And The Eurobeat Goes On
Mackay Musical Comedy Players
Magpies Sporting Club
Last night I got to attend the final performance of the Mackay Musical Comedy Players production: And The Eurobeat Goes On, and I walked away not only impressed, but also with a sore face from laughing so much. I’ve been to and in a lot of MMCP’s theatre restaurants in the past so I thought I knew what to expect, but Eurobeat had a format unlike any of the others and because they were in a new venue with a cast that was very different from their typical theatre restaurant line up, it felt like a whole new experience entirely.
Modeled off the Eurovision song contests, Eurobeat is a competition showing several performances from people representing different European countries performing for audience votes via an app. As talented as Eurovision performers always are, there are always those one or two acts that are completely off the wall in the hokey, Japanese Gameshow sense and Eurobeat is almost completely filled with these kind of obscure performances that are delivered with wild, glitzy costumes and crazy back up dancers. I knew that the format of the show was going to be something like that, but I had no idea that the songs featured were going to be random originals written to suit the theme and some of the lyrics had me in absolute stitches, as did the accompanying choreography. The singers featured all have lovely voices under normal circumstances, but musicality was clearly at the bottom of the priority list for this one and I just laughed and laughed as these seasoned performers quite literally let it go for the sake of characterization so that they could screech, swoon and ‘schalp’ their way through these hilarious routines that presented as parodies of Bjork, Daft Punk and Abba. Obviously there were some lovely solos, (I think everyone collectively heaved a sigh of relief during Marina Duncan, Sue Dalton and Josh Duncan’s numbers) but the entire production was about entertainment and that was what we got.
Every single performance had something incredibly special to offer, but the highlights for me personally were Vianne Conroy representing Iceland (who went on to win last night, much to my delight) Andrew Deguara singing about beer while representing a jolly German, and the keyboard number from Lichtenstein that didn’t have any singing at all- simply featuring a handful of futuristic characters ‘playing’ the keyboards, swinging cats for special effects and somehow maintaining straight faces all the while. I was almost on the floor laughing during the song from Reyn and Shein from the UK due to the hilarious filmclip that played behind them and I don’t know if that was in the script or something that was made up for the production but it was absolutely brilliant and the perfect parody of any lovey-dovey filmclip there’s ever been.
But I have to say, as glittery and blinding as the entire production was, it was the stunning performance of Vicky Bobeldyk who played Boyka, the hostess from Bosnia that really made my night. You hear the words ‘Triple Threat’ get thrown around a lot in this business but Vicky is a quintet threat because on top of her mad skills as a singer, dancer and an actress, she is strikingly beautiful and a talented director herself, so she always throws 150% of herself into whatever it is she’s involved in. Vicky had the only dialogue in the show, and quick changed from one flamboyant outfit to another between acts so that she could introduce each new entrant with aplomb. Her accent and characterization was dead on and there wasn’t a single person in the audience that could take their eyes off her- which is saying a lot because sometimes the glare coming off her outfit in the spotlight was borderline painful.
It was an absolutely glittering spectacle from start to finish, delivered flawlessly thanks to the amazing production team including Tonia Beckman, Elaine Power and Tim Philips and they and the whole cast deserved the thunderous applause they got, especilly for the set and stage layout which was again, atypical o anything the MMCP usually does. The backdrops were all technical- a montage of lights and montages set off with just one roaming stage light and it gave the whole show a genuine telescast feeling.
Well done to all involved, because that was an amazing start to the Mackay Musical Comedy Players 2018 season. Make sure you keep your eye out for tickets to Rock Of Ages in May, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (which will be directed by Vicky Bobeldyk) next year! #mmcp
Last Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of going to see ‘Make This Script,’ which was a collaborative project between Savvy Scripts and Joel Bow Productions, and I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised with what an unpretentious and moving production it was.
The idea behind ‘Make This Script’ was that a handful or local artists- performing and non, would take a short script that had been penned by local writer Michaela Boyd, and adapt and translate it via their chosen mediums with local producer/actor Joel Bow choreographing it all together.
The original script, titled “The Red Giant” was a simple scene that centered around two people having a rather complicated discussion. One is battling depression and attempting to explain how it feels, while the other is trying to listen, understand and empathize despite the fact that they have not experienced the affliction themselves. I thought it was a very clever script that used simple but poetic language to vocalize complex thoughts and feelings that are traditionally too overwhelming to escape an individual’s internal dialogue and are therefor often kept locked up tightly within a stream of consciousness. Though the performance of this scene was not intended to be the sole focus of the production it was the catalyst that brought it all together and actors Ethan McCarthy, Pagan Camilleri and Erin Finlay handled it beautifully, focusing a spotlight on themselves and what they were saying. The actors clearly understood what they were trying to say well, but they read from paper scripts because that was the author’s intention- to make it clear that this one scene was just the beginning of her desire to explore (and have others explore) this subject, so she wanted an open and non-finalized feel to it. This is a very unusual sort of practice but it definitely had its charms- one that seemed perfectly compatible with the venue, Paxton’s warehouse.
As expected, the theme of “The Red Giant” was echoed in other mediums throughout the hour-long presentation. As you entered Paxton’s you were treated to a display of art titled ‘Articles’ that Holy Spirit College students had contributed, and once the performers had finished “The Reg Giant” local singer/songwriter Tate Obst treated us to a beautiful performance of one of his original songs as local dance star Taylor Hayes danced along ethereally to it with a routine that she had choreographed to compliment it. Then, to conclude the production, Michaela Boyd recited an original poem that she had written that was as funny as it was moving, articulating her personal feelings regarding depression in a way that made it easier to understand.
All of the performances were causal but perfectly delivered and despite the fact that the central theme was depression, the production was devoid of any gloomy feelings or emotionally weighty shadows. The hour flew by in what felt like minutes. I was glad that I had gone along to see these amazingly talented artists and I know that that was a sentiment shared by everyone in attendance. Well done to all involved, and I look forward to a repeat performance next year.
Written by Bill Macllwraith
Directed by Vicky Bobledyk
Beaconsfield State School
Show Dates November 17th and 18th 2017
Tickets available at https://www.trybooking.com/RNST
$25 Concession Students/Pensioners.
Let me set the stage for you- though I cannot imagine how I could possibly hope to describe the set in question while hoping to do is an ounce of justice…
Tonight I walked into Beaconsfield State Primary School’s hall and found myself not in the same place I visit for my daughter’s assembles, but in someone’s living from days gone by. It wasn’t just a set but an absolute masterpiece that fell somewhere between a doll’s house and Nanna’s cottage and it was divine- easy on the eye, comfortable, cozy and immaculate. It did not creak or bow in the wind- it was as professionally constructed as a film set would be in any movie studio. The lighting was also perfect- complimenting the set perfectly because there wasn’t a single dark corner or stray shadow, and as I sat in my seat and took it all in, my first thought was that it was quite possibly the best set I have ever seen. I was amazed that anyone would go to so much trouble for a three-act play, but eventually I understood that the set was as vital to the performance as any other element was because it guaranteed that not a single word or expression was lost to the audience. I do not know if this was all of one person’s doing or a massive team effort, but it was worth every second because I could have been at The MECC. Then, as though I wasn’t already wowed enough, Jennifer Bee then came out and opened the show by singing a beautiful old tune in a beautiful young voice that got the atmosphere to exactly where it needed to be- something peaceful that was about to be fragment.
