Holly’s Heroes: articles

Local heroes cast a wide net

Basketball has always played a big role in the life of television producer Jenny Tosi. A mother of three, and married to an amateur basketball coach, Tosi has spent hours sitting on the sidelines observing her family at play.

While the games proved interesting enough, over the years she has become an increasingly keen observer of the dynamics between those involved. Her impressions have provided a rich mine of material for a 26-part television series she and fellow producer and friend Ann Darrouzet have created around the idea of a basketball team of youthful outsiders and misfits.

Intended for the after-school market of children aged up to about 10 years, Holly's Heroes, takes its viewers to a small coastal town in which the sole basketball team, the Rams, features the most popular and powerful kids in town.

Aggressively coached by the school deputy headmaster Alan Peterson (David Roberts), the team is as socially dominant as it is unattainable.

New kid in town Holly McKenzie (Dominique Crawford) is an outsider in every sense of the word. Of Maori heritage, her family has moved to the area and in doing so interrupted her promising basketball future in New Zealand. Rejected by the Rams, she rallies the town misfits into a team and so creates a rival social group. AdvertisementAdvertisement

Basketball is central but Tosi was careful to focus the storylines on relationships. "A lot of the time in children's television it is action and plot-driven, we wanted to create something that was relationship based - about friendships and about getting along with people. Basketball seemed to be a perfect opportunity to be able to do that," she says.

Children and parents have many different reasons for getting involved in a team sport. Some parents want their children to have a good time and get some exercise; others are more focused on winning. The latter is represented in the series in coach Peterson.

Beautifully played by David Roberts, he is the dark force standing between Holly and success. Forever attempting to thwart her team, he represents the generation gap, the single-minded coach and the pushy parent. His son is the Rams' best player - a truth that leads to tension in the father-son relationship.

"It was a conscious decision to make a representation that there are people whose focus is very much about winning and about being the best. It's not to say that that's a bad thing but to point out there are other ways of doing things," Tosi says.

As the relationship implodes, sympathies are very much with the son. Tosi says this is designed to show that young people can stand up for themselves against an adult. "It's a nice story to be able to show kids that things don't always have to be the way that they seem; they have a choice and they can have the opportunity to think about things."

An Australia-New Zealand co-production, the Kiwi element manifests in the central character, Holly. It was always intended the lead be played by a New Zealander but the fact Dominique Crawford was of Maori heritage came as a happy bonus. As the best actor in the auditions, Crawford was an obvious choice, says Tosi. Her ethnicity enabled additional culturally based storylines to be written into the show.

While much of the action is filmed on location at Phillip Island, at one point Holly's team travels to New Zealand to play in the Pan Pacific championships. There she introduces them to Maori customs and traditions. "It was a lovely opportunity to weave the wider world into the episodic storyline," Tosi says.

Legendary NBA basketballer Michael Jordan is frequently mentioned throughout the show - he is the idol of one of the male characters, who wears Jordan's No. 23 in homage - and Tosi says hoops needed to be jumped through in order to get permission. Eventually the right person was found and the star's permission granted.

It proved almost as difficult for local star Andrew Gaze to find time in his pre-Olympics schedule to drop in for a cameo appearance. Tosi is full of praise for the athlete, saying that, while incredibly busy, he was determined to fit in the production and a delight to work with on the day. He bobs up in episode seven, which is due to screen this month.

Featuring basketball, as opposed to a more local sport such as football, was perhaps a savvy marketing technique - giving the show a hook that will make it attractive to both the large number of Australians who play the sport as well as the wider world.

Tosi says that, while she has hopes for the European market, it is incredibly difficult to sell Australian programs into the US and Canada. Talking about the power of these markets, she touches on why she believes it is vital Australians continue to be financially assisted in translating our own stories onto film and television.

"It's just so important for Australian children to grow up with a sense of their own identity. Who wants their kids to be growing up speaking and behaving like they do on some of those overseas shows? It's not who we are and what we're about. Keeping people's identity is what makes the world an interesting place."

Holly's Heroes screens on Fridays at 4pm on Channel Nine.

By Nicole Brady
July 7, 2005
The Age


Premieres Friday, June 3 at 4.00pm on Nine

A whole new ball game is set to score points with kids when the drama series, Holly's Heroes, premieres Friday, June 3 at 4.00pm on Nine.

The children's series follows the adventures of 14-year-old New Zealander Holly McKenzie (Dominique Crawford), whose dreams of playing basketball at the elite level seem doomed when her father gets a 12-month posting to Woolich, a seaside town in Australia.

Relief sets in when Holly discovers that Woolich is home to the Rams, one of the best regional basketball teams in Australia, and she sets her sights on selection. However, things don't go as planned when the Rams reject her natural enthusiasm and style, particularly bitchy star player Trish Jenkins (Virginia Ryan).

Things worsen when the team's hardline coach, Alan Peterson (David Roberts), won't pick her. But the Rams have met their match — nothing keeps Holly down for long, and with a lot of smooth talking and Kiwi ingenuity, she creates a stir by creating her own rival team, the Outlaws.

