Are you meant to be a filmmaker?

Being a filmmaker, I’ve met many others over the years and it gets easier to tell those involved in it for the right reasons and those who are not.

Hoping for fame or fortune when becoming screenwriters, directors, actors etc. is a fair goal and aspiration and in truth, all of the above roles are about trying to build a career out of telling stories – which means making money by default. It’s the kind of job where success in these fields means fame and fortune are sometimes within reach. However, that shouldn’t be why we do it – the operative words here being DO IT. I believe if you’re meant to be a filmmaker, then you’ll just do it.

I often come up against people that take issue with my more commercial tastes and sensibilities but the truth is, every film I loved most as a child was essentially a genre film or family film with meaning or heart. That’s why they became commercial hits, not because they were commercial films by definition. These days, the same kind of films feel so focus-grouped that they manage to filter out the meaning behind the story and the reason people were passionate about telling that story. The very essence of what made a story great to begin with is sometimes absent altogether, as was the case with Zack Snyder’s take on “Man of Steel” which wasn’t a Superman movie at all. Oftentimes, this problem stems from filmmakers not involved for the right reasons or not having an authentic passion for telling a story and audiences today have a laser-like instinct for it.

jpspielbergMaking a feature film is a huge undertaking and isn’t necessarily something everyone should go ahead and do, especially not without some filmmaking in other less risky mediums like shorts, web series etc. first. Building an audience who will anticipate that film’s release and being realistic about the potential audience for a film from the outset is vital, many an indie feature film with unknown cast has been made and failed to make a return or launch the careers of its makers this way. There are of course exceptions, but I highly suspect the reason the first “Paranormal Activity” did well and found an audience was because it was made for a low impact amount, had the viral marketing spend behind it and a great endorsement by a star director in Steven Spielberg calling it one of the scariest films he’d ever seen. That sells itself even if the film isn’t even any good (I still haven’t seen “Paranormal Activity” myself so that’s not a comment on that film’s merits).

The question I ask people who say they are filmmakers when I meet them is where I can see their work. The question I ask a screenwriter when I meet them is how many completed scripts they’ve written and if it’s just one, if they’ve shown it to someone who isn’t a family member or friend. The question I ask someone who says they’re an actor, is if they’ve done any shorts or if they’re doing any shows that I can come and see them in.

I don’t ask this because I expect the quality of a film, script or performance to be top-notch, I ask it because I want to know if they’re serious. I ask it because I want to know if they are putting themselves out there and allowing themselves to be open and vulnerable to risk. I ask it because I want to know if they are waiting for permission or if they are simply just doing it.

To survive the amount of rejection, insecurity and self-doubt that will inevitably creep in along the way, there has to be something bigger than fame or fortune driving you and to stop you giving up when all hope is lost and it seems too hard, like it’ll never happen. It’s that fire in your belly, that passion and urge for telling stories. That longing in your heart that most people get when they’ve fallen in love with the wrong person.

The great thing about that feeling when it’s related to writing, filmmaking, acting etc. is that other people can’t take it away from you. Someone might tell you that they don’t feel the same way about you, but a film will never do that – you’ll get back the love you put into it. Someone might tell you they aren’t interested in another date spent in your company, but a blank page will always welcome your words. Someone might tell you that you don’t look right or say they think you’re ugly, but that’s no reason to stop performing.

I believe that the only way you know you are a filmmaker, a writer, an actor or whatever you want to be in life comes from a feeling. A feeling that’s hard to put into words, but it’s sort of like feeling that you don’t really know how to do anything else.

That doesn’t mean it’s the only job you can physically do. I’ve worked in office jobs, in a cinema and in retail before, but I’ve always felt like I’ve been faking it, like I’m some kind of imposter hoping nobody will find out the truth. Strangely though, that’s sometimes how I feel on a film set when I’m the director and yet it’s accompanied by that other feeling at the same time.

That other feeling is that in some way, being there makes more sense. You suddenly find yourself able to get up at crazy times in the morning that otherwise wouldn’t be the case. You find yourself excited to go to work. Just as you may feel a little out of place on a film set, there’s something about it that makes you feel at home, like you belong there. Like this is what makes you come alive, somewhere in your body it is telling you that it just feels right.

