Broadly speaking, my interest is in writing, directing and editing, those being the roles I want to get into. More specifically though, my interest is in creating comedy, especially for online and television, as well as in creating music videos. Those two seem unrelated, and there’s no denying that they are, but they’re two key areas of interest for me and perhaps through this process I can find which is better suited for me, or whether both will continue to reign as genres I will look into down the track.
I am attracted to short-form video and find platforms like YouTube interesting, and want to understand what it takes to be a one-man crew as well as what it means to work as part of a creative team.
I think I’ve always been interested in online video, and it was actually my main reason for choosing to study media, having followed a variety of YouTubers since middle school and having always found the freedom they have in their content really interesting, whether its sketches, game commentary, vlogging, etc. I love the idea that it’s a hobby turned career for most of these people, and I like that you can see their development as filmmakers over the years as they continue to produce content. It’s a very personal platform in this respect. I like how it can be a launching pad to other areas as well, and has the ability to keep a person quite niched in their own personal area of interest, since that’s what they’ve been creating on their channel and what people know them for. It’s also interesting in regards to self management and independence in regards to controlling content, marketing, revenue, etc.
It’s an abstract platform and one I find appealing. I also think it’s attractive in that its a quick way to get your ideas out there, and there are communities that exist on platforms such as YouTube that are really creative and can aid in collaboration, and I like that a lot.
Music videos have been another area I’ve always had an interest in. I was pretty much brought up watching Rage, and love the creative freedom that comes with writing film for music. Of course, you can be limited by a lot of things, such as the artist, the label and the genre, and it can be quite a commercial endeavour at times. However, the artistic possibilities of music videos really hooks me, and I think some of my favourite pieces of film are in fact music videos, and I really enjoy that.
What I’ve experienced so far in music video is a lot of directorial freedom, and that’s a way of working that is exciting to me.
Then there’s comedy.
Comedy has perhaps been something I’ve always wanted to do but not always been aware of, but through doing work experience it has really cemented itself as being a key interest of mine for the future. The people I’ve met in Melbourne are so friendly and fun, and the shoots have been so much fun to work on that I can’t imagine another genre appealing to me more. Admittedly, a lot of my interest in online video has been based in comedy, and so I guess if I had to narrow down my main area of interest, that would be it: online comedy video. There’s just something so appealing about making people happy and having a good time doing it, it would be a dream to make people laugh and to make a career out of it. Doing these interviews too, I have felt myself getting more excited when the conversation turned to comedy, and if I’m honest, I should’ve known better. I’ve always looked up to a variety of Australian comedians, initially those that I could watch from home, the likes of Hamish and Andy on TV, and those I glimpsed on the broadcast of the Gala. Moving to Melbourne, I couldn’t wait to start my work experience with sketch group Aunty Donna, and to this day it’s still been my favourite thing to work on. Since moving to Melbourne, I’ve prided myself on my growing knowledge of the Melbourne comedy scene, and really I want nothing more than to be involved in that community somehow. I guess that because I’m not a performer myself, I kind of shelved that interest in pursuit of film, however I’m realising now that it’s a passion I really don’t want to ignore.
Of course, I still love film, and so I think the question now is what angle to take. I’ve never been a performer, but that side of things surprisingly appeals to me a lot and maybe it would be a good idea to explore that, make some videos where I’m the subject, make things I wouldn’t normally try, push myself to find what I like, even if it surprises people. Or maybe I should just write and direct for comedy, and find a way in through those streams. I have an interview coming up with Michael Shanks, writer, director, editor, composer and star of the web series Wizards Of Oz. He also runs his own YouTube channel, and even went to VidCon as a part of the Australian panel. I think he is doing exactly what I want to do, and so I’m very excited to hear what he as to say.
Who am I interviewing?
Max Miller – director/editor – works in online comedy, music video, TVC and editing
Lawrence Leung – writer/director/editor/presenter/actor – works in a variety of spaces, I am interested in his ABC shows and his personal projects
Josh Harris – director/editor – works in music video
Zachary McSweeney – director/editor – works in music video (from RMIT)
Michael Shanks – writer/director/editor/composer – works in online comedy videos, made the series Wizards of Oz which was picked up by SBS
What do I want to learn from my interviews?