The Anniversary is a quiet story. It’s not a musical, it’s not full of over the top characters, it’s not saying anything that hasn’t been said before and it’s not full of crazy twists and turns that will leave the audience breathless- but it is a damned good story that is packed full of emotional triggers that are bound to resonate with every audience member and I hung onto every single word from start to finish because every single one of them mattered in some way. The writing is hilarious as times and very moving at others, and the characters are utterly hopeless and completely endearing. I did not know that it had been produced as a movie before I went in, or that Kucom has performed it before, but it’s no surprise that they would choose to do it a second time because honestly, the storyline is as valid now as it would have been originally. It’s very similar in theme to the hit sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, and I would not be surprised if the creator behind that show was a fan of this play.
The premise is simple: a young man brings his pregnant girlfriend home to meet his mother on her wedding anniversary- one that the family celebrates annually despite the fact that the husband has been gone for some time. You get the feeling off the bat that this is not something that any of them are happy to do, and as the storyline rolls out it becomes apparent that the grieving widow is a bit of a demon who goes out of her way to control, manipulate and torture her grown children and their spouses into doing exactly what she wants them to do. All of them go in there knowing what to expect- all but the new girlfriend Shirley, portrayed by Samantha Attard, who has not been prepared for this visit or ‘test’ as her fiancé Tom calls it at all, at all. She is thrown into the deep end (‘Mum’s’ living room, where the entire show is set) and must do her darndest to not sink with the weight of this woman’s baggage weighing down on them all.
One by one the other members of the family make their entrances and introductions, and although at first every single one of them comes off as being charming in their own way, it’s not long before they’re at each other’s throats and with good reason because ‘Mum’ is an absolute terrorist who pits them against one another for the sole purpose of being the centre of attention. Usually I cannot go into detail about the cast of a show because there are too many, but The Anniversary has a very small cast so I am glad to be able to have the opportunity to mention them all, which I think is important because with the absence of scene changes, musical numbers and all of the other stuff I mentioned before, a show like this needs REAL acting to work and the cast delivered it fluidly.
Samantha Attard was great as Shirley, and she portrayed the role very well for someone who struck me as being very young. She had less dialogue than most of the others and most of her performance depended on her looking appropriately confounded by the people around her, and not once did she let that mask of what we now call ‘WTF?!’ fall. She was also a very clear speaker who did her best to imitate a cockney accent and project at the same time, and I don’t believe that that would have been an easy task because the dialogue she had isn’t very compatible (in my opinion) with that kind of accent because the words that Shirley has to speak are very polite and delicate- unlike the rest of the cast who had looser language to play with. That being said, Samantha still made it work and was an absolute vision and I don’t think there will be an audience member that is not on her side from the start. William Southwood’s portrayal of the un-loved and over-used son ‘Terry’ was also very reliant on a lot of looking lost or defeated one moment and desperate the next through body language, and he embodied this very articulately, jumping up one second to his mother’s beck and call then wilting the next in a very genuine way that made your heart twist for him. Once again I assume that William Southwood is very young and wouldn’t yet have had the chance to be so tortured by life, but he was authentic all the same and will win many hearts.
Zachary Trounson got the comedic relief role and he made me laugh every single time that he walked out onstage as ‘Uncle Henry’. He was like the big loveable, cross-dressing bear that everybody wants to strangle because he doesn’t realise how easy he has it, being that he’s mummy dearest’s favourite for absolutely NO reason. His projection was fantastic and I think 75% of his lines elicited a laugh from the private audience we had, and I appreciated the energy that he brought to the stage very much because he stole focus exactly as intended.
Tom Dray was quite stunning in his part and like with the first two, managed to come across as being ten years older than he actually is. I really liked what he did with his part and think it was perfectly suited to him, and appreciated how much he had going on that wasn’t necessarily scripted, from nervous tics to the way he held himself he was his character ‘Tom’ through and through. His character was perhaps one of the least likable ones, but he sold it in a way that reminded me of a used-car salesman from the 50’s, channelling a bit of Tom Draper from Mad Men. This is the third time that I’ve seen Tom play a straight (ish) character, and although he nails it every time, I would love to see him go for an off-the-wall role one day because I can see how seriously he takes his work and think he’s only just scratched the surface of what he is capable of.
That leaves me with the final two performers, Chloe Bloomfield and Bronwyn Grannall who played the tortured daughter-in-law and ‘Mum’ respectively, and what can I say but brava? Both women were absolutely stunning, and although I’ve come to expect nothing less of Bronwyn Grannall over the years who has a knack for picking parts that are PERFECT for her, Chloe surprised me by portraying a character who is nothing like her usual sweet self and knocked it out of the park. I could not take my eyes off ‘Karen’ the whole time and will say that she acted right down to her hair follicles. Honestly her character was so much fun and I could see Chloe having a ball with it, but not so much that she lost control of who she was portraying and what that poor woman must have been going through. And although Bronwyn might have had the task of playing the most frustrating human being on the face of the planet, she did so in a way that was nothing short of delightful. These two characters made the show fun and every sharp word they exchanged was perfectly delivered, and I’m sure anyone that is already a fan of The Anniversary will be relieved to see the most conflicted characters in such capable hands.
It’s important for me to point out that the show that I saw last night was a dress-rehearsal, and that it ran more smoothly than any actual performance that I have ever seen. I don’t know if there were lines dropped but if they were they were covered beautifully, and there were no other hitches that I noticed, from costuming to sound and lighting, everything ran as though it were being played to a packed audience and I know with director Vicky Bobeldyk at the helm there was probably no other option. The costumes were beautiful, and the hairstyles, especially as far as the ladies were concerned, were lovely. Not one detail was overlooked and I am actually sort of hoping that I’ll get the time this weekend to see it again, because if the cast could do that with no audience- I’d love to see how they go when they have an audience’s energy to feed off because for this production to be flawless, all they need to do now is relax into their roles. I took with me last night my niece who is visiting from Brisbane- she doesn’t get to go to the theatre much and I was worried that I was going to cement myself as daggy ol’ Aunty Sam by taking her to a three-act play, but she was giggling in delight from start to finish and had a wonderful time.
I am so grateful that this show was given to Vicky Bobeldyk because if this production gets the audience it deserves, it will prove that Kucom Theatre has what it takes to stick around for another seventy years. Five stars- and congratulations to all involved. This is definitely one of those shows where the audience members should read the program and get an idea of where credit is due so they know who to look out for in the future.
I have wanted to say my piece about gay marriage for a long time now. I have gone to post on Facebook or reply to ignorant comments a thousand times but refrained because something this important needs to be spoken about with a level head not steam coming out of ones ears.
Obviously, I agree with making marriage legal to EVERYONE. There really doesn’t need to be any differentiation between gay or heterosexual marriage, its just a piece of paper between two people that are promising to love each other forever. It should be that simple, it is that simple, and yet here we are.
I am a practising Catholic. I pray, attend church, send my children toa Catholic School and face challenging times with God in my mind and heart. I do not read the bible but did as a child and am certainly familiar with its teachings. The…
Red Giraffe Theatre It Takes Two: Songs In The Key Of Giraffe Dirty Martini’s Mackay August 27th, 2017.
