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Simon Lamb – Documentary Film Maker

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Simon Lamb is a Melbourne filmmaker who has just completed his first documentary due for release in November. Simon’s been working in and around the fashion industry for years – shooting at various corporate parties and events and so it’s been great to see this personal project finally happen for him and all involved after so many years of involvement.

It shows that if you’re determined and one minded – it’s possible to get whatever creative project it is that you are truly passionate about off the ground.

Simon’s story below on how his documentary came about in the first instance is super interesting in itself – so take a read and be inspired.

Simon has created a documentary around both his love of surfing and story telling in bringing us the amazing true story of Tony Hussein Hinde.

Simon has interviewed many of Australia’s surf industry legends and really highlights what makes surfers tick. Surfing is not only about catching the perfect wave; it’s about finding the perfect wave – wherever that may take you around the globe. Half the fun is getting there. It’s about adventure and discovering the ultimate surf destination, and in this instance – keeping that destination a secret for the better part of 10 years.

I guess this is one of the many examples as to the reason why this blog has come about. If you have a creative dream – go and do it. If collaborating is your thing – speak to people. People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do. So go make things happen.

It’s all possible, and when you start to share this way of thinking with other like-minded folk, it’s great to see the creative energy flow and positivity come about.

I wish Simon all the best with the release of this film and look forward to his next project coming together. Hopefully in less time than 6 years next time!

To find out more take a look here at http://www.serendipitymovie.com or to keep up to date with Simon’s other upcoming projects – keep an eye out on his site at…

http://www.blacklamb.com.au

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Q & A:

1) You’ve been working as a filmmaker, videographer for some time now and have recently finished your first doco after 6 years in the making (A big congrats!) How did you get into film/documentary making? Did you study film? Tell us about your upcoming film release and how this particular subject matter came about?

I grew up in Melbourne but went to a boarding school for most of my education and luckily they had in the curriculum the opportunity to surf 2 times a week. I was so stoked to get waves at such a young age, so I was hooked and loved the feeling of surfing. I wanted to surf my whole life and be able to travel making money and doing the things I loved and getting paid for it! My passion for travel and extreme sports became my life. I felt that photography was great fun but it didn’t offer enough for me as far as story telling went. I needed more to satisfy my urge to tell stories, so I picked up a video camera and started filming all of my trips overseas with the intention of some day making my stories of travel into a book or a feature film. Not that I’m that interesting but the people I met along the way were more the subject on my camera. I came back to Australia after years traveling and I found myself working on feature films building the sets. I worked on Charlotte’s Web, Rouge and many more… I went back to Uni and got an honors Degree in Film and TV at Swinburne University. After that I went through life searching for amazing characters, which lead me to the story on Tony. I had no idea who he was when I went on my trip to the Maldives; it all just fell into place. I was serendipitously in the right place at the right time with my camera…

The story behind the story …

This film came about through sheer fate. It was March 2008 and my girlfriend and I were planning a two-week boat trip; the first week of which was to be spent in the Maldives, the latter a tour around Himmafushi Island. Shortly before we were due to leave Melbourne, I received a call from our travel agent advising that the boat tours had been cancelled due to low numbers. They suggested a trip to Chai Island as an alternative, and, not having much choice at the time, we decided to go for it. Besides, as a keen surfer, I remembered hearing about the famous surf break, Pasta Point – just off Chai Island. Within the first few days spent surfing Pasta Point, I met an American guy. Spotting my camera (I like to take my film gear with me, just in case anything interesting happens), he asked me the purpose of my trip. I told him I was looking for a story, to which he responded: “You’ve come to the right place, my friend.” He proceeded to tell me the amazing story of a man who was shipwrecked in the area in the 1970’s. In the years that followed, the man – who turned out to be Tony “Hussein” Hinde, went on to discover the local surf and name all the breaks. Even as the American spoke, I was thinking to myself, “Here’s my story”! Not to mention what could potentially be an awesome opportunity to meet with Tony himself.

Shortly afterwards, I was once again out in the surf at Pasta Point. It was six foot and clean, and the smell of freshly cooked crayfish was traveling out to sea. I saw a large figure cutting up a mean wave. Approaching the guy on the board, I told him I was in search of some amazing waves and happened to mention that I was also in the process of finding my story. Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Well, good luck my friend.” It was only later I learned that this humble guy was the legend Tony himself.