I want to understand how these people got their start, how they support themselves, how they get their work out there (both in regards to working to completion of a project, and distribution), how they find clients, how they manage their business, what they consider the best parts of their work and what they consider the worst. Overall, I want it to either cement my interest in online content, comedy and music video, or make me question it as a viable or interesting career choice, allowing me to consider other avenues.
Timeline to completion
Monday 5th Sept – Interview Lawrence
Tuesday 6th Sept – Interview Josh
Tuesday 6th Sept – Interview Max
Friday 9th Sept – Hand in Draft
*Michael and Zach’s interviews to happen in the next couple of weeks, exact dates not yet specified.
* * *
has done writing for film and TV, has performed on TV, behind camera, stand up on stage, sketch comedy and improv, a bit of radio, a podcast
“just try everything”
mainly the genre has been comedy – good thing about comedy is that its a genre not a medium – its versatile
i just write what i find funny and hope people like it
first love is film
so expensive getting film up, such a big collaboration to get it off the script – easier to do live work so that’s where it all started
that was how he got into TV – got more well known by performing, got given a job on TV
First show “choose your own adventure” and new film “Sucker” are taken off of his ideas for his live shows – tried and tested already in front of an audience
Didn’t get to go to film school
Used to do a lot of performing in high school, doing improv and comedy, tried to get into same kind of things in uni but it was very cliquey – so he and a friend stated their own theatre group on campus – called “the improbables” – improvised sit coms and movies, full length plays
started out by doing a fully improvised sit com that is the entire length of a sit com with ads and everything.
Took it on after uni finished to Melbourne comedy festival
Group got sick of working together in the end, began doing solo stand up instead
He was approached by the Chaser guys after doing solo stand up, and he wrote for the show from here in Melbourne and sent it to Sydney for them to use
A lot of his stand up was based around ‘social experiments’ filmed on the streets that he’d then show in his stand up routine – similar to what the Chaser guys were planning on making in War on Everything, so they asked him to write for them
Chaser took a break for a year, and during this break Lawrence asked them for advice on making his own show. They said since they were on break, but keeping their production house, they would help him make it
Group of comedians here in melbourne are very nice – they help and mentor the next generation of comedians – eg. Andrew Denton helped the Chaser start, and they helped Lawrence. Now the Checkout is passing the torch on to it’s new members (particular emphasis on having girls in the new “line up” and mentoring a more diverse group of young comedians coming out of uni)
He always thought making a film would be his favourite thing since that’s always what he wanted to do, however now he’s made a film, he thinks TV might be his favourite thing. He likes to write for TV
He’s been writing for a show on SBS 2 right now and really enjoys getting to write for a project that’s not his own, bringing his own ideas to the writer’s room
Australia TV appreciated more than film by Aus audiences
Has the way we watch things on screen changed? We are more likely to watch things on smaller screens. Lawrence asks whether there are more close ups in online content designed for mobile devices since faces need to be bigger to see expressions – are there less wide shots?
Comedy has always been prevalent online – however a lot of comedy depends on two shots or wide shots
His theory is that if you see someone fall at a distance its funny, but up close you feel concerned – comedy needs wide shots – is this being lost online
you laugh at something, not with something
ABC giving money to people with established online audiences to go make content – not taking a punt on new unknowns
People watching iView but not TV – ABC has to adjust by getting these new people in with existing online audiences and attempting to take their audiences for themselves – will often take over social media too – Lawrence knows that Bondi Hipsters fought to keep their own social media and won, which is rare, but shows how much the ABC wanted their audience
He has had to work other jobs to support himself
stand up is frequent and leads up to comedy festival, if you have a buzz around you , producers will come see your show and it can often be a way to get picked up for TV or for funding
Funding – back in the day, you would run a fundraising show – people buy tickets to your show, that money goes towards funding your next project
crowdfunding – a strange concept, asking people for money – especially when all you can promise is that this film will be good
Important to have funding bodies, you can’t just ask strangers for money forever!
