Friday, May 30, 2014


An artiste is a protected species.

They have talent so vast, its fringes are unobservable. They can create stunning work, seemingly at will and at a moment's notice.

A drawing. A song. A painting. Created in the time it takes you or I to make an instant coffee.

Artistes are a mystery. From what deep recesses of their soul, of the fabric of their consciousness, are they able to draw this glowing, warm nectar of pure creativity?

And like many mysteries, they have quirks.

Not showing up on time. Not responding to basic communications. Ignoring deadlines with a contemptuous wave of their hand. Dismantling relationships in a single evening of bizarre behaviour.

Yes, this is the caricature of an artiste.

And every word of it is a convenient fabrication.

Yes, artists can be a bit mercurial. Changeable temperament comes hand in hand with some of the more impressive forms of creative expression.

But let me be abundantly clear, a true artist does not let their work suffer. All other elements of life are on the table, but not the work.

Do you think the major music acts reached their pinnacle by never delivering new music? There are so many new artists that a flaky musician, albeit a talented one, is easily shelved.

What use is a painter who never paints anything?

I'm currently working on an animation, meaning I am dealing with a number of artistes. If I had a dollar for every excuse I have heard for missed deadlines, this small project would have an enormous budget. It's just shy of "a dog ate my homework".

Ultimately, the response ends up something like "I wasn't in the mood to draw."

I hope you are as bamboozled by this response as I was.

And I hope you learn the lesson I have discovered first hand. Whether you are the artiste, or the one collaborating with them.

True artists let nothing stand between them and their muse. They are prolific.

An artiste uses the cliches of artistic temperament to avoid adhering to schedule.

An artist is a creative who gets things done.

An artiste is a codename for an unreliable douche.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014


"The things you own, end up owning you"

It has become a cliche now but, at the time, that line from 'Fight Club' was certified fresh. Ironically, I own the DVD.

Fifteen years ago the film first hit theaters. Yes, fifteen.

September 11 was still two years away. I was in my second last year of high school, with absolutely zero visibility on where I would be today. I didn't know where I would be in five years. Fifteen years away was as good as a thousand.

It wasn't as vital to have answers back then. Just questions. Questions about who you are, where you want to be, and what you want to do.

But, never what you want to own. It just wasn't important. Your precious brain cells were needed elsewhere.

Then age factors in. Everyone matures; accumulating their wordly possessions. Tokens of a life.

Personally, I never really got into that habit. I have knick-knacks, but everything I own could realistically fit into one medium sized room. That's the funny thing about pursuing a creative career. Until you have a major success, you have to stay mobile. Lean. You can have stuff, of course, but all within reason.

And it speaks to the world we live in that 'not having stuff' is often what baffles outsiders about this career path. They love the idea of "being creative". "Working on projects" seems ideal. Film festivals, awards nights and premieres are, of course, welcomed with gusto.

But not having stuff? That's troubling, apparently. The implication is that no stuff equals no roots. And, despite the credit crisis, along with all the demonstrated evils of debt, it is an attitude which still prevails. Like a nuclear cockroach, it endures.

It's the reason the line from Fight Club is still relevant.

"The things you own, end up owning you"

But how? How is this reversal of power even possible?

Well, as you make your early foray into the world, you acquire stuff. Mostly stuff you need.

Then you start to get more stuff. Stuff you don't actually need but you WANT.

Eventually, you need a place to put the stuff. So you buy a house.

Now, the house has a mortgage and has to be paid off. Meaning you have to work to pay the mortgage to keep the stuff that you didn't even need in the first place.

On top of that, you are worried that something will happen to the stuff. What if someone steals the stuff I didn't even need in the first place? Or what if my house burns down, destroying the stuff?

Now, when you go out, you are worried about something happening to the stuff. The welfare of your stuff haunts you.

So you get insurance, to protect the stuff.

You have to pay for the insurance. With money. That you earn from your job. Which you got to pay for the house holding the stuff you didn't even need in the first place.

