Backstage’s Lara Azzopardi

Lara Azzopardi, co-creator, showrunner, writer and director of Backstage, talks to TV Kids about the tween drama, which was created and developed by Fresh TV in association with DHX Television.

A group of talented teens attending a performing arts school takes the spotlight in Backstage, a live-action series that airs on DHX Television’s Family Channel in Canada. The show, filmed docudrama-style, stars Josh Bogert, Aviva Mongillo and Mckenzie Small, among others. It premiered earlier this year and has been picked up for a 30-episode second season, which kicked off production this summer in Toronto and is due to debut next year. Distributor DHX Media has also licensed the first season to Disney Channel in the U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Nordics, Benelux, Germany, CEE, Turkey, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.

***Image***TV KIDS: Tell us about Backstage and how the idea for the series came about.
AZZOPARDI: Backstage is a show that takes place in an elite arts high school. It follows 12 characters in season one. It’s an ensemble show, so we’ve got kids who are in the music department, the dance department and the visual-arts department. We even have kids in the film department and the costume department. That’s the world that the show lives in, but at its heart it’s a show about kids figuring out who they are and all the high school drama that takes place. The show came to me from Fresh TV. They had the original idea of creating something like Fame for kids. They had a pitch document that they gave me and I took that and turned it into what it is today.

TV KIDS: How did you manage to shoot all 30 episodes in 30 days?
AZZOPARDI: What we had done was we had two full crews. The reason that we had to shoot on such a short timeline was because Brian Irving, the producer from Fresh TV, and I really wanted to shoot on location. We wanted that feel. We’re both fans of shows like Friday Night Lights and really loved that look. We really wanted to shoot in a real school, which meant we ***Image***would only have it during the summer break. So in order to make that work and with an order of 30 episodes, we had to shoot two crews simultaneously at the school, block-shooting two episodes each crew. Each block was four days and between the two sets we were shooting four episodes at the same time. So our very, very talented cast had to have four episodes in their brains because we were sharing the cast. We would finish one scene with one crew and then they would run over to the next crew, the next set, and shoot a totally different episode there. And they were amazing; they were very professional. It was a really nice experience. It was intense but I think because it’s such a short period of time, everyone’s in it and we just go for it. It’s like summer camp [laughs].

TV KIDS: What makes Backstage internationally appealing?
AZZOPARDI: I think it’s a couple of things. At the heart of it, it’s a high school drama. So if you’re not a dancer or a singer or a visual artist, there are still very human stories that I think we all go through—friendship, first loves, breakups, and also just trying to do your best at something and sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding. I think that it appeals to everyone because of that, but also I think that because we’re in an arts high school, there is something to aspire to. I am not a dancer and I am definitely not a singer [laughs] but I’ve always loved dancing and that backstage world of what it takes to become a performer. So it’s going backstage and seeing how these amazing dancers start off and what they have to go through, seeing what these visual artists have to do, and the same with the singers. I’m curious about that, so I think that there’s an appeal to kids and hopefully parents to see what their kids are up to.

TV KIDS: How has the show’s presence been extended beyond the small screen?
AZZOPARDI: We actually have a website. There’s a character named Sasha on the show who has an online gossip blog called Too Much Keaton, and we have a website that is called Too Much Keaton. We shot a ton of extra footage and extra confessionals that are only available on Too Much Keaton—lots of content there. And that comes out after every episode; there’s a whole lot of information that goes up on the website after a show premieres.