it’s easy to get your hands on a camera that will shoot good video now a days – more important is nailing sound
self taught in practical elements of film – studied cinema studies, but it was just theory
a lot of practical things can affect how a film looks – it might be that they needed to get that shot before the sun went down so they did it in one take, etc. – not every choice is an aesthetic one
You always make a film three times: when you write it, when you film it, when you edit it
bringing big ideas to the writing room and to producers – often big ideas might get turned down because of budget, but sometimes its agreed that stakes should be high and the character needs to have a climax worthy of the episode and so things might get passed – dream big, pitch big, and then let the producers take it down from there
Sometimes you just won’t know what works until you film it – something might be more exciting when you get to the edit than you thought, and so you repurpose it to be the climax – reorder the episode
‘Leung Shot Productions’ – production company made just for that show
lots of shows/films set up a seperate production entity for that production so that its easer for accounting, business, liability
Business questions are ones for producers – if you’re not freelancing, and can avoid producing, it’s okay not to understand everything about the business side of things
The most difficult thing about the job is that in film/TV, its hard to know what is going to work. Live theatre means you get to see the immediate reaction, whereas with TV you dont get to see that. Especially with new media, people watch a lot of media alone, media consumption is more of a solo experience now
People who comment on content tend to be people who either really love or really hate it, no in between
analysis you’re seeing then is untrue
ratings doesn’t consider ‘likes’
views are vague because it just means someone clicked on it, particularly ambiguous now with auto play features
How do you tell if anything you make is good?
Maybe retention, but that just means they kept watching – doesn’t mean they’re laughing (in comedy) / actually liking it
All you can really know nowadays is if you yourself like it
You’re only judged on a final product, not on all the hard work and all the choices that had to be made – that’s difficult too
negotiating differences in opinion – important to find people with the same frame of mind – are they in it for fame, are they in it to create good content, are they in it to write, are they in it to act? Use this to decide on roles, on who should be in charge of what, and on what gets made
Roles are good to prevent conflict – catered to talents, someone worthy gets final decision in different areas
You’re allowed to suck to begin with
YouTubers deleting old content – hiding away from the ‘bad’ content
Rebecca Black’s new video starts with a disclaimer saying she’s changed since Friday, it cuts to her crying – YouTube allows for this personal approach, interesting socially because people were then supportive of her rather than mean like before
Online creators afraid of changing their style because they could lose followers, even if they’re own personal style, sense of humour has changed – can you change without losing your audience
YouTubers coming out and stating that they’re content might change earns them support – something you can’t do in traditional media – its so personable
People can find online presence which can get them other jobs
Difficult to know the difference between networking and self-indulgent promotion
Director’s mood is essential to a shoot – if a director is stressed, it can often affect how a shoot runs because the crew will feel uneasy
currently has a full time job with an ad agency
ads is a good way to make money, and gives time for other creative projects on the side, but its really hard to get it
full time is not as preferable as freelance, but it’ll be good to build up experience and save up some money
So far the shoots have been small, so he’s being taking on multiple roles – directing, filming, editing, etc.
He’s done two music videos since starting to work full time, on weekends, and aunty donna
nice to be able clock off, whereas in freelance you never stop – setting your own hours can mean you don’t get to switch off
Out of uni, he freelanced, but also has a part time job. After 8 months got a full time job as an assistant editor at a post house, worked there for 3 years, then freelanced for a year and a half, now he’s got this full time job
enjoys freelance the most
working full time can really give you a boost though – you make so much content and meet so many people
got the editing job through his ex editing tutor from uni – she recommended him
the whole time though, he was still filming aunty donna and music video
was one of three editors of the feature Oddball – left his job at the post house to do that
he wasn’t looking for his current job – they emailed him
don’t quit doing free work
work won’t just appear when you finish uni – you will have to do free work, low paid work, etc
He says to take on a job, it should be one of three things:
– good showreel material
– an opportunity to learn something from or experience something big/new on, or meet people
– pays well
However, if the job is for a money making business – a corporate thing, for example – expect to get paid. Creative work could be unpaid, but if its for a company or a commercial client, you should 100% be getting paid
the no. 1 thing that will get you work is your showreel
got to live in Alaska for 6 weeks shooting a film
He loves short films the most, but they’re the hardest to do and he’s done the fewest of them compared to his other work because you need budgets, full crews, etc. and that can be hard to get
music videos are the same, but you can do it without a full crew – it’s still great though, because its creative and involves a lot of the same processes
Aunty Donna just started as something fun, and it’s just happened to blow up so big
been good to be a part of a project that has grown like that
easier to get money for music videos because you work with a budget – other projects are harder to fund in terms of crew, etc.
always use a producer to manage budget
bad experience – running out of time – don’t be complacent, don’t think that just because its worked before, it will work out – they had to get double the budget from the artist to film the second day
Bad producers can ruin a shoot – people who just don’t care enough
If you find crew who work hard and you like, keep them for as long as possible
Don’t be the horror story! Try not to make crew work overtime, be nice on set, don’t forget people’s needs, be friendly to everyone, etc
Won music video of the year from rolling stone magazine for a song that finished no 2 in the hottest 100 (High – Peking Duk) — didn’t get a single job opportunity out of it. Not even an email.
