Jessie Oldfield and Adam Murfet’s love story begins like many good love stories do – as best friends. A taxi trip and a Leonard Cohen concert four years into their friendship in 2010 was the turning point when, as Murfet puts it, “everything changed”.

“I think it was Jessie who made the first move,” Murfet recalls. “We were in a taxi on Brunswick Street, heading from Black Cat to Enoteca, a wine bar. I was babbling about something and then I felt Jessie’s hand on my leg. And I looked at her, and she looked at me, and it was never the same again. We sealed the deal a few months later at the Leonard Cohen concert at Hanging Rock.”

The pair first met on the set of a mutual friend’s short film, having both completed film degrees. Oldfield says there was an instant connection. “We had this amazing creative relationship where we’d meet up all the time and talk about our ideas, our films, music we love. We pushed each other in the most beautiful way.”

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Post-Cohen, the natural next step in their relationship was to travel, road-tripping across the USA. Hours spent in the car talking to each other helped them “work out what they wanted to do”. The pair got back to Australia and, shortly after, founded their film production company, Certain Kind of Light (CKOL, for short).

“We knew we didn’t want to work for someone else,” Murfet tells Broadsheet. “We didn’t want to give ourselves to other people – we just wanted to give ourselves to each other and create things.”

Film wasn’t always a likely career for Murfet. He grew up as a horserider, aiming to ride equestrian at the Olympics, but a fateful wrist injury left him unable to continue. So, he decided to study film at the Victorian College of the Arts.

For Oldfield, things were a little different. “I grew up dancing, singing and acting, inspired by my mum, who’s a dancer,” she says. “I got elected as drama captain in high school and directed a play, and I will never forget that moment and the feeling I got directing. There was a light in me that ignited.”

In the early days of CKOL, the pair predominantly produced fashion films. They slowly started to get noticed, winning a $5000 grant from Vogue to make a film for Sydney high-fashion designer Carl Kapp. The marketing manager of Country Road happened to be in the audience at the gala dinner where the film was screened.

“She wrote down our names and called us the next day, telling us she wanted to make a short film for the 40th anniversary of Country Road,” Oldfield recalls. “We created a film about a young city girl – played by Isabel Lucas – who goes back to a wool farm and just experiences life on the farm. It was a huge moment for us, and Country Road ended up having their biggest month of sales ever.” (The commercial also won them an Australian Directors Guild Award.)

Then Murfet’s friend Mark Bonanno, part of the comedy troupe Aunty Donna, approached the pair with the idea for Why Are You Like This, a comedy about three “insufferable” housemates who ruin people’s lives with their modern-day moral codes. Murfet and Oldfield were hesitant at first, having only produced fashion films, but eventually agreed.

“The ABC ended up giving us $70,000 to turn the mini-web-series episodes into a pilot episode,” Murfet explains. “The series screened on ABC Me, then it was taken to Netflix in America and they bought it within minutes.”

Looking back, Murfet says the leap to filming the comedy series was key to the pair’s transition from commercial directing to long-form directing. “It’s very hard to break into the long-form world when you’ve only done commercial directing. We’ve become such strong storytellers now, and I don’t know if that would have happened if we only did commercial directing.”

It also meant that when Netflix went looking for directors to bring cult favourite Heartbreak High back to life, Murfet and Oldfield were an obvious fit. The production process proved incredibly tough, with Covid, lockdowns and actors needing to self-isolate when infected, forcing rewrites on set and constant adaptability. Coincidentally, the pair also had a six-month-old son to look after. They became very good at thinking on their feet, Murfet says.

“We’re so grateful for those hardships,” he says. “Heartbreak High was so successful despite those challenges, and we just felt so empowered by the experience. Like, we made a global hit in the middle of Covid and raised a child at the same time.”

Murfet says the newly released second season is even bigger and better. “We had so much fun making season two. Everyone is so sure of their characters, and the crew is such an exceptional bunch of humans. There’s a lot of tension in the story, a lot of drama and a lot of laughs.”

Although they had to temporarily relocate to Sydney, toddler in tow, to film Heartbreak High, home for Murfet and Oldfield is in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Princes Hill. At 80 square metres, it’s a fairly compact two-storey, two bedroom home designed and once inhabited by the late Mari Funaki – one of Australia’s leading contemporary jewellers. “It has a really beautiful energy from her and her vision,” Oldfield says.

“She worked with a Danish architect with the limited space available to create a home that’s quite expansive,” Murfet says. “There’s not a single centimetre that has been wasted: everything opens, there’s storage everywhere. It feels like a little jewellery box.”

Custom sliding doors at each end of the home open up to create a distinctive indoor-outdoor feel, welcoming breeze and sunlight inside. There are no door handles, toilet roll holders or anything protruding out of the cabinets – a purposeful design choice by Funaki.

The couple have brought their own style to the home that pairs with Funaki’s minimalist aesthetic. They have a projector instead of a TV, and the lounge room is fitted with a beckoning day bed and comfy armchair. Handmade trinkets from their travels, favourite books, gifts from friends and decor pieces they’ve collected from the likes of Memphis design collective pioneer Ettore Sottsass adorn their custom-made bookshelf.

“It’s an introverted-extroverted space,” Murfet says. “You get a good sense of the clean lines and minimalistic vibe, then there will be a splash of colour. Even more so now that we have a toddler.”

Life at home looks like playing music and dancing in the living room with their three-year-old son. The afternoon sun hits the space and their crystal suncatcher projects a rainbow across the walls. “There’s something really magical about our experience at home with him,” Oldfield says. “When we’re at work we’re so busy, so we’re really present with him at home.”

As for how they juggle life with a toddler and running their own film production company?

“Jessie is a superhero,” Murfet says, glancing at Oldfield. “It’s very challenging to raise a child, and it’s very challenging to work on a Netflix production, but it’s even more challenging to do both at the same time. She just didn’t miss a beat and worked round the clock to get it done.”

“I’m so proud of myself for doing it,” Oldfield adds.

While both admit to an anxiety that parenthood would make their jobs harder, they say it’s done the opposite – bringing an extra layer of vibrancy and deeper meaning to their work. Plus, they say, they’re more productive than ever.

“There’s a beauty that exists when we’re working together as a creative duo and as partners,” Oldfield says. “We’re constantly pushing each other to be better, and that just creates something so magical.”

This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.

Read our interview with Heartbreak High stars on the highs and heartbreaks of modern love here.