I approached Tony while he was sitting in front of the ‘Mojo tree’ – touched by all surfers to get the wave Gods to deliver the goods! I asked him about his story and if he’d agree to an interview, but again he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m the shy type… I don’t like being filmed, I just love the surf”. Fortunately I persisted in winning Tony over. I asked him for an interview over dinner and this time he agreed. He gave me a few magazines with articles on himself to read and I set about learning more about his story, and how he came to be in the Maldives. I was instantly in love with his tale; the sailing trip from Sri Lanka, Captain Bill and his monkey, the shipwreck… As I was reading, I couldn’t believe the amazing part in history he’d played. After learning that his adventure started in Sri Lanka, I couldn’t help but think that it was pure serendipity that had brought Tony and I together (Sri Lanka was once known as ‘Serendip’ and is the etymology of the later coined word ‘serendipity’)

I filmed my interview with Tony, however it only went for about ten minutes and I knew it wasn’t enough. I wanted more material to work with. Walking around the island with my camera, filming various locations, I made my way back to the lookout point and the Mojo tree, where I found Tony gazing out at the surf. With the camera rolling I began asking him more questions about the boat trip and the shipwreck. This time, with Tony in his element, looking out at the waves, relaxed and just being himself, I ended up with a beautiful piece of film. I now knew I had a story. But there were a lot of other people I needed to speak to if I was going to document the whole incredible tale.

The first person I chased up was the legend of surf films, Albe Falzone. I met Albe at a secret local surf break near Coffs Harbor. As it happened, I had no idea I would be surfing that day and I didn’t have a board or any shorts with me. Albe was kind enough to offer me both and as we headed to the break and breached the crest of perfect, six-foot waves, I was happy to be in the company of a living legend. It was also the perfect way for me to honor the second anniversary of my brother’s death.

It was at this point that I found out about Tony’s tragic death. The first person I spoke to after the sad news broke was Ian Lyon, Tony’s business partner. I told him I had interviewed Tony and had some footage that I could give to the family. I also mentioned that this was part of a documentary I was pursuing about Tony, with his agreement, but Ian didn’t want to know about it. I know how hard it is when you lose someone close and I didn’t want to harass him, so I left it. After a year of no contact, I decided to call Ian again about the film. Coincidentally, when I got in touch, Ian had been just about to call me! Knowing Tony had agreed to my initial interview had given him confidence in me, so it was here that I restarted the journey that was to consume the next four years of my life.

Mark Scanlon was one of the first people I spoke to after reconnecting with Ian. I tracked him down after reading one of the articles Tony had given me in the Maldives: Serendipity by Shawn Shamlou. Mark had been the closest person to Tony, as it was he who’d been shipwrecked alongside Tony so many years ago. We chatted for a bit at Mark’s house near Maroubra, before heading down to the beach to film the interview. Mark proved to be an epic character, full of stories, and I wondered if I had brought enough tapes with me to capture everything! After meeting and learning so much from Mark, I was excited to meet more of the crazy characters involved in Tony’s story.

I had been trying for a year‐and‐a‐half to get an interview with Rabbit Bartholomew, to no avail. He’d told me he didn’t think he could add any value to the documentary, as he had never met Tony personally. I had told him that he could just touch on surfing life and the like, but he remained determined not to get involved. I had almost given up when, heading back from South Africa after shooting a documentary on black empowerment, I saw Rabbit sitting in the Qantas first class lounge. Seizing the opportunity, I approached him and asked the question one more time. Much to my astonishment, he agreed to the interview. I guess the personal touch did the trick! A week later, I flew up to Brisbane to lay it down on film. As he was around in the early days, Rabbit had a lot to offer the story, telling us a lot about searching for the perfect waves without crowds, the vibe of the ‘70s, the short board revolution and being enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War. By this stage, the story was really coming together.

