working by lanternlight in Flaten after our fuses blew. pic by nikki kennedy.
A few weeks ago I sat down to reflect on the last couple years of work and projects, and to look ahead to the next couple, and I had the weird realisation that this blog might be the closest thing I have to a thread tying my whole practice together. That’s a strange thought. With all the various projects and strands to my work, creative work and otherwise, it’s hard to pick out a through line. But this blog is a way to talk about everything, no matter how off-base it seems, and to try and find the common links across different cities and projects.
From that little epiphany came the thought: well, it behooves me to update the blog more often to simply say where I am, and why I’m there, and where I’m going next, and for what.
So, what’s happened at this end of 2016?
Well, I spent a good chunk of the year in Melbourne. The middle months, I can’t remember the exact dates, but from around April through til late September. Living in Fitzroy North, working with Jordan on our boy bands / futures scenarios project, and making Kill Climate Deniers happen.
There were lots of other bits in there – going to Manila for Karnabal, working on the Kids Killing Kids radio play – but I think the main focus was Kill Climate Deniers. Lots of project management stuff, some marketing, as well as all the creative bits – the film clip, the photoshoot, the listening party, the album launch tour…
the bolted film clip! pic by sarah walker.
And then, late September, I got on a plane and headed to Stockholm. Boho have been commissioned to produce a new participatory work building on the Best Festival Ever model, based on the Flaten nature reserve south of Stockholm. We’ve been working with Swedish NGO Miljöverkstan to map and model the system, and construct a game for their gallery on the shores of Flaten lake. More of an explanation about the project on the Boho website, if yr curious.
It was a beautiful month, and super productive, but also, hectic. Me, Nikki, Rachel, Nathan and Muttley were joined by Gillian Schwab and Nick McCorriston, who dived in to contribute set, props and sound design.
So the seven of us lived in a beautiful old mansion in Danderyds Sjukhus, north of Stockholm’s CBD. It was a hundred year old house, and we were lucky enough to live in it while the family who owned it were in the process of selling it. Which was extraordinary, and lucky, but also entailed doing some dancing around removalists.
I said hectic. Maybe it’s just the inevitable result of a team of seven doing an international development to build a brand new participatory work in a tight timeframe. But yeah, it had a tenor of, no, can’t keep going like this indefinitely. But we did it, we made it, and it looks good, sounds good, and plays well. There’s a long way to go. But a prototype built and tested in a month, I’m proud of that.
I’m especially happy because the five of us worked quicker and sharper than we have before. It feels like the process that we developed over three years through creating BFE is now in really good working order, and we were in really good shape when it came to generating games, testing them, wrapping script and performance images around them, and dividing when necessary to pool our strengths.
Plus having Gills and Nickamc contributing design stuff lifted the whole thing so, so much. Have a look at these photos, my god.
So then. From Stockholm to London, and now I’m holed up in a flat in Hackney, looking at the half moon at 4.30pm through the grey brown apartment blocks. On Saturday I met up with Tassos in a cafe under the arches where a guy was just eating salt by the spoonful, looking grimmer and grimmer every minute, and where the ad for the local tarot card reader said ‘All readings confidential UNLESS you express an intent to commit a crime’. This town is wonderful.
I’m here doing some work with Coney, some work with Forum for the Future, and otherwise, presenting several scratches of Kill Climate Deniers. I’m really curious as to whether the show will have any resonance with a UK audience – and if so, which bits work and which bits don’t. Two shows, alongside Nathan’s new work How I Saved The Western Black Rhino:
And then, at the end of November, I go to Singapore for three weeks. I’m sinking into the R&D phase for a potential new Boho collaboration with the Earth Observatory Singapore, a research foundation based at Nanyang Technical University. The goal is to produce a new scenario-based participatory work around natural disasters in the south-east Asian region – so I’ll be spending three weeks learning about volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis.
And then Australia. And then 2017. And then and then.
Some days are nothing but panic and scrambling, others are a little more peaceful. There’s nothing particularly clear about the future at this point, I’m pretty close to the wire financially and there’s no guarantees about anything, but I had a good lunch and the moon is bright, so I’m gonna claim the day as a victory.
this is a picture nikki took of me and a cygnet in Flaten, who did not give a damn about me, but still I was very happy.
Well, so this is a lovely thing to get to lay out, and, in a way, lay down, at least for a good while.
One of the bigger arcs in my creative life this last half-decade was the Battalia Royale project, and the fall-out from it. Short version: me and Too Many Weapons headed over to the Philippines, worked with the Sipat Lawin Ensemble to adapt Koushon Takami’s Battle Royale for the stage, the production got out of hand, in a lot of interesting and headfucking ways.
So we produced the Kids Killing Kids show, to reflect on our role as writers in the whole affair. Out of that show, we were invited to take part in the 2014 Next Wave Festival to do an extended version, A Wake: Kids Killing Kids, bringing in five members of Sipat Lawin and their perspective.
We weren’t in any position to be able to keep on performing that show, and it would’ve got really morbid if we’d tried. But we wanted to find a way to document the story, and to be able to share it out more broadly to anyone who might be interested.
pic by Martin Vidanes
At this point, we were invited by Jesse Cox from ABC Radio National to try adapting it to the form of a podcast. And with his careful guidance, we went into the studio and recorded the show.
That didn’t work. And after a second rewrite, it still didn’t work. What had been clear as a story told on stage started to sound really weird as an audio piece.
At that point, Jesse threw out the original script entirely and proposed an alternative model. Rather than trying to replicate the Kids Killing Kids performance in radioplay format, he interviewed each of us – Jordan, Georgie, Sam and I – and then edited those interviews together to tell the story.
The result is a totally different take on the saga, and a lovely one from my perspective, because it finally shows up the differences in perspective between the four of us that got flattened out when we began work on Kids Killing Kids back in 2013.
A thank you is just a thank you, but I think it’s worthwhile putting my Kill Climate Deniers thank yous down in a blog post, because acknowledging my collaborators – as best I can – becomes a kind of map of the project. Something as diffuse and extended as KCD comes into focus when you look at the range of people involved, the network takes a sort of shape. Given that you can’t wrap a boundary around a project – I used to think you could, I was wrong – maybe the best thing you can do is to start to sketch the nodes and links?
I’m really grateful, and also I’m growing much more into the act of looking at a project by its list of credited names, acknowledgements, because those lists are the beginning of a guide to how work happens, in this world.
Julian Hobba + Aspen Island Theatre Company
Kill Climate Deniers came into being thanks to Julian Hobba’s invitation to write a new script for his company Aspen Island. Julian shepherded the first draft into being through a series of conversations, and it was Julian that managed to secure funding to drive the script forward into an actual shape. He directed the development and the radio play recordings that were sampled to make the album.
