Our Creative Journey!

A magic moment in the highlands of Scotland.

So a month and a half ago, my fiancee Dave and I embarked on a voyage. Not exactly a holiday, not exactly a work trip–somewhere in the middle. It is a creative expedition. It was based on an idea that we never really go anywhere or have time for anything except when work is involved. Our best trips away together have mostly been short journeys within New Zealand to go and record sounds.

So we figured if we were ever going to go on any big overseas trips, then we should involve our work in the creative industries. Last year, we had two friends who had both offered us to come and stay at their artist residencies.

The first was from Peter Roberts, a picture editor who had a residency in Ibiza off the coast of Spain for writers. It was a house once used by famous New Zealand author, Janet Frame. This sounded like a perfect chance for me to focus on the second instalment of my children’s sci-fi adventure and Dave could work on his feature film scripts. 

The second residency was in Trélex in Switzerland. Our friend Nina Rodin runs an artist residency for all manner of creative artists and she has not had many sound artists stay at Trélex. Her husband David Rodin went to school with my Dave, so he had been talking for years about the idea of heading over to visit them, but the idea of doing art at the same time was doubly fantastic. Not only would we do plenty of sound art, Dave and I both love painting, photography, video-art and composition, so there was plenty of things for us to experiment with that we normally never have time for.

It would have been so easy to think; “Oh yes, that would be lovely to travel overseas and work on our art,” but never actually get around to it. For once Dave and I wanted to jump on such an opportunity and go for it.

Last year was a big year for Dave as he directed his first short film. And my book is in the final stages of preparing for publishing, but I wanted time to dive into the second book before the first one comes out. With a heavy work load planned for the back half of 2017, we decided that from the end of March to June would be the best chance we had to head to Europe for a couple of months. When we get back Dave has his short film screening in some festivals as well as a very exciting writer’s workshop to attend, so now is the perfect time to get things moving on the writing front.

Though we were only planning on spending two weeks at each of the residency locations, our process of creating art was one that we would  engaged with every day of the trip. We record sound every single day, no matter where we are.  I’ve been keeping a couple of creative journals with sketching and writing ideas. And of course Dave has his trusty camera  and I have the GoPro.

Sound recording in Switzerland.

We started out in the UK, spending a few days In London with some friends before driving up north to Scotland. We stopped in to see relatives I had in England, but for the most part we were travelling heavily every day and visiting as many attractions as we could all the way. All the while, we were gathering sounds, video footage and artistic photographs to inspire our art. Some highlights were Stonehenge and Avebury, the Roman baths and Lindisfarne and of course, the castles. Edinburgh and Stirling castles where stunning, but some of my favourites were the derelict ruins standing alone in the mists without tourists and gift shops. Places where you could sit and sketch and soak in the ancient landscape.

The longest we spent in one place was four days in Skye. Skye was breathtaking. Such wildness and isolation, I felt very much at home there. I guess in many ways it’s similar to New Zealand. Harsh weather and rugged landscape permeates the cultures of the Antipodes and the Hebrides with a similar fortitude. The first two weeks in the UK was so jam-packed full of excitement and adventure it felt like a lot longer than two weeks. I planned on doing more blogging on the journey and I also had hoped to start up a video blog, but we’ve been busier than I expected and quite often without very good Internet access. So I thought I should make a start somewhere. Better late than never.

Today I have more time on my hands because yesterday, I badly sprained my ankle.  There is nothing quite in injury to allow time for retrospective and slowing down to appreciate what you have. For example, I am incredibly glad that I only sprained my ankle and and didn’t break it. Today is 18th  of May and we have exactly one month left of our trip. We will arrive back in Wellington on the 18th June. The trip has been in some ways longer than I could have imagined and in other ways has flown by.

Our two weeks in Ibiza, was amazing. The warmth was a welcome change from Scotland and we made sure we explored the landscape there and went swimming in the crystal blue waters. I had a lot of trouble with asthma and sickness, and yet we still got a lot of writing done. It was so incredibly luxurious to be able to focus on writing, considering it a full-time job instead of having to cram it in around a normal workload.

