Pulp Non-Fiction: Fighting over more than the bathroom

It's clear the genre-blending trend has reached its apex when the collision of docs and soaps includes casting for controversy....
November 1, 1997

It’s clear the genre-blending trend has reached its apex when the collision of docs and soaps includes casting for controversy.

Based on the success of the first series of five, Vincent Burke of New Zealand’s Top Shelf Productions is currently shooting another 13 half-hour episodes of Flatmates, the series he describes as ‘an ethnographic documentary soap.’

Originally, Burke threw a sundry bunch of twentysomethings together in the same flat and let the chips fall where they may. The group includes a beauty queen, a young gay banker, a science nerd, a young Indian woman away from home for the first time, a sports-minded female student and Craig, the camera operator. New Zealand’s Channel Four ran all five parts, and Channel Three packaged the episodes into one special.

Burke advertised to find the ‘cast’ for the second series, a move which made him especially aware of ‘pushing the genre.’

He explains, ‘Although the treatment is like that of natural history, the treatment also borders on straight drama. We chose the subjects for their potential storylines, jeopardy and conflict.’

This time out, Burke has assembled a 20-year-old Maori woman with ambitions to manage a pro rugby team, a 21-year-old female bodybuilder who drives a cab, an unemployed woman who’s ‘aggressively exploring her sexuality,’ an 18-year-old gay male who works at Wendy’s, and a 20-year-old male who works for a Christian radio station and has recently become engaged. Chris the camera op is also in the mix, but Burke expects to replace him with a new ‘character’ a few weeks in.

Burke, who is also an executive producer on Channel Three’s Inside New Zealand, says Flatmates (produced for the low, low price of less than $50,000 per episode) is still seeking a distributor.

Also in production news:

-Straight from the Source

-Coup of the Month: No peace in Shangri-la

- Millennium Watch – 100 Moments of the Century

-Spotlight: Adventures with Adler

-Look out Channel 4. . .

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty