Renée Webster on the transition from ‘The Heights’ to ‘Itch’

(l-r) Renée Webster with cast members Ben Mortley and Keala Kern and DOP Darrell Martin (Photo credit: Nic Duncan).

Australian children’s TV series rarely venture into the fast-paced action adventure genre. Rarer still is a teenage protagonist who is highly intelligent and passionate about science.

That’s the premise of Itch, the 10-part ABC-TV series now shooting in Albany, WA, produced by Komixx Entertainment in association with Feisty Dame Productions.

It was an irresistible hook for Renée Webster, who directed the first block before handing over to co-director Nick Verso.

Adapted from former BBC broadcaster Simon Mayo’s novel Itch, the series stars WAAPA graduate Samuel Ireland as Itchingham Lofte, a science-obsessed teen who pursues the unusual and sometimes dangerous hobby of collecting all the elements on the periodic table.

“I am attracted to projects whose values resonate with mine: that is really important,” she tells IF. “Nick and I decided the tone should be very warm, heartfelt and humorous.”

Ireland was one of the first actors whom the directors saw in a lengthy round of auditions and they knew he was right for the role. “He really inhabits the character,” she says.

The cast includes newcomers Melanie Wozniak, Charles Russell, Kylah Day, Harry Popple, Henry Mendez and Keala Kern, who were unearthed by casting director Jane Norris.

The scripts are by Melanie Halsall, Komixx’s head of development, Dan Berlinka, Ron Elliott, Heather Wilson, Jessica Brookman and Roger Monk. The producers are Amanda Morrison, MD of Komixx Entertainment Australia, Tania Chambers and Halsall.

Webster had valuable experience working with the young cast on The Heights, the ABC-TV drama serial produced by Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions.

The two productions had very different approaches: The serial was filmed with four cameras in observational documentary style while Itch is a more conventional two-camera shoot.

On Itch she enjoyed collaborating with heads of department including DOP Darrell Martin ACS, costume designer Helen Woolfenden, editor Geoff Hitchins and four colleagues from The Heights, production designer Emma Fletcher, B camera operator Jim Frater, first AD Brad Holyoake and hair and make-up artist Kate Anderson.

‘Itch’ key cast (Photo: Nic Duncan).

Like the rest of the cast and crew, she is hopeful the ABC will renew the serial created by Warren Clarke and Que Minh Luu.

The writer-director cut her teeth on shorts and TVCs. She was a writer on the Nine Network’s The Sleepover Club and directed episodes of SBS’s Marx and Venus and Nine’s Streetsmartz.

She hopes to make her feature writing and directing debut on How to Please Women (formerly Her Predilection), which received development funding from Screen Australia’s Gender Matters, with producer Tania Chambers.

The plot revolves around a mature woman who starts a business providing women with quality sexual experiences packaged with house cleaning. She soon discovers the boundless nature of not only their desires, but her own.

Explaining her motivation for that project, she said: “There are not enough films which deal with the sexuality of women once they get into their 50s.”