He thought that would be the big thing that got them jobs, and he thinks its specifically a music video thing and how that industry works – if you won a short film award, it would be useful in getting funding, etc. Same goes for an award winning ad and ad agencies wanting you. However the music video award just didn’t mean much, bands tend to ask for multiple pitches from different directors and already know people they like, it’s a different area to work in
He’s pitched on a lot of music videos, and made it through as the chosen pitch, but the budget has fallen through or the music video has just never been made
great comedy community vs. terrible music video community (“no loyalty”)
winning awards for aunty donna has potential to get funding from screen Australia or to be commissioned by a company like comedy central, but it doesn’t do a lot
Working for comedy central – they were given a lot of freedom to make what they wanted – trust the comedians know what works for them
ABC was different – made a pilot episode for Fresh Blood – because it was an episode, ABC wanted to make sure it met certain criteria, but they were never forced to do anything they didn’t want to do
Screen Australia gave them complete freedom, didn’t want to interfere with what is working in Aunty Donna
He thinks that if the pilot had been picked up, it would’ve been a lot different – it would be a television series budget, of course the ABC would want some sort of control when the stakes are that much higher
Wants to make feature films and TV series
Before aunty donna he’d never imagined doing comedy, but now he couldn’t imagine making a film without some level of comedy in it
His ideal feature film, if he were to make one, would be a serious narrative with comedy elements in it.
A lot of his connections came through working – many from the post house, a lot of jobs came from people he’d met there
Connections made in uni didn’t end up meaning much, apart from the tutor who got him the first editing job
made his first music video with others he’d met at the post house
got the shoot in alaska through someone who knew him from the post house
post house = foot in the door!
Aunty Donna was completely seperate – the boys met at uni, they already knew Max, they wanted to do a show at the comedy festival and wanted to send in a series of sketches to audition for a spot, and they got the spot, and that’s how it all began
People from channel 31 saw them at the festival, asked them to make more sketches for their show – that’s how rumpus room started
at the time, tom and max weren’t officially a part of aunty donna
now they’ve made so much online content, they are a part of the company
Aunty Donna is a registered business, they have weekly business meetings, the boys meet 4 or 5 days a week to write/rehearse, max is forever shooting/editing
it’s harder now that max has a full time job, but for the other guys the intention is that aunty donna will become a full time job
its close to being that. if they were a stand up act, it would be full time and would support them. but because they have to split the money 6 ways, it’s not that yet
for max, he’d always want to be doing other creative work on the side. but for the boys, performing being their full time would be great, they’d probably just do aunty donna
Wouldn’t necessarily have to move over seas to make it bigger – there’s no reason why they couldn’t get a show on Australian television and make that a full time thing
live show kick started the youtube channel, youtube channel brings people to the live shows, makes them sell out, builds their reputation, makes funding bodies become interested
smaller things snowball into bigger things
as the youtube channel got bigger, he learnt that to as you grow your audience you need to keep updating with content. If you aren’t constantly uploading, you aren’t growing your channel. During 1999 they saw the biggest growth in their channel ever – basically doubled subscriber base. Now they are aiming to have a video a week
Web series help a lot with that
Lots of meetings to draw up a plan for this constant content – it went from doing this thing for fun, to becoming a business where they need to make goals in terms of subscribers, views, content, live shows, money, etc.