Insofar as the script has a shape and form, it’s Julian that provided the dramaturgical advice. And he manifested and produced a huge amount of the structure behind the project’s development – thoughtfully, generously and intelligently. Julian got what I was trying to do straight away, and guided the work there with such calm precision.
Which, also: a shout out to the performers who took part in the script development and the recording. Clare Moss, Miranda Borman, Emma Strand, Sarah Walker, Emma Hall, Rachel Roberts, Cathy Petocz and Ellie Garran. The script was written in/for their voices – I can’t imagine Gwen Malkin as anything other than Clare Moss’ interpretation, for example.
Reuben took part in the first script development as a musician, and it was Reuben that suggested the play might work well as a radio play. That evolved into Reuben taking on the massive task of writing and recording an entire album of original tunes, and constructing the audio world of the story, including producing the Listening Party and an amazing live set.
Reuben’s style is just an inspiration, and I’ve been in love with the music he makes under all his various guises for many years. Collaborating with him was such a pleasure – so easy, so simple, and then he turns around and breaks out phenomenal surprises all the damn time; like the first time he played me Music to Shoot Climate Activists To.
Nick Wilson + Clan Analogue
Although Clan Analogue has been an incredibly generous supporter from the outset, I’m singling Nick out because his contribution has just been above and beyond, constantly. I don’t know how a record label works normally, but from the first time we talked about releasing KCD through Clan, he was 100% behind what we were doing, and incredibly sharp and responsive.
The whole fact of getting to release a record through a storied label like Clan is pretty incredible, and the lovely thing which I learned through the experience is that it really is a clan, in the sense of being a collective of great humans who help each other make art. Shout outs also to Martin Koszolko, Nick McCorriston, Wade Clarke and Kimmo Vennonen for remixes, mixing advice and mastering.
Longtime collaborator Gills Schwab gave me the nudge to take the work further after the first script development, and her opinion counts for a lot with me. I hassled her to contribute some illustrations for the playscript, and she came up with a gorgeous set of pictures, which have totally shaped my conception of the characters. Gills is one of the peeps who understood the aesthetic I was angling for with this project long before I could coherently articulate it – that’s a very special skill.
Karmin Cooper + New Best Friend
This one is massive. Karmin and I worked closely together on You Are Here back in the day, and since then, she’s been an incredibly generous supporter of my work with regard to design.
In the case of Kill Climate Deniers, I went to Karmin and asked for her help putting together some collateral around the project. What she – and New Best Friend – provided went way, way beyond that. Karmin designed the project website, most of the marketing material, created a logo for the project, and then, because she’s an extraordinary human beind, brought in New Best Friend designer Liam Cotchett to design the printed playscript / ebook.
If you’ve seen the script, you’ll understand that this was a massive undertaking. Liam did an incredible job, and NBF saw the project all the way through to completion, on every front.
I don’t even know how to explain how big a thing this is. Just to say that the project wouldn’t even begin to approach the standard it’s at without New Best Friend. And also, the lesson learned, which is: just trust Karmin.
My older bro is a film-maker and also very, very media-literate, for reasons pertaining to his job. So he first kicked in some very pertinent advice about Parliament House, about how to approach that institution, and then he took the time to produce the outstanding short film (featuring Clare Moss and Emma Strand) introducing people to the project.
I roped in Sarah to take part in the project as a performer for the radio play recording, and leaned on her then to take a few preliminary photos. She was willing, but she made me promise that we’d actually have a proper photoshoot, because she had some ideas for some concept images.
The end result was way beyond what I could’ve expected – stunning fire and ice images on a cloudy beach, with Georgie McAuley holding a molotov cocktail… I don’t know how Sarah sees what she sees when she imagines things, but she is very good.
image by sarah walker
Another very close collaborator, Jordan and I spent a good chunk of this year working together in a concrete office at Melbourne University, writing and thinking about the future. Along with being a source of good advice in general, Jordan also took on the task of adapting Kill Climate Deniers into a feature film script, which is incredible. (A couple of the best gags in the KCD solo show were stolen from Jordan’s script.)
Jordan then put his hand up to direct the music video for Bolted. The concept was entirely his, and he did all the production and direction, for what turned out to be a bizarrely effective and beautiful creation. Also shout out to Dan von Czarnecki, Sophie Hayward, Amanda Lissant-Clayton, Sam Burns-Warr, Ben Hamey, and Georgie McAuley again, for the dancing.
This is just an example of how strange and varied and lovely the support for this project – playwright Eric Gardiner is the most astute tracker of the far-right commentariat that I know, and so I turned to him for help producing the Which Right Wing Commentator Are You? personality quiz. Eric went above and beyond, and basically created the thing entirely by himself – and it’s brilliant – for nothing, out of the goodness of his heart. Which is one of those things where people’s generosity really keeps surprising me.
image by sarah walker from the 2016 you are here fest
You Are Here Festival
When YAH agreed to take on the first public outing of KCD there was a real risk, as far as we knew, that it would be a real headfuck with regard to getting attacked by internet trolls. But Adelaide Rief and Vanessa Wright were completely unfazed, and helped shape the solo show from its earliest form, and gave me a whole load of support and trust in the execution of it. Plus they provided the best possible context for the work – a Saturday night festival party event. Yes.
Much love to the whole festival crew for manifesting it into being – and to Ginger Gorman, Mark Fletcher and Bernie Slater for jumping on board with the panel, and to CMAG, Shane Breynard and Mick Bailey for hosting it too.
And a nod to Vanessa also, because it was her that observed, back in March, that the most interesting thing about this project was that it was a moving target. That thought has been swirling around in my head since then, leading to this, among other things.
I’ve been aware from the start that this project needs outside eyes to help frame the strategic side of things. My parents have been a good sounding board, as has Jack Lloyd, my brother Chris, Brenna Hobson, Natalie Reiss, and many others here and there. But Lande Norris has been the person who’s most effectively steered it away from bad mistakes.
My experience of Yolande, from the first weeks I knew her, is that when it comes to arts and politics, she has a longer range perspective than anyone else I know – far, far better than mine. With KCD, Lande was the person who told me bluntly when I was going in the wrong direction, and reminded me, gently and clearly, who this work was for, and to not get distracted by the noise around it.
Always the advice I needed, at the moment I need it.
Possibly the single greatest contributor to the KCD project, Gabby helped me tie the whole thing together. Looking at the tangle of different strands to this project, Gabby helped me find a way to talk about the thing in a vaguely coherent way. And to strategise how all these different elements might find their way out into the world, when and where and through who.
