The second season of Wellington Paranormal ramps up the special effects, but in an understated way.
In the event, giant monsters do very much appear on screen, although a good visual joke is employed to keep down the special-effects minutes.
“We’re on an NZ On Air budget and they’re extremely good to us, but we’re competing with international shows that have massive budgets,” says series producer Paul Yates. “We had a little money for special effects this time around, but we still wanted to keep the low-fi approach that suits the vibe of the show. But it was a little less stressful doing the special effects, yes.”
Some things haven’t changed: the What We Do in the Shadows spin-off is still spearheaded by the hapless officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary), although Sergeant Maaka (Maaka Pohatu) and Thomas Sainsbury’s cowering Parker play more prominent roles, but the whole thing feels more sure of itself.
“Now that we know what it is a little more, I think we just wanted to solidify what worked,” says Yates.
“We like to think, being comedy professionals, that we know what’s funny – but you never know until you put it on air and see people responding to it.”
The show’s executive producers, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, are still involved, Waititi by phone and email – “a lot” – and Clement more directly, polishing scripts and furnishing lines on set. “There’s a lot of improvising. The actors had a much better sense of their characters and what worked. We started with the script and then we’d go wandering.
“We had a lot of material to draw on in the edit, which really helps to enhance your comedy.”
This season of six episodes (a Christmas special and a further six episodes next year will follow) also includes some notable cameos. In the sixth episode, for example, we meet O’Leary’s mother, played – and this seems wholly natural and right – by Linda Topp.
This may also be the year that Wellington Paranormal reaches the world. The contract for FX Networks’ What We Do in the Shadows TV series has prevented Paranormal from being offered outside Australasia, but that may change later in the year. We can only hope the Documentary Board has alerted the Tourism Board.
This article was first published in the October 12, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.