Actor-writer-director Jenna Sutch has arrived with the dark comedy series Death Doula.
Crafted during her time at the Australian Film Television Radio School (AFTRS), Death Doula is a comedic exploration of death and grief that uses an intriguing blend of live-action and animation.
The pilot follows grief-stricken Annie (Jenna Sutch), who after losing her best friend in a car accident starts experiencing visions of a world beyond the mortal plane. Channeling her newfound abilities, she trains to become a ‘death doula’ – haphazardly walking people to the other side.
Unlike their birthing counterparts, death doulas provide physical and emotional support to those that are exiting this world. Sutch’s first exposure to the practice was through a 2018 ABC article, and after using them to deal with a personal loss, she knew that there was a story to be told.
In writing the pilot, Jenna trained to become a Death Doula herself. She learned that there is no right or wrong way to leave this earth or say goodbye, but that there are simply different ways of doing it. She hopes the series will be a vehicle for a more considered, potentially human approach to dying, as it asks the audience to level up their death literacy as they go on a spiritual exploration of death and grief.
Sutch’s pilot was made possible by the work of producers James Kwong and Josh Anderson, with the support of a talented student and volunteer cast and crew.
Sutch received mentorship from ACCTA award-winning director Rowan Woods (The Boys, Little Fish), and he had this to say about the production: “Jenna examines cine-mavericks from Mike Leigh to Joey Soloway and their paradigm-shifting methods that put performance first. In that alignment of research and creative practice, Death Doula transmits a scintillatingly loose and unshackled quality, raising the hope that constipated versions of Australian naturalism can be shaken up by a talented and subversive actor/director at the helm.”
The pilot has recently won Outstanding Director Drama at Catalyst Content Festival in America and the Best Student Series at Melbourne Webfest. It had its NSW premiere at the Sydney Web Fest, Saturday 3rd December at The Governor’s Centre, in Surry Hills. As part of the festival, Sutch spoke at the Women & Diversity in Creative Web Work panel.
Due to the exciting reception of the pilot’s festival run, the full series is currently being pitched to the international market.