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The foremost figures in Aussie entertainment

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Australian production company Working Dog has made an enormous mark on our entertainment industry, thanks to classics like The Castle, Frontline and The Panel – and finally, in 2015, the world is at its feet.

Based in Melbourne, the company has sold its Logie award-winning comedy Utopia to US giant Netflix, putting the program in front of a 42.3 million subscriber audience.

Utopia, a political satire written by industry stalwarts Santo Cilauro, Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner, is the latest in Working Dog’s long line of seminal Aussie entertainment projects, dating back to The D-Generation in 1986. Click the owl to see them all.  

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With such an enduring record of success, undeniable mark on showbiz culture and now Utopia‘s spot on Netflix (the company at the forefront of a world home-entertainment revolution), Working Dog is arguably Australia’s greatest production company.

Just don’t tell them that. It’s not something Working Dog want to discuss in public.

Santo Cilauro gave a rare interview on student radio in 2014 explaining the group's secrets.  Photo: workingdog.com
Cilauro gave a rare interview on student radio in 2014, explaining the group’s secrets. Photo: Getty

Working Dog was created by Cilauro, Gleisner and Sitch, plus Jane Kennedy and Michael Hirsh, in 1993.

The New Daily made repeated requests to speak to Working Dog founders’ Cilauro, Gleisner or Sitch for this piece, however we were told they don’t like to do profiles reflecting on their record.

We wanted to know how Working Dog stayed relevant as technology changed entertainment and what fuelled the group’s razor-sharp wit and timeless satire?

However, some of the questions could be answered through a rare interview Cilauro gave last year to an off-broadway (my) student radio show.

“We love crafting something, we love working hard, but we move on,” Cilauro said, possibly explaining Working Dog’s apprehension to dwell on what it’s achieved. 

“We’re pretty restless when it comes to creativity, we like to move on.”

Cilauro also revealed how the team still gather every morning for a brainstorming session to test ideas in front of a whiteboard. 

“We’re 25 to 30 years into a career and we still work at a whiteboard between 8:30 and 10:30 every morning,” Cilauro said. 

“It’s a drug [the brainstorming sessions] that you just can’t get enough of.”

‘They’re just a real machine’

Utopia lead actor and Australian comedian Celia Pacquola was only too happy to sing the praises of Working Dog.

She’s been a regular on the Australian comedy scene for a decade but got her first acting gig playing Nat on the show.

Pacquola told The New Daily she’s in awe of the group, and can’t believe the way they’ve mastered the art of making entertainment.

Celia Pacquola (Nat) and Rob Sitch (Tony), are often made to endure the bizarre behaviour of their colleagues. Photo: Supplied.
Celia Pacquola (Nat) and Rob Sitch (Tony), are often made to endure the bizarre behaviour of their colleagues. Photo: Supplied

“I was determined to act super calm around them and not gush on them, try and be cool,” Pacquola joked. “I am still pretty awkward around them, but they know who I am now.

“Getting to go to the 2014 Logies sitting next to them and then going on stage was pretty awesome.

“They’ve just got it down to a fine art they’re all such good friends and they’re just a real machine. It has been a real treat to get to do Utopia. And I have proof of it as well! It’s on television and Netflix!”

The political satire series follows the trials and tribulations of fictional government body The Nation Building Authority (NBA).

Utopia highlights the often ridiculous way the office’s two pragmatic workers, Nat and Tony (Sitch), constantly have ideas for real and meaningful infrastructure beaten down.

Flying in the face of their best intentions are a host of painstakingly inept colleagues.

Most notably, the trigger-happy prime ministerial liaison Jim (Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann) and public relations airhead Rhonda (Kitty Flanagan).

Bar Tony (centre) and Nat (in red), there isn't much competency in the Nation Building Authority. Photo: Supplied
Bar Tony (centre) and Nat (in red), there isn’t much competency in the Nation Building Authority. Photo: Supplied

For example, early in season two, work on a multi-billion-dollar Melbourne tunnel is set to begin.

However work is delayed by Rhonda, whose lavish publicity launch scuppers soil being turned on time.

Pacquola explained that the show’s universal charm – titled Dreamland on Netflix – lies in the idea of everyday office workers, particularly women, feeling they’re the only competent people in chaotic workplaces.

“There’s a lot of these corporate, competent, smart and successful women who are in these positions,” she said. “I really like being able to represent them in Utopia.

“People come up to me and say ‘I love you, that is my [office] life’. It’s nice to play someone in the office who is competent.”

*** Utopia can be seen every Wednesday at 9PM or on iView here

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