Thanks to his constant traveling and surfing, Tom Carroll was always a hard man to get hold of. I’d had a few phone and email conversations with him over the span of around eighteen months but I could never secure a concrete meeting with him. When I heard on the grapevine that Tom had recently broken his ankle in the Edie Ikawa Big Wave contest, in Waimia Bay, I finally saw my chance. Sure enough, he was chilling at his Sydney home when I called. In our interview, Tom touched on the subject of finding a secret wave and the importance of keeping it quiet in order to surf alone, without the crowds.

Gary Mortimer was the next to be filmed. I jumped on a plane and headed to Lennox Heads, where Gary had organized a lunch with Tony’s sisters and immediate family. We had a huge feast before I got into some interviews with the family. It turned out that Gary had all these wonderful old hand‐written letters dating back to when he visited Tony in the Maldives. Reading the letters, you could picture yourself living over there, with no‐one in sight but the natives. These were epic tales of crazy surf and amazing adventures that made you yearn for a life of doing nothing but surfing un-chartered waters. I could feel my story was now picking up momentum. After many phone calls I got onto one of Tony’s good mates, Ken McNicol. He actually paddled into the ‘Honky’s’ when Tony named the waves after himself. I found myself flying over to New Zealand to interview Ken. He told me a few stories that I can’t repeat; without a doubt they would have added a whole new dimension to the film but I promised to keep quiet! Next I got a referral about a guy called Doug Spong, ex‐owner of Billabong and Cult Clothing. Doug was one of the many crew who’d frequented Pasta Point and he had become a great mate of Tony’s. Doug was a cool, old school dude with many stories to tell about Tony and how he used to live.

After filming as many people as I could find who had come into contact with Tony over the years, it was time to make the trek to Colombo and the Maldives; this time with a crew and actors to retrace and recreate Tony’s epic adventure. I found our main actor in a Port Melbourne coffee shop. I looked at this guy behind the coffee machine and thought, “Fuck me! He looks just like Tony in the early days. I wonder if he can act?”

As fate (or serendipity) would have it, this guy, Paul, was a legitimate actor and the coffee‐making was just a side gig! After hearing the story of Tony’s epic journey, Paul was inspired and more than happy to pack up shop and head overseas with Andy and me. Before we left we decided to pay a visit to the legend himself, Bob McTavish. We wanted Bob to make a replica of Tony’s board from the 70’s. Bob searched through his old templates and found the classic pin tail, single fin Blue Bird surfboard, which would have been Tony’s best friend. We now had the right gear for the job! The trip didn’t start off too well—our cameraman, Andrew Richards, had the runs and almost missed the plane! Fortunately he made it through, as he had an amazing eye and invaluable knowledge of the equipment. Colombo was amazing; driving through completely un-commercialized areas, bursting with rich colors and vibrant happy people, all smiling from ear to ear, was an eye‐opening experience. Going through mangroves and tiny towns, all the way to Gal Harbor, we retraced Tony’s steps to the point where Tony and Mark met Captain Bill. In the Maldives we did the same, taking time to enjoy the surf and to immerse ourselves in culture that had been such a big part of Tony’s life. Filming this documentary was almost as big an adventure as the story itself. There were so many people who helped to make this film what it is today, and many more people who missed out. To all of you interviewed, that aren’t mentioned here, I owe a big thank you. I hope you enjoy the finished product as much as I do.

2) Who have been some of your greatest creative (or other) influences over the years, and what motivates and inspires you to keep getting out there with your various projects and being entrepreneurial?

At a young age I worked for my father who owned his own business, so I saw and learnt how to run a company through him. I always liked the idea of working for myself and building my own empire, so I started up Black Lamb, which is a film business that has ventured into other products such as hair and beauty, clothing and apparel. I found a few of my lecturers very inspiring and interesting while I was at university along with all the people I worked with in feature films from the art department to the DOP’s and Directors. I think you learn most of your trade when you actually work on a film set rather than in school. I want to wake up every morning with a passion and be able to say I love what I do, you can dream about it or go out and make it happen. So I went out and made it happen.
I had this burning desire to inspire a generation into going out there and putting what you dream about into massive action. I’ve never been a “gunner man”. I consider myself a “doer”. You always get people saying “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that”… Just get off your ass and make it happen.

