At some point in their lives, millions of Australians will need financial assistance from the government, whether it’s because they’re…
- dealing with a crisis
- out of work
- too sick to work
- too old to work
- just don’t really want to work
Welfare is a 6-part satirical web series that explores the bureaucracy and hypocrisy in Australia’s welfare system, and how its rules and regulations lay waste to compassion and common sense. In each episode, a documentary crew follows the good-hearted but illiterate welfare centre boss and his three caseworkers, as they deal with customers from all walks of life.
Faced with a wall of red tape, nonsensical public service jargon and well-meaning stupidity, the helpless customers have no choice but to try to cheat the system. If anyone actually receives help in this office, it’s not because of the staff, it’s in spite of them!
In Welfare, no-one really gets what they deserve. We’re left to ask: can we no longer think for ourselves? What ever happened to plain old common sense!?
meet the staff:
JON KARAGIANNIS, 47, (played by Steve Bastoni) is Team Leader. He’s the Employment Officer at Job Defects, a division of the welfare centre that helps the unemployed find jobs. This involves assisting with writing CVs, interview preparation, communication skills and increasing confidence. Jon has been in the department 17 years and is blissfully unaware of his outdated methods. He believes, in order to exceed customers’ expectations, he must keep their expectations very low. Somewhat contradictory to this, Jon’s motto is “A Fair Go”. He loves helping people and has genuinely good intentions, but his stubbornness in following the rules usually gets in the way. Jon comes from a large Greek family and is married with two teenage kids, much to his co-worker Sally’s disappointment. Outside of work, Jon collects stamps, fridge magnets, snow domes and anything cat-related. His hero is Susan Boyle and he enjoys talking about her success story in order to encourage his customers to follow their dreams. Jon is also going through marital problems with his wife, Despina, a Greek model with an freakishly high libido who regularly checks up on him at work. Jon is a faithful but absent husband, and a good-hearted but clumsy father.
SALLY JONES, 26, (played by Laura Jane Emes) is the Head of Disaster Assistance. She helps victims who have been affected by natural disasters such as floods, bush-fires and cyclones. Sally is rather mechanical in her approach to those who are suffering, pedantic about the details and often fails to see the bigger picture. She has a background in insurance and rejoices in rejecting customers’ applications, as she’ll do anything to save taxpayers’ money. Her motto, “It’s just a house”, is derived from her ill-informed ‘Buddhist’ beliefs. When stressed, Sally rakes the sand on her miniature zen garden. Every morning Sally checks the weather report in hope of a natural disaster. When there are no disasters (which is almost always), Sally deals with the ‘Elevated Case Files’. Her lack of compassion makes her the least suited for this role. Sally is secretly in love with Jon, and her happiness is greatly determined by his behaviour. Although delusional, she’s always coming up with clever and manipulative ways of getting Jon to like her.
BRENDAN BERRY, 24, (played by Jackson Tozer) is the introverted, socially-awkward but highly intelligent Queue Attendant. He should be a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, but has somehow wound up working at the welfare centre. When Jon isn’t around, Brendan uses his IQ to help customers beat the system. He’s forever finding loopholes and enjoys passing on clever tips. Brendan doesn’t work well under pressure, embarrasses easily and has terrible anxiety resulting in the occasional asthma-and-panic attack. He is also paranoid about things going wrong, which they inevitably do. A lot of female customers try to use their sexuality to persuade Brendan to bend the rules, but he’s completely oblivious to it. The only thing that causes Brendan to leave his comfort zone is his schoolboy crush on Sally. He needs someone to teach him how to live life on the edge.
EKENEDILICHUKU DU TOIT, 30, (played by Vuyo Loko) is the Head of Eligibility. Ekenedilichuku deals with immigrants and asylum seekers who struggle with English. Subtitles are used whenever he speaks, despite his very mild African accent. He wears two name-tags because “Ekenedilichuku”doesn’t fit onto one. ‘KEN’, as he’s nicknamed, is still new at his job and has a glass-half-full attitude. He comes in with a smile each day, photographs his surroundings like a tourist and eats strange combinations of food for lunch. Ken is the most compassionate staff member, and is known for comparing customers’ situations to the hardship he experienced in South Africa. Jon is quick to befriend Ken, and asks him to be the centre’s ambassador for “A Fair Go”. Everyone in the office relies on Ken toget work done, which he does happily because he’s keen to learn about the welfare system. Ken also makes the most of the staff’s cultural ignorance by creating elaborate stories about his life in Africa.
LEENA KAPOOR, 38, (played by Sybil Quadros) is the Training & Relationship Manager. Her position at the centre involves overseeing Jon’s training methods and monitoring the mental health of the welfare staff. She sits in the background with a clipboard and records conversations whenever she suspects one of the employees might have some sort of mental illness, be it anxiety, paranoia or some sort of phobia. Originally from Mumbai, Leena moved to Australia eight years ago with her husband and daughter. Leena claims to be highly ‘spiritual’ and has an uncanny way of getting her staff to open up about their inner most feelings. Focusing on her colleagues’ issues is a great distraction from her ongoing acrimonious divorce. Leena’s husband, a pokies and prostitute addict, certainly brings out her less spiritual side. She’s also the only staff member who is able to intimidate Jon. Leena favours Sally because she sees her as a younger version of herself. She’s always giving Sally life advice and trying to educate her on spiritual awareness.
YIANNI HATZIKOMOUS, 28, (played by Chris Asimos) is the Security Guard, the welfare centre’s first ever. Yianni is hired early on in the series as a result of a hold-up. He is Jon’s nephew, and therefore gets away with a lot of inappropriate behaviour. The truth is, Yianni was trying to build a meth lab in his mother’s garage and Jon felt it was his duty to intervene. Yianni is not a deep thinker and takes a bit of time to understand some things. Actually, most things. He’s always trying to perfect the most ‘intimidating’ security guard stance, and takes every opportunity to show off his muscular body. Yianni prides himself on being the lady’s man of the centre. He feels asthough he’s “giving back to society” by complimenting the female clientele. It’s only a matter of time before one of them “compliments” him back, with pepper spray.
OLLIEJONES, 26, (played by Rhys Mitchell) is Sally’s twin brother. Ollie starts out on the dole and is forever coming into the welfare centre to ask his sister for money. He knows about Sally’s unrequited love for her boss, Jon, so he cheekily blackmails her into giving him unauthorised payments. But when the new legislation comes in and Ollie has to wait six months, Sally is quick to get him a job at the centre. Ollie is a hippy; colourful, relaxed and in touch with his emotions. But he’s also charming and charismatic, so he wins overall the customers, especially the elderly. Jon does everything in his power to get Ollie to “man up”, such as taking him out for beers or to the footy. However, Ollie has such a ‘way’ with people, he ends up convincing Jon to ride a bike to work, become vegetarian and start a welfare action group for those on the dole.
LAURA JANE EMES (Creator, Co-Producer) trained as an actor at Flinders Drama Centre. Upon graduating in 2009, Laura-Jane acted alongside Barry Otto and Rhys Muldoon in the AACTA nominated short film, Waiting For The Turning Of The Earth. She went on to perform stand-up at Sydney’s Comedy Store at Fox Studios, supporting comedians such as Rhys Nicholson and Joel Creasey. She then played multiple roles opposite comedian George Kapiniaris in The State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of The Give and Take. Laura-Jane resides in Melbourne and has spent the last few years creating her own comedy series, Welfare, after undertaking a Helpmann Academy Mentorship with Working Dog’s Tom Gleisner.
STEVE BASTONI (Lead Actor, Co-Producer) is one of Australia’s most versatile and accomplished actors, Steve has a string of film and television credits including the Golden Globe nominated On The Beach. He became a household name as ‘Angel’ in the long running television series Police Rescue and has starred in numerous TV productions including Neighbours, Wildside, The Magistrate and South Pacific where he starred alongside Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr. In 1999 Bastoni starred with Adam Baldwin in Frances Ford Coppola’s modern adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Other TV credits include appearances in Stingers, the award winning mini-series Blue Murder, The Alice, Mr and Mrs Murder, Lowdown Series 2, Underbelly: The Golden Mile, Sea Patrol, and Rush. Most recently, Steve has appeared in Fat Tony & Co and the comedy Upper Middle Bogan and will soon be seen in the US ratings winner Hawaii Five-0. 2014 saw Steve in Russell Crowe’s multi award winning The Water Diviner in the role of ‘Omer’. Steve’s film credits include Drift, Heartbreak Kid, 15 Amore, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, South Pacific, Matrix Reloaded, Crocodile Hunter, Man Thing, Fink, Macbeth (M,) in the role of ‘Banquo’ and Suburban Mayhem. His performance as Alfredo in 15 Amore resulted in a Best Actor nomination at the 2000 AFI Awards as well as a Film Critics Circle nomination in the same category. This year has seen Steve in Truth alongside Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford and he will be soon be seen in the Tim Boyle directed sci-fi thriller The Half Dead and Heath Davis’ Broke. Steve is the Director and Founder of the Peninsula Short Film Festival, now in its fifth year.
IAN SIMMONS (Head Writer) has been writing comedy for over thirty years. He’s been a head writer / script producer for Andrew Denton, Good News Week, The Glass House, The Sideshow and Wednesday Night Fever. He’s worked for all five free-to- air TV networks and has also written for the Logies and ARIAs, Barry Humphries at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Great Debate, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett at the AACTA Awards, and Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell. Ian has won eleven Writers’ Guild Awards, one AFI and ARIA, and in 2012 received the Fred Parsons Award for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Comedy.
TONY ROGERS (Director) directed and produced the original short film Wilfred, screening first at Tropfest in Australia, and going on to win awards and fans at Sundance, Cork, St Kilda Film Festival and Palm Springs. The film’s success spawned the Australian TV series of the same name, Wilfred. Tony directed and co-created both series 1 and 2 for the Australian network, SBS. Wilfred (Australian Version) successfully ran on cable in the US, inspiring the Wilfred format which sold to FX in America and Russia where Wilfred was made under the name of Charlie. Prior to Wilfred, Tony made the cult feature, Rats and Cats with the same team (Adam Zwar and Jason Gann)., a film set in small fictitious town, ‘Gladdington’. It premiered at MIFF and went on to win most popular film at SXSW. It has also screened on SBS in Australia, France and the US. Currently available on Netflix. Tony followed Wilfred with a period comedy, Bruce, developed with Debbie Lee (while at the ABC) starring Angus Sampson, Richard Davies and Dave Lawson, which is about to launch as a web-series with Screen Australia funding. Tony then teamed up with Rob Hibbert to write and direct the award winning web-series, How To Talk Australians. They are currently adapting the series as a feature and a TV format including How To Talk United Kingdoms and How To Talk Americans. Tony is also developing a number of other projects including Pacific Cove, FUN TV and The Beegeesus. Among other things!
How The Funds Will Be Used
We filmed a trailer for the web series over two days, with just $1500. This was thanks to a bunch of very generous and passionate creatives. Therefore, we imagine that 6 x 6 minute webisodes could be shot over the course of 3 x 10 hour days.
Raising $8,000 would allow us to shoot the web series. However, if we could raise $10,000 or more, it would increase the overall production value immensely. We would be able to invest in professional lighting equipment, sound equipment, cameras, extras (highly integral given the setting but we couldn’t afford them for the trailer), catering, a head writer, a hair & makeup artist, supporting actors, a narrator, director, 1st AD, cinematographer, production designer, assistant content producer, sound mixer, lighting technician, runners, post production editing, original music and of course the lead actors!
The main challenge is funding. That’s why we’re here! The location has been secured, the cast and crew are ready to go and the funny lines are waiting to be delivered… we just need the funding to make this web series a reality!
We thank you for your support. Even if you aren’t in a position to contribute financially, sharing the project with your family and friends is still greatly appreciated.