2016: A Year In Review

Let's be honest, 2016 has been a pretty shocking year for the world as a whole. We saw a reality TV star elected as the next US President, we witnessed countless acts of disturbing violence across the globe and lost an extraordinary amount of bright stars that inspired us throughout their lives…  In my own little world, however, 2016 proved to be a year filled with achievements and new opportunities.

 La La Land - #1 Film of 2016

La La Land - #1 Film of 2016

I didn't start the new year expecting much and even felt a bit lost, sort of in the stage of life where you’re just waiting for it to start… Needing something concrete to focus on I came to the decision to return to university, undertaking a Master of Creative Industries, majoring in Creative Production and Arts Management. While many thought me crazy for going back to a life of assignments, readings and lectures, so far the course has proven to be exactly what I needed and has inspired some ambitious thoughts for the future. Anyway, with being accepted into the course in February and the course not starting until July, I had about five months to wait. Three of these weeks were spent travelling around the US, which you can see from the video below. The rest of the time was used to make the most of projects I had been working on and jobs that had come up. From doing edit assistant work on a couple of features to teaching workshops on Podcasting to publishing a few writing pieces. The work was varied but that’s the joy of freelancing, you never live the same two days. 

Exciting times were also had with what I like to call my “unicorn projects” - projects that I work on purely out of passion. One of these projects, Young, Wild and Almost Free, which is a series I have been working on with a couple of others, was even pitched to the ABC! While that particular opportunity did not pan out, hopefully more will come of this project in the coming year so stay tuned. 

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the only way to create the life you want is to get up, go out and put yourself out there. It’s proven true for me time and time again and will hopefully continue in 2017. So, straight from my top film of 2016, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, “Here’s to the fools who dream!” 

Happy New Year! 🎉

 

Series of Observations: Expectations

Way back in my first blog on this website, I mentioned that I would write about my journey in the wonderfully intimidating world of the screen (film, television, online) industry so I’ve decided to write a series of observations 💭 where I will explore and share my thoughts on things I’ve noticed happening throughout my experiences. Here’s the first!

If you haven't been aware, over the last 4 months I’ve been facilitating a series of Podcasting workshops at SLQ The Edge and every time I go into a session I have the same anxious thoughts running through my head. Am I going to offer valuable information? Am I going to have enough content to fill the allocated time? Basically, am I going to meet expectations?? 

I was thinking tonight how much this thought process mimics the creative process, well, for me anyway… If I’m working on a creative project for someone or even working on my own stuff, I often have similar questions and thoughts in my mind as I get started. It’s this whole mindset of meeting other people’s expectations and impressing them in some way. While this is obviously a necessary evil in situations where you are working on a project for someone else, but it’s when this anxiousness crosses over to our own work it tends to become a problem. It’s the thing that tends to stop creatives from actually starting out. What if they fail? What if what they do doesn't meet their own expectations of quality or value? What if, what if, what if… ⁉️

From the experience of facilitating these workshops I’ve come to understand how much this anxiousness and limit a person and how unrealistic these expectations can be. My first workshop (my first time ever teaching in a larger capacity) was... let’s just say a flop. I’m not sure exactly because I can never few it from an attendee’s point of view but I just know that when I walked (yes I know technically I wheeled but whatever…) that I felt I had let everyone down. This may have been an over exaggeration and I received no negative feedback personally but I know I definitely did not do my best work. This was a first experience though and my expectation of smashing it out of the park on my first attempt was most definitely an unrealistic expectation I had on myself. Since then I have found my rhythm with teaching and so far have had some pretty positive feedback. I’ve now made it a point of literally telling myself that if I positively affect one person in some way, I’ve done my job. You will never please every single person whether it be in art or business but as long as you can provide some positive effect on someone, that’s a great thing. 

As I mentioned, I still have those same annoying negative thoughts run through my head before every session and get the nerves travelling throughout my body but by focusing on positively affecting just one person, not an entire room full, it is easier to get through. If I can just transfer this mentality over to my creative work it will hopefully enable me to not only feel better about sharing my work but also be freer with my creativity.