Enjoying writing in my journal while sipping sangria at a cafe in Ibiza old town.

We were in Barcelona for only three days after that and though we didn’t get to see much of the city, we saw a lot of the Gothic Quarter where we were staying and had very splendid time enjoying the food and wine of that beautiful city.

Sitting by the window of our apartment in Barcelona.

Trélex has been magical. Staying with David and Nina Rodin and their family has been a privilege and a pleasure. Though our time he has been short, already we have achieved a lot. I have been painting and sketching more than I have in years, and I have gotten back into doing my audiovisual art which I’m very excited about. I’ve been continuing writing and Dave has too. He has made some great breakthroughs with his scripts and I’ve been able to help him with editing which I normally don’t have much time for. And of course we have been recording plenty of sound.

A day of sound recording adventure in the forests of Switzerland.

Switzerland is a wonderful place for recording soundscapes. There are lots of public parks and wide open spaces and lots of access to forests and mountains. There is so much more here that we could record but I’m very glad that we have some great recordings of cowbells and church bells and tranquil environments. The bells, the bells!

Our next door neighbour in Trelex and his lovely sounding bells.

 

Now we only have four days left in Switzerland, and I’m very aware of how difficult it will be moving on from here with my injury. With out recording gear, we have way too much luggage, so I hope I can lose the crutches soon. We are supposed to catch a train to France on Monday, but I have to go to the hospital for them to assess my ankle in the morning and then who knows what will happen. Though I hope it heals quickly, I also know that it will stop us from doing big and ambitious hikes which is sad, but like I said, I am very grateful for the things I do have and will make use of this time that I am less mobile by doing more art. As this is a creative journey, you have two create what you can using the tools is that you have available. Though this is my first blog entry on my journey I’m hoping that I will be more productive from now on. Until next time, get out there and create magic everyday!

Dave and I at Stonehenge.

 

Creating Inspiration

mzi-vsmwoyso

Sometimes we wait too long to be inspired. Sometimes we expect the world to come to us when we should venture out into the world. I have been avoiding writing a blog entry for a few months, expecting that something exciting would happen worth talking about. Or perhaps I was waiting for some news about my writing. However, experiencing setbacks with my writing should not have prevented me from taking time to express myself.

What I should have been doing is getting out and finding inspiration from the world around me. Life isn’t always glamorous, but sometimes real beauty can be found in the small things that you see everyday or little interactions you have with people around you. You only have to look at how many people post photos of their cat, or what they ate for lunch on social media to see that people think every day life is worth sharing.

I have to remind myself that we create our own excitement, just as we create our own boredom. In my job as a sound designer, I am constantly having to switch on creativity as if it were flowing from a tap. Sometimes this is easy to do, if the project is exciting, or new, or if I am on a roll, but sometimes it’s hard and I have to find new ways to trigger that creative enthusiasm. Often this involves going out and doing field recording or buying a new plug-in for my studio. New tools and toys are a handy way to rekindle a childlike approach to work. You want to make your job more like playing and less like labour.

For writing, new toys usually means stationary.  I love stationary. The smell of a new paper journal and the feel of a fresh pen fill me with joy. Today however, my new toy is my dictation software. So far it seems to be working fairly well. However, I think I could have typed all of this by hand much faster,  but I’m sure I’ll get better.

Aside from gadgets and gizmos, the real reason I got back onto this blog today was because I started back at work after my Christmas break. I was inspired by seeing my fellow artists at work and feeling the good vibes of being back on the project with my team. Sometimes free time and leisure can be the biggest killer of inspiration for me and it’s not until I’m flat out at work that I find myself thinking about my own art.

So, I’d love to hear from you. What motivates you all to pick up your instruments? Or to sit at that keyboard? Or open another blank page? How do you create your inspiration?

Musk and the Journey to Mars.

 

musk

Philanthropists are rarely rich enough or skilled enough at business to get the results that Elon Musk does. He’s like Iron Man, but he’s less likely to get into a fight.