Red Giraffe Theatre have only been established in Mackay since 2014/15, but they are already renowned for delivering first class productions and that was exactly what the audience of their latest cabaret act, It Takes Two: Songs In The Key Of Giraffe got for their ticket money this weekend- class all the way.
Anybody can put on a show, serve up a beer along with it and call it Cabaret, but to a more discerning audience, a lot more elements need to be present for a production to be defined as being a true cabaret experience and producers of Red Giraffe Theatre, Joel Bow and Tania Attard have a flair for serving up those qualities, silver-service style with aplomb and the confidence of two people that know everything there is to know about creating a smash. There’s a secretive, smoky mood that is ever present with their productions, and it does not matter if you’re in a warehouse, a church or a cocktail bar, if you’re going to see a Red Giraffe Theatre production you are in for a decadent experience, where the atmosphere is as on point as the production itself and the audience member is guaranteed to be taken on a slow, comfy and sensorially-gratifying ride.
Yes the co-owners of RGT know how to deliver glamour, but more importantly than that, their productions are built on a solid foundation of talent, and It Takes Two featured a line up of performers that are doing exactly what they were putting on this earth to do- sing. There were no props and no costumes, no sets and no pre-amble, just a series of incredible duets and trio acts performed not only by adults, but by children and teenagers that seemed as comfortable on stage by their seasoned cast-mates and did not seem even slightly out of place in the venue, Dirty Martini’s, which is a sophisticated cocktail bar. There was no obvious theme to the playlist because some of the songs were bluesy, some moody, some funny and some powerful, but the acts all flowed seamlessly into one another, leaving the audience wanting more and in awe not only of the performers, but of the accompanist Caireen Holt, who jumped from genre to genre without a beat being missed.
I could not have faulted one note, but certain moments took my breath away, for instance, Molly Gibbins and Molly Rosetto’s duet performance of ‘Let Me Be Your Star’ from the hit TV show Smash which was built up beautifully, and Tania Attard and Georgia Attard’s rendition of ‘Musical Theatre Boys,’ which had the audience giggling. Ashleigh Phillips sparkled onstage in every way that counted and sang with the poise of someone that’s been playing pro shows for years, and the featured pros in the show, Jason McCully, Regan Walker and Joel Bow put the audience at ease early in the production by giving us some incredible male harmonies. Apparently there was a microphone mishap in the opening number, but Danielle McCully and Karla Brechin’s lovely voices resonated so beautifully through the venue that someone actually had to bring that fact to my attention, and although this was the first time that I’d heard Kirsty Robertson sing, my jaw was on the flaw thanks to her vocal tone which can only be described as velveteen, and offered up a lovely contrast to Bethany Ellefson’s infallible Broadway belt during their duet, ‘I will never leave you.’
Unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly hope to highlight every single worthy performer without writing an essay instead of a review, but it goes without saying that every name on the cast list of It Takes Two has the talent necessary to become a household name, so make sure you book a ticket to Red Giraffe Theatre’s next show because it is bound, as always, to be chock-full of stars in the making.
This week I was incredibly fortunate to get to chat with Kiah-Roache Turner, one half of the fascinating Roache-Turner team responsible for the Aussie Zombie-Apocalypse cult classic, Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead. Here’s what writer/director/producer Kiah had to say aboutmaking and directing movies here in Australia, being an Indie fimmaker in a competitive market, colloborating with loved ones and about the short that they have just released for Daemon Runner, which already has fans chomping at the bit for another demonic hit!
I, along with almost fifty thousand other people have been hooked by the short for Daemon Runner in your head. How flushed out is the concept for a feature-length film?
It’s not for a feature, it’s just something experimental that we did because we’re filmmakers and we don’t want to sit around twiddling our thumbs between features. It’s a great way to get ideas out there- see how they hit and if they get an audience, but I don’t get to decide what kind of films we make any more. I spent my life savings to make Wyrmwood, so now I have to rely on a studio to give me a green light before I do anything.
So whether or not Daemon Runner gets made into a movie is up to the fans. If we can get a few million hits then it’s definitely something that could be taken seriously, but we need fans to share it and like it and get it out there before we can proceed any further.
So there’s no Daemon Runner release date? That’s a shame. I guess because you released a trailer for Wyrmwood first, your fans are kind of hoping that Daemon Runner the movie is an imminent release too.
No. When we did the first original teaser for Wyrmwood back in 2010, that was originally supposed to be the opening scene for Wyrmwood. But it ended up just being a stand-alone short instead of the opening scene because it changed so much as we went along.
But Wyrmwood was definitely a different thing, we always knew we we were going to make that and we didn’t care how long it was going to take, we were going to make it. And it’s similar with the Wyrmwood TV Teaser that came out a couple of months ago because we are 150,000% ready to go on the TV series too. I just finished the pilot a couple of months ago, we’ve got an amazing series viable, we’ve got the entire first season mapped out in hyper detail so we know exactly what we’re going to do with that. We’re literally just now taking meetings with people trying to find the right collaborators and trying to find the right home for it. As soon as someone says they want to make it with us and finance it, we’re ready. If someone gave me the money I’d have the Wyrmwood TV series started in a couple of months- it’s that simple.
What’s the biggest difference with making the short now that you’ve had a successful production?
The major difference with the Wyrmwood short and the original film is that we’re better at what we do now. The Wyrmwood thing was over three and a half years ago, we’ve developed a great relationship with Screen Australia so they’ve given us great backing. Thanks to them we’ve been able to afford a proper crew, and it’s so nice to be able to work with a proper gaffer and grip and focus pullers who know what they’re doing and all of that kind of stuff because it makes a huge difference. On this one we had proper production designers as opposed to just me and my brother and his friends sort of banging together whatever props we could get our hands on, we actually had very talented young production designers and art directors and costume designers working on these ones so they look better. (Laughs) I mean last time we were shooting in our mum’s backyard with some mates and my dad’s over there with a camera and he’s literally never held a camera before so the difference was pretty vast and I think you can tell. The style in which these two last shorts were made show a bit more of maturity and a lot more of the shots are in focus, quite frankly.
Are you afraid of losing anything now that the process is less organic? Wyrmwood’s got a cult following because your style hit some good notes with people. Are you afraid that by going completely professional, some of the elements that helped make your last film so appealing will fall to the wayside?
No. Because we’re still dealing with such small amount of money that we’re still classified as being very, very independent. Besides no one gets to alter our vision for these shorts so they’re still 100% our own. It’s an interesting question though- we’re working on a couple of features right now that have gone through an intense script-editing process, with 14, 15 drafts of these things being sifted through the producers, so it’ll be interesting to see what it does change. I think the writing’s gotten a lot better, but I do believe that when you’ve got so many contributors, the original work does get a little bit watered down because you can’t get away with the insane, crazy non-sensical stuff that people loved your original work for. But at the same time, the writing improves so there’s a little more sheen to it.
Indie filmmakers need to find a balance between being professional and following our crazy, artsy instincts and if we can, they’ll turn out like Christopher Nolan. But if we can’t, you just sort of become a slave to the man like certain directors… who shall remain nameless.