I believe that if you’re meant to be a filmmaker, that feeling will lead you into a mindset where you just do it, and that’s because it’s not a choice. It’s not a short-term commitment or a quick-win game, filmmaking is going to take your life.

In the end, I believe you’re meant to be a filmmaker…if you can’t imagine not being one.

“My advice for aspiring actors is just, simply, to act.” ~ Sir Ian McKellen

“Ask yourself, what makes you come alive – and go do that.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

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Four Words and a Poisoned Apple

“He likes you too”. It only takes four words, just those four words and before you know it your mind is flooded with expectation, hopes, dreams and you’re hit with feelings you never thought possible as you accumulate the courage to put yourself out there again. It’s like a fairy tale, maybe fate had our paths cross for a reason? Maybe this is that special person I hadn’t even been looking for? Then again…maybe not.

Most of us have lady friends who just want us to be happy, they mean well and they think they know what it’s like to be gay and how hard it can be to meet guys who aren’t just looking for sex. Let’s face it, the odds are already stacked against us so any help can only be a good thing, right? Well, the potential pitfalls of that mean you can sometimes fall into the trap of becoming a project and feeling like some kind of social experiment or mathematical equation: “if I put Gay X with Gay Y then we’ll get Z and everyone will live happily ever after!”. Um, yeah, but no.  

The problem is, when girls get involved everything gets way too complicated. There’s mind games, gossip and sometimes the little white lies really aren’t that little at all. Really, all you want to do is cut through the bullshit and sit down and have a conversation with the person it’s about, but then when you do manage that it’s too late. You’ve already gone too far, you’ve done and said enough to create the weirdness after acting on false information. At the time that can be incredibly embarrassing and painful, but eventually it just becomes funny and morphs into four other words instead: “What was I thinking?!”.

When it comes to attraction, I always use the Oprah method; “never allow yourself to want those who don’t want you”. Once you know someone doesn’t want you, or more importantly – they don’t even really want to know you, there’s no point wasting time trying to make them change their mind and see how awesome you are. You already know that and so do your friends. It’s like running after a moving train; eventually the platform will end and you’re not going to catch it, you’ll just fall off and end up on your face.

The disclosure of mutual attraction is a dangerous thing, it should be approached with caution. If it’s not true or the people saying it aren’t 100% sure, then it’s deadly. It’s the poisoned apple of the mind and at some point someone will act on that information and things will never be the same between those people again. It’s very hard to have a normal friendship once that revelation has been made, I wonder if even a reboot would be possible and that’s really a far more upsetting and painful thing than them not being “into you”, it will always be a lost opportunity. When you’re brave enough to make the first move in the first place, finding out you’ve been duped is a bit like being locked out of the house naked when a group of school kids are walking past laughing. When this happened to me (metaphorically speaking), I thought about it.

I thought and thought and then I asked myself, while I’m left out here naked in the cold like this, why not let everyone walk past and have a laugh too? If I do that, maybe some of them will relate to it? Maybe it’s happened to them too and they’ll start to laugh with me instead? Maybe I’ll feel better about it then? That will mean it isn’t allowed to be pointless anymore.

So, I wrote a play. It’s a play about love. It’s a play about being gay and it’s a play about all of the above. Oh yes, and now I’m speaking in rhyme. FML!

“Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can” ~ Elsa Maxwell

“Someone Like You” by Chaz Harris is on at BATS Theatre 2-11 August. Tickets are available here.

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It’s been a long time, baby.

Hello blogosphere, it has been a long time, a very long time! Almost three months in fact, a whole year has come and gone since I last posted, what is up with that?! It must be the end of the world or something, oh wait 2012. Have you seen that movie? Scary stuff! I sound like I have ADHD, like that guy from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In actual fact I am just tired and unwilling to go to sleep yet. Did I mention I haven’t blogged in ages? Right, yeah….

