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Tragicomic: High School sucks when you’re basically Hamlet

High School sucks when you’re basically Hamlet.


Tragicomic is breaking new ground in digital media as both a webseries and a webcomic, but it is inspired by a play that is over 400 years old — William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The series is the latest project from the SPADA New Filmmakers of the Year for 2017, a team of four young women (and a token dude) from Wellington known as The Candle Wasters. With help from New Zealand On Air, they make fierce, funny, feminist webseries that have so far amassed over 5 million views worldwide.

Tragicomic follows Hannah Moore, world weary and fifteen years old, she’s an aspiring cartoonist searching for the truth about her missing dad.

Part One of the series will be released 3rd August 2018.


Tragicomic invites you to revisit Hamlet and high school through the eyes of a teenage girl. Lovesick, isolated, and venting her feelings through her comics, Hannah is on a quest to discover what really happened to her absent father. All the while uncovering a secret from her family's past that will follow her for the rest of her life.

Tragicomic is a ten part webseries and twenty part webcomic, created to be read and viewed together.


Tragicomic breaks new ground by inviting the audience to scroll through both film and cartoon components of the story. We see the protagonist, Hannah, upload her comics to the internet, and scroll down to see what she has created.

These webcomics include a cameo from New Zealand’s own Dylan Horrocks, author of Hicksville and winner of the 2016 Arts Foundation Laureate Award. The majority of comics are drawn by Sally Bollinger, who says she was inspired by Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy – a series of short funny webcomics that then developed into a graphic novel.

Like one of Hamlet’s soliloquies, each comic gives the audience an insight into our hero’s mind. The webcomics grow increasingly dark as the fairytale characters grow to represent Hannah’s increasingly paranoid view of the people in her life.


The writing for the series took place over four months, and focused on the key themes of mental health, relationships between women, and queer representation.

“The decision to make Hamlet a teenage girl came about for a variety of reasons,” says Minnie Grace, co-creator and co-producer of the series. “Maybe the most important one was the need for accurate representation of the teenage female experience. Our series was written and directed by young women who really felt a lack of depictions of their experiences on screen growing up.”
Hannah has a crush on a young woman, who viewers may recognise as Ophelia, but Claris Jacobs, co-creator and art director of the series, says Hannah is not defined by her sexuality: “The stories of the queer community need to be about more than their coming out stories. Hannah has hopes, dreams, and struggles beyond her sexuality, which is just one facet of a complex character.“

The Candle Wasters have touched on queer themes numerous times before, with their previous series Happy Playland being described as a “lesbian rom-com musical set in a children’s indoor playground.”

In Tragicomic, the protagonist Hannah struggles with her mental wellbeing, in part inspired by numerous theories regarding Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Academics have suggested that Hamlet had Bipolar Affective Disorder, a condition characterized by periods of deep depression that alternate with periods of extreme exhilaration or irritability known as mania. The writing team worked hard to consult with multiple people who have the disorder to help them portray the condition accurately.

The global film industry has seen a flurry of support for women fighting against their lack of representation, on screen and behind the scenes, and against the horrors they face from people like Harvey Weinstein. This fight has come to be known as the #metoo movement.

The dominance of men in the film industry has led to abuse, a lack of representation, and film sets that are run in a masculine and military-like manner.

While filming Tragicomic, it was important for The Candle Wasters not only to combat the problems, but to work towards a healthy alternative.

The team made a conscious effort to employ as many women as possible behind the scenes - especially in Head of Department (HOD) positions. The directors Sally Bollinger (25) and Elsie Bollinger (21), are sisters who directed the series together.

Over 80% of the HODs in the crew were women or non-binary people. They also created a more emotions-focused set with emotional check-ins each morning, and a mental health first aider on set.


The Candle Wasters
Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Robbie Nicol & Sally Bollinger

Young Jury Award - Carballo Interplay Festival - 2018
SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year Award - 2017
Best Drama - Hollyweb Festival - 2017
The Innovation Award - NZ Webfest - 2016

The Candle Wasters are four young women (and a token dude) from New Zealand, who create fierce, funny, feminist web series. They made their first webseries Nothing Much To Do in 2014, and have gone on to create Lovely Little Losers, and Bright Summer Night, and Happy Playland and now Tragicomic. These series have had over 5 million views and are watched all over the world.

Their work has developed a strong and engaged fanbase who create fanart, perform covers of songs from the series, funded two $25,000 Kickstarter campaigns, written over 900 pieces of fanfiction, and conducted fan meet-ups across the globe (including New Zealand, Australia, Britain, and the USA).

The name ‘The Candle Wasters’ is derived from a Much Ado About Nothing quote which refers to people who stay up late at night wasting candles. Claris, Elsie, Minnie, and Sally met at Western Springs College in Auckland, New Zealand. They began making webseries when the youngest of the group was just 17. Robbie Nicol, of the ever popular political satire White Man Behind a Desk, joined the writing team in 2016.

The Candle Wasters believe in creating content for the community they are a part of. This community is young, mostly female, it’s feminist, it’s queer, it’s anxious about the state of the world, and it’s excited to be making art that connects with individuals across the globe.