P.S. If you're keen to find out more information on the Podcasting workshops I've been facilitating, here's the link 😉

An Inclusive Shift

Hollywood is finally heading in a direction I’ve been wanting to see it go without even realising how much I wanted it to. For me, it’s not like I’ve never been able to relate to a character on screen. I’ve been able to relate to people of strength, people who show vulnerability, those who struggle and those who succeed. It really wasn’t until I saw a part of my life appear on screen, that is out of the ordinary, that I realised how much I wanted to see it up there. Sadly, even in today's world, rarely do we see main characters of a film or television show live their life in a wheelchair. Me Before You is hopefully the start of an inclusive change. 

 Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark and Sam Claflin as Will Traynor in Me Before You

Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark and Sam Claflin as Will Traynor in Me Before You

The main character of the film (based on the novel of the same name) is Will Traynor, a powerful, self-assured man who has become a quadriplegic as the result of a traffic incident. I make sure to distinguish that he has become a disabled man because that in itself is a very different experience to that of someone who has lived their entire life with some sort of physical impairment.

From watching the film, it is quite obvious the film has been written from the perspective of an able-bodied person, which is by no means a bad thing. It gives a perspective that a mass audience will be able to resonate with and feel comfortable with because it gives them a sense of familiarity. However, we do see snippets of the behind-the-scenes of what life can be like for someone who relies on others for the physical demands in life. A shower chair. A modified car. These small glimpses are a sign that audiences might be ready for a more intimate and realistic perspective from someone who actually lives like the character on screen. I myself can be pretty self sufficient at times. I go out by myself, I work just like anyone else and find struggles throughout my journey just as any other human being on this planet. However, like the character of Will Traynor, I need the assistance of others to get dressed in the morning, take a shower, transport me places etc. 

It wasn't until seeing these parts of my life mirrored on the screen in front of me, did I truly realise how much I craved seeing myself more accurately represented in today’s media.  

There has been a lot of criticism in regards to this film's portrayal of how depressive life in a chair can be and how the actor portraying the character is actually able-bodied in real life. To that last point, at the beginning of the film the character is shown pre-accident so it makes sense they would cast someone who is able to carry out this scene without having to change actors post-accident. While it would be absolutely amazing to see someone who is actually quadriplegic in real life playing a character who is quadripledgic on screen, this just didn't happen to be the role for it. 

To the first point, about the depressing tone this story can invoke about life confined to a chair, it is just that, a story. A story about a man who is too stubborn to envisage his life as something other than what he is used to. I think most of us can relate to the fear of having your freedom, no matter what amount of freedom you have, taken away. Until you are living in that situation yourself, it seems like an impossible feat to overcome. For those of us who know what life is like when you have to rely on the assistance of others, we know that life isn’t always going to be simple just because the world is the way it is, but we also know that life can be amazing, unpredictable, fun, infuriating, and inspiring - just as life should be for anyone. Instead of taking offence to one portrayal on the silver screen, see the positives it can bring about. This one story can begin to open doors for more stories about characters living with impairments. It says we can be strong enough to lead a Hollywood film. It says, “Here is what we know currently, what else can we learn?” If you are not happy with how people with disabilities have been portrayed on screen, whether in this film or other screen mediums - go write a script, a teleplay, a novel. Now that a film like Me Before You has been green-lit by Hollywood, here’s hoping their door will open to more characters that will give audiences a truly realistic portrayal of what life in a chair can be like. 

New Adventures

Already 2016 is shaping up to be an interesting one. Just 2 weeks ago I returned from a three week vacation to the 🇺🇸 USA. Somehow over the last five years, I've become better acquainted with the USA than my own backyard i.e. Australia. Why do I keep going back people ask? When you're in the exciting stage of planning an overseas trip, the last thing you want to do is find out you can't go here or there because of being in a wheelchair. In America, wheelchair access ♿ is so widely accepted, rarely do I have to worry about missing out or holding my friends and family back from doing anything. That's one reason I keep going back. The second is, there is so much to see!

Our latest adventure included a road trip 🚘 around Southern California, living it up 🍸 in Las Vegasand revisiting old favourites like San Francisco. I don't know if there will ever be a time where I will get sick of this place they call America, but until that moment I hope they'll keep letting me back in 😜

Aside from the fun travel times, 2016 has presented me with a few exciting opportunities and evidently it pays to put yourself out there and take advantage of every opportunity you're given. 

The first bit of exciting news is, starting May 17, I'll be facilitating a series of workshops all about the wonderful and understated world of Podcasting 📻. These will be taking place at SLQ's The Edge. You may know that throughout 2015, along with good friend Desmore Nero, I was producer of the Our Definition of Success Podcast and what a learning experience that was. Well, I'll be using all that knowledge to help others develop and record their own podcasts, sharing with them the best ways to do it and ways to avoid. You can read all about my experience and the workshops in a blog post I wrote for The Edge's website.

In terms of production work 🎬, over the last month or so I've been working with the amazingly talented Breanna Roe on pitching a television show about travelling with a disability. We're currently waiting on the results of two submissions so be sure to keep watching this site for that result. Also, just in the last week I've been contacted in regards to coming on board a drama production as a writer. I can't give away any details on the project yet but it is something I'm so passionate about and believe it is the perfect time to be bringing it to life. Again, stay tuned for what will hopefully be great news!

Lastly, I mentioned in a previous blog post that I had been considering returning to university to complete my Masters degree. I finally stopped thinking about it, sent in my application and within a week had my start date! That's right, beginning late July, I'll be returning to student life studying 📚 Creative Production and Arts Management. Am I crazy for putting myself through the stresses all over again? Time will no doubt prove that. 


Anyway, that's the latest from me! Keep watching this space for future updates.

What's Instore for 2016?

It’s a new year and once again find myself thinking how this is going to be the year that everything is going to look up for me, particularly in my career. I still am not sure how changing the last number in the date is going magically change my life and yet every January 1st we all become dreamers and believers.  

I think more than anything this year, I’m going to just make myself “have a go”. The only time I’ve felt my career move in the right direction, particularly throughout last year, is when I’ve randomly sent an email to a producer or applied for an internship I never thought I’d be interested in or volunteering for some festival or another. It’s those random events and actions that have lead me to more work than anything else.  

So, my plan for the first half of 2016 - work as much as possible. Bug people until they tell you to go away, have mad writing sessions, send emails like a crazy person and just turn up to everything I can. 

On that note, if you have a project that’s looking for an editor, producer, writer, personal cheerleader - hit me up at steph@dowerproductions.com <— See, told you I’m not above begging 😉

The other thing I realised last year was how much I missed learning. I was fortunate enough to do a couple of short courses with AFTRS and the Queensland Writers Centre which gave me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the idea of learning. Resulting in my plan for the second half of 2016 - dependent on acceptance - I hope to start my Masters degree and once again be back at my old stomping ground, QUT. Masochistic or intelligent choice - time will tell. 

Stay tuned for 2016 happenings! ✌️

Addiction

It’s been a little while since I have written one of these posts so I thought I’d talk about what kept me pretty busy last month - this little group of islands, commonly known as Hawaii. That’s right, I got to spend ten amazing days exploring two of the Hawaiian Islands - Maui and Oahu - with the best family and friends you can ask for. Over the past 5 or so years, I’ve developed this troubling addiction that is for sure going to send me broke.  

Travel.  An expensive 💸 but worth every cent addiction that started to bubble to the surface after graduating high school. Until then I had never really had an urge to travel overseas. In fact, the idea of going to places where guns are everywhere, terrorists attack and Mother Nature enjoys creating havoc, made me kind of nervous. Then, one day I was listening to the radio and I just happened to hear a woman winning a trip to New York City. I have never felt such jealousy in my life. Suddenly, I was desperate to go anywhere. I went to my parents (who have always been good little money savers) and long story short, after a lot of grovelling and working out finances, we booked a 6 week trip around the USA. This was going to be the trip to give us a taste of overseas and get the travel bug out of our system. Wow, did that backfire! 