This conversation has the ‘Rent’ soundtrack playing in my head now…
That’s what the film industry is about though- it’s where art meets commerce. If you just want to be an artist- be a writer. Be a painter, be a blogger because you’re the boss and that’s fantastic. But if you want to be a filmmaker, you need one thousand people minimum and you need to pay them all and you can’t afford it because unless daddy’s a billionaire you’re going to have to rely on corporations and corporations need to make money. There are very few artists out there that get to just do what they want and get paid six million dollars to do it, so being a filmmaker is about learning to compromise without losing your integrity or your vision. That’s the game, and it’ll be interesting to see if I can pull it off. I don’t know if I can, but I think I have what it takes.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but when and how did you realise that you wanted to be a filmmaker? Or was it about writing?
No, no, I find writing really difficult. Writing is my least favourite part because it is the hardest. Most aspects of filmmaking come natural to me, you know? Photography and storyboards are easy, and I know that I have a general and genuine affinity for art direction and color palettes because I’m a real arty bastard.
But writing oh my god! You’re a writer Sam and it’s so hard. There are no rules. My favourite quote of all time was by Robert Downey Senior, and it’s a funny, eclectic quote and although not everybody gets it, I think it’s brilliant. He said: ‘Everyone can act, most people can direct and no one can write,’ and I agree with that in a general way. Good writing is so bloody hard, but filmmaking is about story telling so you just have to learn how to write, or you’re really going to struggle to tell a story of your own.
But to answer your question, you’re right because I do get asked that all the time, and it’s funny because there’s no easy way to answer it because it’s like going up to a horse and saying: ‘So what made you a horse?’ I’m a filmmaker. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved everything about filmmaking- it’s like a language that I recognised immediately that I could speak immediately so I don’t really know how to explain it better than that, or to express how much I love it or why in words. I’d have to do an interpretive dance or something…
What was the first movie you saw?
I can’t remember. I was trying to remember that the other day but it probably would have been something random like The Rescuers or some other sort of obscure cartoon. (Laughs). Maybe The Ten Commandments from a bassinet. But I was lucky when I was a kid, I had a mother that took me to see unusual films- art films you know? Sometimes they were three hours long and in Swedish so I count myself as lucky to have had that kind of influence.
How important do you think further education is to becoming a filmmaker?
I started out doing a communications degree, but I worked out very quickly that I was going off course a bit. I wanted to be a filmmaker but I was learning to be a journalist, so I only lasted like five weeks before I left. I tried to get into AFTRS like twice and didn’t get in because they’re very hard to get into, so I ended up going to Sydney College Of the Arts and did a digital media degree, then I ended up doing a film course there and another year of honors. It’s very art based there, so I was training to be a visual artist as opposed to filmmaker, and so that was interesting because I wasn’t just learning filmmaking but how to sculpt and paint etcetera. In fact, a very small part of the degree revolved around filmmaking. But I’m really glad I did that degree, because it gives me a different perspective on stuff and helps me approach filmmaking as an artist.
Then I went and worked for six years for a fashion company filming what was basically advertising, and that gave me another view of things because I went from art to marketing and deadlines and getting my ass kicked. My life was like a mixture of The Devil Wears Prada and Zoolander because I was doing mostly male model stuff. (Laughs).
It was a really good combination for me, but to answer your question about whether or not you need to get degrees to be a filmmaker, fuck no you don’t. But what I will say is that it helps. If you aren’t an amazing genius talent that can just do it then it really helps you get grounded because not only does it teach you he ABC’s of your craft, but the history of your craft too. It’s important, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
How does your creative process work? Do you sit down at your computer, go for a walk along the beach…?
Like I said, I find writing really difficult, and I don’t have an instinctive, spiritual-based relationship with it but a technical one, so I have to approach it like most people approach the gym. I tend to write the story structure with a partner, obviously usually with my brother, and I’ve been working on a feature with my wife and I really enjoy that collaborative aspect of it. Usually we come up with the concept and then we beat out the story on a series of whiteboards… we’ll write a treatment then take that to a script-editor and show it to as many people as I can, then I get notes back and we do it all again. We pay close attention to structure; is it a hero’s journey? A heroine’s journey? What’s our beginning, middle and end? What’s the message? It’s about making sure the story works from a technical point of view first, and then once the structure is watertight, I’ll sit down and write.
So you’d refer to your process as being methodical?
Oh yeah. And once I have that structured foundation, writing finally becomes a wonderful, transcendent experience for me, but only once I’ve made sure that all of the finer details have been checked and balanced first.
I’m actually sort of surprised to hear that, because when I was watching Wyrmwood, what really resonated with me was how creative and sort of deep the storyline went. It had all of the gore and the Aussie black humour was there, but the title of the film and the way the whole ‘Wyrmwood’ origin story was worked into it struck me as being not only incredibly creative, but sort of spiritual. I actually had you pegged as being a budding novelist, so I hope you take that as a compliment!
It’s a wonderful compliment actually thank you very much, and I don’t want to make the implication that I don’t connect with the writing because I don’t think you could write if you didn’t connect- I just get irritated with it because I know what my limits are. The stuff I write is definitely based on themes and ideas that are super important to me, like right deep down inside me, and I love poetry and the spoken word… but I guess I get so frustrated with writing because I WANT to be better at it. When I pick up a camera and do photography, I know what I’m doing and I know that I can be as good as most of the photographers that I love, and when I make films I can imitate these filmmakers that I love, and editing comes really easy for me too… but what I can’t do is pick up a pen and write like my favourite fucking novelists and it pisses me off. They’re at 10 and I’m at 2, and irritates the shit out of me.
I think you’re higher than 2! When I heard the title ‘Wyrmwood’ I was like ‘What is that?’ But then I heard the story behind it and it all clicked and I was like, okay, wow, that’s smarter than your average Chainsaw Massacre! I thought it was incredibly clever and creative, so was the film built upon that concept, or did that anecdote just sort of work its way into the zombie movie process?
Well, we knew that we were doing post-apocalyptic stuff and I do have a Catholic background, so death and resurrection and sacrifice and sin and demons all seem to be themes that pop up in a lot of my screenplays. I researched about the Wyrmwood star falling to earth and causing these massive plagues and I thought… yeah, it could cause a zombie plague, right? For years we thought about what to call the film and in the end I was just like: ‘Oh come on let’s just call it Wyrmwood,’ but I think all along we knew it was going to be called Wyrmwood anyway. It got frustrating though, because we used that as a working title for years, but Studio Canal who were or distributors said: ‘Look, you’re going to have to have a sub-title because people have no idea what Wyrmwood is,’ and I started to argue it about how eclectic and interesting it was, but they sort of said that they were good points from an artistic point of view, but at the end of the day, when the average person is searching for a Zombie Film, they’re gonna miss Wyrmwood,’ and that’s how the sub-heading ‘Road Of The Dead’ came to pass. And that is one of those times when compromising my artistic integrity for common sense really paid off for me because they were right.
Completely agreed. My own zombie novels are named after complicated medical terms like ‘Palpitations’ and ‘Sanguivorous’ and it wasn’t until I added a sub-Title “The Highway to Never After” that people even knew they were horror novels.