It may take 6 years like it has with my first film Serendipity, or 10 years for Black Lamb but the reward is success and success smells good to me! I think what also helps is teaming up with like minded people who can help you make your dreams a reality. People that can mentor you in life and business. I’ve teamed up with Margie Clayton and Craig Delmo from Instant Rockstar and having them involved in my company helps me move forward creatively. I now have 3 brains working on my master plan! I’m loving bouncing creative ideas off them and seeing the results. Margie and Craig have been in the hair industry for 10 years now, so they know what they’re talking about. I’m blessed to have a great team now.

3) You’ve filmed some pretty crazy events for corporates over the years. What have been some of the most memorable gigs that you’ve done for clients?

Well, I’m a massive motivational reader. I read any books that can make me a better person so I would have to say Michelle Bridges is one of the most inspiring people I have worked with. She has such great energy and it rubs off on you. I’ve also filmed a lot of the Oakley product launch parties which are always great fun and I’m also a fan of all the surf pro’s that I get invited to, so I get to meet them as well. I was filming at the tennis one year and I got to film Nadal just after he won the Australian Open, so that was quite cool. I’ve hung out with Bono, Madonna and looked after Snoop Doggy Dog one night. That was a lot of fun! The list goes on. I film a lot of red carpet events so I’m sure that I’ve filmed half of the Australian celebs.

4) What would be your dream gig, or if you could work on any creative project without any limitations – what would this look like? / who would you most like to work with etc?

My plan is to keep making documentaries for now but the bigger dream is to write a book that I can then make into a feature film. I have some crazy stories to tell from my life, which I think could make a great read and an even better feature film. I want to call the book Memoirs Of A Black Lamb. The film will tell my story of hardship, drugs, sex and ultimately one individual’s success. The book will also talk about the rise of Black Lamb the brand!

5) What do you love most about your work? / What have been the biggest challenges for you in your career, if any?

What I love most about my work is the fact that I’m not actually working at all. This job I do is my passion, I love telling stories… I love interviewing crew and then making what I call art! I suppose the hardest thing about following a creative path is the fact that no one else is going to make your career except yourself, so you have to spend years doing work for free until you have enough of a portfolio to start charging clients. It’s the same with making a documentary – at least for your first one. I just can’t go up to an investor and say I want to make a doco, give me money. They’re just going to say what have you done before? So, the hardest part was getting people to believe in your dreams and get them on some sort of deferral payment so you can fund your own project. I’m sure now that I’ve done my first one the rest will be a lot easier.

6) Like most creative people – you have several projects on the go at the same time. Out of all of these projects, do you have any major loves amongst them, or are you equally excited and passionate about all of them?

I’m equally exited about all of the creative things I do, but one project which is close to the heart is another documentary I have in the vault called Muse …

Muse is a documentary about Peter Churcher – a realist painter who was appointed the Official War Artist to paint the War against Terrorism. He was situated in Melbourne before being given a grant by the Australian Government to paint in Barcelona, Spain. He now resides in Spain and has been there for the past 2 years.

During his time in Melbourne however, I worked with him and became both his muse and the subject matter of many of his paintings during that period. We worked together in this capacity for close to a decade.

We will see in-depth discussions on Peter’s development of a painting; giving the viewer a detailed educational look at an artist’s point of view. It will put the viewer right in the middle of the exhibitions, giving a detailed description of the paintings by Peter. It will touch on Peters being appointed the Official War Artist in the war against terror. It will show the beauty of Barcelona and the beauty of his work. It will appeal to a wide audience from art lovers to the normal Jo Blow who wants to know more about how painters paint and the relationship that they have with artist models. This film gives an interesting insight into the art world through the muse’s eyes. 


7) What do you do for fun in your down time when you’re not working?

I’m into all sorts of extreme sports… I like kite surfing, skate, surfing, and motorbike riding. Basically anything that goes hard and fast. I just recently made a pact to myself to get fit and healthy so I’m training in the gym most days after a two-year break… I look at some people my age and they’re fat and un-healthy. I could see myself heading that way so I now have the gym as my passion project outside of work.

8) What is your favorite film and or documentary?

I like all the old films like Scarface, Easy Rider, Blade Runner, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Prometheus just to name a few… Doco’s by Michael More are always a win. Oliver Stone films rock too.

