Creativity…I kinda got me some

At the end 2012 I made the bold decision to focus on being creative for a year…so as I round out the year, I thought I’d have a look to see what worked and what didn’t…and to see if it made any difference to my life.

2 Degrees of Melbourne videos

One of my goals was to shoot and edit some videos of local Melbourne people who I think reflect what a great city Melbourne is. On the plus side, I got three of these done…and I was really happy with them (Andy White, Mick Thomas, Geraldine Quinn). On the downside…I only got three of these done over the course of an entire year, it’s not like I’m creating episodes of Sherlock FFS!
But on the whole I think that this was a triumph for creativity…they pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of asking relative strangers to come and do something for nothing…and definitely out of my technical comfort zone as I tried to be interviewer, sound guy, camera man, lighting dude and editor, all on very basic equipment. But if the essence of creativity is doing a whole lot of work and not getting paid anything for it, then this was an unparalleled success. Plus I got to have Andy, Mick and Geraldine just hangout for a coffee and chat in our kitchen…and that is freaking priceless.


Another goal was to get some singing lessons and possibly sing in public. This was also a success. I did singing lessons with the amazing Emily Hayes (if you’re in Melbourne and want to learn to sing I cannot recommend her highly enough) and that lead to joining a choir called the Septemberists (we sang an entire Decemberists album…in September). Getting to rehearse and then perform with a group was an amazing experience, and getting to sing with Katie Hull-Brown and Emily during my singing lessons was again a great opportunity to push myself well beyond my comfort zone. It also got me back to playing a bit of guitar. But most of all it made me realise that there are few sounds more captivating than voices singing in harmony.


I really wanted to push myself with my photography this year as well. One of my goals was to do a masterclass with Veeral Patel, but my moving house…and his heading off to shoot the Tour de France made it impossible to lock in a time that worked. But I will do this…oh yes, I will do this (or possibly hide myself in his luggage and head over for next year’s tour!) I did manage to do some long exposure photography that I was really happy with,

ISO 400, 28mm, f11 & 30 second exposure
St Kilda pier
ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8, 30 Seconds
A shack just outside of Foster

and took some portraits that I thought really captured the subject as a person rather than just an image.

Geraldine Quinn


I tend to put the lens cap in my mouth when I use the camera...Xavier clearly likes the look
I tend to put the lens cap in my mouth when I use the camera…Xavier clearly likes the look

But at the same time, I didn’t spend nearly enough time using the ‘manual’ setting on the camera…and relied on Lightroom to make the images really work, so there is still a lot of work to be done.
Also, 90% of taking a great photo is actually being there to take the shot…an average photographer who is actually there, has a much better chance of taking a great shot, than a brilliant photographer who isn’t there. So one of my big aims for this year was to get out and about to take more photos. But with three young kids and a house renovation to keep me busy, I only managed to head out for a dedicated photo session 3 times for the year. Which is pretty shitfull…but leaves a lot of room for improvement!

Surprising synergies

Not only was this the title of my highly unsuccessful 2002 business/management book, but it was also one of the big things that my year of creativity taught me; creativity in one area opens up creative options in others. If you go to a gig and ask if you can just stroll up on stage and take a photo, you will most likely be politely told to sod off. But if you’re there to sing…then you have full access to stage and can take shots like this with impunity.

Rock n Roller_sml-2Rock n Roller_sml-3Rock n Roller_sml-6

And if you walk up to Mick Thomas and ask to take a quick portrait shot of him, he may explain that he has better things to do with his time…but if you’ve just filmed an interview with him, he might let you take a shot like this.Mick Thomas-1

And if you shoot a video with Andy, you might be asked to ruin breakfasts around Melbourne by appearing as a page 3 boy in the Sunday Age.

So in conclusion…

While I certainly didn’t dedicate sufficient time to being creative, the benefits I got from the time I did put in were fantastic. My videos and photography for my day job came ahead in leaps and bounds, I got to meet and work with some people who I really admire and I had some experiences that I’ll remember and draw upon for the rest of my life. The challenge will be maintaining it next year when so much of my focus will be on getting physically ready for a tilt at the Melbourne Ironman in 2015…and of course not thinking to myself every time we visit someone out of Melbourne “I wonder if I could get any good photos there”.

2 degrees of Melbourne – Episode 1: Andy White

A while back I wrote a blog about how this year I was going to focus on being more creative. It turns out that living with your parents while your house is being renovated, and then moving back in to the aforementioned house, leaves very little scope for creativity. But we have been back in our house for about 6 weeks now, and I have just finished my first real creative project…and I’m really happy with how it has come out.

The idea

I love Melbourne, and I love hearing people’s stories…so one of the big projects I wanted to embark on this year was to interview some Melbourne people who I admire and create a series of short videos. Basically to talk about my home city, via the people who I think make it great. In theory this is very doable…but in reality, people who are worth interviewing and making videos of, often have better things to do with their time than talk to you for a video that they are not getting paid for.
So it was with a fair degree of trepidation that I approached my first potential interviewee, Andy White (of Fyxomatosis fame). I put off writing to him for about two weeks, then I spent an hour or so crafting the perfect email, then I spent the next 12 hours preparing contingency plans for the inevitable rejection. So it’s fair to say that when he replied with ‘Sure. When/Where?’, I was both surprised and overjoyed…not to mention impressed with his brevity.
But once you have someone who has agreed to be interviewed, you then have to prepare for the interview. You have to make sure you have all the gear that you need. Most importantly, you have to believe that you are going to create something that your interviewee will be happy with, so that the next time they see you they don’t start screaming ‘You!’ and throwing things at you.

The filming of the interview

Andy was happy to come to my house for the filming, so at least I knew we would be able to get some good light…and if we used one of our new ‘Of course your happiness is my prime concern darling…wait, HOW MUCH?!!!’ chairs I might be able to claim them as a tax deduction. I used a roll of white paper as the background (I gave a guy my mountain bike when he was looking at getting back into cycling and he repaid me with reams of white paper, which make an awesome background for filming or photography) and I shot it all on my Canon 550D and my iPhone 4 (I used a Zoom H2 for the audio).
Any concerns I had about whether I would get enough good stuff to edit with were assuaged within the first 3 minutes. Andy is a dream interviewee, he was relaxed, fearless and best of all, engaging.
After 40 minutes of interview, the sensor on my camera was starting to overheat…and Xavier had returned to wreak havoc on my film set, so we called it a day.

The edit

As I said, the interview went for 40 minutes. Normally my first cut (where you get rid of all of the stuff you know you won’t be able to use) would whittle this down to about 10-15 minutes…then I would begin the tricky job of cutting it back to 3-5 minutes. But when I got rid of all of the guff from Andy’s interview I still had 30 minutes of footage…pretty much his entire interview was great! Which is great if you’re producing a half hour doco…but when you’re producing a 3-5 minute video for the web, it’s a freaking nightmare.
I was eventually brutal enough and cut it down to 5’30″(but there was some great stuff I’ll have to find another use for!), added some photos and footage that I had (and two that I got from Andy), wrote the music track in GarageBand…and the end result goes a little something like this…

or for the Vimeo fans

2 Degrees of Melbourne – Andy White from 2 Degrees of Separation on Vimeo.

So there we have it, the ‘Year of creativity’ is finally underway…my next interview targets are Richard Gill, Danny Collis and Hanna Assifiri. So if any of you have any good contacts with them, please let me know.

A big thanks

Last but not least, I’d like to thank Andy very much for taking the time, being such a great interviewee and most of all for running the best bike ride I’ve ever done, The Melburn Roobaix.