Exactly. Sometimes you’ve just got a give a little, and trust that other people know what they’re talking about. Some of my filmmaker friends inferred that I was selling out but I said that I wasn’t- it’s still my story and my vision- it’s just easier to find now for the people that are looking for it and don’t know it yet.
How much of your success do you credit to the fact that you are an Australian filmmaker?
None. I like being Australian, and I have a keen understanding of the thing that makes us special and wonderful and eclectic and those are things that help, but there are so many different cultures that have their own charms to offer. I can list the Australian elements that help: Having this wonderful landscape in the background of Wyrmwood certainly helped, the fact that Australia is the flavour of the month is great because we’re pretty popular with the rest of the world and come off as very neutral and easy-going, so that’s cool… but a Japanese Wyrmwood would be sifted through its own cultural sieve too and would have been great in its own way. In fact, I’d really like to see that film…
How did you and your brother come up with the concept of Wyrmwood?
I think we both knew it was going to be zombies all along, for budget reasons if nothing else. Dawn Of The Dead, by the recently departed George. A Romero (God bless his soul) was one of our favourite movies growing up, and if you deconstruct it you can see how plausible making a zombie movie is because really all you need is one location, a camera… and friends that don’t mind being sprayed with blood. We both were big Mad Max fans too so we loved not only the idea of armor, but the aesthetic that it provides having men all leather-clad out on the open road in a ruined world… it’s very cool and let’s face it if you’re in a situation when infected people can kill or turn you with a bite or a scratch, you’re going to want to be covered up, right? But the big break in terms of concept was when my brother came up with the idea of zombies letting off methane gas that the survivors could use to run their cars off. It was really cool and once he’d said it I was like, ‘Oh My God I would watch that film!’ I relaxed after that, because I knew we were onto something.
Well you had three big concepts in Wyrmwood didn’t you? The Methane Gas, The Wyrmwood story itself and the element with the one girl that can control the zombies. It’s definitely set you apart because a lot of horror films don’t go that deep.
Yes. Once he suggested that methane thing, I knew that I had to up the ante so that’s when I came up with idea of puppetting the zombie race with mind control. (Laughs). It was definitely time to step up.
They’re incredibly strong plot points combined. Do you have something similar in your pocket with Daemon Runner?
Well yes, you’ve got the demons that can possess you through the internet. Then the demon runners are an underground sect of people who basically collect and get rid of demons.
What do you think you and your brother each bring to the table that sets you apart from the other horror filmmakers?
Look I’m pretty pretentious and very cine-literate. I’m the arty guy that went to art school, and he trained as an electrician. We’re very different people but we were both brought up on the same things; aliens and comics etc, so we got the same kind of pop culture imprint, but one that was passed through very different filters. I guess he grounds my pretension, and he’s got this thing when he comes up with THE craziest ideas. In Daemon Runner it was his idea to print the demon up though a plasmic necro-portal, and not in a million ideas would I have thought of that and yet it’s the most original, visual thing in the film. Like I said before he came up with the zombie fuel idea and I would never have thought of that because it’s such a bizarre thing, and if you look at the Wyrmwood TV trailer, he came up with the idea of blending zombies so it comes up with this juice that you put in the back of people’s heads and I just wouldn’t have thought of that. They’re such extreme, bizarre and at first almost childish ideas and that’s part of his genius. He doesn’t overthink, he just has these crazy ideas, and almost inevitably my response is: ‘No, that would never work that’s stupid,’ but then I start thinking about it and I’m like: ‘Actually… I’ve never seen that before so let’s do it!’ So he brings a bizarre originality to it, and I bring the filmmaker/writer bollocks that you have to have. In the end we have a very dark and realistically treated nonsense-based film and that probably helps us sell to a broader spectrum. The critics walk away happy because we’ve taken the story-telling and technical elements seriously, and then the sixteen year old boys that are like: ‘Yeah! Zombies being blended!’
I’ve heard it said in another interview that Wyrmwood was never really a zombie movie to you because it was a monster movie. Is the same true for Daemon Runner, or is it an homage to a specific genre?
I don’t know I think I probably said that ages ago. I remember when Wyrmwood was coming out I kept referring to it as a monster movie because quite frankly, I think I was a little bit nervous and slightly ashamed about my pedigree, because zombies were kind of a lower class film genre at the time.
So that was you being pretentious?
(Laughs) Yes, I definitely think that was my pretentious art school roots coming through. But the more time I spent in the zombie world, the more I started to love it and the more I began to appreciate the genre for what it is. But do you know what’s interesting about zombies? They’re the newest kind of monster, especially as far as the modern concept of them goes because they’ve only been around since the 60’s or possibly the 50’s. There are other films that were technically zombie films that pre-date the ones we’re all familiar with, but they started as they are now with Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, and they’re still very much the new kid on the block. The Zombie genre communicates so much about our modern fears, like fear of the third world, over-population, cancer and contagion… it’s all very now and relatable, so it hits.
The Zombie genre communicates so much about our modern fears, like fear of the third world, over-population, cancer and contagion… it’s all very now and relatable, so it hits.
True, zombies and our fear of plagues etc resonate with us the way the movie Frankenstein once exploited our fear of science.
Exactly. There are so many different ways you can deconstruct zombie films, so I learned to stop worrying about how I was perceived and just embraced what I’d become a part of. Now, I’ve gotten with the program and I don’t even think about it or the use of the ‘Z’ word anymore. Wyrmwood is not a monster film, it’s a zombie film and I’m proud of it.
I watched the behind the scenes footage for Wyrmwood and was shocked by how hands-on you were and how hard you worked. Now that you’ve got a a bigger budget, do you think you’ll go on rolling up your sleeves for your films, or will you take more of a backseat?
I’ll definitely go on being as involved as I always have been because I don’t know any other way to do it. We have professionals production designers now that are willing and ready to do all the hard work and then present it to me, but I’m like: ‘Nah! I want to do it!’ I like getting my hands dirty, so I think we’ll always work the same way, though hopefully we’ll never have to work as hard as we did with Wyrmwood. 17 hour days are hard and we made that film in a burst of desperate energy, but you can’t smash your body like that forever. So as the budgets expand (and I certainly hope they do) I’d like to work less hard, but the spirit and passion that we made Wyrmwood with will always stay the same because we just love making films.
If the sky was the limit and you got to re-make one movie, what would it be?
There’s a lot of things I want to hey. One of my favourite writers is James Ellroy so I’d kill to be able to make White Jazz or do like a huge, hundred-million dollar T.V series based on American Tabloid, which is a great book… but that’s a secondary answer. My absolute answer would unquestionably be Stephen King, so I would love to do Firestarter or Salem’s Lot, and I would love to remake The Running Man how it was supposed to be and not with a weird, Day-Glo Arnold Schwartzenegger because oh my God it’s such a good little book. I’d love to do Neuromancer by William Gibson but again that would cost three hundred million dollars and it’s a bit obscure so it would be hard to make it work with a global audience because it’s a bit too smart for its own good.
If you could go back, what would you do differently with Wyrmwood?
Kind of nothing. It’s like saying what would you change about your child? It’s their imperfections that make you love them so much. I really like Wyrmwood, and I really like it’s flaws because those flaws are what taught me how to be a better filmmaker. I earned those flaws the way I earned my scars.