9) What does success look like for you?

Success is measured in so many ways! Is it the money? Is it the achievements in your field of work? I would have to personally say it’s a combination of all of the above. My film has now been shown in every country around the world and is currently on Qantas. So, for me that’s success… I’ve made something out of nothing with my own bare hands! No one can take that away from me.

10) What’s next for you? Any other interesting projects on the horizon/collaborations or future goals you are yet to achieve?

It’s all about moving forward in your career, so feature films, books and my major love – Black Lamb the brand, which will be coming 2014. I’ve got another doco, which is in the can so to speak. Well it’s at least shot and it’s about Black empowerment in South Africa. Stay tuned.

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For anyone wishing to see the film later this month – there will be a special screening in Melbourne on November 28 at OneSixOne @ 161 High Street, Prahran at 6pm Sharp. Tickets are available for pre purchase from Oztix below or contact: info@onesixone.com.au

http://tickets.oztix.com.au/?Event=38746&utm_medium=Website&utm_source=OzTix&utm_content=GigGuide&utm_term=SERENDIPITY__

James Vegter – Actor / Writer / Director / Producer

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James Vegter is an Australian actor, screenwriter, director and producer from country Victoria. He’s acted in Australian and Chinese film and television and is currently working with Indian and American film associates. James happens to be a good bloke too.

From a young age, story telling was always a passion for him and there is no doubt James has made it his journey to turn this childhood passion into his life’s work as an adult.

James has been working super hard over the years; honing his skills as an actor and appearing in numerous television and film roles, whilst also aspiring to do his own thing with his writing, directing and producing.

Like most creative people I know, James currently has at least six projects on the go. Being busy and juggling is what keeps crew like James alive. It’s inspiring to see such home grown talent working away at making their mark on the film industry abroad without much fanfare, and all in the name of just doing good work that might make a difference to someone out there who wants to be moved or to possibly have their mind stretched just a tad. This is all any creative person really wants to do at the end of the day…

Make stuff that matters… And hopefully from a commercial point of view – someone wants to pay for that “stuff” to keep their creative work viable and ongoing.

To see some of James’s work, visit the interwebs here. Or keep your ear to the ground for the name James Vegter, for in the years to come I reckon we might be be lucky by unleashing another successful Australian film maker into the world. Now wouldn’t that be cool…

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http://www.jamesvegter.com

Q & A:

1) Did you always want to become a film maker? Describe your passion for your work and what do you feel makes a truly great piece of film?

When I was young, I would constantly act out stunts from favorite movies, mess around with film cameras and build worlds and war games around me to pass time. I was often living in my imagination, even though my father was calling for me to work on our farm. During secondary years and University, I was heavily involved in sport and trying to work out exactly what I wanted to do. After traveling abroad for many years soul searching and luckily working on television commercials and photography shoots domestically and internationally, my passion was found again. Since then, I haven’t stopped trying to learn and tell stories through acting and filmmaking.

My passion is story telling. My thoughts on a good piece of filmmaking, is something that makes you think, question humanity and believe.

2) Did you study film/acting? Who have been some of your greatest creative influences?

I’ve done a degree in Commerce Marketing and Business Music at Vic Uni and I have studied with various acting teachers in Sydney, Melbourne, LA and New York for the last nine years developing my acting and film making skills. If I’m not working, I’m constantly studying and working at my craft. The exciting thing about acting and filmmaking is that you are constantly learning and evolving as an artist. Al Pacino always says, “I’m still learning.”

My number one creative for acting, film making and story telling is Clint Eastwood. Other influences are Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and Daniel Day Lewis. I’m also a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock, Danny Boyle and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as Directors. In terms of acting methods, I’m an advocate of Alexander, Strasberg and Stanislavski techniques. The list could travel further down this paragraph. It’s not just actors and filmmakers that inspire me, it’s stories of people, questions of humanity and philosophy. Everything is art to me.

3) How would you describe your particular creative style, and do you feel it has changed over the years as you’ve grown as an artist?