A few weeks ago I watched Musk give a breakdown of his plan to colonise Mars. It was so inspiring. Millions of people have been waiting and hoping for the world to take this step into the next frontier. He is actioning those dreams. The plan is simple; to take science and make it fiction no more.

Musk is on a mission to develop technology to improve human life, but he also has the vision to see that there are pitfalls to every promise that technology yields. He is all about figuring out how those pitfalls can be avoided.

He is also critically aware that we can’t afford to not pursue space travel. Not only for the purpose of’ “backing up the biosphere,” and to protect our way of life, but also to give our species direction. He says the main driver for looking to establishing other colonies in our solar system is because; “it would be an incredible adventure. We need to wake up and be excited about the future. To be inspired and want to live.”

He says that the proposal to colonise Mars, “appeals to everyone with an exploratory spirit.” And that’s the thing I believe will make this plan successful. Over the past decade, I have been feeling an increasing interest in space exploration from the general public. It’s noticeable in the steady rise in science fiction films and books. You see it in social media too. People are starting to take the idea of travel to Mars seriously. As the potential for public funding increases, so does the prospects of every day people becoming space travellers. People are becoming personally invested. Even for someone who doesn’t want to go, the very idea that the choice is open to them or to their loved ones will encourage their interest or support. His plan will inspire people all across the globe want to share in this collaborative venture.

It’s genius.

As with any new innovative ideas and possibilities, the younger generation will be the key. The enterprise will inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and artists.

I believe colonising other worlds will be a critical step towards unifying the human race. It’s not until a child grows up and leaves home that they can truly realise the value of having a family. Of course families argue, but they also offer support. It is in our species nature to fight each other, but perhaps, out in space there is something else to fight for.

http://www.spacex.com/

Au Contraire – 2016

photo 1

The science-fiction and fantasy convention, Au Contraire 3 took place this weekend in Wellington and it was a blast!

I was honoured to have two presentations. The first was on Friday, as part of the youth One-Day writing Workshops. I was thrilled to be included in a prestigious line-up of presenters, including talented Kiwi writers, Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Kevin Berry, Celine Murray, Eileen R Mueller, Alicia Ponder, Simon Fogarty, Jan Goldie, Alan Chad Lindsay and Jean Gilbert.

The kids had a great day, and I was blown away by some of the incredibly talented young writers.

kids

A huge thanks to Piper for organising this event and giving us writers a chance to get involved with the young folk who, let’s face it, are the reason why we write young adult fiction!

The convention didn’t stop there though, I gave a second presentation on the role of sound in storytelling which was a nice change of pace. All too often, we get swept up in the visual feast of words and pretty covers, we forget about the huge potential sound plays in stories. These days, audio books offer a valuable way for writers to branch out and reach a wider market.

There were discussion panels for a variety of genres, covering a multitude of subjects from poetry to horror. I especially liked the panel from the independent authors. I picked up some very handy tips from the pros. The writing workshop offered by Anna Mackenzie was also fabulous and really got my creative juices flowing.

On Sunday, we had the book launch of At The Edge, a collection of New Zealand and Australian speculative short stories, which I was, again, humbled to be a part of.

photo 2

Sadly, I missed the presentations of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, but I was so proud and excited to see so many of my friends take home the prizes. Eileen Mueller, claimed best youth novel for her ‘You Say Which Way’ novel, ‘Dragon’s Realm’ and Lee Murray won her sixth SJV for her short, ‘The Thief’s Tale’.

Well done to all the winners as well as the finalists for producing such great work. You can see a list of the winners here.

A big thanks to the guests of honour, Juliet Marillier, Amanda Fitzwater and Martin Wallace for their contributions to the convention. It was inspiring meeting so many great authors.

And a very special thanks to Lee and Dan for putting the program together and everyone else who helped make this such a great event.

So…when is the next convention?

Creative Freedom–Selling Sounds and Selling Words.

Hi guys, It’s been a while.

There has been a lot happening here. I’ve been busy helping Dave get the first of our commercial sound libraries up for sale online. After working in the film industry on other people’s projects for so long, it’s great to finally start making stuff for ourselves.

If you’re looking for some lovely nature sounds to write to, then I highly recommend them 🙂 You can check them out on Dave’s website.

Meanwhile, my publishing plan is ticking along. I just read this article on readsy, interviewing David Fugate, agent of Andy Weir. (Author of ‘the Martian’).

I found it very interesting. Agents are talking more these days about indie-publishing as a positive thing.  He says:

‘I’m a huge fan of self-publishing (in all its myriad forms) and what it has done for both authors and readers. I think it’s amazing that it’s no longer a question of if your work will be published, but how…. If what you’re doing is good, you absolutely will have an opportunity to find an audience for it. It just feels like a much more hopeful, positive environment in which to be a writer…. Now is the best time, in the entire history of the written word, to be a writer.’

And that is what I love about it. The positivity it brings. I feel so liberated knowing that I don’t need to pine my hours away waiting for a rejection from yet another agent. I don’t have to wait months just to get a request for a partial and get my hopes up just to be rejected again. I don’t have to spend hours researching publishing houses and deciding if they’d be interested in my book.

I can spend all that time instead on solidifying my own process, honing my marketing skills and lets not forget, WRITING!

So between our sound libraries, my writing and my work in Sound Design, I am loving my creative freedom more than ever!

 

 

Hyperphantasia! The Joys of an overactive imagination

my_imagination_runs_wild_by_xymoron-d7ccu1b
I only discovered this recently, that some people can not see images when they read. They call this Aphantasia. I was so upset to learn that so many people miss out on the magic of mental images.
I think I fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hyperphantasia.
 
I see so much when I read that it distracts me. It’s not just images though. I hear, I smell, I taste. I get so wound up in exploring another world inside my head that sometimes it takes me months to finish a book. The more I love the book, sometimes, the harder it is to read.
 
No wonder everyone called me a daydreamer!
I was teased as a child for living too much in an imaginary world, but that never stopped me. I never stopped being creative. Now that I’m an adult, I have a career in the film industry, Im an author, a musician and a painter. I can never get enough of the fantastical realms within my own mind. There’s nothing better than getting out those ideas and expressing them through image and sound.
I love being a daydreamer.
The main character in my upcoming book, James, is also a chronic daydreamer. Though his dreams are more nightmarish. And of course, his nightmares also have the unfortunate tendency to come true.
It’s been a while since I gave an update on my plans to publish, but I swear there will be more news very soon!
In the meantime, I’m going to just grab a book and have myself a little daydream.
 
Is there anyone else out there who has Hyperphantasia?
 

Publishing Announcement – My Book

magic-book

Hello everyone!

It is time for an announcement. I’ve been sitting on this for a while.

Last year I was offered a publishing deal with a small press in Australia to publish my debut middle-grade sci-fi novel. I was jumping for joy and thrilled to have reached such a level of professionalism with my writing that I had been accepted by a traditional publisher! I was also very keen to go down the small press route as I have always had a lot of respect for small business models. I felt that smaller presses often had more heart than bigger ones with their strict money-making priorities. I also thought signing to a smaller press would give me more control over the process of putting the book together. However, as time went on, I began to realise that I wanted more control than the small press would be willing to allow me.

I have since come to the conclusion that for this particular project, self-publishing is the best route. I’m not saying I’d never consider the traditional path in the future, and I’m very grateful to have been offered a deal by a traditional press. But for me, right now, I want to go indie.

My decision is not so much about control as it is about choices. Yes, self-publishing will give me complete creative control, but I will still contract professionals to make sure the book I produce is at the highest standard I can achieve. I want to collaborate with artists and designers and I want the freedom to choose who those people are.

My decision is not all about money either, but it is about investment. Yes, I will own all the rights and royalties, but I’m not expecting to earn big money off my first book. I’m certain it will cost more than I get back. However, I am simply interested in investing in myself.