I think one of the most incredible things that Gabby provided was that when I was staring at what seemed like a blank wall, in terms of ‘I have no money, no audience and no place to start’, she was able to break that down into achievable, comprehensible goals and starting places. Guidance, encouragement and a shitload of very practical wisdom. Making things seem possible – that’s a pretty powerful skill.
My parents, and Emily Stewart
Any project of sufficient size is enough to get on top of you, to shake you up and make you doubt yourself. It’s funny, when you start something yourself, you don’t even have the structure of, say, a university degree – you’re making it up as you go along. There’s a lot of room in there for you to panic and lose your way.
A lot of good humans had my back at different times throughout the making of this, but always, unfailingly, my parents, when I sat down and chatted with them. And Emily, who never let me hit a wall, never let me panic or go around in circles.
How much any piece of art, any creative project, is just a meeting point for a lot of people’s efforts, just a space in which people come together to care.
Because of how I’m wired, I’m not a great fan of a lot of middlebrow TV or films. I am continually turning down offers to watch extremely good things, Academy Award winning dramas etc, in favour of junk. I quite like a lot of super abstract video art, and lowbrow genre trash – nothing in the middle. I’m not proud of this – in fact I wish I were different – but nature + nurture conspired to do a number on me in this regard, and now here we are.
Anyway, the result is, I sometimes watch genre films and write – well, not quite reviews, but… commentaries? – on them. And because I haven’t really documented that material in any intelligent way, I thought it might be a good idea to gather some of those pieces in one place, in case anyone feels like they need that.
Starting with the best first, The Surrender was a one-woman show based on Toni Bentley’s erotic memoir about her sexual adventures, and in particular, her journey into the world of heterosexual sodomy. I saw this with Jess and Siobhan in New York and it is easily one of my top three theatre experiences of all-time.
Click on the link and journey from top to bottom – or as Toni Bentley would say: ‘from bottom… to BOTTOM.’
I saw this early Selena Gomez holiday romance / mistaken identity saga back in 2011 and it was terrible, but also, the sight of Leighton Meester shedding some of her uptight cares and worries and learning to be free by splashing through fountains and necking with a topless aussie bloke in waist deep water… ahhh.
This whole film is a fucking disaster, and I ended up being on the side of the uptight wealthy jerk who the heroine’s parents are trying to set her up with, rather than the free-spirited Cuban dancer lad she falls for. Also the Patrick Swayze cameo was weird and disturbing. But a dance training montage to Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie makes everything okay.
Thanks to Clyde Enriquez I watched the iconic Filipino rom-com One More Chance, way over-identified with Bea Alonzo as the heroine, and hated matinee idol John Lloyd Cruz more than I’ve ever hated a movie character before or since. Fuck that guy.
Jess Bellamy and I sat down together and watched the Hannah Montana movie – jointly, for science – and each wrote our own review. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it is not a very good movie. Except for the barndance sequence, that’s all killer no filler.
Most recently, I poured my tired soul into this Dakota Johnson vehicle, and look, I felt a lot of feelings, but I can’t pretend they’re all thanks to the film. I spent a lot of time being distracted by the conspicuous wealth on display, and by the total lack of any clear narrative arc.
Four minutes into this Dakota Johnson movie and I’m feeling all kinds of feelings.
1. Sex and the City-esque light philosophical reflections about being single over a high-speed montage of a couple getting together and then breaking up
2. Dakota Johnson seems really fine, but also like she’s not sure she wants to be here. Maybe that’s her MO. The whole of 50 Shades, her special trick that she brought to the performance was the look of being deeply unhappy about being there. It’s a Thing I guess
3. I fucken hate TaySwi’s Welcome To New York, and it’s not like I don’t love 1989, so don’t lay that on me
Dakota Johnson moves to New York after breaking up with her bf of four years to find out what it’s like to be single and Rebel Wilson meets her at her new job as a paralegal
like there are jobs in New York
there are no jobs in New York
At the end of day one of job, Dakota wants to go home, in her sexy mini and makeup, but Rebel is the irresponsible best friend, already. Some fucking how.
Not that I can write better romance than this movie: I am this movie.
There’s a character who’s slightly anally looking for the right guy on dating websites – the bartender at the place she’s meeting these guys has a playful frisson-charged friendship with her, will something develop? On date one, the gag is that the guy isn’t into having children, he’s about having crazy sex acts.
This is making me long for the overstuffed shambolic fuckup that was Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis’ Friends With Benefits – so many failed setpieces. This film knows all the moves, it just doesn’t care.
But: glossy costumes, well-lit, colourful sets, heaps of extras, Dakota Johnson looking winsome: we proceed.
Rebel Wilson takes Dakota to a bar where she instructs Dakota to get laid. Fifth Harmony’s Worth It is playing, Dakota says several times ‘I’m not looking to hook up, I just want to discover who I am”. This is, in the parlance of the Hero’s Journey: Refusing The Call.
Dakota ends up making out with the bartender that’s been flirting with the uptight girl, then it cuts to the next morning at Dakota’s sister’s beautiful house, her beautiful, huge, beautiful house. Her huge house that she has in New York with her doctor job, her doctor job that has made her rich, rich enough to own a huge, beautiful house with great couches and lovely natural light where Rebel and Dakota awake, hungover, after the night out they had following a day at work at their jobs, their jobs that they have in New York, because they have jobs in New York.
I’m 16 minutes into this film and the lighting is exquisite.
There’s a whole thing with the sister getting clucky, deciding that she wants a baby herself. What’s going on here? Do I have the courage and sensitivity to say anything about this scene in this recounting or do I leave it alone?
(note from future david: looks like i decided to leave it alone)
Dakota’s boyf that she split with at the top of the film shows up for a meeting, she asks him to come back to her, he says no. It’s a good bit of writing cause it’s done and dusted in a couple of short lines – this is how writing should be written.
I will write this scene, this same scene, I will write this exact scene, with a little less grace and fewer Dakota Johnsons.
The uptight girl is at the bar being alone when a hen’s party rocks up and the hen is an old friend and girl-on-girl competition is about to be afoot, I can feel it. Bitch friends asking too many spiteful questions bring our girl down, but then the bartender pretends to be her boyfriend to make them jealous and score points.
Just, give me one reason to like any of these characters. Have them do something good, or interesting. They’re in the sympathetic protagonist slot in the movie but I just – don’t – care.
God the extras are well dressed, though.
In fact, the costumes are off the fucking chain. There’s not one scene where Dakota doesn’t look like she’s in an amazing and sexy hair commercial.
Having wealth, having fucking wealth, man.
Dakota moves into a beautiful luxury apartment with high ceilings, with all her possessions, her goddamn possessions, how can she be sad when she has everything? How does she live?
The sister is gonna have a baby by herself, it doesn’t work the first time, the sister has a history of helping other people but when will she learn to take care of herself?