Joining Holly is Ralph (Jared Daperis), a former Rams player, Johnno (Michael Harrison), a fledgling entrepreneur, Franco (Ben Schumann), big and strong but shy around girls, Emily (Jessica Jacobs), Johnno's younger sister, and wild card Nick (Kane McNay), the Rams' and the town's enemy number one. Joining them is maths whiz Jacinta Peterson (Greta Larkins) who happens to be Coach Peterson's daughter and together they set out to put the Rams in their place.

Holly's Heroes boasts an impressive adult support cast, led by accomplished television and film actor David Roberts (The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Three Dollars) who plays Coach Peterson. Acclaimed actress Pamela Rabe (The Well) makes an appearance in episodes 6, 11 and 12 and basketball legend Andrew Gaze also features in episode 7.

Nine Network Executive Producer of Children's Drama, Jo Horsburgh, said, "It was an absolute pleasure to work with producers Ann Darrouzet and Jenni Tosi. Their passion and commitment has resulted in a lovely, warm hearted show which emphasises the value of friendship."

Holly's Heroes producer Ann Darrouzet said: "We wanted to show the parallel between sport and life in general, because the ethics that you need to respect in sport are basically the same as those you encounter every day."

The series is shot on Victoria's Phillip Island, in and around the Melbourne suburbs Williamstown and Warrandyte, and also in Wellington, New Zealand.

Holly's Heroes was created by George Tosi, Jenni Tosi and Ann Darrouzet for the Nine Network. The series was financed by Film Finance Corporation Australia, New Zealand On Air and Film Victoria. It was produced by Jenni Tosi and Ann Darrouzet from Tosi Westside and Dave Gibson from The Gibson Group. It was developed with the assistance of the Australian Children's Television Foundation and Film Victoria. The lead director is Roger Hodgman (The Secret Life Of Us, Wicked Science).

It's "game on" every Friday from June 3 at 4.00pm when Holly's Heroes premieres on Nine.

Press Release
May 31, 2005

Jeffrey Walker and Dominique Crawford

Jeffrey Walker (left) with actor Dominque Crawford on the set of Holly's Heroes

Round the Twist comes full circle for Jeffrey Walker

It was 1992 when Jeffrey Walker played the lead role of Bronson in the second series of the ACTF’s award-winning series Round the Twist. One episode, Little Squirt, scooped an AFI award, an Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) award as well as the prestigious international Prix Jeunesse award.

Fourteen years later, Jeffrey is now directing two episodes of Holly’s Heroes.

“When I was 13, I decided I wanted to move to the other side of the camera,” Jeffrey said. “I was initially interested in being a Director of Photography but I changed my mind after spending a bit of time learning what it was all about.”

In 1998 Jeffrey directed and co-wrote his first short film Tea Party Animals and has directed a further four short films as part of his secondary school education.

Jeffrey has had many acting parts including adult series such as Blue Heelers, Banjo Patterson’s The Man From Snowy River, Police Rescue as well as roles in a number of children’s series.

“Being on set was the happiest time for me when I was a kid and it still is now that I’m an adult. I have a tolerance for children on set,” Jeffrey said. “They are there because they love it. They give you everything and they want it to work.”

Jeffrey wants to continue honing his directing skills but has no plans to be a producer or a writer. “In the future, the moment, I’m enjoying directing the children in Holly’s Heroes.”

Care for Kids
Issue No. 97
November 2004

Producers give Docklands a miss

The new Australian children's television series Holly's Heroes will be shot in a Deer Park warehouse, after its producers decided the Docklands studios were too expensive.

Producer Ann Darrouzet said shooting of the 26-episode series, which has been sold to the Nine Network, New Zealand's TV2 and Pay TV's Nickelodeon, would start today at the western suburbs studio.

Ms Darrouzet said that while she was pleased the Docklands studios were available, her company Tosi Westside Pty Ltd had not considered the facility for the $9.3 million production.

"We didn't think it was going to be open in time," she said. "Our advice and what we had picked up was it would be cost prohibitive."

It is believed Tosi Westside is renting the Deer Park warehouse for about $2000 a week. Shooting is scheduled until September.

The operator of the Docklands facility, Central City Studios Holdings, is seeking a weekly rate ranging from $11,440 to $31,625 to rent one of its five air-conditioned sound stages.

But Central City chief financial officer Tim Barnett said yesterday that rates were negotiable.

"These people should just talk to us (rather) than making assumptions," he said.

Central City executive chairman Sino Guzzard said recently that many local filmmakers were assuming the studios were too expensive without even knowing the rates.

Mr Barnett said: "They're not coming to us to talk to us for whatever reason. The people we are in discussions with are more than happy."

Ms Darrouzet acknowledged she had not spoken to Central City executives before making the decision.

"We really don't have the budget to hire purpose-built studios (like the Docklands)," she said.

Mr Barnett said shooting would start today on the local feature film The Extra, the first production to use the Docklands facility. He hoped to make an announcement next week on further productions.

He said Central City was negotiating to secure four productions - a large overseas film, an Australian feature film, a local telemovie and a mini-series.

He said he hoped to have high-voltage power cables installed within the next few weeks.

The studios now rely on generators for electricity.

By Ewin Hannan
March 26, 2004
The Age