I come with reasons aplenty! Since the end of August last year, myself and my fellow Producer Eleanor Cooke were dealing with the bitter news that our fabulous fantasy short film about bullying and domestic violence had been shunned by funding bodies, although we expected that. Never mind, me being me, I had already decided the moment I stopped writing the script that I had a film in my head and it was not going to leave me alone until words were spoken, footage was shot and four days of sleepless nights had been had by all. It was time to make another short film.

Since then, Eleanor and I have been knocking on every door we could think of, using a global crowdfunding platform through which we raised around $1500NZD towards the film’s budget and have raised money from several other avenues. In the last month, we have really seen much more momentum and raised around 40% of the amount we need to shoot the film in April.

“Broken Glass” is my first foray into the world of fantasy and follows a young boy who is being bullied at school and has an abusive father at home. One day when playing alone in the woods, he encounters a mysterious creature that will change his life forever.

The film has gained the endorsement of two major organisations in the family violence sector; Shine who are NZ’s largest domestic abuse charity organisation and Jigsaw, a network of 42 family and child protection services. With their support, we are hoping that we can raise enough to get the important issue of family violence on screen in the context of a modern day fairy tale.

Meanwhile, in amongst all the excitement of planning to make this short film I have also been developing a feature film script called “The Glassmaker” which is the intended spin-off project that the short film will serve as a kind of origin story or prequel to. I’m currently in a race against time to get that feature script into a sharp and focused enough shape before we shoot the short so that they can both feel like two pieces of the same puzzle, so to speak. So, as you can see, I have been rather busy! However, I am hoping to be able to blog a little more frequently now that we seem to be on course and bringing you updates on it. I might even have time to blog about some other things too, much has been happening in the world, have you seen Hillary Clinton’s 30 minute speech to the UN about LGBT rights? If not, go forth and seek it out. It was full of goosebumps and hurrah’s.

We are now $4000 away from our funding goal of what we need to get the film in the can, you can find out more about it at www.brokenglassfilm.wordpress.com or see our teaser trailer here:

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Broken Glass, Not Broken Dreams

I know I’ve been AWOL from this blog lately as I’ve been working very hard on getting my next short film project off the ground.

“Broken Glass” is about 11 year old Max Petersen who is being bullied at school and has an abusive father at home. One day when playing alone in the woods, he encounters a mysterious creature that changes his life forever.

In July, we were busy putting together an application for the New Zealand Film Commission’s funding scheme Fresh Shorts but unfortunately didn’t even make it to the shortlist. Not getting the money was something I’d prepared myself for and possibly in a cynical form of self-protection, I had half expected it.

However, that didn’t soften the blow from how disrespected I felt when hearing the news through a friend on Facebook, we didn’t receive an official notification about it until a week after the shortlist was announced and I wasn’t the only one that happened to either. Having entered Sundance a few years ago with my short drama “The Shoe Box”, even with the thousands of entries they get I still got told we hadn’t made the cut before they announced the lineup. Oh well, let’s move on, shall we?

So, there I was, sitting at work one morning after hearing this and wanting to just go home and hide under my duvet for the rest of the day. I sat there wondering how we were going to get this film made since I can no longer afford to keep self-funding these things. I mean, there’s only so much debt and begging people for favours a person can handle before you wonder if you should just give up, but I often get into arguments with myself about that so I don’t consider it worth thinking about often. What else am I going to do? Giving up on filmmaking means giving up on life.

A couple of people I know make a habit of being professional applicants for funding grants and just give up on a project if they don’t get the money. Personally, I think a project is kind of doomed if it comes from a place of, “I’ll only do this if we get the money”. At least, that’s not really the way I personally like to work. Even feature projects that I ve worked on developing that I know are strong commercially are films I want to make and have spent a lot of time on without being paid because I have a passion for the concept, theme, the movie I see playing in my head or something about the characters I’ve created. It takes money to make a feature film, but whether or not there is money available isn’t what decides the time I spend on developing it.