Aiming to up the quality of the content on youtube – no more lo fi stuff
want to make another web series like 1999, but this time it will be with no funding
uni was great and he learnt a lot, but he learnt so much more after uni
be proactive in learning things
film should always be on your mind
in bed on your laptop – watch some film essays, read film blogs, be on film blog website, look into new camera gear, study favourite directors – just keep educating yourself, learn new things constantly, don’t presume you know enough
always be thinking about it, try to have multiple projects on the go so you’re always pushing yourself
talk about film with people
don’t be stagnant
originally wanted to be a cinematographer and make features
after he graduated high school him and his friends started making fan videos for a band in America called China Doll Guns, and it got really popular
he just sort of fell into music videos from there, a friend who was a musician saw his fan video and asked him to make one for her, and so on
he enjoys the creative freedom of music video
he would love to only do music videos for the rest of his life, doesn’t care that he’s not doing features or anything bigger, but there’s not enough money in just music videos
The industry is unreliable – budgets can change so much from when the pitch happens to when something gets made
budgets restrict work – an artist can think a budget is big, but it might not actually be enough to get gear and crew, because they don’t understand how much goes into filming
did a plozible campaign to raise money for a short film once
he has gotten sponsorship from bands before – they often don’t give money, but give products to use in the video
Fudge (hair product), red bull, alcohol
some give money, but usually its just free stuff if a brand is sponsoring it
really enjoys producing
he doesn’t think many people are very good at it
producers should be chasing everybody, not the other way around
as a director, he likes people to be one step ahead of him – he shouldn’t be calling up a producer asking when he can see a location, for example, they should already have that planned
when he gets given a budget, he tries to create an idea around that budget
figure out which bits are the most important and put the budget towards that, then pull favours
when people are working for free, be sure to pay back the favour – if they’re worth it, and if you want to work with them (ie. if they work for you for free, but they weren’t good for you, you shouldn’t feel obliged to pay them back somehow)
You wouldn’t be pulling favours from people you didn’t want to work with anyway
its important to understand, at least a little bit, the money side of things
a big part of being a producer is being able to talk people down in costs – negotiating locations, etc.
he often cuts into his own pay because he is both producer and director – a producer can help in this respect
producers will often be the ones who take the least amount of money
he works an editing job on the side, freelancing from home for different places, he doesn’t like it
freelancing gives him the time to do creative things like his music videos
If he knows he has three editing jobs and a music video during a week, he will work really hard at getting the editing out of the way because its freelance, and he can do that
theres a website for film freelancers
being a runner is good for experience and contacts – just need a car
even if you dont like a job, work to stay in the industry
working part time in retail is the worst – people who don’t understand film or what you’re interested in will get annoyed if you’re taking time off to work shoots
getting a low level job in the industry to start out is good not only in that respect, but also because you will meet people and get to watch shoots in process – you’ll be learning while working, getting paid, and you’ll have free time to explore creative projects
some of the higher up artists are easier to work with than lesser known, no budget artists because lower level artists want to be more involved in what you’re creating, how they’re money is being spent, etc. whereas big labels will just send out an idea for the feel of the video with some criteria such as the band wants to be in the video/doesn’t want to be in the video, they want this shot, etc. and then you will pitch an idea, and if you make it through you’ll get the budget and you can just make it
some artists will have specific ideas, but you can talk them around – especially if they trust you, like your other work, etc.
if you get a feeling that a video is difficult before you even started, get out early, unless you think it’s really going to be worth it
some clients can be tricky, want you to change the edit completely, etc. and if you’re not being paid a lot, it might not be worth it
sometimes its good for the collaboration though
some of his better pieces have been ones where he’s been given full control over the idea
always have a treatment written, so if a band is unhappy later with what you gave them, you can go back to the treatment you signed on and show them that you made exactly what you signed off on
A good crew can really make a good shoot
never use your own money
don’t go above half your budget for equipment, and salaries if you can help it, because often how a music video budget will work is that you get paid the first half to begin with, then the second half after its done. Just incase the band doesn’t pay up, then at least you’re not out of pocket trying to pay for things/people
trust your producer
you want crew who aren’t just good, but are also confident. However not so confident that they’ll take over from the director
often a cinematographer will bring their own crew with them
even if someone is nice and you like them, but they didn’t amaze you with their work, don’t work with them again
Drew Rhode – location manager on HBO’s The Leftovers
advice: say yes to things! When someone asks if you can do something, do it, even if you’re unsure. Every opportunity could be the one that gets you noticed, gets you to that big shoot
small shoots can feel like you’re more involved, like family, try and keep that as you go into bigger shoots