Regular readers know that Luke and I have been juggling our usual foolhardy amount of different projects over the past year. Well, lurking behind all of those projects was perhaps the biggest thing we’ve worked on as a team, something so sprawling and multi-pronged that we’ve waited until every part of it was done so that we can now launch it with an obnoxiously strident three-month rollout.

It started with me applying for an ArtsACT grant to fund three of my ongoing EP-In-A-Day series, where I create a band for one day and arrange then record four live versions of four original songs while Luke shoots a video for each song. So I got the grant, and that shot of encouragement was all I needed to instantly decide that the whole thing has to be bigger, weirder and again I say weirder.


Maybe there’s someone else making full-blown narrative music videos where the sets, costumes and performance are created and captured at the exact same time that the final live take of the song is arranged and performed for posterity. I don’t know that there is but their might be. Either way, that’s what we did, twelve times across three days across one year. We roped in a raging house party’s worth of incredible musicians, producers, actors, dancers and filmmakers. The core team of myself, Luke, Sam ‘Eardoll of Millions’ King and Adam ‘Recorder of our whole lives’ Thomas was completed by Imogen ‘really maybe the best production designer alive’ Keen, who I will be aiming to have at the centre of all my projects for the rest of time. 

As a team we made four complete and distinct units of Music Video in three 14-hour sessions, an effort that took incredible goodwill, cooperation and skill from all involved. The narrative of the videos started as a loose thread of existential angst and ramped up into a starkly-rendered character sketch; one man’s doomed attempt to defeat his own mortality through pop music, and his loved ones’ attempt to snap him out of it, help him calm down or maybe even enable him further. 

At heart it’s me presenting songs to you so there’s all the usual attendant nervousness that comes with that. Still, so many wonderful people did so much good work on this that  I can’t wait for you to see the results. The first video drops this week, and announcements about the live launch event will be right on it’s heels! 

glitoris-wall-8

Glitoris tapped me to direct their debut video, released today to coincide with the U.S. presidential inauguration. The brief was simple – film the band recording the song and have the video ready the following week.

glitoris-wall-5Turning it around in a week and using the video itself to document the process foregrounds the immediacy and urgency of their message, and cleverly takes the pressure off themselves to ‘go big’ for their debut video. In time I’m sure they will do far more ambitious and elaborate clips, but this is one hell of an 0pening salvo.

glitoris-wall-2

glitoris-wall-6

Adam Thomas and I again shared camera operator duties. I love working with Adam, for his technical knowledge and facility, for the fact he’s upbeat and indefatigable, and especially because he has great ideas and is a problem-solver.

glitoris-wall-10

We had five hours in the studio with the band (in which they also had to record the song!).  The studio space was cosy with little light, and no room to discretely place any additional ones.

glitoris-wall-3

Adam and I attached some small lights to our cameras, swallowed hard, and leaned into the rawness. Thankfully, the band are all magnetic figures and did most of our work for us. This is also the first serious workout I have given my Sony Actioncam, and the fisheye shots in the video are some of my favourites.

glitoris-wall-9

The band gave me creative carte-blanche, and it made aesthetic (and practical) sense to give the piece a worn VHS quality.

glitoris-wall-4

I’m especially pleased with the intro, which went through several rapid iterations. I loved tweaking the footage of Trump, a man obsessed with other people’s perceptions of him – I treated it as a digital caricature, enlarging his jowls and tinting his skin an even more acidic orange than usual.

glitoris-wall-7

I’m eagerly awaiting the reaction to the final segment, involving a ‘she-wee’ and photo of the great leader.

glitoris-wall-1

Spookily, it was conceived and filmed two days before news broke of Trump’s alleged interest in water play. Was it clairvoyance on Glitoris’ part? Or do they have contacts within the underground global intelligence network? We may never know…

As you Guys know I always prefer art to be a competition. Just one reason that I get along so well with the guys from Finnigan and Brother, and when they challenged me to take part in a Christmas Single competition (alongside some of my favorite members of the ACT Musical Diaspora) I lept at the chance to add Christmas to the list of things that I could compete in.

The above playlist has all of the entries. Finnigan and Brother’s drop a warm-hearted anthropological ragga primer for the suburban Australian Christmas. Julia Johnson and Reuben Ingall weaponise their childhood memories for a tactical assault on your heart. The Norah Jones Half Hour drop the best ending of any track I heard in 2016. Sallow doesn’t care about your precious illusions. Double Infinite Peace are the supergroup who formed just to win this competition, but were probably trumped by the last-minute reformation of rap-based internet monopoly The Landlords. Then there’s my entry, Merry Christmas (LCD) where I easily created a unifying theory for the whole of 2016 and made it rhyme. Not that I’m saying I won. I’ll leave that for others to say.

 

vtom-5

Cathy Petocz is one of those artists who executes work with precision and clarity. More importantly, her stuff is always great. When Cathy offered me a one-scene role in Vinegar Tom, Caryl Churchill’s famously witch-less play about witch trials, I made room in my schedule.

Cathy directed Tom as the first production by COUP: Canberra, an art and performance collective that’s she’s started with Hannah De Feyter and Becki Whitton. They’ll be making some of the best art in Canberra in the next few years, and I’m smug that I’ll be able to say I was in their first show.

vtom-6

I’m still a baby actor so it was an invaluable skills challenge to hit the one scene seven nights in a row. My character, Man, makes a kind of challenging turn from charismatic to awful. I was blessed to have my great friend (and gun actor) Emma McManus as my scene partner and with her and Cathy’s support I felt like the run was really selling by the end of the run. Close friends have assured me that I was suitably hateable.

The run sold out and was well-reviewed, if I were you I’d keep up with every COUP move right here.

 

 

 

img_1410Somewhere after our huge 2012 stage musical blowout The Last Prom, myself and the other guys from PROM decided that the most subversive move we could make was to become a straight-up rock band. It’s four years later and we’ve had a great time in the arcane world of ‘venues’, ‘support acts’ and ‘load-in times’, but we’ve decided that it would now be fun to go back to our theatre-y cabaret-y full-costumed roots.

The obvious way to draw a line under our Normal Band Phase was to release an actual record, which we did live on stage at The Phoenix the other night. We made it a triple-record launch alongside a couple of awesome acts from Sydney (Imperial Broads and Richard Cuthbert). Weirdly, or perhaps inevitably, it was the best gig we’ve ever played.

It was Julia’s idea to release on cassette, and while I default to be militantly anti-physical-media I knew that JJ could be relied on to make something that looked really fucking cool, which is a thing I certainly care about. Truth be told, when I finally borrowed my girlfriend’s 90s-vintage Walkman and had a listen it was pretty wonderful to wallow in everything I’d long forgotten about the format (like being able to hear the ghost of Side B when you get to the end of Side A).

It could definitely be argued that cassette  is the ultimate medium for these particular songs, a batch that includes ‘No-One Can Hear My Love’, the track that Luke described as my most melodramatic yet. He of all people knows what he’s saying when he says that.

 

 

 

For the last year or so, I’ve been working with artist Adam Huntley on a comic book submission. I haven’t mentioned anything here for fear of jinxing it, but now feels like a good time. versa-8Early concept art

The idea came one slow afternoon at work after a couple of Red Bulls. I dashed it off and emailed it to myself in an over-caffeinated burst. Much of it has been re-worked and refined subsequently, but the energy of that original premise remains.

20161113_180022

Some character sketches adorning my walls.

Here’s an excerpt from my pitch:

Versa Vice is a superspy series, a melange of balls-out action and goofy hijinks. It’s about making something audacious – the kind of comic that can have both six-barrelled revolvers and homages to Van Gogh. It’s a salmagundi of the high and low-brow, a violent and funny book where everything is turned up to 11.

 Versa Vice is the story of soldier-of-fortune Versa Vice (probably a codename), and rookie FBI field analyst Bea Honest (unfortunately her real name).

Versa Vice is a full-on, fast-paced, funny caper – a comic book that feels like an over-the-top action movie. It’s arthouse action, like Crank written by Godard.

I’ve written scripts for the first two issues (which combined complete the first story), and the outline for the first six. Once I had these written, I set about finding an artist.

After a few missteps, I found Adam on deviantart.

Out of hundreds of artists I looked at, Adam instantly stood out. There’s a plethora of good pin-up and sketch artists but dramatically fewer that have experience doing full pages of sequential art. Adam is equally adept at both – I wrote to him pitching the story and he immediately wrote back.

Thumbnail art for page two

His style is perfect for the bright, pop tone of the story. His work jumps off the page – to me, it’s in that sweet spot whereby it’s realistic without being gritty. It’s heightened, kinetic super-fun like some beautiful amalgam of Darick Robertson, Mike Allred, Phillip Bond. And his art moves – it’s visceral in a way that’s hard to explain or teach – none of his panels feel static. It’s the same type of smart-stupid as a good blast of punk rock.

Working together on it has been a protracted process, with life frequently getting in our way – Adam’s gotten married and I’ve become a father since we started. We’ve still never talked (Adam’s in California) but we’ve exchanged dozens of emails. In between the work back-and-forth, we update each other on our lives and have gotten to know each other (we’re both beardy comic and music nerds so there’s that!). It’s like having an old school pen-pal, which has been one of the most satisfying (and unexpected) parts of the process.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-5-33-45-pm

A panel from Page 13

To say I am excited about this is an understatement – beginning with The Phantom when I was in primary school, comics have been an enduring passion of mine. And this is a story, while being far-fetched and wild, that has got a lot of me in it.

All art by Adam Huntley.

Last year Alison Procter put a call out for filmmakers interested in doing a short documentary featuring her sister Suzy. Nick responded, bringing me on board to direct.

suzy-project-suze-smiling

We met with Alison and Suzy, and Alison outlined her idea. Suzy has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, and doesn’t communicate verbally. As a result, it can be tricky to know how best to interact with her, especially upon first meeting. Alison wanted to film a video that outlined some of Suzy’s quirks and idiosyncrasies so people know what to expect. It’s a great idea, and the video ended up being a mini-profile delving into Suzy’s likes, dislikes, eating habits, and other personal information.

Alison was very conscious this subject matter is often tip-toed around, or conversely, dealt with in an overly clinical manner. She didn’t want to create ‘inspiration porn’ (her term), or kid-glove some of Suzy’s more difficult behaviour. The video had to be irreverent and funny, while still being informative. She sent Nick and I the following for inspiration – she loved the tone, and the way it treats a light-hearted subject seriously (our mission was to do the opposite essentially).

Nick took all this away, along with some other information from Alison, and wrote a script – a ‘how-to’ guide on becoming friends with Suzy. Early on, Nick had the idea of having Suzy’s ‘voiceover’ performed by a deep-voiced man (I think we all had in mind Morgan Freeman). This would set the tone from the get-go, and let people know we were taking a less precious attitude than your typical film featuring the differently abled.

The script called for Suzy to interact with a variety of her friends. For the filming, Alison graciously hosted it at her house (fabulously situated in the Scullin Cultural Precinct), and invited several people to come along for Sunday lunch. Everyone was incredibly generous with their time, patient with the film crew (i.e. me) and magnanimous about being filmed.

suzy-project-chatting

The actual filming was chaotic – from kids (being kids) to changing light, to just figuring out how best to film so many people in such a small space (we filmed in a one room ‘chalet’ in Alison’s backyard). I had prepared a shot list, but barely got time to look at it as I ran from one thing to the next. The most reliable part of the whole day ended up being Suzy. She is a natural in front of the camera, and indefatigable. Directing is an endurance sport – you are typically the first to arrive, the last to leave, and the one with the least downtime during the day. But on this shoot, I had Suzy with me the whole time as well.

suzy-project-on-couch

When I found out Suzy also regularly goes dancing, I felt that should be represented in the movie. The following Saturday I attended the Belconnen Arts Centre and filmed her class going through the motions (that’s a dad joke, but I’m allowed now).

suzy-project-really-dancing

The film was accepted for Belco Flicks and will have its debut – appropriately enough – at the Belconnen Arts Centre. I think this is a great place to debut the film as it is really imbued with a sense of community, those that gather round and support not only Suzy but her family too.

belcoflicks

To complete the film in time, I ended up doing the voiceover myself. I don’t think my voice, lugubrious as it is, sufficiently conveys our comedic intent – it will be interesting to see and hear how an audience reacts to it. If it falls short, we’ll experiment with other voiceovers ahead of releasing the movie on the internet.

suzy-project-pete

As part of the shoot, I filmed interviews with five of Suzy’s friends – there must be about 45 minutes of content, of which only thirty or forty seconds end up in the film. That’s often par for the course (and I’d much rather shoot more than I need than find myself in the opposite situation). A lot of the interviews dealt with peoples’ first impressions of Suzy, what kind of reaction they and Suzy get when out in public, and times when they’ve struggled to understand or deal with Suzy. Alison and I have talked about using the footage for some other project – the flipside to this essentially, something less about Suzy and more about the people around her. It’s a good idea, and would provide a nice contrast and balance to the existing film.