Ultimately, my decision is about creativity. I love making things and if I go down the traditional path, essentially someone else is making my art for me. Although this scenario may work for other people, it’s not what I want for this book.

I’ve worked the film industry as a freelance sound editor and spent years building my own brand and business, so I know how hard it is forging an independent career in the arts, but I also know it is achievable. I’ve learned the value of collaboration and networking, but I’ve also experienced what it means to be a cog in a machine producing someone else’s art.

It’s time to make my own art.

Working on films is a fantastic experience. As a creative contractor, my job is to help a directors vision come to life. Ideas that the director has been working on for months, years and sometimes decades finally come to fruition and I get to be a part of that. Sound editing and design is the end stage of this long ‘magical’ process. I try to create sounds that will do justice to the hard work everyone else has done, and hopefully enhance the audiences experience. The make-up and wardrobe teams, the art departments and VFX people, the actors and the picture editors, it all comes together with sound and music as the last piece of the puzzle — the icing on the cake. We soundies sometimes get a little neglected when the budget is sometimes spent long before we start working on a film, but we also get to see how excited the director is to see their baby finally born. The director is there, every step of the way through production, advising our creative work so that it fits the mould of their vision.

So my book is my baby. I am the director. I want to have that experience of reviewing work from contractors, making notes and giving them feedback. It seems ridiculous to have worked so hard on writing the book and editing it for years only to hand it on to someone else at this final stage and let them make all the decisions about how it is put together.

I have already begun work with a concept artist. More to come about this later, but it’s all very exciting. Now that I have made that critical decision, I can get to work making up a budget and a timeline and working towards a release date.

My book is finally going to have a birthday.

Come with me, as I embark on this journey as a creative adventurer!

Tell me about your own experience. Are you the director of your own artistic vision?

Book Review – ‘Miss Lionheart Omnibus Edition (Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death 1-3)’

lilly

Award winning New Zealand author AJ Ponder, who wrote Wizard’s Guide to Wellington has published her latest book ‘Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death.’

I loved the first instalment of AJ Ponder’s ‘Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death’ which I bought last year, so I was excited to see she had compiled the three parts into this omnibus edition.

Full of twists, cunning plots and deadly creatures, this book is perfect for teens, but also caters for a wider readership with clever language and great world-building.

With elements of fantasy, science fiction and dashes of mystery and suspense, this adventure is full of surprises.

Her characters are deep and engaging. I was hooked into Lilly’s quest from page 1 as she fights to escape the underground laboratory run by mad scientists.

Of course no laboratory would be complete without a horde of DNA modified, designer creatures that range from terrifyingly gross to terrifically cute!

Lilly is joined by a cast of quirky genius kids, who must learn to work together if they’re to engineer the deadly beasts their evil boss is demanding. The question is, what else can they cook up to help them escape their villainous overlords? Sounds like fun? It is.

Ponder’s use of hyperlinks, images and emails in the story adds a realism to her work that will engage kids even further, leading them deeper into the fantastical world.

Beautifully crafted and full of heart, I highly recommend this book.

Pick up your copy on Amazon today!

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lionheart-Omnibus-Edition-Laboratory-Death-ebook/dp/B019FLDJKW/ref=cm_rdp_product

2015 – A Good Year for Sci-Fi

maxresdefault

The year is crawling to a close and it’s time for some reflection on the great Sci-Fi creations that have come out of it.

I’ve been busy working on sounds for both an upcoming sci-fi film as well as the mysterious game for the magical Magic Leap, both of which are absolutely incredible! I can’t wait till they’re released so that I can talk about them.

It certainly is a boom time for sci-fi, in books, films, games, and TV.

Science in general seems to be quite popular too.

This might have something to do with the current push for humans to go to Mars?

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

 

marsnaut-640x353

Or maybe, its due to a cultural fear of Earths’s demise caused by our misuse of current technologies?

apocalypse

Or perhaps, it’s the fact that this, 2015, was the year of the future that Marty McFly travelled to in the Back-to-the-Future series?

bttf2_3478174a

Or just maybe, it’s because we’re all eagerly awaiting the new Star-Wars film?

star-wars-the-force-awakens-2015

Whatever the reason, I am loving the eclectic and inspiring science-fiction I am seeing today, from block-busters right down to short films and indie books.