This film came into being on the night of June 12th 2011 and it just happened to be a month prior to a funding deadline so we applied. But when I wrote it, there was a short film stuck in my head that I had to get out onto paper. By the time that first draft was over in the early hours of June 13th, I’d already put it out to the universe and told myself; “I am going to make this film”. As I sit here four months later, I still don’t know how we are going to find the money or get the film made, I just know that we are going to do it…why? Because we must.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands because, feel free to call me crazy here, but I thought we had a pretty rockin’ script and so did the LA based script editors I’d been developing it with. Thankfully, I must have done something right because after approaching a few organisations who work in the domestic violence sector, an organisation called Shine, who are New Zealand’s largest domestic abuse organisation registered as a charity, gave us their endorsement from reading the script.

Given the choice between money or the approval of an organisation representing the sector for the subject matter your film portrays, I think I prefer the latter. It’s fair to say my faith had been wavering a little, all kinds of self-doubt had started to creep in and my dad’s favourite reminder to me has been starting to feel like a broken record, “remember, overnight successes take ten years to happen”. Well, I started as a runner on a feature film in 2000 and now even my friends have started telling me that I’m due a break! Universe, are you listening? Please take note, thanks muchly 😉

I’m not sitting around waiting for things to fall in my lap though, we’ve launched a funding contributions page on RocketHub; a crowdfunding platform like KickStarter but global. We also put out a press release about the project the other week which didn’t get much media traction but it was always a long shot. We’ve certainly found so far that many companies appear scared to sponsor or support a film addressing domestic violence and that isn’t that surprising given how prevalent it is; a third of New Zealand women have experienced physical violence from a partner within the last ten years.

A few people who have read the script for “Broken Glass” have said it feels closest to the kind of films they see me making and I’d agree with that. Doing the drama short a few years ago was a very personal way to exorcise the loss of my dad, get some practice and do something serious. The web series was to try a more agile, fast-paced/loose style of filmmaking developing my skills of working with improvisation and comedy. However, I’d say that this time it’s getting serious, this time this film has me written all over it. It’s a film that has something to say and gets straight to the point but through the fusion and contrasting elements of gritty realism and ethereal childhood fantasy/imagination.

I realised recently that all the projects I’ve created to date have some kind of fantasy element to them, “The Shoe Box” might have been a family drama but there was a slight magical quality associated with items that had the power to invoke fond memories of someone no longer with us. Even “101 Dates” which was an online dating comedy was never meant to be grounded in reality, it almost exists in its own outrageous alternate reality in fact.

When I look back at the major influences on me in terms of my career aspirations, it was a film that made me believe there was an island with dinosaurs on it that made me want to be a filmmaker. It was an epic fantasy quest about dwarves, elves, wizards and hobbits trying to destroy a powerful ring that made me move to the other side of the world in search of a place where making that kind of film was possible. It was a film about the loss  of a parent disguised in the form of a monster movie involving a group of kids making a zombie film on their Super 8 camera that made me write a script combining a young boy’s harsh reality contrasted with an experience of otherworldly fantasy.

What those films all have in common is imagination and the suspension of disbelief. They are films about something or a story that are not of this world and yet they are grounded enough in reality with universal themes that everyone can relate to. Therefore, we believe we are really looking at a living dinosaur even though we know that’s impossible, we believe we are really seeing a wizard cast a spell and that we are really seeing an alien creature stalking the residents of a small town.

At the end of the day, all I want to do is make people believe in and care about things that they secretly know are not really there. It doesn’t matter if that comes in the form of a magical dragon they can’t see or just enjoying the company of a group of characters they can relate to and believe in. It takes a real-life wizard to achieve the manifestation of belief in others and ultimately, I just want to make magic for a living.

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It’s just a word

Marriage. All the drama over one word. The people in power are missing the point that both sides of this debate are actually seeking entirely different things. On the one hand, there are those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman as defined in The Bible and wish to defend that. Then there are those who believe it to be an issue of Equality and Civil Rights and want the definition under the law to be changed. Both sides sometimes meet in the middle and agree that gay couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, but the sticking point always ends up being over calling it “Marriage” under the law, so The Church owns or controls that word. I think I missed that memo.