Eventually, you may realise that your life choices around work, finances and freedom are actually being dictated to you by the stuff.

Or, you don't.

But at least you get to come home to your house everyday.

And look at your stuff.


Or perhaps, as we move to an increasingly online world, Tyler Durdan was onto something?

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Saturday, May 24, 2014


The right film won best picture. That's all I'll say about the results.

But the Oscars ceremony. What happened to the truth in that Ricky Gervais joke?

"For any of you who don't know, the Golden Globes are just like the Oscars, but without all that...esteem."

Ellen handing out pizza to the celebrities?

Pharell Williams wearing shorts to the red carpet?

Celebs crowding with Ellen to take the self-anointed 'world's greatest selfie'?


I'm not saying that the ceremony should be stuffy, or take itself too seriously, but who actually enjoys this shtick besides the celebrities themselves?

'We're normal people too!'

'We' just happen to be millionaires who get paid to play pretend, but we take selfies like you!

There is actually nothing philosophically wrong with the ceremony, and the behaviour within, being made all about the celebs. It's their event after all.

Just don't broadcast it.

'Woah! Let's not be hasty here. People WANT to see the Oscars. We do this silly stuff for their entertainment.'

But do they?

Like the elaborate selfie Ellen hastily arranged. Just some good old fashioned tomfoolery for the enjoyment of John Q. Public, right?


Yes, Ellen got busted.

Her 'selfie' phone, prominently displayed, was a Samsung. Her real phone, the one she actually AUTHENTICALLY owns and uses, is an iphone.

So now, through the prism of honesty, what was a moment of celebs engaging in adorable 'buddy' behaviour is seen for what it really was.

A carefully orchestrated piece of product placement for the main sponsor, Samsung.

Feels icky now, doesn't it?

Not light hearted celebs taking themselves with a grain of salt. But selling. Whoring for the sponsor.

The problem for Ellen is that, these days, it's easier than ever to get caught out being a shill. And we, the public, don't like being manipulated. The power of authenticity is degraded.

Then, the news breaks that two Academy voters chose '12 Years a Slave' as Best Picture, without having seen it.

Authenticity deteriorates further. And now it's a slippery slope Oscar is riding.

The Academy can fix this now. Stop trying to give every film the 'Oscar Bump' at the box office. Limit the number of Best Picture nominations back to five again.

Send Pharell Williams, or anyone else for that matter, home if they show up in shorts.

Cut the blatant product plugs and let the ceremony run with some dignity. Faster too, I might add.

Or, do nothing.

And lose your greatest commodity; the one the other awards wish they had.

No, not bigger sponsors.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


May already? Where is the year going, right?

There is never enough time these days, allegedly. Modernity took our idleness from us.

And yet we all find time to procrastinate.


I use the phrase 'find time' deliberately, by the way. Realistically the problem is not a lack of hours, but what we make time for.

Filmmakers, amongst meetings and projects, still find time to read a book.

Parents, amongst feedings and sleepless nights, still find time to update Facebook.

And so on.

Making productive time available, I'll grant you, is the trick. But there are ways.

The simplest is to ask yourself, and anyone else pitching a project, a basic question. Keep in mind, however, that this question inspires fear in the hearts of many would-be creatives. They will go out of their way to avoid it if they can.


You want to finish that script by when?

That film is ready to be shot. By when?

The project needs a pitch document created by when?

It's not a complicated phone app for productivity, or a nuanced methodology written by a self help guru.

It's being brave enough to give yourself a deadline, when no-one is asking.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014


It's a strange time for workers.

People are working longer, real wages have fallen across the globe, and we're often reminded that we are competing with third world employees, earning mere cents for 'similar' work.

I wonder if the same conversations happened when slavery was legal?

"You want how much in wages? But Artis over there works for nothing!"

Absurd, to be fair. But this hypothetical still touches on an important principle:

People should be paid fairly for what they produce.

This idea come up a LOT in filmmaking circles. We are all basically freelancers after all. And don't get me started on piracy.