Agreed, I think the flaws actually added to its charms.
Exactly. Even some of the basic story plots like: ‘How the fuck did the soldiers know what was coming?’ They just knew and it’s never explained and its completely out there but I like that. I had so many people complain about that so I guess you could explain it as a story flaw, but I love the fact that we didn’t explain that. I’m a mildly-talented filmmaker and I think it’s entertaining watching mildly-talented filmmakers, because it’s kind of like watching a new dancer that almost falls over but doesn’t. It’s the fact that they get back up and keep going that makes their performance so interesting, because watching the recovery is more engrossing than watching them execute a perfect move.
I’m a mildly-talented filmmaker and I think it’s entertaining watching mildly-talented filmmakers, because it’s kind of like watching a new dancer that almost falls over but doesn’t. It’s the fact that they get back up and keep going that makes their performance so interesting, because watching the recovery is more engrossing than watching them execute a perfect move.
That was actually very eloquent. I think you need to be writing more than you think you do!
(Laughs) Well if I could write as well as I can talk, I’d probably be a decent screen-writer… but that’s the tricky part.
What do you think an actor in your movies needs to bring to the set in order to help tell your story?
Frankly, I don’t want to have to worry about what the actor’s bringing at all, so I suppose intelligence and an understanding of their craft is what appeals to me. I have explosions going off and limbs falling off and blood coagulating… the last thing I need to worry about is their performance, and if you are worried about it, you’ve probably cast wrong. I like them to show up knowing what they’re doing and prepared to do whatever it takes to bring this character into the world. And change it! I love it when an actor does something I’m not expecting.
You’ve mentioned to me in the past that you have a thing for theatre actors. Can we maybe expect a Wyrmwood musical one day?
I love the theatre- I go all the time and I’d love to write a play one day. I don’t see a musical happening because it’s not my forte but I’d definitely love to write a play. It’s terrifying to me though because it’s way out of my comfort zone.
What can fans of your productions do to help you make more movies? Obviously in Australia we’ve got smaller production companies, budgets and audiences, so we have to fight that much harder to get into the mainstream, so what can your most devoted fans do to help?
Watch and like and share the videos really, try to help us push it out there. Write to Netflix, write to Stan and try and drum up some interest for us. But at the end of the day, I think most of it is on my shoulders. It’s like a business so I have to go to meetings and make appointments and get the funding, but public interest definitely helps.
I’ll tell you what they can do- pay for the movies. Don’t download Wyrmwood because that doesn’t help anybody. If you love and respect a filmmaker, make sure that you pay for the content they make because piracy is really making it very, very difficult to get things green-lit these days.
I couldn’t agree more… but do you think that piracy helps get you an audience that may not have watched Wyrmwood if they’d had to pay for it?
Absolutely, and that’s why I try not to carry on about it because it definitely broadens our audience. If not for the internet then I probably wouldn’t have a career by now, but I don’t understand why art should be free, because it’s very difficult to create and I think we need to change that mind-set a little, and get the artists creating all of this stuff the respect that they’ve earned.
Thanks so much for reading! If you’d love to support the Roache-Turner brothers and catch their latest short for Daemon Runner, please click the link to their Facebook page now and get liking!
I’m still quite the ingenue when it comes to reviewing and when it comes to Jerry Seinfeld I’m a confirmed fan for life, so here’s what I have to say bout his performance in the Brisbane Arena, Boondall on Wednesday July 9th:
It was the best thing I’ve ever seen.
Quite a complex review, isn’t it? Well I’m sorry if I don’t have 300 paragraphs of yada yada for y’all, but Jerry was on from the moment he walked onstage, and I daresay he stayed good and on long after he walked off it. Hell, can’t you just imagine him in a coffin one day, arms folded, looking around and going: ‘What’s the deal with the air flow in these things?’ because he was born to do what he does and I’ve no doubt that he’ll die doing it and linger on afterwards as a sarcastic presence in the air.
I consider myself to be quite the collector of comedians. I’ve been watching them on DVD and live for years and I’m no stranger when it comes to the muffled-splat of jokes falling flat- the empathetic ‘You can do it’ titters that come from the most easily-amused fans in expectant crowds after a comedian has swung and missed. (Often, it’s me) I’ve even seen this happen to Jerry a few times over the years (‘Move the shoes, move the shoes, move the shoes…’ Yes please move the shoes to a segue and faster) and it’s something that you just expect to see at any comedy show. I still fast forward certain bits of Eddie Murphy Raw and Delerious because I have no idea what he’s talking about and don’t care to look into it.
But not at Jerry Seinfeld nope, he shot one-liners and multi-faceted paragraphs out like he’d swallowed a fully-loaded wit clip and used every laugh as the bolt that he slid back for the next. I was sitting between an elderly gentleman and a guy ten years younger than me and they laughed at everything as much as I did, and the laughs were so big that we ended up swaying back and forth and over one another in our squishy seats with no personal space bubble necerssary because we were all in this together.
He is just so good at this. The comedian that came out before him was amazing and I think a lot better than anyone expected. We were still laughing at his jokes when Jerry waltzed out but from the moment the veteran opened his mouth, you could see why we all paid the steep price to get that ticket and then be squished in together- Jerry Seinfeld is the best stand-up comedian in the world and I don’t think he’ll ever be surpassed. He could go on tour at 90, and there will be tens of thousand of people waiting to see him just as there are right now to hear what he has to say about adult diapers.
Sure I guess there were a few things that didn’t resonate quite as well with the Aussie crowd as it would have with a bunch of Americans, but anyone who can call themselves a fan of Seinfeld would have shown up knowing to expect that because as far as generation X is concerned- he was our go-to educator for American culture for a very long time. We know that sometimes US comedians are going to talk about shit that we don’t quite get, but the beautiful thing with Jerry is that once it’s out there, it’s everybody’s joke now and that’s exactly what happened the other night. The crowd showed up wanting to laugh and so they did- uproariously for an hour and ten minutes straight.
In fact if there was any issue with his act, it was the fact that he was too funny- too relevant and too damn slick. We all showed up with this excitement of finally seeing him again, of getting him to throw another scrap of amusement our way after waiting for so long, but once it was over and we were inching our way out (and I was wiping tears off from under my cheeks as I am right now) you could feel the reluctance to leave in the air. It was as long as any stand up act is, but devesatatingly short. There had been so many new wonderful jokes- but not nearly enough to hit the spot now that we’d remember what it was like to listen to him ramble on.
In fact, it sort of felt like having one cigarette after years of going cold turkey, and now I’m craving something that I just cannot get enough of. When Seinfeld was wrapping up, it was easy to come to terms with it because by that point, he’d offered his commentary on basically every aspect of the modern world and new voices were popping up everywhere- voices that sounded fresher and more inventive and might just have something to say that he couldn’t or didn’t want to say.
But that was before the internet took over the world, before Netflix, before Instagram and before, well, everything that pertains to our daily lives now. Seinfeld was about a bunch of middle-aged singles living in a crazy city, but Jerry’s a married man and father now doing the adulting thing (like me) and I’m desperate to know everything that he has to say on all of the above now that he has so much more material. I want him back on my screen, five times a week, saying the stuff that no one else has the balls to say or the intellect to articulate. I want to see whole episodes about political correctness, Trump, North Korea and text messaging. I want to know what he think about putting kids through school, keeping a marriage interesting after an extended period of time, Tinder and equal rights for gays.
