Making It Australia: Creating with hope of winning mega prize

WHAT THE?: Hosts Harley Breen and Susie Youssef have their
WHAT THE?: Hosts Harley Breen and Susie Youssef have their "what am I looking at here?" faces on as architect Jack explains how his creation works. Photo: supplied by Network 10.

A camera drone zooms in on a quaint, purpose-built barn on a beautiful property north of Sydney.

Through the doors step 13 creative artists from many walks of life, each with their eye on the prize - $100,000 and the title of Australia's first Master Maker.

Filmed at the beginning of the year, before the Delta strain of COVID reared its ugly head, Network 10's new reality show Making It is an escape from what we have all had to contend with from bushfires to floods and lockdowns.

Diminutive co-host Susie Youssef says she was excited to meet everyone on the show and to work alongside fellow comedian Harley Breen.

"They are all creative in so many ways - from architects, to woodworkers, to sculptors, to scrap metal workers - so many different disciplines.

"So my jaw dropped at what they could achieve in such a short time," Youssef says.

Each episode has a theme drawn from popular trends in crafting and DIY. The makers are given two challenges - one to be done in three hours and the other in eight hours.

They are judged by Game Of Thrones and Moulin Rouge production designer and art director, Deborah Riley and successful paper engineer, Benja Harney, who was commissioned by the Australian Olympics Committee to create a welcome art piece for their Olympic Village at this year's Tokyo Olympics.

Youssef says the creatives were inspired by each other continually, often offering to help out a competitor.

"We occasionally would forget the money was on the line. It was such a warm feeling in that barn despite the competitive element."

She had to audition for the role and do a "chemistry test" to see how she and Breen worked together.

"We've know each other for so long, and both do stand-up comedy which is very singular. So we needed to make sure we were a good fit together.

"We realised we have the same brand of lunacy. He was a dream to work with and he was very encouraging of the makers."

Youssef was already a fan of the American version of the show created by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.

"But our makers have a completely different sense of humour and they balance out our quirky sense of humour."

She admits to loving all things crafty.

"I am a craft enthusiast. I was big into origami as a kid. I recently got a crochet hook and have been madly looking at YouTube videos to find out how to use it.

"One of my sisters is so artistic and my dad built our dining table. But anything I try to draw never looks like it should.

"I am the biggest cheerleader for it.

"Harley and I had a separate outbuilding where we would build stuff and try dabbling with different things.

"The makers were so patient with me. [Sculptor and university lecturer] Denise said 'you can come over to WA any time and I will give you some lessons'."

Youssef says she was in awe of drag costumier Russell.

"We were all magnetised my him. But my allegiances changed throughout the filming.

"With each challenge I just kept looking at Harley and we were so amazed at what they could do. The way [mixed media artist] Sai-Wai looks at fabrics is incredible.

"Rizaldy has worked with Disney animation. He would look at foam and he would say 'I can make it look like wood'. I'd be saying 'why don't you just use wood?' and he would say 'where's the challenge in that?'.

"He would make a plan, which in itself was so impressive, and then he would recreate it perfectly. I would have an aneurism trying to make it."

Youssef says she hopes the audience enjoys the show.

"The show offers a change of pace. It's colourful and joyful.

"And maybe they will look around their houses and say I can do something with all those bottlecaps I've been saving for years.

The days were long, but you can tell they were very invested in it, she says.

"It's so great for people in the arts to be able to work and I am very lucky to go from Making It, to a new Australian play in Adelaide and work on The Project.

This story Making out of this world creations first appeared on The Canberra Times.