If I did have to describe it, it would be layers of rawness, morality, truth, street wisdom, mysticisms, philosophy plus edgy filmmaking and acting. Over the years I have found a huge shift in my acting craft. I feel this is largely due to filmmaking in writing, direction and producing. Each story has something new to learn an offer. I believe each story will have its own creative style.

4) What has been your biggest achievement to date? Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years time?

My biggest achievement to date is acting in the Chinese feature film ‘Lovers’. No it wasn’t porn! This film succeeded in China and at various International film festivals and I played the lead as an Australian photographer. The story had a similar feel to a 1970’s French silent movie.

In 5 to 10 years I see myself set up in LA and working through American, Australian, Indian, and Chinese markets. I’ve developed my craft and business networks to prepare myself for achieving this.

5) What do you love most about your work? / What are the biggest challenges for you as a young (Australian) film maker? / Do you have any plans to pursue your career overseas?

LOVE: I’m inspired to work with creative people that are open to collaboration and passionate. I’m obsessed to learn and be the best artist I can be. Working with other people on this same journey only lifts me to a higher level.

CHALLENGES: I’ve faced numerous challenges over the last five years developing my acting craft and making my first independent feature film. Constant knocks back would be the toughest, but passion and belief drives me.

Producing an international feature film abroad has had its challenges through barriers to entry. We had ambition to make “Atman” a feature film set in India for the last four years. This film has now been re-branded and developed into “Dead Feather”, a film set in Argentina. I spent numerous years developing networks in Indian Film to make this fly, but recently the project took a turn of wind. I’ve learnt through the process, you don’t know what to expect. That is why you just have to continue working hard until something pops. Constant re-writes can be difficult but circumstance has its own reasoning. Personal life and finance can also make it difficult when you are trying to get your own project off the ground.

Realistically you need to be over in LA to make your acting fly better. There is less opportunity in Australia. My path hasn’t taken this journey yet due to investment commitments with ‘Dead Feather.’ Everything has its own reasoning. I would like to return to LA with not just my acting credits, but also my writing, directing and producing credits. This trip will hopefully happen in 2014.

6) If you had an unlimited budget to make the film of your dreams. What would that look like? (Genre, locations, subject matter etc)

I’d probably look at a budget to make about five feature films that can have both a social and moral affect on society. I believe budgets are too high at the moment. Look at the movie ‘Australia’ for example. I often think budgets are blown out and if you look at the amount spent on that movie, the Australian Film Industry could of made around 20 feature films. I base my producing model around Clint Eastwood. Tight budget, good quality, high return!

7) What do you do when you’re not making films?

Surf, play music and cook up some hopefully good food.

8) As a creative person – who and what inspires you or are you passionate about?

Everybody inspires me. Humans. Stories. Earth. Meta physics. Philosophy.

9) What’s your all time favorite movie and why? / who would you most like to work with?

Best movie: North by Northwest. Clint Eastwood is the guy that I would most like to work with.

10) What next – any other interesting projects on the horizon/future goals you are yet to achieve?

The major project I’m involved with currently is ‘Dead Feather.’ The film is about habitus. How violence has a cause an affect on your external and internal environments. Set in Perth and Buenos Aires, the story deals with an ex-soldier dealing with PTSD, bad luck in love, war, gang violence, express kidnappings, human trafficking and mystical elements of birds and American Indian healing. I’m the actor/ writer/ producer of the film and we are looking to go into production in 2014 if everything goes according to plan.

I’m also currently making a short film around a story based from Ernst Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh’s suicide. We are shooting that in December 2013.

I’m also working on five other feature films. One is called called ‘Tequila Diamonds’ which essentially deals with addictions, following three stories through a weather vane that changes direction. When North Wind hits the shore, the story’s meets, all breaking free.

Number two is a Bollywood feature film that I’m acting in.

Number three – This movie is based from a true story set in Thailand and Burma about three school-teachers. On a night out in Bangkok during the water festival, one teacher tragically drowns. The two guys dealing with the shock of their mate’s death find out through personal belongings that he lived a second life in Burma. The two head off to explore, little did they know they would be falsely convicted and thrown in jail.

Number four is a film from Texas. It’s a historical piece set in the 1880’s and is shooting around 40% in Australia, 20% UK and 40% in the USA. I can’t say too much about this one as I haven’t written it.

