audience would still be able to understand. Certain episodes had two parts, as l felt that the characters or conflicts in those particular episodes needed a little ‘breathing time’. For example, when we see Thomas alone after the party. This is the first and only time we get to see him alone in the series, and it reminds the viewer that he has been alone for 30 years. As we were shooting and editing it was a little more difficult — we shot a lot of wonderful coverage and not being able to include all of it due to time restrictions was a little sad!

On the other hand, 60 seconds seems to be just long enough. What do you love about the 60 second limit?

HL: I loved the challenge of writing for this format the most! It was an awesome thing to be able to say what I wanted, move the characters forward and have it look the way it does in such a short period. It really made me think about the characters intentions more than anything, rather than their actions – what they really, really wanted – because that is what the audience wants to know. So, writing with that in mind helped me get to the core of the characters a lot faster. I also love that anyone can watch the whole series in 20 minutes — on the bus, on lunch, awaiting dinner! Anywhere and anytime!

How did you find the actors for the series?

HL: I cast myself as Frances – l am an actor as well and it is my first love. The core of her character is based on my own insecurities and life, so it felt fitting. Robbie Snars who plays Thomas/Ira is a fantastic theatre actor and l worked with him in a play shortly before casting him. He has a wild energy that makes me think he could do anything at any time, and watching him take that energy and contain it for this character was really interesting. I’m extremely excited for this energy to be released in Season Two. I cast my friends and wonderful actors Molly May Patterson and Igor Kreyman play Nora and Louis respectively, and they bring so much gusto to their small time on screen.

What made you decide to also act in the series?

HL: I am an actor by trade also, and l had always created this project with the intention of performing in it also. I think every actor should be creating their own content as a way to showcase themselves as performers. Why wait for someone else to give you a role when you can give one to yourself?

Was it weird having someone else direct your content?

HL: Yes and no. There were some things that l was adamant about in terms of direction, and l was lucky enough that Mohini (the director) was happy to let me take the reigns on those things. As l was already the creator, writer, producer and actor, l thought that some outside influence and collaboration would benefit the show immensely, and it did. Mohini understood my vision and what l was trying to do, and she knew how close l was creatively to the project. Before l met Mohini, l had created mood boards and the soundtrack, and it was important to me that l find a director who could see that and interpret that feeling to film. She brought so much to this project and is immensely talented, thoughtful and precise.

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How would you describe your audience? 

HL: Lovely, smart and supportive! I am so happy that people enjoy my work and nothing makes me happier than receiving messages from all around the world. I wrote this series hoping that young people could maybe see a part of themselves in its mystery and characters. Fran and the characters fit into the world of Girls and Broad City. Audiences already understand who this character is and how she exists because they relate with her – and the viewer can empathise with that. It’s the idea of bringing this character and these characters into genre that interests me.

What do you have to focus on to make a 60 second episode make sense?

HL: The actors’ chemistry and hoping that l was giving enough information that made the audience understand the selected reality. For example, pinning Louis as ‘the cool guy’. We focused on his entrance to the party – he arrived alone, already drinking, looking confident. It’s easy to understand where he sits in space. I really tried to get the story across without being expositional, and it really was up to the actors to do this with the limited dialogue. 

What can we expect in season 2?

HL: More mystery! We will learn more about where Ira has come from, what exactly “The Out There” is and how Frances is juggling her secret and relationships with all the characters.

What advice would you have for young artists who feel stuck because of money or distribution issues?

HL: The hardest part is having confidence in yourself. Reach out to others for help, or to others who you think might like and appreciate your work. I have formed so many wonderful relationships just by asking that have propelled my career forward. Self-distribute and get it out to as many people as you can think of. It’s hard and requires a lot of emailing and admin, but if you find that person who takes an interest, it is worth it. Your work is valuable!

How did your personality artistically affect the way that “The Out There” was created?

HL: I am fascinated by hypotheticals and spend a good amount of time day-dreaming. “The Out There,” and particularly Frances’ character, reflect how l would like to think l would react to this story if it were real. Frances is curious but uneasy in herself, and putting an otherworldly spin on this is a fun way to explore her character. Music played a big part in my writing Season One and even more so in Season Two, and l created a playlist that l had a strong emotional connection to while l wrote, so l could feel the things l wanted to say and write them down in my story. I find that the moments between words in real life are often the most important moments, and l wanted to express that feeling of uneasiness and hesitation in my work.

Why the sci-fi genre?

HL: There is so much to explore in the realms of our imagination! l wanted to have fun and create something that was different to the content young women were traditionally being sold, and l really like sci-fi myself. I find it really fun to write and develop. I hope more young women will be inspired to write genre.

What is Adolescent Content’s goal for young artists?

RM: To give them support to make the work that they are passionate about and that they want to see. For far too long ‘old’ people have been making the work for youth. It is crucial that females and people of color write and direct content — and it’s important that young people have the opportunity to create the narratives about themselves. At Adolescent Content we empower youth to tell the stories that they care about. Our goal is to continue to grow and create more opportunities for our creators all over the world.

Check out the first episode below, and finish the series on @theoutthere Instagram page!

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