But this simple expression is also the cause of the great societal divide you see increasingly today. It divides because there are two simple responses to this statement. You either agree with it, or you don't.

There are many, MANY people, I'm sorry to tell you, who do not. To these people, there is a different modus operandi that governs the societal construct:

People should be paid whatever they can negotiate for what they produce.

The implication is that this second statement provides an enormous upside, far greater than the first. 'What you can negotiate' has nothing to do with fairness after all. You could negotiate $1M for work that is only worth $1.

Or, has happens far more often, $0.10 for work that is worth $1000.

Whatever you can get, remember?

It's the magic carrot that is dangled in front of the ignorant masses. Let the world operate this way, without regard to a 'fair' wage, because you too can be rich like 'us'...maybe.

But nothing could be further from the truth. It's fools gold.

The game is so stacked against you, the negotiating power so concentrated out of your hands, that you have almost no chance of thriving in this laissez-faire approach.

I've seen it first hand. Recently, I was in touch with an Oscar-winning production company, based overseas.

The company were planning to shoot a small section of their latest low-budget, independent feature film in Australia, and they were looking for a local production company to partner with.

I was delighted to get the email, of course.

As the discussion evolved, however, it became clear that they were particularly concerned about spending too much money on this small section of the film. Understandable, given it is always important to be shrewd with your film's budget.

The concerning aspect for me, however, is that the budget I proposed was at the cheapest/minimum rates for the crew, the minimum rate for the actor, and the minimum to acquire all of the relevant copyright for the actor's performance.

In short, it was the minimum for all involved, but in the end it was still considered too much.

The final email, while certainly polite, indicated that they were instead going to fly out an existing crew member, and a local theatre group was going to be involved. Supplying a free actor, I presume.
Cost effective no doubt. But fair? When a company is making something that they expect to exploit for a significant profit, why should people work for them for nothing?

And I wish this were just about fairness, but it is a tentacle on a much larger, much more destructive, beast.

Income inequality.

A buzz word, no doubt, but one of the handful of greatest problems we face going forward. The imbalanced distribution of wealth is literally eroding the foundations of our society.

Overly dramatic? In a word, NO.

The USA is the living proof of what happens when you leave only people at the very bottom and the very top of the economic pile. The businesses that meet the needs of the middle class, what has traditionally been the largest part of the economic spending pie, become unsustainable and fold. And we all lose.

We all lose, including the wealthy, because the real world is based on RELATIONSHIPS. I pay you, you pay someone else, they pay someone else, who pays me, and so on. Those who look for short term gain (i.e. by screwing over other people and paying less than what someone is worth), break down these economic relationships and hurt everyone, including themselves eventually.

Now, before I go down the rabbit hole of explaining economic theory, let me provide this easy clarification.



And this is the future we face as income inequality worsens. Less jobs. Less economic activity. Less opportunities for all.

In a recent TED talk, millionaire businessman Nick Hanauer explained this very principle, saying simply:

"In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are middle class consumers; and taxing the rich to make investments that make the middle class grow and thrive is the single shrewdest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor, and for the rich."

So, whether you are a filmmaker or not, every business, the entire economy in fact, thrives when there is a less concentrated distribution of income.

And it doesn't start with governments. Governments reflect the attitude of the citizens that elect them (...allegedly).

It doesn't start with companies or with rich people.

It starts with you. And a choice.

People should be paid fairly for what they produce.


People should be paid whatever they can negotiate for what they produce.

What do you believe?

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Thursday, May 15, 2014


I hear this too often.

From musicians. From writers. Even from feature film producers.

'I was born in the wrong era. I should have been born in the good old days. When there were only three TV channels. Only one movie theatre. Only 5 radio stations. I would have been a huge success. It's too chaotic now.'

The power of this 20/20 hindsight is intoxicating.

But before nostalgia overruns your senses, let me ask you this.

In that era of severely limited options for film and content distribution, how would you have pushed your work onto those three TV channels? Or your song onto one of those few radio stations?

With the benefit of being born now, in the relative 'future', you know what would have been popular back then.

But if you are stuck now, unable to break through on our contemporary distribution models with your contemporary thinking, what would have made you any different if you were born in that previous era?

Elvis only thrived because he made music TOTALLY different to his contemporaries. He was an innovator, who thought differently to the era he was in.

It was not the limited portals for people to reach Elvis' music that created his success. Just like it's not the scale of opportunities that dictates your success now, it's your mindset to make something that breaks through.

Which brings us to an immutable truth. I'm sorry to tell you, but if you are stuck now, unable to engineer your break, you would have been just as stuck in the 50's.

The beauty of such a challenging revelation is that you are now in an era where new approaches can break through to new audiences, purely because there are MORE than three channels, one theatre and five radio stations.

The magic is in thinking differently. Changing your approach. Refreshing and challenging your mindset to create your best work.

And the best part of this situation is that you have no choice.

Because the past is over.

Time to look forward instead.

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Monday, May 12, 2014


It's hard being alone sometimes.

We are, to varying shades, social animals. We crave connection, even if it's with just one person.

Even in these modern times, where we are rarely 'alone', we still find ourselves yearning for a deeper intimacy. Among friends. Among peers. Even among lovers.

And then, in your darkened room late at night, a tiny screen flickers on. It illuminates your face.

Concentrating. Seeking.

Who liked my status update?

You smile. You've reached people.

The screen flickers off. You roll over to sleep.

Yes, it is hard to deny the power of technology and social applications. Repurposed from a simple phone, the smart phone is now the window to a million small moments of connection.

It's heroin for the masses.

Is that an overstatement? I read of psychological developments like 'Phantom Vibration Syndrome', where a person feels vibration in their leg, despite their phone not actually ringing, and I think 'heroin' might actually be understatement.

And while I know that more screens equals more opportunities to tell visual stories, I am also overcome by the feeling that there has to be a limit somewhere. Modern connectedness can go too far.

Without an Alamo, I believe the unchecked growth in screen usage has the potential to affect human behaviour and development. To disrupt the natural flow of discourse and rapport.

This effect is quite bizarre to see in action. I've been at dinners, for example, where the majority of the invitees played with their phones, rather than interact with each other. It's akin to the Mackelmore lyric:

"Apps this good who's got time to make friends?"

If people start to become hardwired to connect with their screens and not other people, what interest will they have in screen stories, which are fundamentally about people? What good will multiple screens be for screen storytellers, when no-one has the inclination to watch stories over updating their Facebook status?

There has to be a line drawn. A boundary.

Be it the growing dinner party/social gathering rule that all phones are put into the centre of the table, or some other neological societal norm.

I can't tell you exactly where the final line should be, but it should be well short of this:

'The iPotty' -

I saw this advertised on television in America.

Children should not be using ipads while potty training. Learning to aim is more important at this stage of their life.

Yes, I want people to grow up and use multiple screens to engage with the screen stories we create.

But they have to learn to be people first.

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Thursday, May 08, 2014


The knuckles creaked. The fog of holidays on my vocabulary cortex was thick and smothering.
But I missed you. So I fought through the articles of my inactivity to write this.

I'm back.

I hope you rang in the new year in style. Or, at least, avoided serious bodily harm.

I kept the celebrations very simple. Not because I am incapable of a bender, I'm only in my thirties after all, but because I was flying to Hawaii 36 hours later.

Yes, I began the new year immersed in the Xanadu of pop culture.

The U.S.A.

Well, 'Diet U.S.A.' Hawaii is like The States with slightly less 'Merica' in the recipe.

There are chain franchises, shopping, enormous human beings, and bad food, of course. We went to a sushi restaurant where they served hot dog frankfurts, with avocado, in a rice roll. As the tiny plate rolled past on the sushi train, carrying it's conceptually grotesque hot dog sushi, our mouths literally hung open in horror. The frankensushi, meanwhile, disappeared around a bend in the conveyor belt and never returned. I imagine it climbed off the sushi train and made a new life for itself as a surf instructor.

Despite these moments of American peculiarity, there is also a tangible atmosphere of relaxation on the island. It seems to take the edge off the usual intense experience of dealing with Americans in large herds.

Oh, and there are sea turtles, apparently.

Despite being from a Western democratic country myself however, there was still the initial 'culture shock' of being around people and institutions with such a profoundly different genesis than my own. It's a strange feeling, one that makes you feel alien, detached, from your surroundings.

I got over it though. Starbucks helped.

Once my initial bewilderment passed, I was able to relax and, most importantly, interact. With waiters. With tour guides. Even with, gasp, other tourists.

It was during one of these interactions that I was exposed to the popular topic of the minimum wage in the USA.

Our sea turtle snorkeling adventure guide was riffing about life in Hawaii. We was from "Cal-eee-fuurrnnn-ia". Something like California, but said slower and with less purpose. A friendly young surfer, he had apparently moved to Hawaii to live the 'island paradise' life. Then, without prompting, he uttered a cliche we had been exposed to a number of times in our first few days on the Island:

"You gotta pay to live in paradise."

It piqued our interest, because this had started to become a common theme amongst the Hawaiians we met. He went on to explain that, despite the fact that the Hawaiian lifestyle was indeed 'paradise', it was also the most expensive state in the USA to live in. When coupled with the fact that the minimum wage is so low in America, US$7.25 an hour in fact, he lamented that it can be tough to make ends meet for your average young 'beach bum'.

Intrigued, and somewhat to his surprise, I asked him how he survives these economic headaches.

"Extra jobs", he deadpanned.

We had heard this concept multiple times as well. But what kind of second job could a 'beach bum' find on an island paradise?

"I do promo work" he said, "but the best paid stuff is when I can get character work. Wearing a costume at a product event or something".

Best paid?

"Yeah, they pay more than double minimum wage. Like, $15 an hour."

But why, you ask? Why would he get paid more just because he put on a costume during a promotional job?

This jump in pay comes from the efforts of one group. Ironically, this group has become somewhat of a pariah in our society these days. Their name has become a dirty word.


As soon as our Californian put on a costume, he is classed as a ‘performer’ which means he is covered by a higher minimum wage that has been fought for by the powerful performers’ unions. In America, the likes of The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) are immensely powerful, due to many years of difficult negotiations, and solidarity amongst members.

Think about that for a moment.

Because of the work of unions, like SAG, our Californian’s wage is DOUBLE what an employee would otherwise have been paid.

How would your livelihood fare if half of your pay was suddenly taken away?

And yet, despite this tangible positive impact on people’s lives, I see unions increasingly demonized in the general discourse.

But what is a union?

A union is you. And I. A union is a collective of people, who join together to ensure that they and their peers receive fair remuneration for their efforts.

Does that sound intrinsically evil to you? Or a necessary balance in a system where negotiating power can sometimes be distributed unfairly?

On an individual level, so many of us believe in looking out for the welfare of each other. That we all benefit when the bar is raised for everyone, not just a few who will 'trickle' down the proceeds later.

But when you put a label on it, the dreaded ‘union’, suddenly that same concept becomes a corruption, rotting the foundation of our democracy. Or some other overzealous negative platitude. We're smarter than this disconnect suggests.

So as we begin 2014, please remember.

Remember there are people just like us in the world, living in ‘Western’ industrialised democracies, who exist on a barely living wage.

Remember that their predicament is totally fixable.

And, most importantly, remember that their situation exists, only because of a failure to stand together and ensure prosperity is shared when success comes.

This year, as you have a blindingly successful 2014, try and do something to help someone else achieve their goals. Be a mentor, give advice, buy someone a meal, or back a crowdfunding project.

Know that your generosity will bring us all up, including you, in the fullness of time.

Happy 2014.

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