Number five is another film I’ve written called ‘Chinese Whispers.’ I can’t say too much about this one either, otherwise whispers will get around. It’s set in 2018. The treatment is currently being revised.

I’m also in the process of designing a small film studio in Melbourne.

Dan Brophy – Writer, Director, Actor

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Dan Brophy is a writer, director, producer, editor and freelance videographer based in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Dan is the guy that lights up a room with his smile. He’s always a lot of fun to work with on jobs, and it’s been great to see him develop his talent within the film and television space.

I can really relate to many of his answers below and I look forward to seeing his creative journey continue – particularly that long awaited script!

You can view Dan’s latest work on Vimeo.

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Q & A:

1) You started work in the creative space as model and over the years have developed your skills as a writer, film director and producer. Is there a discipline that you prefer if you had to choose one? Do you prefer to work on fashion, music or TVC work? Do you feel your time as a model now makes it easier to direct other talent in front of the camera?

Writing is the thing I love most: When you write, there is nothing but possibility – the reality of shooting and all it’s associated burdens of finance and logistics are yet to burst the bubble of your dreams.

That being said, directing is magnificent – telling a story across multiple disciplines and orchestrating them to sing in harmony is a great art form for a well-contained control freak like myself. Though, the thing about directing is not even Martin Scorsese spends more than a few weeks on set every few years. The rest of your time is spent in pre or post production – if indeed you are working at all, so no matter how much you love to do it, you hardly ever get to.

When I direct I probably do have an empathy and deep respect for actors that isn’t common amongst my fellow film geeks – who are usually terrified of the strange, fragile, volatile creatures that professional performers can be.

2) Did you always want to be a Director? / What’s the best job (i.e. most creative/fun/biggest budget client) that you’ve worked on to date and why?

Before I even understood what a director did, I always wanted to be either an actor or a writer or an artist, and being a director combines all of those crafts.

Recently I worked on a job that I’m really proud of. I directed the Summer 13 campaign for womenswear brand Sussan that is part of an image overhaul they are going through, rendering the brand much more youthful and cool. It looks great and has a nice energy to it, though in the grand tradition of high street fashion, it was pitched as being much more edgy than it ended up.

However, the thing that gives me the most joy is a script I’ve been working on for about three years now. It’s taken so long, not only because it’s a lengthy process for one person to write a series with four main characters, but also because I had to teach myself HOW to write for TV – there aren’t any books on it and the structure is different to feature film writing. It’s been magnificent watching the characters grow and evolve and to me they are living breathing people. I cry when I write a sad scene and I laugh when they do. It’s the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.

IIT

3) How would you describe both your creative (or personal) style or point of view, and do you feel this has changed over the years as you’ve grown as a director/creative person?

My style and my point of view is ‘classic with a subversive twist’. It’s probably influenced by being raised in and by a city such as Melbourne. As I travel the world I am really glad that I view the world from a Melbournian perspective.

Growing up in Melbourne you have an awareness of style and design and culture because it is part of the dialogue of the city – and once you have a base understanding of something you are then free to subvert it. It reminds me of that saying ‘an artist can paint the sky red because he knows it’s blue’.

4) If you could work on any film/creative project – what would that look like? Do you have dreams or plans of heading overseas to make your mark?

My dream project is this current script, which is ultimately a love letter to the city that I adore most.

I would bounce back and forth from cities in Australia to other film making hubs of the world.

People always say what a shitty place LA is, but I think if you HAD to go somewhere for work, at least it’s sunny and you can live in a house and go to the beach and enjoy a plethora of low-carb food options. The modern art scene in LA is becoming exciting too.

5) What motivates you to continue to do better? / who have been your biggest (creative or other) influences in getting you to where you are today?

I love creativity in all its forms and I love being around motivated and productive artistic souls, which is why I love Melbourne so much. I am usually so turned on and inspired by seeing what other people are doing it makes me question ‘what do I have to offer that’s unique and important?’
But it’s hard; the world isn’t geared towards pursuing ‘wild and creative’ pursuits. We are raised to value security and therefore money always seems to come first, but yet there is the age-old notion that all the money in the world doesn’t buy happiness, yet there are still people blindly pursuing ‘having’. I’m intrigued by that idea at the moment: the push and the pull of art and commerce.

