Comedy Take on Hong Kong Expat Life
Hong Kong based Aussie film maker, Boris Burgess, and his writing team of Dave Bridges and Jalal Afzal, have created The Expats, a mini-series of hilarious and satirical short episodes offering a unique and rather tongue-in-cheek take on expat life in the city.
We caught up with Boris recently and chatted more about The Expats, where the team find their ideas and what’s next from this team of comedic creatives.
But first, take a look at one of the funniest episodes, FILTH (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong), where Gary, a former dustbin man in London, receives business training, creative help with his CV and tips on personal style and grooming from the FILTH programme. Now an investment banker with a Ferrari, new wife and house on the Peak, Gary’s made it in Hong Kong and turned his life around!
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Originally from Sydney, Australia, I arrived in Hong Kong four years ago and set-up my video production company, Mediam Rare, which produces commercial projects in Hong Kong and Asia. I started making films at the age of twelve and haven’t stopped since. It’s been a consistent passion of mine, and I have been fortunate enough to turn it into a full-time career. I’m grateful that I get paid to do what I love.
Where did the inspiration for the first episode of The Expats come from?
A lot of the The Expats episodes are inspired by trends that are prevalent in Hong Kong expat culture and society. The idea of “Tap That” came from the increasing amount of outdoor fitness classes that we noticed emerging in Hong Kong.
The joke was that you don’t need to rent a gym or have any professional fitness qualifications to run a class outdoors; you get paid cash-in-hand at the beginning of the session just to bark orders at people for an hour. With the rise of multi-level-marketing firms in Hong Kong and China, we thought it would be funny to turn “Tap That” into a pyramid scheme, purely motivated by making money quickly through selling fitness sessions to friends and family.
What’s the feedback been from people who’ve seen the series so far?
The feedback has been really positive so far; people identify with the episodes and appreciate how we make light of expat culture and society in a professional and polished format. Satire is a great way to make fun of ourselves and is a good reminder not to take life too seriously. We have also received a lot of encouragement and are starting to develop a cult following online. Some people – mostly friends and colleagues – call us by our characters’ names in the episodes, which is amusing.
What is it about life in Hong Kong that continues to give you ideas?
In my personal experience, Hong Kong is a city that’s largely driven by “success” and making money. Our main character, Matt, played by Dave Bridges, epitomises these values; he’s constantly trying to reinvent himself and build a fortune in any way he sees fit at the time.
Having lived in Hong Kong for four years now, you start to notice trends that develop in different industries and aspects of society. In the series, we try to reflect and reproduce these new trends in an interesting way, to make people identify and laugh at the subject matter. There are also a lot of clichés and obvious jokes that can be made about expat culture; however, we try to treat each subject in a clever way and approach it from a different and, hopefully, unexpected angle.
Any new episodes that we should be looking out for?
We’ve just finished an episode that explores French expat culture in Hong Kong and Asia (view it here). There are a lot of episodes and exciting ideas in the pipeline; it’s just a matter of finding the time to get them all done!
What are your longer term plans for the series?
We want to continue to grow and develop the series further, of course. At the moment, we are still in the experimental stage; discovering the voice and tone of the series while trying out different ideas.
In terms of the future, we would like to develop it into a Television series or perhaps even a feature film.