Thomas Coppell, Producer, Tomorrow Rain
Thomas is a passionate cross-media producer with a dedication to good storytelling, unique voices, and visual eye candy. Diverse experience in film, animation, TV, and webseries. Graduated with Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) focused in Film and Media Studies.

Tomorrow, Rain produces cross-platform, multimedia magic by enabling unique, creative voices and connecting their stories with audiences.

Jess Charlton, Director of Photography
Jess Charlton is an accomplished stills photographer and experienced cinematographer with an impressive body of work over her 13 years in the industry. She has been involved as DOP of The Candle Wasters’ work since Bright Summer Night. Her work was essential in providing the distinct atmospheres between the mundanity of work and the musical numbers in Happy Playland.

Jess is a key member of Skyhook, a company that specialises in low altitude aerial cinematography, and brings to the team knowledge as a skilled gimbal operator. You can see some of Jess’ aerial cinematography, alongside Simon Baumfield, in episode one and ten of Bright Summer Night. Jess has also worked on other webseries, short films, various documentaries, music videos, and the feature film Existence.

Nova Moala-Knox, Lead Actor “Hannah Moore”
Nova grew up in Wellington with one brother and 73 imaginary sisters. She previously had a role in The Candle Wasters’ Bright Summer Night, and was very excited to work with them again for Tragicomic.

At school Nova was bad at most things, but dominated in School Journal plays. Now home-schooled, she still loves drama - comedy especially. She is part of a cool little homeschooling drama group which was selected to go to the national Sheilah Winn Shakespeare festival with their 15-minute scene from Henry V.

Nova stabs herself with needles at least eight times a day - usually due to having type 1 diabetes. She likes hula hooping, reading graphic novels, and making Vines and YouTube videos with her brother and flatmates.

Dylan Horrocks, Cartoonist & Actor
Dylan Horrocks is an accomplished cartoonist, illustrator, and writer from New Zealand. His graphic novel Hicksville won the Eisner Award in 2002, and has since been published in Italian, French, and Spanish. He has drawn comics for DC Comics, and drawn for various anthologies in countries around the world including the USA, Australia, and England.

Dylan is featured in Tragicomic as Hannah’s cartoonist hero. He makes appearances in Episodes 2 and 10 where he provides guidance and encouragement to her as a fellow cartoonist. Dylan’s work also briefly appears as part of the comic section of Tragicomic as he draws a picture of the Knight for Hannah.

Sally Bollinger, Cartoonist
Sally Bollinger is a cartoonist, director, and film-maker. She started drawing comics in high school, including an adaptation of Hamlet for her design class. She attended AUT University where she studied photography and moving image. In 2015 received a mentorship from the Society of Authors to work on a graphic novel. Her mentor was acclaimed cartoonist Dylan Horrocks.

Her comics have been published in The Millennial, and Three Words: An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ women’s comics, edited by Sarah Laing, Indira Neville and Rachel Fenton. As well as the recent children’s Annual, edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris. Sally draws comics whenever she has the time and sometimes even when she doesn’t.

Indira Force, Composer
Indira has been working with The Candle Wasters since Nothing Much To Do. Between 2013 and 2016, Indira Force was half of Doprah, a neo-trip-hop duo who opened for Lorde and whose debut album, 2016’s Wasting, received international attention. She has performed at the CMJ music expo in New York alongside Lorde, at the hugely popular Laneway Festival. Force has composed film soundtracks, dance scores and even music for political campaigns

She now creates and performs solo as indi, creating ornate and gentle music which echoes Björk and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Her first solo album 2017’s Precipice, was a hit, and she performed with saxophonists, trombonists and a violin septet to bring her vision to life. She is currently in Berlin as part of the 018 Red Bull Music Academy, a month-long creative workshop with musicians from around the world.

Supported by

Tragicomic is supported by NZOnAir, Park Road Post Production, The Wireless, Massey University, and Victoria University of Wellington.


Directors - Elsie Bollinger and Sally Bollinger

Producers - Thomas Coppell and Minnie Grace

Script Writers - Claris Jacobs, Minnie Grace, and Robbie Nicol

Story Supervisors - Elsie Bollinger and Sally Bollinger

Director of Photography - Jess Charlton

Production & Costume Designer - Claris Jacobs

Cartoonist - Sally Bollinger

Editor - Bailey Palmer

Composer - Indira Force

Sound Record, ADR, Foley & Design - Lachlan Crane


Hannah Moore - Nova Moala-Knox

Isla Stevenson - Liv Scott

Jude Moore - Tracey Savage

Martin McCloud - Barnaby Olson

Sophia Beaton - Sarah May

Rose Lee - Samantha Jordan

Gil Kirby - Siddhant Lakshman

With Dylan Horrocks as Himself

Ghost - Cameron Hill

Polly the Rat - Albus Heritage

The Candle Wasters - Filmography

Nothing Much To Do (2014) learn more
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

Lovely Little Losers (2015) learn more
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

Bright Summer Night (2016) learn more
Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Happy Playland (2017) learn more

Tragicomic (2018)
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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