6) As a creative person – who and what inspires you? / what are you creatively passionate about?

Julia Cameron has a theory that every single human being is creative – it’s just the degree to which they need to express that creativity varies. For some, making dinner or getting dressed is enough. For others, they need to lock themselves in an attic and paint all day to satisfy their needs. I am passionate about people finding their passions and expressing themselves.

The way this ‘lack of expression’ often manifests is in the ‘back-firing’ of that energy which might otherwise be used to express oneself: toxic drinking habits, drug habits, dating, eating, shopping habits are usually what I notice people do to ‘take the edge off’. The most gloriously self-destructive people I know are the one’s who never learnt to truly express themselves. And that saddens and excites me greatly. Saddens because I feel for them, and excites because it inspires me to act.

7) What are some of the biggest challenges that you face as a young filmmaker, if any?

In this country, one of the biggest challenges is that people don’t get excited about watching Australian cinema. And I don’t blame them – the same type of films always seem to get made which have the same problems, all ultimately coming back to the fact that there isn’t enough money to pay a writer to do as many drafts as are needed to make something really good. In the US it is not uncommon for a film to have one hundred paid drafts (often by teams of writers) and the average script goes through around ten paid rounds of redrafting. And because what’s being made is never that great, there isn’t the money or willing investors to make the next lot of films better.

That is why I’m currently more excited by the idea of writing TV, at least if it’s good, it will find an audience online and that’s why I’ve taken three years to write this project – because I’d rather be good than famous.

8) You have studied your craft at uni and also attended VCA … Any career tips that you can also pass on to other young and up and coming – want to be filmmakers?

I wish someone told me to ‘write what you know’.

It’s such a common scenario for a teenage to ape his or her hero and make a film about the life of a thirty-something. In lieu of any actual truth, all they can do is fall back on imitation. However, a teenage point of view of their own world is exciting and can be incredibly authentic.

I’d also tell my filmic brothers and sisters to get active and just do it. Especially now that technology makes storytelling so possible. No one ever tells you that your first five or more projects are allowed to be bad. So the more you make, the sooner you will develop your own style that doesn’t rely so much on homage.

And write more. Share your writing with other writers to get the feedback to make your writing better because that is the number one problem with film making in this country – the writing. You can make a bad film from a good script but you can’t make a good film from a bad script.

9) As a model – you had one of the best rigs in the biz. Do you still like to keep fit and look after yourself? Any chance of yourself jumping in front of the camera again – or do you prefer to be on the other side these days?

I guess I’m in as good a shape as any now, but where as I used to be purely result-driven with exercise, now I’m more motivated by how is makes me feel which is why I incorporate more than just weights, like yoga and a weekly 80′s aerobics class which friends of mine run in Redfern.

I used to crave the validation that came with acting and modeling when I was younger, which of course was in direct contradiction to the best mentality to have when working. Now that I feel confident as a writer and director, I’m actually much more free when I come to perform, and I hope that I can continue to express myself in that way.

I did recently play a small cameo in my friend’s show Twentysomething – in episode 3 of season 2. I play an obnoxious gym instructor. I was also recently in a Renault car commercial where I played an obnoxious male model type. That’s not to be confused with the obnoxious male model type I played in the Uncle Toby’s commercials of a few years back. #onetrickpony

10) What’s next for you? Any other interesting projects on the horizon/collaborations or future goals you are yet to achieve?

I’m living in Sydney at the moment so I can finish my script – it seems I had to get out of Melbourne in order to write about it. Though I’ve never been happier with my workflow than in the last year (maybe it’s because I know five people here and there’s no where to go out!).

Because there is more commercial work up here, I am able to support myself with directing gigs while I write, which has been my goal for some time now.
I’ve been writing and directing sketch comedy with a small crew of very talented performers when I’m in Melbourne and I can’t wait to do more of that, and I’m hell-bent on making a film for Tropfest this year, and I’m currently writing a blog all about my observations of being a Melbournian in Sydney. Seriously, it’s a different world up here.

To view some of Dan’s current projects and work go to: www.danbrophy.net