Periods are messy, they are agonising and debilitating. They have a unique way of derailing your life and yet, up until very recently, traditional advertising for essential menstruation products has erred towards a discreet and almost apologetic approach. However, the world is waking up and the aptly named I’m Dying Inside, a five part TikTok series from Finch, directed by Arundati Thandur in collaboration with agency Howatson+Company for Modibodi, Australia’s leading period underwear brand, finally offers us an authentic, raw and honest portrayal of periods I, and every other woman out there, have been waiting for. I’m Dying Inside was specifically designed to target Gen Z, showcasing the generation’s diverse and outspoken selves whose resistance to more traditional advertising has paved the way for new creative means. The five part series shown below in its entirety focuses on four young housemates, comprised of actors, comedians and TikTok stars, whose individual experiences of menstruation are highlighted within comedic everyday situations which showcase how the Modibodi’s new Modibasics period & leaf-proof underwear can fit seamlessly into their lives rather than being a burdensome monthly encumberment. Hopefully heralding a form of advertising that is only set to grow in popularity we invited Thandur to speak to us about rethinking traditional production rules to shoot specifically for TikTok, keeping the writing airtight in order to hook the audience in those vital first few seconds and unconventionally finding her actors first and then writing the script around them.
Can you share your initial thoughts and reactions when you were approached to direct the I’m Dying Inside campaign for Modibodi?
I was so excited. I’ve always been drawn to fiction and narrative, so when I saw a brand like Modibodi were going to make a mini-series, I was all in. I think for a brand to pivot from a typical ad and create something unconventional is risky but I think we pulled it off.
Could you elaborate on how the concept of a modern period drama for TikTok came about? What inspired your unique approach to the advertising of menstruation products?
It came from the wonderful creatives at Howatson+Co. The main goal was to be able to connect with Gen Z. And for a group of people who consume so much but are so anti-advertising, moving the campaign to TikTok felt like the most effective solution. I think they really nailed it.
The campaign’s title, I’m Dying Inside, is intriguing and impactful. How did you contribute to shaping the narrative and character development to portray the experiences of young adults dealing with periods authentically?
I think it was a matter of being really collaborative and approaching the whole campaign as if it were an actual series. We had a writer’s room initially and had two talented screenwriters write the scripts – Humyara Mahbub and Naomi Higgins. We went into it asking ourselves, “How do we convince an audience that is resistant to advertising?” We need to show them we understand what they care about – in a comedic lens that’s tailored to the unique sense of humour that’s shaped by TikTok. Prioritising the story and a fresh ensemble cast was what really hooked our audience.
We went into it asking ourselves “How do we convince an audience that is resistant to advertising?”
The campaign showcases a mix of humour and genuine moments related to periods. How did you find the right balance between boldness and authenticity in delivering the comedic aspects while addressing the relatable experiences?
I think it came from real-life stories and experiences from our creative team that we fused into the stories of each of the characters. Gen Z is really diverse and so are the infinite subcultures within TikTok. There’s something for everyone. When we were writing the characters, we wanted to represent people who are distinctly different. I think the humour then came from their wildly different approaches to dealing with things like “period sex on the first date”.
Shooting a TikTok series adds its own unique production challenges, such as capturing footage in the 9:16 aspect ratio and focusing on quick engagement. Could you describe the creative decisions you made to ensure the content was well-suited for the platform?
Knowing we were shooting for TikTok, allowed us to be more intentional about the visual storytelling. We kept the writing airtight so we could hook the viewers in the first three seconds. Beyond that, we knew we had to cater to the needs of the TikTok ecosystem. Beyond the episodes, we captured more than 30 minutes of BTS footage to release alongside the series, to cater to the consumer trends that exist on the platform.
We worked with a huge team to build this story world but at the pace of a commercial film.
The campaign aims to break taboos and start important conversations about period experiences. How did you work with your cast and creative team to ensure that the stories were told with honesty and sensitivity?
This project was not conventional in that we found our actors first and then wrote to the cast. They all had excellent chemistry and they are unbelievably funny. Natali Caro who played Andi is known for their perfect Jennifer Coolidge impression, so we made it a point to write it into the script. I think choices like those were what made the series feel real. We worked with a huge team to build this story world but at the pace of a commercial film. Since our cast represented our audience, it made sense for us to form a collaborative relationship with them in our rehearsals and on set to really tell the best version of these stories. Because they are all so talented in their own right (as writers, comedians, drag kings and theatre-trained performers) it was so natural having them contribute to shaping the characters and bringing them to life. I really trusted them and it made my job on set so much easier. I don’t think we had a single blooper because they were all so fantastic.
The world of branded entertainment is evolving rapidly and I’m Dying Inside is an exciting example of this. How do you see this campaign contributing to the future of storytelling and engagement with younger audiences?
I think it comes down to brands and creatives taking risks. During the making of this series, we often found ourselves trying to nail down what it is about Gen Z that’s so unique and fascinating. Gen Z is a direct product of the internet, popular culture and the very confronting state of the world right now. They’re definitely the first of their kind. They’re one-third of the world’s population and have so much influence online, so working to meet their needs in the world of entertainment is a really smart move for brands.
This project was not conventional in that we found our actors first and then wrote to the cast.
Looking back at the project, what were some of the most rewarding moments for you as a director? Are there any specific scenes or aspects of the campaign you are particularly proud of?
The whole process felt incredibly rewarding because everyone involved was so on board with what we were making and I knew that what we were creating was really fresh. I knew a project like this wasn’t something to miss out on. We made it a point to also curate a team – from our stylist, our BTS crew, our photographers, and makeup artists – who are all engaged with TikTok themselves, so they understood the language and tone of online content.
Now, over a month after the release, the series is sitting at over 12 million views. A common reaction with our audience has been, “I want to be friends with these housemates” along with a lot of calls for this to be a real series which is the best thing to hear as a filmmaker. It’s been incredible. I think for everyone involved, the engagement with the brand and the spike in sales surpassed all our expectations.