My own favourite Sci-Fi highlight of the year is up in the air, pending the release of the aforementioned Star-Wars film 😉

But aside from that, I’d probably have to say the most inspiring Sci-Fi stuff I’ve seen this year is the films and projects I’m working on. Unfortunately I cannot disclose any details about these jobs, but one day, I will.

Working with a host of creative people in the film and games industry is just about as fantastic as life can get. I feel very blessed.

Are you loving this Sci-Fi boom? What is your pick of the best Sci-Fi highlight for this year?

 

 

 

Book vs Film Review: The Martian

the-martian-trailer

As someone who works in the film industry, I am not a huge advocate of the – ‘films ruin books’ – argument. Though there are certainly cases where film versions do no justice to the books they are based on, there are also cases where I believe films have enhanced and improved aspects of a particular book. Mostly, I think it’s unfair to suggest that a film can ruin a book, because it is not like the existence of the film can erase the book from history. Nor is anyone forced to watch the film if they loved the book and want don’t think the film can live up to the experience they had reading it.

Having made that claim, let me say that I do enjoy reading a book prior to watching the film. This is mostly because the film only takes 2 hours (or 3+ if its a Tolkien experience), while a book takes a lot more time, allowing me to get swept away to another world for much longer.

The Martian was no exception. I made sure I read it before the film came out and I am sure glad I did.

 

Book. *****

This was an exceptional book, living up to it’s notoriety completely. Totally worth the hype. Methodically researched and beautifully crafted, I was hooked from page 1. The story telling is inventive and fresh. Although at times, it runs the risk of losing dramatic tension, because we are being told about dire situations after the hero has effectively dealt with them. However, Weir keeps us engaged through the use of great characterisation and choice of places to switch points of view. Weir’s protagonist Mark Watney, is compelling and real. The secondary characters are well fleshed out too, considering how little time we get to spend with the rest of the cast. One of the things I loved most about the flight crew was that, as Weir suggested in an interview, they are all exemplary human beings. Unlike some sci-fi’s where we see astronauts fighting amongst themselves or losing their minds, Weir recognises that we only send people into space who are fully capable of handling the associated pressures. The drama is centred around the dangers of space, not the people who have signed up to be there. Despite the heavy maths and science that is present in the text, it is also fast paced and thrilling. The balance is achieved, once again, through great characterisation and humour. I don’t read a lot of hard sci-fi, especially as it can be brutal, overly-technical or too dark. The Martian, however, kept me smiling for days.

 

Film. *****

This film was spectacular. There has been a lot of wonderful sci-fi films released over the past few years, such as Gravity and Interstellar. As a sound editor, I am capable of enjoying a film like this on 2 separate levels. I watch films from a technical standpoint, analysing the sound mostly, but the visuals, the editing, and the craft of the film-makers in general. On this level alone, the Martian was fantastic. Great sound, great visual effects, both practical and computer generated. I want to go to Mars just to listen to that beautiful dust storm. I want to drive a rover across the rolling red plains. The film lived up to my imagination of the scenery and exceeded my expectations of what would be delivered. In terms of the story itself, I think the film-makers stayed very true to the feel and tone of the book as well as covering much more of the plot than I’d expected. If this was a recreation of my book, I’d be blown away. I love Ridley Scott’s representation of Weir’s vision. The science is as close to accurate as possible, though the technical details are never overdone. Reality never gets in the way of a good yarn. It’s still all about the character and his story.

So for me Book vs Film? Well, they’re pretty even in terms of my enjoyment, but since the film wouldn’t exist without the book, then perhaps I’ll let the book have this one.

How about you did you like one and not the other?

http://gizmodo.com/how-nasa-helped-make-the-martians-user-interfaces-reale-1734698612?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow