South by South Quest

So, Arts Queensland are a nice bunch. Lemme tell you why.

I’ve been working in documentary for a long time. But over the last few years working on projects for television – or trying to get a feature made – has seemed less and less .. well – fun.

File it under “No Shit, Sherlock” but it’s tough to make films if you’re an independent filmmaker. It’s not just me: Australian icon Bob Connolly called bullshit on the whole stinkin’ business in spectacular, stadium-rocking, single-finger-saluting fashion at this year’s Australian International Documentary Conference. Bob was singing my blues when he railed at how tough it is to finance a ‘one-off’ film through the Australian industry, based as it is around the free-to-air broadcasters. For documentary-makers to spend time (and for the channels to spend money) on a project that results in only a single promotional opportunity for a broadcaster – it’s become a tough ask. And, as Bob notes, it’s even harder if you’re a lone filmmaker. And living outside a major metropolitan area. And if you have to be home in time at least some days to pick up your kids from school. And take them to soccer. And help them with their homework. (Actually, Bob didn’t say that last stuff, but it’s no less true.)

So a couple of years back when I had the depressing epiphany that my career was shot, I started lecturing part-time at university and I helped out on a beautiful film. I also thought about the stories I’d like to tell. And then (the all-important next step) I decided to do something about it. To change. And say -

Why hello, internet.

Since then I’ve started the work of transforming my business – but most importantly, my creative practice – to embrace the world of story that lives online as well as in real life. Stories that live in data, in text, in video, across devices and that emerge from real life events. These are the building blocks of a whole new way of creating the work that I want do. It’s taken a while, but this year’s going to be a cracker. More on that as it gets closer…

Kicking off this exciting year, I’m going to South by Southwest Interactive (courtesy of a career grant from Arts Queensland – see, I told you they were nice). My aim is to continue on my quest to bring my passion for factual storytelling to multiple platforms. I’m going to meet the people doing awesome work and learn from what happens at the place where this creativity runs smack bang into commerce.

Frankly, it’s going to rock. Because so far, my paddling in the digital pool has been limited to just my virtual tootsies – from in front of my screen, in my office, downstairs in my home on Tamborine Mountain. There’s not a shedload of high-flying that goes on in these parts, unless you count the eagles.

And if you’re looking for high-fliers, SouthBy – as it’s known – is bigger than god’s underpants. Around 30 000 delegates across Film, Music and Interactive conferences. Interactive has over 1000 sessions in five days, across 15 venues. It actually feels less like a dive into a pool and more like I’m about to go swimming in the Pacific when there’s a massive swell: it’s going to be a wild ride, and I’ll probably end up with sand in some uncomfortable places.

As well as the panels, it’s also de rigeur to go to so many parties that you could, actually, suffer a lethal dose of shindig. I’ve sought counsel from delegates from previous years and this an official caution. I spent the whole day yesterday rsvp’ing to a grand total of 61 parties. SIXTY ONE. These are just the publicised parties. These do not include the sekrit ninja ones. Unfortunately I went to the same finishing school as the Honey Badger, so I’m unlikely to be able to sweet-talk my way into any party that has anything other than the most forgiving door policy. To help me in my quest, I’ve download an app. Of course there’s an app for finding the best parties. Sheez.

Also I’m slightly apprehensive, that Texas – the home of South by Southwest – is not the natural habitat of non-rib and brisket consuming vegetarians like me. Added to this, I’ve spent the last year trying to create a tolerance for caffeinated beverages (I still get a little woozy on a latte). And while I’m in confessional mode, I hold my liquor about as well as an Amish person. And consider this a warning: if I do fall off the wagon, there will be a splat sound.

So stay tuned for the next installment as we go on the adventures of a vegetarian, herbal-tea-drinking, teetotaller as she tackles the world’s biggest knees-up at a barbeque – also the world’s leading digital conference and networking event.

Giddy up!

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