Rebel and Dakota are hanging out in a… place. If it were the 90s, and it were Sliding Doors, that place would be… yoga. Because that’s what aspirationally attractive young professionals with romantic possibilities ahead of them did, in movies back then. Now it’s 2016 and they’re in a sauna. Which is fucking yellow.
I’ve said before that the lighting in this film is unbelievable, but here I think they’ve legit let the designer go too far. Fuck, man, what’s even going on.
The flight attendants are walking up and down the aisle and chatting to people in their gorgeous Birmingham accents and they are adorable. Nathan and Rachel are a few seats back so they can clearly see that I’m watching this film, there are no secrets on this plane. I tried to convince Rachel to watch it too so we could debrief about it but she said that all reports are that it’s terrible, so now I have no-one to debrief about it with except you, word document.
What does Dakota do in this film? What does she DO? She exists only in relation to her partners, prospective or past, she has no thing that she does. And the meet-cutes in this flick have been universally bad.
Nah but straight up, fuck the bit where the characters hate on pubic hair as a thing where it’s ugly and you can’t have sex with new guys if you have it. What the fuck is wrong with you, screenwriter, that you wrote that, and with you, entire culture, that you sanctioned it? I mean don’t get me wrong, I know what world I’m living in, I know what to expect from Hollywood patriarchal mainstream fluff, but every so often, man the world is just depressing.
(aside: a week or so into Stockholm development, and thank you Sweden for your healthy mature attitude towards nudity and the human body, but also as a consequence, I’m extremely aware that every dudebro at the gym is getting around with shaved nads. I feel hella self-conscious rocking my full natural bush; Dakota Johnson, I relate, I relate.)
Dakota does the thing where not knowing how to work her electrical appliances and being confused about technology is cute. (It’s understandable and no judgment, but it’s not cute.)
There’s a Glee club sequences and a whole thing with the pregnant sister wanting to have sex and having sex with some young dude at the office christmas party. Man, fucken American banter is so type A and obnoxious, it would be nice if people were just nice to each other, in this films, in all this films.
The sister has sex with a dude in the copy room at the law firm, which we know from the first scene with Rebel Wilson is under surveillance, and not to be having sex in.
(The gag where this sex scene has been filmed is set up but never delivered on, which means it’s 100% on the editing floor, in which case, I commend the editor of the flick for their restraint in paring this thing back to a digestible length.)
The uptight girl gets angry at kids in a library and tells them that dudes are no good and that love is dead, it’s a setpiece with kids as comedy. She meets a librarian who is cute with a scruffy face.
Dakota goes to her ex-boyf’s christmas party to see him dancing with his new gf because who the fuck is Dakota Johnson in this film, a walking open wound.
She has wealth, sees wealth, a wealthy businessman takes her to the top of an expensive building he owns, because wealth = romance, romance = wealth.
Now she’s hanging with the businessman’s daughter, he gets angry because she’s bonding with his daughter. It’s three months later. The relationship ends. Where are we. In the sky somewhere, night, in the shadow of the earth, I’m lost in the vastness of the world and the melancholy that is international travel, as lost if not more so than this film.
There’s a mealy indie guitar ballad to celebrate the end of this relationship, a parade scene – so many extras. So many extras. A great scene with silhouettes. Good lighting. Dakota hugs her sister and cries. This purposeless, vacuous movie has no trajectory, and I’m lost in it.
The uptight lass is now with the scruffy librarian, now it’s a montage of the characters being happy, being happy, it’s a montage of… what? Dakota has some casual sex, and then runs into her ex-boyfriend again. I swear, we get no distance from this character. We can’t even use him as a measure of Dakota’s progress because what progress? What direction? What even?
The sister pushes away her young lover because she is too afraid to be open.
The perpetually single bartender has fallen in love with the uptight girl but it’s too late, she’s gone.
The wealthy businessman tucks in his daughter with a melancholy air.
Dakota get a text from her ex-boyf inviting her back. She goes to hang out with the bartender.
DAKOTA VOICEOVER: Maybe this whole time we’ve been making all the wrong moves. Maybe we’ve been focusing on the wrong stuff, and now it’s too late.
Dakota has sex with the bartender to the tune of the Harlem Shake. Is it a good song? Seems like on paper it should be a good song, but also, I don’t know if I like it?
Everyone drinks in this film, alcohol is the only thing. Dakota has a huge birthday party, a rooftop party. She gets drunk, the lighting is beautiful, who are all these fucking strangers.
The setpiece in this section of the film is all three of Dakota’s beaus meeting. At her birthday party.
The bartender makes a move on the uptight girl, who’s now getting married to the librarian so she rebuffs him. The wealthy businessman apologises to Dakota, she… ah, I don’t know. She still doesn’t look like she wants to even be in this film. But I’m tired and I just need a hug and I want Dakota Johnson to be happy.
At this point on any international flight my head is in a weird place and look at Dakota Johnson’s kind eyes and ohhhhh, I don’t need grace just a smile, just a smile
Dakota is now ripping in to Rebel Wilson for not having a life of her own, which is rich given that
a) Rebel is doing her best with the paltry material she’s been given as the wacky best friend, and
b) Dakota doesn’t even have the beginnings of a flicker of a life.
The realtalk concludes with a song that I thought might be the Verve’s Already There, which woulda been an unusual choice, but it was not. Often the soundtrack is the place in these safe-bet studio films where the director feels free to cut loose and pull in an unexpected choice or two, but here the music feels curated by Spotify algorithms, and I guess that’s fine, I guess that’s fine.
Now her ex-boyf comes and sits with Dakota on a stairwell. They make out, they nearly have sex. But he’s still with his new girlfriend, Dakota’s angry.
The editing, the editing is exceptionally good. It’s going so fast.
But there’s a triumphant bit where Dakota realises she wants to be alone. And there’s a water breaking sequence which is… well look, I feel like there’s probably a way to play someone’s waters breaking as a clever gag, but this is not it. And then there’s a labour in the back of a cab. And now it’s soft chiming guitars and the baby got born. And holy shit, the baby they hand to her when she’s finished giving birth is clearly a fortnight old. Man, you can’t get a genuine infant in the movies, can you? It’s understandable and ethically good, but also, jesus.
So the final score at the end of the flick is:
– The sister gets back together with her young dude because they love each other and he wants to help raise the baby
– Dakota walks back to her beautifully lit apartment at dawn and enjoys being alone
– She reads Cheryl Strayed in the window of her apartment and texts Rebel Wilson
DOES SHE EVER WORK AT HER FUCKING JOB
She’s getting ready to walk the Grand Canyon. She sees young girls who are friends on the streets and smiles. An anthem of independence plays and she reconnects with Rebel Wilson.
DAKOTA VOICEOVER: I’ve been thinking that the time we have single is really just the time to get good at being alone…. but how good do we really want to be?
(is this the moral you want to leave your audience with? does this actually mean anything?)
Final shot, Dakota standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon in the dawn. Alone. Truly alone.
And there, there, what a lot of things to think and feel. Do I have the energy, do I have the heart? I feel like a mess.
Reuben and I launching the album in Melbourne. pic by Max Barker.
In the midst of doing some thinking and wrapping my head around the Kill Climate Deniers project, and one of the big challenges is: How do I measure the success of this work? More on this soon, but in order to even begin answering this question, I wanted to pull together a bit of the public commentary around the project in one place.
Kill New Play Deniers (HowlRound, March) – Playwriting brother/comrade Ira Gamerman wrote this piece for the US playwriting journal about the difference between Australian and US theatre and how the Kill Climate Deniers controversy could never have happened in America.
‘In American playwright terms: imagine a scenario where Bill O’Reilly writes an op-ed in the Washington Post condemning an unproduced play (which somehow received twenty grand in taxpayer dough from the NEA?). O’Reilly’s op-ed raises enough of a stink that a playwright with no agency representation gets called out by Eric Cantor, and starts receiving e-threats from a cabal of international conservative white dudes.’
‘If someone uses the title “kill” in an art work I think we should question that. If someone uses an inflammatory title, which Kill Climate Deniers certainly is, then they should be taken to task … Because as an artist, as much as I have a right to provoke this conversation and use the language that I’ve used in the title, I think it’s important that that doesn’t come without cost.’
“I consider myself a climate denier in that I accept the scientific evidence of climate change around the world but like most people I haven’t taken any direct action or plans in my own life to do anything about it.”
‘It’s a philosophical puzzler for the Age of Terror, the cyber-equivalent of a tree falling in the woods. If a group of ecowarriors lays siege to Parliament House but no one notices, did it really happen?’
‘Even before the volley of gunfire during the song Music to Shoot Climate Activists To, Ingall’s “bangers” were an unsettling score for a Parliament House stroll. His classic house and techno tracks expressed an abandon and depravity that was utterly incongruent with the civic fustiness of the meeting place of our nation. When two AFP officers eyed me, then cruised slowly by, I felt vaguely treasonous and very paranoid.’
‘If you accept the overall (progressive) narrative about counter-terrorism, environmentalism, and political activism, then the political message of the play and the action narrative of the play mesh seamlessly. If you don’t, you’re stuck never quite being able to slip entirely into the action narrative. But is this a glitch or a feature?’
‘Finnigan has used his “bolting” to his advantage and created a second story within Kill Climate Deniers. This story is in a universe where the events in Kill Climate Deniers have eventuated because of the play, and the ramifications of having promoted terrorism through his story.’
Kill Climate Deniers solo show, pic by Sarah Walker.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been a playwright, properly. I was never really a proper playwright, in the sense of writing a Well-Made Play. That’s a difficult task, and it takes years of hard work to get good at it, and I’ve never put in the hard yards, honestly.
I’ve always made weird things instead. Weird, unlovely things, and things that scratched particular creative itches at the time of inception. Then we formed Boho back in 2006, and since then a huge amount of my practice has been about audience-drive, participatory work, which is a whole other artform with a whole different set of design and aesthetic principles.
In the last few years, though, I’ve sensed myself butting up against a kind of idea of the sort of work I want to make, outside of the scope of Boho’s interactive-science-theatre remit. It started with seeing Bougainville Photoplay Project (which is still the piece of theatre I’ve enjoyed the most that I had no personal relationship to). It’s been a vague, unclear impulse, but at different times I’ve felt like I’ve touched on something that works.
Paul Dwyer in Bougainville Photoplay Project. Note similarity to the pic above. Image from Belvoir.
Now that Kill Climate Deniers is landing in the world, I’ve tried to hash out what, exactly, this ‘format of work’ might look like, and what it entails. In a way this is for me more than it is for anyone else – I’m sharing it because I’m trying to track my own efforts to come at the kind of work that intuitively interests me.
None of this is original, and if it’s new to me, it’s because I haven’t really read much or studied anything about my craft. I’m a trial-and-error animal. If it turns out that there’s a word for exactly what I’m trying to describe, great! If it turns out there’s a school where you can study it, even better!
(I probably still won’t study it, tho)
So there are two basic components to this model of making. At the centre of this little schematic is what I’m calling the ‘core story/idea’. And then around that core is a variety of different expressions of that story/idea, across different platforms.
The Story One aspect of the core is the story. This is the seed idea. This could be a reportage-style investigation of a real-world event, or it could be a fictional story.
Real world event: Easier, in some ways. Harder in others. It’s like deciding to do a work about how archeological sites in conflict zones are looted and the artifacts smuggled over borders. Or a work about befriending a person with the opposite political opinions to you. This has a bit of an investigative journalism feel to it, I guess. It helps that the story exists in the real world, so you can document it. But then, how are you going to get that documentation? How close are you able to get to the story?
Fictional story: Easier, in some ways. Harder in others. This’d be like making a work about a fictional attack on Parliament House by a group of eco-terrorists. Or a story about a couple who need to have 44 sex acts in one week in order to write a magazine article. One challenge here is that, at core, who cares about a fictional story? People seem to respond reasonably well to the bit of Kill Climate Deniers where I tell the story of the terrorist attack. But the problem is the media doesn’t exist around a fictional story, you have to create it. Whereas with a real world story, you just go and document the actual thing.
Kill Climate Deniers and Kids Killing Kids/Battalia Royale were lucky in that they were able to combine elements of both. Make the fictional story, then tell the story of making that story. Kids Killing Kids was more immediately interesting because the challenges and weirdnesses of making Battalia Royale was more interesting than the challenges and weirdnesses of making Kill Climate Deniers. But in both instances, there is value in the intersection of real-world shit and fake stuff.
What seems to work well in Kill Climate Deniers, though, is using real-world stuff in order to colour and contextualise the fictional story. Lots of photos of Parliament House, real stories about the current state of climate change, all that stuff, used as colour and dressing around the fictional story. And then as you proceed forward, the fictional story takes over.
little bit of real-world flavour supporting the fictional Kill Climate Deniers story.
Another core element is the idea. In everything I do there is going to be some kind of learning, some kind of lecture element. Because that’s what appeals to me in a night out. The chance to learn something real, to discover something new. ‘Someone’s story’ is not enough by itself, in fact that’s often really drab and disappointing. I want a thing which tells me something new about the world, I want that a lot.
So in every process, I’m gonna wanna have some kind of clear sense of what this idea is at an early-ish stage.