I can’t really explain what it is about travelling that I’ve fallen in love with. I’m still not totally cool with the whole flying thirty thousand feet in the air thing, and having to allow for a wheelchair everywhere you go can be a little stressful at times. Yet, what seems to have become a yearly thing - we plan, we pack, we go exploring - has become the ultimate high for me. Getting to experience things and see sights I never imagined I would, that is what I think has become the addiction. I’ve walked along the streets of the city that never sleeps (which it totally doesn’t). I’ve driven around on a glacier that’s been around since the 1800s. I’ve visited the King of Rock’n’Rolls house and explored the battleship where Japan surrendered in WWII. 

These are just some selected highlights from the last few adventures (check out the video below from our latest trip) and yes, I’ve really only gotten to explore the USA so far, which you could explore for a lifetime and never see everything you want, Never fear though, the rest of this crazy planet is definitely on my ‘must-get-to-see’ list.  

🌏

People are often amazed by how much I’ve been able to do, given my disability and all, but with the unwavering assistance from my family and friends, I’ve come to learn that there aren't many places I can’t get to in one way or another. My dream, one day, is to create a project, whether it be a documentary or web/TV series, in which I can show you all how I travel and how so much more is possible than you might think. Ok, inspiring preach over.

A 48 Hour ‘Deadline’

Excitement. Nerves. Adrenaline. Stuffed. Frustration. Relief. Exhaustion. Repeat x3

That was my weekend. I realise it’s now Thursday when I’m typing this but my mind needed a few days to make sense of itself once again. Anyway, this past weekend was the 48 Hour Film Project in Brisbane in which our awesomely talented team, the Femme Fatales, competed for a chance at filmmaking glory! Or to at least have an excuse to eat copious amounts of sugar. 🍫 🍬 🍭 I believe we achieved both. 😉

The way the competition works is each team is given a random genre of which they have to write, shoot and edit a 4-7 minute film in 48 hours and must include three key elements. This year’s elements that were to be included were:

Prop - Bubble Wrap

Character - Olive or Oliver Macguffin, a Travel Writer

Line of Dialogue - It’s the only logical conclusion OR It is the only logical conclusion.

Our genre…?

Thriller/Suspense

This was our second time taking part in this marathon weekend and with last time being so successful, we thought, why not put ourselves through all the craziness again? Some might call this behaviour masochistic; I call it being dedicated to our craft (and sugar). 

Anyway, once time had started 🏁 we headed straight for… food of course! After that we headed off to start the brainstorming process which started off really well and then we hit around midnight and all four of our brains suddenly stopped working around the same time… finally we got to a loose script/outline we were vaguely happy with, mostly because it now meant sleep time. 😴

Fast forward to the next day and while I hastily got things ready for post production (which is when I would really be tagged in) the team got to filming with our fabulous actors. 🎬 🎭 Day 2 went pretty smoothly over all (except the Sun set faster than it probably ever has before) and then it was up to me to wrangle the data and begin putting together the pieces of our suspenseful puzzle. 

Just 8 hours of editing + sound design + colour grade + credits building + exporting + freaking out + numerous plays of Macklemore’s ‘Downtown’ later and we were DONE! WITH 7 MINUTES TO SPARE! 🎉⏰ 

 That's a Bubble Wrap!

That's a Bubble Wrap!

As I mentioned once or twice, it was a crazy and exhausting weekend but all in all it’s some of the most fun you’ll ever have; especially with the right people (Bree, Lucy, Alex, Zoe, Leilani, Adam) ❤️ If you’re an emerging filmmaker or even an established one that wants to push their skills, this is definitely an awesome and worthwhile experience. 

What happens now? Our film ‘Deadline’ will be screened on Oct 8th. Tickets on sale now - https://goo.gl/CluzdZ 

A trailer will also be coming soon so stay tuned!