Jerry Seinfeld offered up a lot of insight into how his mind works nowadays, but his mind works so beautifully and quickly (and still without cussing) that I don’t think there’s ever going to be enough that he can say or do that will make people okay with the fact that he doesn’t feel like doing it as much anymore, and so as he disappeared behind that curtain, I began to weep just like I did when Time Of Your Life rolled on the Seinfeld Chronicles.
Strange how a show about nothing can be everything.
I was in grade nine when I discovered Jerry Seinfeld, and I'll never forget it. I was flicking aimlessly between the four channels we had back then, when I came across an incapacitated looking woman bellowing "Stella!" at the top of her lungs while hyped up on meds. To this day, that will remain the funniest thing I've ever seen, and even though I've watched that episode a million times by now, I still end up in fits of uncontrollable giggling when it pops up on my television.
Seinfeld was not a 'thing' in my peer group. We were on that border between being generation X or Y and most of them tended to identify with the Y side of things, so it was all about South Park, The Simpsons, Friends, Kurt Cobain, Home and Away and Silverchair. However, my mother was a few years older than most of my friends' parents were and she wasn't a fan of modern sitcoms, so she raised an old soul in me and one that was decidely uncool and proud of it. I grew up on Gene Kelly and Elvis musicals, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, and listening to music on a record player so I didn't really get into mainstream T.V at all until we got cable in the tenth grade.
But stumbling across Seinfeld was a bit of a fluke, and it changed me irrevocably. I'd always been bullied and so Jerry's sense of humour struck a chord wih me, not only because he was incredibly quick-witted, but because he knew how to put someone in their place without being out and out nasty. He reminded me of other TV characters I'd felt an affinity with before, like Niles from the Nanny and Raphael from TMNT, and that was when I realised a truth about myself- I was quite sarcastic. Odd that a 13 year old girl would feel such a connection with a bunch of Middle Ages adults living in New York City, but I did and it had never abated. In fact as the years go on not only does Seinfeld seem to stay relevant, but you can actually see how the world has learned how to 'adult' from him.
It was hard to watch TV shows from start to finish back then. We had exactly 4 network stations and they tended to play seasons of imported shows willy nilly, so it took me years to watch the majoroty of the Seinfeld episodes, but I recorded every single one and watched them until I knew them off by heart. I was an obsessed fan off the bat, and I'll never forget how much my husband loathed Seinfeld back then because he was jealous of my fixation with it. He was 13 and I was 14 and we were madly in love and spoke on the phone for hours a night, but if it was a weeknight I'd only speak to him until precisely 6:59p.m because between 7:00 and 7:30 I was incommunicado. He tried prolonging our farewells and even prank-called me a few times while in a jeaous snit, but I never apologised and he never learned to deal with it and so I guess it wasn't a surprise that we didn't work out the first time around.
We reunited 20 years later, and I'll never forget the way his eyes swept over my DVD shelves and slitted when he saw my Seinfeld boxset displayed proudly, but luckily by then I didn't have to stop the planet to watch my favourite show anymore and though he's never become an actual fan, he does enjoy watching them when I go through one of my Seinfeld binge phases.
I'll always remember memorizing the episodes until I could do them off by heart. Then, when I found the book Sein Language, I'd spend hours trying to 'do' his routines. I remember watching the finale in 1998 and bawling my eyes out during the chronicles and pissing myself laughing at the end when they got locked up, especially when Jerry started to do the same button bit from episode 1 which I thought was just that perfect touch. I remember the fact that Seinfeld was the very first thing I ever did a search for on the internet- and that I spend about two hours trying to print off 4 pictures just in case the internet vanished and I'd never have the access to information about him again. I remember covering my books with those pictures and trying to justify my addiction to him to other kids my age, and I remember how every time I met someone else in my generation that was in love with him too, it was like meeting a kindred spirit.
I remember when Jerry wore a blue and white striped shirt in the episode about his pilot, and how when I found a shirt just like it in a thrift shore, I wore it religiously because it was my Jerry shirt. I remember it getting so frayed that it became my night shirt, but I've bought several more just like it over the years and where them with a secret smile on my face because no one knows. Just last week I was writing my third play and I finally decided to add in a stand up routine for one of the characters. I was so stressed about writing it that It took me three weeks ( as opposed to the entire script which took about 3 hours) but then I put on my Jerry shirt and everything just sort of fell into place 🙂 when the director messaged me after to say it was 'Hilarious' I actually cried. I never would have done that, if not for Seinfeld.
I remember how excited I was when my family got addicted to Jessica Seinfeld cooking recipes, and I remember how I sobbed when my things were ruined by the 2008 floods, but how relieved I was to find my copy of Sein Language sitting high and dry in a plastic box- with my diaries and a 1st edition of Uncle Toms Cabin. I remember dragging my husband around New York City looking for Seinfeld landmarks- how I made him eat pretzels and Papaya King hot dogs and how we searched for the abandoned Soup Nazi kitchen and the facade of the diner until we were lost in a bad neighborhood. I remember thinking about what a good sport he'd become 🙂
I remember laughing .
But what I remember most of all, was when I found out Seinfeld was coming to Australia- how I burst into tears because I knew that because our business had just collapsed, I wouldn't be able to go even if it was a year from then. I sobbed like a baby until my mum called me and told me that her and my sister would get me there for my birthday gift no matter what it took, and how thrilled and relieved I was just to be standing in the same general area that he would be standing in, 21 years after discovering him.
Now I'm getting ready to board a plane to see Jerry Seinfeld live in Brisbane, and I'm all teary again, not just because of that but because my beautiful and tolerant husband gave me his last $50, told me to get a souvenir and told me to have 'The Time Of My Life' I don't think he knows what he said or why that matters, but to my mother, sister and very supportive hubby I leave you with this: 'Think where man's glory begins and ends, and say my glory was, I had such a friend.'
Pop Culture Conventions are still pretty new to me. In my 4 years as a published author I’ve been to exactly 4 of them, though technically you could say that I’ve been to the same one four times because I’ve only ever tried representing myself at the Sugar City Con right here in Mackay.
Obviously I’d love to go to an actual writing convention because I’d be more likely to find my target audience, but the SCC is still a very new thing here in Mackay and I am still very much an ingenue when it comes to the publishing world, so this is definitely one of those “Think globally, act locally,” events for me.
I’m glad to say that I’ve been with the SCC since their inception back in 2014, and I am very thrilled to say that I’ve learned a lot in those four years- perhaps even enough to warrant me passing my advice along becuase I myself have been frustrated when it comes to researching how best to navigate these events, especially as an author.
The start of my convention evolution was a little bit embarrassing. I’d only been self-published for just over a year and all I had to offer potential readers was links to e-books and some brochures, which I tried hawking over a plastic-coated foldable table. I managed to raffle off a Kindle E-Reader that first year which at least gave some people a reason to come hang near my booth and jot down their e-mail addresses for me, but I’m not very good with being the pushy sales chick and I never actually used those e-mail addresses for anything so in the end, the most I got out of that event was a teeny tiny bit of promotion.
My second year was a little bit better. By then I had one book in paperback and I ordered in a lot of copies, in addition to getting business cards and better brochures, and I went to a lot more trouble with my booth. I made fancy decorations out of old books, had posters printed up to blow up my various book covers so that they could be pinned to my backing panel behind me, and actually took along my computer so I’d have something to do other than sit and stare at the people passing me by. That was a much better year, but the entire event was a lot bigger and better in general so it was pretty hard to steal attention away from the other vendors. I sold a lot of copies of my novels, but I chose my solitary YA title to print (because it was the smallest) and that definitely limited my reach because I am first and foremost an adult paranormal fantasy writer. I also printed out lots of samples of my other books and had a demo of a second novel ready to place orders for, which did generate a lot of sales. I was learning but I was learning too slowly and I knew that I needed to plan well in advance the following year if I was going to have a hope of getting my name and my work truly out there.
Next came 2016, which was definitely my best year. The convention had grown into its larger venue and the crowd was twice the size of the year before thanks to the fact that we had some fantastically talented people front up for the SCC, including a well-known actor and an incredibly talented young writer, Will Kostakis. I was asked to appear on a panel that year, along with Will Kostakis and another local author, Sharon Johnston to talk about how we got into writing- Will being the award-winner, Sharon the one that had official representation and me- the poor man’s Indie. That was lot of fun and a great experience, and although I don’t know if that got a lot more people heading my way, it certainly attracted the attention of one or two. I was much better prepared that year- I’d just produced my first original play so I spliced footage from that with my book trailers and played it on repeat on my computer so I had better visual aids, and by then I had 4 different paperbacks to sell and I happily almost sold out. I’d upgraded my brochures yet again, added in some book marks and printed out 18 posters while running a free promotion for several of my other novels on Kindle at the same time, so if there was anything that anyone wanted to read, they had the option of buying it then and there in paperback, or downloading it free.
Yes 2016 was definitly a successful year but like I said, the SCC was growing so by then there were 6 other writers present, so it was a good thing that I’d gone in prepared because it was much harder to stand out in that sea of faces.
I’ve just done my 4th SCC and although it probably should have been my best year yet, I found that it was pretty hard to top 2016. Not only because an economic downturn led to the event being down-sized in general, but because I didn’t actually make the decision to attend until 2 weeks before so I was grossly underprepared. I ended up having to order books at the last minute in bulk from Create Space which means the postage for each book cost as much as the titles themselves (and literally arrived the afternoon beforehand!), and I didn’t think of anything new to do with my booth so it was a lot simpler than it had been before. In fact, the highlight of this event for me was the fact that I finally got into the Cosplay spirit!
There were no other authors this year, but I didn’t rate that as being an advantage because it meant that the people that came were mostly drawn in by all of the sci-fi and cosplay stuff. I sold quite a lot of books still and managed to generate some great publicity for my upcoming shows and a collection of local ghost stories that I’m writing, but I definitely wish that I’d been better prepared and had had something new to offer people. That’s definitely the issue with being a small-town writer; if you don’t keep evolving, you go stale.
So here are my personal tips and tricks for representing yourself as an author at a convention- especially if you’re not attending an author-only convention and are competing with the special guest artists and cosplayers that the atendees are lining up for:
Go to some effort with your booth. You’ll likely be supplied with one table, one chair and a backing panel just like everyone else, so be prepared to make it all it can be. Table covers, covers for backing panels, posters, props- make the space look eye-catching. Please try to theme it or keep the colours simple though, because people do judge books- and authors- by their covers.
Find out if you have power and use it accordingly. I definitely wish I’d upgraded my PC display this year because I’ve found that it gives potential customers the chance to drift your way without being forced to have to look or speak to you if they don’t want to. All of the vendors are selling something and selling hard, and most atendees will do their best to maintain a safe distance between themselves and the desperate sales person eyeballing them until they’re as interested as you’d like them to be. A lot of people would advise you to call out to each one or do the ‘hard sell’ but I wouldn’t recommend it. When it comes to books someone is either a reader or they’re not, and readers know what they like to read. If your cover doesn’t hook them, then trying to talk them into it will scare them off more quickly. In fact whenever anyone drifts my way and starts eyeing my book covers I always test the waters first by saying: ‘Are you a reader?’ If the answer is no, then I know to tread carefully and offer them a pretty book mark. If the answer is yes, I ask them what genre they like. If it’s not something I write, I’ll talk to them about what they’re interested in instead and let them decide if they want to know more about me. Once again, I’m not going to waste my time or anyone else’s trying to convince a hard-core fantasy reader to buy a book about zombies.
Keep yourself occupied without actually going too far and making yourself look unapproachable. I take notebooks to doodle in because I can get a lot done without shutting myself off or getting overly distracted by technology.
Have things to sell or give away- I cannot stress this enough. Running a bunch of free books on Kindle might seem like a great idea, but a lot of people won’t go to the trouble of looking you up once they get home if left to their own devices. And be prepared to sell too: have a lot of copies on hand, change, bags, bookmarks and I would highly reccommend that you have one of those personal eftpos machines or at least have your internet banking details, a means to connect to the internet and an invoice book on hand. This year the thing that handicapped me the most was the money thing: the venue had one ATM that died in the first hour, leaving people with only the cash they had and their ATM cards. I’d learned from 2015 to get a portable card reader so I had that as back up but unfortunately, the signal on my phone was too weak to hook the thing up with the app and so I lost a lot of sales that way, as did all of the vendors. Next year when I go back I’ll take a portable wi-fi device to be safe.
Have something to give away to keep you in people’s minds, but if you can’t afford to go big, don’t. Giving away a Kindle loaded with my books was a great idea, but that only really appealed to e-book readers and in a town like mine, that cuts out 70% of your potential customers. Giving away an iPad is expensive and not likely to pay off for you because everyone will enter into that, so you could waste your time trying to hook the attention of people that want the iPad so they can use Instagram, not so they can read off it. If money is no option then by all mens, raffle off an elephant if you’re so inclined, but I’ve discovered that personalised bookmarks are the best way to go. They’re cheap, they’re relevant to the sutomers you want to make a connection with and a lot less likely to be thrown out than a glossy brochure will be.
Link your social media to your event- run competitions using your pen name as a hashtag and get yourself some authentic likes. This year I did a few things- I used my booth to take ticket bookings for my next play, offered a special discount off my next book for people that pre-ordered it before midnight, and tied my appearance at the Con to a cover reveal for my next book online. Just be careful to walk that fine line between self-promotion and spamming, whatever you do.
And last but not least, get into the spirit of things! Pop culture conventions are all about the cosplay, so find something to wear that’ll make it clear that you’re there not only as a vendor but as a fan of the experience in general. I’ve heard some authors say that they rate dressing up as a character from their own books, but mine aren’t really distinctive enough for that yet, so I decided to dress as Ariel, given that I have three books out about mermaids. It meant that I had to get up a lot earlier and was a lot less comfortable than I had been the prior years, but it was a lot of fun!
So here I am, hoping that 2018 is gonna be the year that I get it right, so if you have any tips for me, please share away!