That’s not a barrier to doing works like Ghost Mountain, which is my brilliant pitch idea about a group of mountain climbers who are being picked off one by one by the vengeful spirit of a climber lost on a previous expedition. The topic is mountain climbing. I can commentate on the history of the sport, riff on that while telling a ridiculous mountaineering ghost story.
It’s a little trickier with stuff that’s more consciously trash, like 44 Sex Acts in One Week. But still, there’s commentary around sex in popular culture, how we negotiate different kinds of kink, etc… Even the most lightweight trash has stuff to say about the world.
Battalia Royale saying stuff about the world
In the case of both Kill Climate Deniers and Kids Killing Kids/Battalia, there was a real-world impact to the telling of this story, and that became part of the story. ‘Controversy’ was the rough name that got bandied about for this thing, but I think that’s a naff term and not quite what I’m talking about. ‘Controversy’ implies black and white, lots of yelling, and somewhat predictable debates. I think what I need is a phrase like ‘impact’, and what every project and/or story needs to do is to go to the site of most discomfort in order to speak back to itself.
That was how Bougainville Photoplay Project worked – Paul Dwyer kept returning to the site of the story, going back to Bougainville, and telling the story back to the people it was about, and in that way it became an interesting self-reflexive journey. Kill Climate Deniers kinda goes to the scene of the crime in being presented at Parliament House. We captured people’s reactions to Battalia at the time they occurred, and that was key.
So all projects have to have a point where they go to the place where that story is most resonant, where that idea is at its rawest. And then reflect on that, speak about that, build from that.
bringing KCD to its natural home at Parliament House
Okay, so those are the core elements for each project. Beyond that, they can be represented in any way that works – and I think I’m past the point of wanting to make them into a ‘play’, as such. Even if I knew what that meant, I’m just not the best playwright.
I want to produce this story, and then to try to capture that story (which is always a moving target) across multiple different creative platforms. None of them will really do it justice, not if the story’s rich and interesting enough. And the failure of one form is really its success, because by trying to force a work into a particular form you (a) inevitably miss crucial parts of the whole that you’ll have to come back to in another way, and (b) you discover aspects of that story that could only emerge when you try to express it in this particular medium.
So what are these mediums? I don’t know all of them, but a partial list – some formats I’ve begun to explore:
Film / Video
So in the case of Battalia, Sam+Jordan+Georgie+I filmed a huge volume of content – interviews, performance footage, colourful content from around Malate. Shaping that into a specific format required editing skills (which I don’t have) and a context (which was the Kids Killing Kids live show), but that same material could also have been sculpted into a film documentary, or broken down and expressed elsewise.
In the case of Kill Climate Deniers, there was nothing to film. The show didn’t exist, and it’s too high-budget to make happen in any kind of visually spectacular way. However, Tom (my older brother) had a bunch of timelapse videos he’s filmed from around Parliament House and surrounds, plus he was adept at finding free found footage that was relevant. And filming a short mockumentary was well within our capacity. Similarly, Jordan was able to construct and produce a beautiful music video for Bolted, which brings another strange media element into the picture.
So, the point is to:
• Film whatever’s available and relevant
• Collate free found footage on the subject at hand
• Film short creative material
Jordan’s vision for the Kill Climate Deniers lead single music video included a rogues gallery of terrible dudes
Radio plays are not a thing. The energy and vibe of a podcast and/or radio documentary is something different. That Kids Killing Kids has ended up as a radio documentary, thx to ABC Radio National, is a satisfying result.
every project should include room for Reuben Ingall to bust out a rad dancefloor set of classic rave anthems. pic by sarah walker.
Slideshow / Photographs
Everything, no matter what it is, needs photographs to bolster it. I think when I’m writing stories I need to be also collating relevant found images, photographing locations myself.
The original idea for Kids Killing Kids was a slideshow, showing pics from our weird residency. I’m not heaps nostalgic for old media, or nostalgia in general, honestly, but I do have good memories of my dad and Will Steffen giving slideshows from their Himalayan expeditions.
A story could just be a selection of images, in the right order. Sarah Walker and I were talking about a work riffing on La Jetée, and now she’s going ahead and doing something like it (but with a good deal more radical worldbuilding) out at Bonnie Doon. There’s something brilliant about that – a photoessay documenting a fictional world – all the information and narrative that you crave is held tantalisingly out of your reach, but there’s so much stimulus for your own ideas in there.
along with Bougainville Photoplay Project, Chris Marker’s La Jetée and Sans Soleil are probs the closest ancestors for this kinda work
Live performance / storytelling
It will be hard for me to ever give this up. I think the mental shift I need to make is from producing a live performance as the beginning, end and entire output of a project, to treating it the way musicians treat it – you release your recorded material, you play it live. Not one, not the other; both. Some musicians tilt more one way than the other, but theatre artists (me) are trained to want to do almost everything live.
Interesting result of Kill Climate Deniers – the live performance of the solo show is as close to a complete document of the work as there could possibly be, and YET, in doing it, I discovered that there’s lots of elements that just don’t fit in that work. Even though the live performance version allows you to bring together storytelling, audio, film, images etc, it’s still really bounded by the Harrison Rule (a live show can be 1 hour or 8, nothing in between). So if the work is deep enough, you’re gonna be skimming from a larger body of content when you choose what you put in front of an audience.
And of course, part of that curation is based on what kind of emotional experience you want the audience to have. There are a lot of ideas and concepts floating around in the KCD text, but in a live setting I only really lightly brush up against in the live show, just because of the practicalities of time.
A live performance remains great though, because even if you only have 10 people in the crowd, you have 10 people’s attention for an hour, and that’s a goddamn miracle.
georgie explaining that, no, you’re upside down, in kids killing kids. pic by sarah walker.
It’s got a little bit to do with that point above about impact – bringing the work to the place where it’s most raw, where it has the potential to speak to its own themes in interesting ways. It’s not about generating media fluff, it’s about finding the place or context where the work is most resonant, and pouring it into that space.
The reflections from that experience become valuable learning in building the project.
Taking a work about Australian democracy to Parliament House; this was just artistically really satisfying. Pic by Tom Finnigan.
Essay / Article / Script
There’s a place for a text-driven document which people can access and read. When we started You Are Here, Yolande and I had the notion that the program brochure, if it were classy enough, would become an archivable item documenting the state of the Canberra indie arts scene at that time. In that way, the festival itself was less important than producing a beautiful object that could last, and be returned to. A festival is a beautiful snapshot of a creative community at that moment in time, but New Best Friend‘s gorgeous YAH programs will live on my shelves forever.
Maybe similarly, there’s a value in producing a solid document, an object, a piece of writing that speaks to the project you’re making in its complexity but which can be published in a journal, or stored on a shelf.
