Could this Australian surf drama be Netflix’s next teen hit?

Summer Torres (Sky Katz) makes a striking early impression in the 10-part drama series, survive the summer† The New York teen is standing on a flaming skateboard on a diving board above a swimming pool when the police arrive. As the screen entries go, it is memorable and economically establishes the qualities of the girl whose name is part of the pun in the title. She is fearless, impulsive and rebellious.

Summer is an agitator and has a difficult relationship with her mother, Margot (Kate Beahan), a world travel journalist. Not knowing what to do with her daughter, Margot asks for a favor from an old friend, Abbie Gibson (Adrienne Pickering), who lives on the south coast of Victoria with her husband Thommo (Dustin Clare), their teenage son Ari. (Kai Lewins), and his younger sister, Honey (Asmara Feik).

Joao Marinho, Savannah La Rain, Sky Katz, Kai Lewins and Lilliana Bowrey in Surviving Summer. Credit:Netflix

The resentful Summer arrives in the fictional town of Shorehaven, believing she has been sent to a remote place and determined to escape. However, events conspire to keep her there, including the discovery of the joy of surfing. “We wanted summer to be a blast in Shorehaven,” explains executive producer Joanna Werner (dance academythe newsreader), who co-created the series with Josh Mapleston.

So the stage is set for a richly layered, fish-out-of-water story centered on surf culture and the trials and tribulations of adolescence. The carefully crafted series also explores female friendship and male mental health. As a bonus, it’s a showcase for the rugged beauty of Victoria’s Surf Coast.

“After dance academy“I knew how great it was to work on shows that are ambitious and inspiring, but also to create cinematic drama,” said Werner. “In dance academywe had dance, and with survive the summerwe have surfing.”

Like the internationally successful teen dance drama, survive the summer focuses on a group of attractive, athletic teens passionately committed to a competitive discipline that requires intense physical and mental dedication.

The series was shot in and around Anglesea for 10 weeks from February 2021. Production of the series consisted of two units working simultaneously, a main drama unit operating under the director of photography, Katie Milwright (Uprightlaid), and a surfing unit led by Rick Rifici (Breathdirty music† “Rick was actually eight weeks non-stop in the water with two wetsuits on,” Werner is surprised. “They always say: don’t work with children or animals, but add the tide and wave size. Things can change quickly without notice.”

Sky Katz has appeared in America's Got Talent, Disney's Ravens Home and is a professional recording artist.

Sky Katz has appeared in America’s Got Talent, Disney’s Ravens Home and is a professional recording artist. Credit:Ben King

Meanwhile, Summer makes discoveries on dry land and her hostility to exile subsides.

“She’s outgoing and outgoing,” 17-year-old Katz says of her character. “But at the same time, she keeps to herself, so it’s an interesting balance. She is misunderstood and she knows she is misunderstood, and in response to her hurt, she doesn’t want to open up to anyone. But she discovers, for the first time in her life, that she has friendships and that she opens up. It’s hard for her, but it teaches her a lot about who she is and who she wants to be.”

One of the eye openers for Summer is to see Ari at the heart of a loving and supportive family. “Summer grew up in a single-parent family, and she and Margot struggle with their relationship,” Werner says. “When she’s sent to the other side of the world, she finds a family she didn’t know she needed.

Live-action drama is often aimed at girls… Netflix saw this as a show that should attract boys and girls.

Joanna Werner, Executive Producer

“The Gibsons are a wonderful family. They are in the perfect fibro house – and it was very hard to find one in Anglesea that hasn’t been knocked down. We were looking for that idyllic Australia. We wanted to find a bag of old beach life.

Ari becomes the key to Summer’s immersion in her new world. He is returning to competitive surfing for the time being after an injury and grueling months of rehabilitation. His friendship group includes avid surfers who each face different challenges. Marlon (Joao Marinho) emigrated from Brazil with his mother (Tatiana Hotere) and instinctively understands Summer’s first reaction to Shorehaven. Poppy (Queensland surfing champion Lilliana Bowrey) runs a surf school with her brothers and mourns the recent death of their mother. Bodhi (Savannah La Rain) has to deal with the fallout of her parents’ marriage. As is the way of such things, Ari carries a torch for Bodhi, who is now with Marlon, while Poppy is quietly fond of Ari.

“We wanted to be authentic to the nationalities we had written,” Werner says. “We wanted Summer to be American and Sky is such a dynamo. She appeared on America’s Got Talent as a rapper when she was 11, then got a job on the Disney series, Raven’s house† She is a professional music artist with millions of TikTok followers. She is an empire.”

About Ari, Werner says: “Ideally we were looking for an experienced actor who could surf, and Kai [Lewins] †Wild BoysRoar) was the golden ticket.”

“I’ve never participated. I surf for the pleasure of it and my net worth reflects that,” says Lewins. “But since I was 14 I surfed as often as possible with a group of friends. I’d go to school to basically fall asleep because I’d been up since 4am, catch a bus, then a train, then walk for 20 minutes, then I’d surf, then walk, bus and train to school .”

Could this Australian surf drama be Netflix's next teen hit?

“Ideally, we were looking for an experienced actor who could surf, and Kai was the golden ticket,” said Kai Lewins producer Joanne Werner, who plays Ari in Surviving Summer.Credit:Ben King

Reflecting the culture clash element in the drama, Werner notes that the local approach to performance may differ from the American one: “Australian performance, especially with children, is much more grounded and real. We treat them the same as in premium adult drama. There is no difference for me between survive the summer and the newsreader: we are not looking for the laughter or the playing in the back row.”

Katz found that “Disney is more acting. This show was more natural, but something that was really cool was that I was able to bring in a little bit of the comedic timing that I learned at Disney. And my Disney character was kind of like Summer, sarcastic , kind of a smart ass, and I added some of that attitude to this.”

Lewins describes his opponent as a “pocket rocket” like her character, while Ari is quieter and more introspective. Lewins calls him “a beautiful soul”, explaining that “even when Ari is tough, pouty or moody or just plain frustrating, he wants the best for everyone around him, even if he feels like he’s been hugely belittled”.

Director of photography Katie Milwright, producer Joanna Werner and director Sian Davies on the set of Surviving Summer.

Director of photography Katie Milwright, producer Joanna Werner and director Sian Davies on the set of Surviving Summer.

Originally, however, Ari was conceived as a girl, with early feedback from Netflix fueling the shift. “Live-action drama is often geared toward girls, and there’s a lot more that’s appropriate for girls,” Werner says. “Netflix saw this as a show that should attract boys and girls, so we made the decision to make Ari a boy and that gave us such rich story potential. Ari would always remain emotionally vulnerable and it became even more relevant.”

As Ari struggles with anxiety in the wake of his injury, Summer finds unknown solace in her friendship with Poppy and Bodhi. “Very often, drama plays on hostility between female characters,” Werner says. “We wanted the friendship to be the heart and soul of the series, so Summer would find not only the Gibsons, but friends as well. It’s a grounded yet ambitious vision of female friendship.


“I like seeing positive things on TV. My kids are small but they look bluey and what I love about it is that the siblings, rather than conflict, are kind to each other. TV for young audiences affects their worldview, so it’s important to have some positivity. We wanted this to be a warm show and we’re not ashamed that it’s a warm heart. We feel like it’s somewhere you’d like to be.”

Now it is also somewhere they hope to return. The production team is hoping that Shorehaven will delight viewers as much as the summer and that there will be a second season, ideally with appropriate branding.

survive the summer is on Netflix.

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