Getting Down To Business

Getting Down To Business

By Cara Nash

March 21, 2016

Sex is always being sold to us by the media, but never genuinely discussed. Creator and producer Karina Holden wanted to change that with her television series Luke Warm Sex, which follows one awkward comedian’s journey to get better in the bedroom.

“The opportunity to create a series about sex for all ages and persuasions, basing it on the fundamentals of consent, respect, intimacy and communication, felt like good public service television!” laughs producer Karina Holden about her new ABC series Luke Warm Sex, which pitches itself as “a crash course in great sex”.

“It’s been 20 years since Totti Goldsmith heated up our screens with Sex/Life,” Holden says. “Since then, apart from imported documentaries shown on ABC2 and SBS, there’s very little real sex on television. So how do we learn about sex? Obviously the internet is filling that void, and not particularly well, as there are whole generations growing up learning about sex from pornography. And you’ve got to wonder if that’s going to skew a person’s expectations and experience of sex.”

Filling that void then is a new six-part series, which Holden says takes a “users-guide” approach to sex. Guiding viewers through the series is stand-up comedian Luke McGregor, who takes on a new “challenge” each week to address his anxiety and awkwardness when it comes to sex, with the help of therapists, sex coaches and even scientists.

“I really like programming that uses counter-intuitive casting and thought Luke McGregor would be a great “anti-hero” for the series,” Holden says of her leading man. “He’s vulnerable, inexperienced, and personifies the awkwardness many people have around sex. But I also knew he was brave and very authentic in his stand up, which is exactly what a documentary host needs to be.”

Given the series gets very personal, did McGregor take some convincing to come on board?

“When he realised he had the chance not only to be involved in an interesting television production but also had the opportunity to truly address something that was lacking in his life, that’s when he saw the potential in the series. The series is more powerful because it is so personal and we absolutely respected the need for Luke to control how far things went. Actually… he surprised as all with how far he really was prepared to go and how revealing he was prepared to be.”

In pitching the series to the ABC, Holden – who has also produced the superb ABC documentary series Changing Minds: The Inside Story – says the broadcaster were not restrictive when it came to what could and could not be shown.

“The ABC was far more interested in how far we could push the boundaries, rather than creating them for us,” Holden says. “I think they were surprised we were able to make a series that tackles some pretty intense ‘hands on’ sex practises and still remain in the M classification. But I think that’s part of the charm of the series. We wanted to access all areas, but also do it in a way where we avoided being salacious or gratuitous.”

Luke Warm Sex is the latest in a fascinating slate of documentary projects for Holden, whose ABC series Ice Wars and the National Geographic film Secret Life of Pearls, are both due out this year. Starting her career as a wildlife biologist before joining the ABC Natural History Unit, Holden moved on to directing documentaries, and her transition to producing was almost by accident.

“I’m definitely more emotionally fulfilled when I’m directing,” Holden reveals. “But (un)fortunately, I’ve become quite experienced at producing and now I find I do that more than anything else. It happened accidentally as I started attending markets to pitch the creative on projects. Working in very small documentary teams, you tend to take on the roles and responsibilities of producing, managing budgets, raising finance and running the relationships with broadcasters and investors. After being a commissioning editor at the ABC, I was saddled with so much knowledge of how to run productions, there was no way I could get away from being a hands on producer.

“I marvel at creatives who manage to avoid these significant parts of production as they claim it cramps their style. I hope I’m a better director because I understand what it takes to produce. And I hope I am a better producer, because I know what it takes to direct. I think, like my stories, I don’t like to be just one thing.”

As for her own journey with Luke Warm Sex, what has Holden taken away from the series? “Lots! Probably too many things to list like laundry. But being the mother of a young boy, I felt like it’s probably not too much further down the track when I need to start talking about the “birds and the bees” to my son… How did I go at deflecting that question?”

Luke Warm Sex screens next on Wednesday, March 23 at 9.00pm.