The Kill Climate Deniers script is a beautiful object (not coincidentally, also designed by New Best Friend) – and it benefits massively by having an essay / foreword by Julian Hobba, to place it in its context. The value of calling it a script is that it is one, and that it is available for theatre companies to produce. Why not? But a script, in truth, is not necessarily the best form for a lasting document, because who reads scripts?
An essay, an article, a document of some other kind, that’s an important end result. It doesn’t hurt to have something beautiful.
The program booklet for You Are Here 2013, designed by New Best Friend, <3 forever
As I learned from Xavier Rizos in 2009 and tried to embody in You Are Here, a project website is a platform and a meeting point for a cluster and constellation of online activity that overspills it in every direction. Website-as-archive document, that’s pretty bland. But there is a place for a rich media essay that speaks to the project’s themes, that includes some of the creative elements, that includes pictures and video and audio.
There are so many examples of this I don’t know where to start – in fact I won’t bother. I’ll just say that one of my favourites is Anab Jain’s Valley of the Meatpuppets talk for Superflux, and leave it at that.
At the end of it all, what you’ve made should be a cluster of items orbiting an idea, like debris whirling around a forming star.* The crucial thing is that every element of the puzzle points to the other elements, relies upon them to support its own expression, but every element also stands alone to a greater or lesser degree. And every element points inwards to those core elements – the idea, the story, the impact – but there is no single actual item that is the work. The centre of gravity is the idea, and the call to action at the end of the encounter with the work should always be: investigate more yourself.
Something like that.
*how is that for a goddamn metaphor
it may happen that I grow tired of these two stills from How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days but I’d hazard that that day is a long way away yet
It’s mid-September and I’m having one of those brief pauses amidst things being due. 2016 turned out to be a year of things being delivered, kinda – projects that have been building up for a little while are now being presented, in one way or another. I didn’t mean for them to cluster like this, it’s just how it’s happened.
It’s always a strange time. The last time things all landed together in one tight barrage was 2010, and that was a bit of a disaster. Since then I’ve been trying harder to space things out, but every so often, you find projects just line up in a row. This isn’t as bad as 2010 by any means – in fact it’s fine, it’s really fine – but I’m noticing that I’m pretty heavily in the headspace of marketing, promotion, producing, rather than planning or making.
It also means that when I finally do get to grips with some new projects (early next year), it’ll be a long time before I get them ready to be presented. Next year’s looking like it’ll be a quiet year as far as output goes.
This last little while, though, has been a bundle of things happening in the world.
For years I wanted a review in RealTime, it felt like the marker of some kind of artistic legitimacy. People want weird things, I guess. So I’m happy. (^_^)
by sarah walker, again again, with lovers/bros andrew bolt and edmund barton
But the big thing, this last little while, has been the Kill Climate Deniers album. Which is out now, and that’s pretty rad. This project just kinda burst into a whole bunch of different formats – solo show, ebook, short film, feature film script, album. And the album exists now, and… ahhhhhh, I’m happy. What else can you say? Reuben Ingall is a genius, and the music on this record makes me so excited.
I don’t know, man, I can’t figure out where it fits into my practice, but I have this feeling that this record is pointing in a new and good direction for what I want to make. Like, in 35 minutes of music, there’s a lot of it which is just beats, just music to dance to, and the words, when they’re there, are just supporting and flavouring that sound. It’s a really minimal approach, it’s erasing so much of what I oversay and overdo and it’s something I want to put on and it makes me want to dance, and that’s a real thing.
It also feels like it’s pushing back at one of the most frustrating things about my entire practice, which is the way that live performance just evaporates into the air as soon as you’ve done it. Which, don’t get me wrong, is one of the most lovely and exciting things about it. But also: has left me with a legacy of 15 years of practice that sometimes seems pretty threadbare.
Ahhhhhh, but then, but then, the live performance elements are sometimes the most fun. Like, we held a special preview Listening Party for the album in Parliament House. An audio tour through the public areas. Ridiculous, but so satisfying. And honestly, what else can you do with an iconic public building that has such a specific and strange resonance but write a hostage drama set there and then build a guided audio tour?
Now we just launched the video clip for Bolted, which Jordan did a brilliant job of, and all the good people made it happen, and Georgie dancing it like a maniac, so much, so much. And all the mannequins, Kyle Sandilands and Edmund Barton, together at last.
And the radical photoshoot with Sarah Walker with the fire and the ice!
I don’t know how I deserve all these incredible artists around me, making rad shit happen, asking nothing in return. And James Atkin from EMF (yes, the guy behind 1991 #1 hit Unbelievable) has remixed Bolted, which will come out on the remix EP in October.
How does this all work? People are good people, people are good people, I mean,
But all this building up to the album launch events. Wednesday 21 September at Smiths Alternative in Canberra, Friday 23 September at Bar 303 in Melbourne. I’m gonna do a version of my solo show slice at KCD, Reuben’s gonna play a dancefloor set mixing classic House and Techno tracks with his own songs from the album. I’m going to dance like an idiot, gonna sweat, as the song says, til I bleed.
sarah walker, capturing the last time reuben busted out a Kill Climate Deniers set, back in april
As usual, the act of setting all this stuff down in one place is really disorienting. And as soon as I write it down I start thinking ‘and what? and why? and where next?’ but there are no answers to those questions so just play Demi Lovato’s Cool For The Summer and keep going, keep going
Kill Climate Deniers is a cross-platform project that started off as something clear and obvious and self-contained – a playscript – and has now splintered into a bunch of different forms on a bunch of different platforms.
What was, to begin with, an easy work to talk about and understand, has now become a strange, hard-to-define, cross-disciplinary beast.
So what I’d like to do is to explain where Kill Climate Deniers came from and how it came to take on the shape(s) it has today, and maybe that will help articulate what exactly we’re about to release in four weeks time.
Rachel Roberts in Kill Climate Deniers. Photo by Sarah Walker.
To begin with, Kill Climate Deniers was a playscript – a sprawling, action-packed play depicting the siege of Parliament House by 96 eco-terrorists, and the explosive counter-attack by the Minister for the Environment, who takes on the entire army of terrorists with a gun, a smartphone and a soundtrack of classic House and Techno from the late-80s / early-90s.
The script was developed with director & dramaturge Julian Hobba and Aspen Island Theatre Company, but financial considerations meant that the work just was not feasible to produce at the scale we envisioned. At the same time, there was a lot of interest in the work, from audiences around Australia and overseas. So we began to ask: how could we get the work out to them?
At that point, musician and sound designer Reuben Ingall made the suggestion that we adapt the work into a radio-play. With Aspen Island’s support, we brought together a group of actors and recorded the entire play as an audio work. But even as we did, the idea was evolving: from radio play to album.
