Fashpack: Freetown – the backstory

The most important day of this decade has finally arrived, Fashpack: Freetown is now live on ABC IView Arts. Click here to enjoy!

Mariama is one of the stars of the show. She is my hero.

But before you start the binge, bare with me while I explain the fascinating (sort of) journey behind this project. Way back when I started the blog I fantasised about attracting more than 10 hits a day. When that didn’t work out I fantasised about bringing Fashpack to the small screen. I casually said to my mate Tony a filmy/writer type from Sydney “Don’t you think Fashpack would make a fun TV show”. Surprisingly he said “Yeah” and told another filmy/writer type – Benn.

We all met at the local boozer to hatch a plan. My idea was to try and bring my favourite peeps from the blog to life by exploring their worlds through the lens of style and fashion. Tony and Benn added some heavy hitting questions to this concept – How does style help people overcome adversity? How does it help people confront daily hardships? And how can a country like Sierra Leone produce a population of smoking hot fashion plates despite being rated as one of the poorest in the world?

The brat pack being brought to life

Soon enough, the boys were flying 35 hours economy class to Freetown to shoot a pitch video. It was everything we dreamed of and more. The day they arrived the power in my house was cut and didn’t return until they hopped on a plane to leave three weeks later. Tony was behind the camera, Benn directed and I was the presenter. We captured what we needed and were able to shop that little video around.

Just a group of kids trying to make a pitch video

Fancy people in the world of TV liked our pitch, but not enough to back us and most didn’t want to involve us “We’ll keep your idea thank you very much, but we want to produce it, and we have some suggestions for a host….Alexa Chung, now wouldn’t she be great, Cate Blanchett, amazing!” …Um no, please no.

So we let it rest for a bit, stuck to our guns and eventually our stricken national broadcaster the ABC, threw us a lifeline and offered us some cash to make a six part short form documentary series. The boys returned to Mama Salone for a six-week shoot last September. It didn’t quite spiral into Hearts of Darkness territory, but there were moments we came close. For the most part though it was a big calamitous adventure which capped off my four years in Sierra Leone perfectly.

Hearts of Darkness

And now after several hundred hours of post-production pain, we have produced a series.

While it’s me you will see on screen, Tony and Benn are the wind beneath my wings (they will be very grossed out by that line). Their vision, bald face grit, generous talent and emotional detachment are why we were able to deliver this project. They both contributed an outrageous number of hours which they will never get back (sorry guys) to produce a show we are all proud of. So to both of them I say Tenki plenti for you had wok on dis Fashpack bisnis.

A sensitive moment with Tony and Benn

Big thanks and warmest gratitude must also go to the talented, stylish and charismatic Sierra Leoneans who are at the heart of our stories. There is a character in the show called Slim Saal who confidently describes his fellow countrymen as “the best people in the world, better than you white people”. This is impossible to argue with.

Now go and watch it!

P.S At this stage the show is only available for viewing on the ABC Iview site. This means you have to be in Australia to see it. After six months we are hoping it will be available in another form for the rest of the world to see and most importantly for Sierra Leoneans to enjoy. In the mean time I am plotting a way for it to be screened in Freetown. Alternatively, if you have a dodgy friend who knows how to crack open a geo block then get them on it.

P.S.S Other big thanks go to: Mike Duff, Miles B, Momoh and Ibby Fixer – legends, the lot of them.