Monthly Archives: November 2016

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.