Emma Hall and Rachel Roberts in Kill Climate Deniers. Photo by Sarah Walker.
Rather than simply presenting the script as an audio experience, Reuben composed an entire album of original music, in the style of the soundtrack – four-to-the-floor dancefloor bangers drawing on classic House and Techno. We then sampled dialogue from the play, in the way that early dance music heavily sampled dialogue from films and TV.
The result is an album of original dance music, with dialogue from the playscript threaded through it. It’s a radio-play you can dance to, or a club album with a narrative.
The single off the album, Bolted, samples and cuts together quotes from right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt and his followers attacking the project, set to a pounding groove. This track has been remixed by artists including James Atkin (EMF), writer of 1991’s #1 hit You’re Unbelievable.
The album will go live on Wednesday 31 August, with a very special Listening Party event at Parliament House in Canberra. Participants will be able to download a special mix of the album and walk through Parliament House in a guided audio tour, taking in the music and the story in the location it is set. It’s a unique way to experience a fierce work of art AND connect with Australian democracy, all at once.
Image by JJ Harrison
Following that, there will be two album launch events in September, at Smiths Alternative in Canberra and Bar 303 in Melbourne, as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. These events will see Reuben and I perform together, in a combination of theatre performance and dance party.
At its core, Kill Climate Deniers poses a simple question: What happens if our political institutions are incapable of dealing with a threat on the scale of climate change? Is real political change even possible?
All of the forms in which the work has evolved are finding different ways to ask that question, to pose that challenge.
Is it possible to pose this kind of political / social challenge with an album of House beats? I think so. But I don’t know. So, we find out.
One of the things that is a regular feature of the projects that I’m involved with is that they are… conceptually rigorous?
By which I mean that they are… hard to explain. There’s a thing that happens where people ask me what I’m working on, and then I have an internal debate about how seriously to answer, and if I think I have enough time and they care enough, I’ll give it a shot. And then at a point in the discussion that ensues, there’ll be a momentof them looking confused and unsure and both of us are maybe mentally wondering if it’s too late to back out of the conversation.
I’ve spent the last four years learning how to explain Best Festival Ever to people, and they still look at me with some degree of bafflement. ‘It’s a tabletop systems science boardgame theatre show about managing a music festival? But… why?’
This week is another example of that, of the strange complex specificity of my line of work. This week, Jordan and I are wrapping up our three month residency developing a Law and Order-esque police thriller about the murder of a boy band member in four different hypothetical future Australias.
& so on & so on.
This emerged originally from my Churchill Fellowship, where I spent a lot of time meeting and talking with futures studies experts around the world, looking at the ways in which scientists and futurists think about the future. And around the same time, the Australian Academy of Science held their Australia 2050 workshops, in which they brought together around 50 scientists, politicians, journalists, business leaders, military personnel and artists, to collaboratively imagine four different scenarios for Australia in the year 2050.
There is some really fascinating work going on in this field, particularly with regard to how these scientists think about the future. The idea of the ‘scenaric stance’ is that rather than try to predict the future, you generate a range of different hypothetical futures. This practice of creating multiple futures helps to provide a range of possibilities, best and worst-case scenarios, and potential consequences of different choices.
A quote from James A. Ogilvy, which I included in my Churchill report: ‘Yes, things could turn out badly. But, no, that is not in itself reason for inaction. Yes, things could turn out very well, but, no, that is not in itself reason for foolish bravado. By holding in mind several different futures at once, one is able to proceed deliberately yet flexibly; resolutely yet cautiously… He or she who sees no opportunities is blind. He or she who senses no threats is foolish. But he or she who sees both threats and opportunities shining forth in rich and vivid scenarios may just be able to make the choices and implement the plans that will take us to the high road and beyond.‘
This whole discipline felt like a really rich and fertile space for making some kind of creative work in – and in fact, that was really the point of that aspect of my Churchill Fellowship. Then in 2014, ecologist Bob Costanza put it to me that I should make a film about the ‘scenaric stance’, which illustrated different possible futures.
That put the seed in my head to rope in Jordan Prosser, and from there we began hashing out what a film in this space might look like. And the ultimate result was, we decided to create a film set in the future – in Australia in 2050 – which tells a single story, with a single group of characters. But the twist is, we would tell this story four times, each time setting it in a different hypothetical future.
The first time you might see the story unfold in a 2050 three decades of unbridled Australian economic growth. The next time round you’d see the same characters, the same dramas, the same obstacles, but the setting is now an Australia devastated by economic collapse.
Jordan and I were lucky enough to be funded by the City of Melbourne’s Creative Spaces program to undertake a three month residency to kick off the R&D into this project, and we’ve been based at the Carlton Connect space in Melbourne University, amongst all the lovely start-ups and fine humans of the tech & climate & social good universe.
So we’ve produced four speculative scenarios for Australia in 2050 – captured under the traditional headings of Growth, Collapse, Discipline and Transformation. Each scenario depicts a different vision of what Australia might be like in 34 years, with different economic, social, political, ecological, ethnic and cultural features. These scenarios are very broad at the moment, but in the next phase of the work we’ll dig down a little deeper into them with experts, and hopefully infuse them with a little more rigour.
We’ve also produced the first draft script of our story, set in each of these futures. What is it a story about?
It is crime thriller following the investigation into the murder of a boy band member.
Jordan suggested that it be a crime thriller. A police procedural, he pointed out, is both a great genre to write in, a lot of fun to play with, and also, it often involves the police investigators engaging with every facet of society, from the wealthy elite to the criminal underbelly. So an excellent way to view some of the different aspects of our hypothetical scenarios.
For the purposes of the residency, Jordan introduced me to Law and Order. My goodness, what a TV show. My goodness.
So our detectives of the future belong to the serious crimes unit known as CrimeForce.
I proposed that it be about boy bands. My reasoning:
For at least fifty years, if not longer, the boy band industry has been a constant. A group of attractive singing and dancing young men are marketed to young women en masse. From the Beatles to the Jackson 5 to New Kids On The Block to One Direction, boy bands have evolved to reflect the times, while remaining essentially the same. It’s not hard to imagine that there will always be young men in ridiculous outfits singing and dancing for the pleasure of young girls.
(always use pics of wax replicas of popstars when you have the option)
The name of our boy band is LoveTeam.
So our project is entitled CrimeForce: LoveTeam. Which is a good name.
There is a clear social value to this work, which is aimed at engaging the broader Australian populace with the tools and concepts from futures studies and the ‘scenaric stance’. It is also a piece of trash pulp. And this week we are sharing the results of our research with a group of very serious, very intelligent people from Carlton Connect, the City of Melbourne, the whole do.
To summarise: it is yet another serious science-based project in which I had no choice but to watch the Backstreet Boys documentary Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of.