Points used to defend changes being made to the Marriage Act by those in power are that Marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman, as written in The Bible (an unverified Religious text that only has any power if the reader believes it to be true). The other, is what is contained in the Dictionary (a definition created by the law which is now outdated since it was originally based on the Religious traditions of said text above).

The argument put forward by Conservative citizens and Politicians who oppose gay marriage is often along the lines of, “if it’s about the rights and it’s not about the word, then why do gays have to call it marriage?”. It might not be about the word itself, but it’s about the meaning that word has come to have in wider society and that those equal rights should apply regardless. A gay couple can’t refer to their significant other as their husband or wife if they are not married. Well, they could, but underneath it all they would still feel like it is a fraudulent claim because they have a Civil Union.

In a society built around marriage as being the ultimate and aspirational form of love and commitment, then why can that word under the law not also be applied to same sex couples? Why are gay people not allowed to call their relationship a marriage like everyone else when it has become the accepted term used to describe a committed and loving relationship? At the heart of this is a failure to recognise that Marriage under the law and marriage as a Religious ideal are two different terms and they can co-exist and do not need to be defined in the same way.

As recent as 1967, interracial marriages were illegal in the United States, so how can same sex marriage be seen as any different? More to the point, why is it that 44 years later we are still debating on whether it should be allowed? Although the Civil Rights Movement in the US and the Gay Rights Movement started at the same time, they have clearly not progressed at an equal pace – no wonder people are frustrated!  

The cause of all this is the misinformed belief that being gay is a lifestyle choice. I don’t consider myself a militant gay man and I rarely go marching or take part in parades, but if I hear someone try and tell me or someone else that being gay is a choice I can’t help myself. It’s probably the one thing that bothers me the most, because I am not one of those people who is out-and-proud. I find it to be an isolating burden at times and have often wondered who in their right mind would want to choose a life where they are treated like an outcast in society and denied the same basic human rights as everyone else? Not me. The sooner that people realise being gay is not a lifestyle choice, that it’s not some kind of rebellious act against society or the realm of the disenfranchised and know it’s built in facet of our body chemistry, the better. Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was certainly a loud and bold statement to everyone in that regard.

Religious institutions fear that legalising gay Marriage would degrade it in the eyes of the Lord. Well, the people I know don’t want to get married in Church, why would anyone want to do that when the Religion itself opposes who they are as people? We can’t change the way we were born. Surely those who believe in The Bible believe that God created us all and that above all else, was and is about love and acceptance. Why, then, is the law allowed to be upheld when it clearly contradicts that notion of love and acceptance based on someone’s interpretation in a chapter of a Religious text? Not all Christians share that view, and it is certainly wrong to be completely vilifying of people who have such beliefs. There are many people who are both gay and believe in God, but there are those who spoil it for the rest and unfortunately they seem to be the ones who end up in high positions of power.

Also, there are some Conservatives who object to corporations having power over government policies and changing or bending the law and to them I ask this question, “is The Church claiming to own the laws surrounding Marriage and having an influence on it any different to big corporations doing that?”.

You may have seen interviews with Michele Bachmann recently, she could become the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States next year. Bachmann is married to an (allegedly) closet homosexual man who runs a clinic to turn gay men straight. It’s hard to believe that such clinics still exist, let alone that someone who runs one and doesn’t think gay people with children should be called a family, has reached the stage where she has been elected into office. If such a person becomes the most powerful person on Earth and the first female President, I guess the Mayans must be right and we can only hope for the ground to swallow us all up Roland Emmerich style.

At the end of the day, Marriage under the law and Marriage as a Religious ideal are completely different things, they just happen to share the same word. Sure, it’s just a word, but everyone has the right to use it.

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Why is marriage equality even an issue?

Labor Backbencher John Murphy reckons Aussies don’t really want same-sex marriage. Don’t like that view? Join the Greens, he advises. After reading a news article about the comments Australian Backbencher John Murphy made regarding same sex marriage, I wrote this piece for Australian website SameSame.com.au last week:

Even though the support for gay marriage and equality based on many polls in Australia is overwhelmingly high, asking Prime Minister Julia Gillard to hold a referendum for voters to decide whether to allow it or not is really just fundamentally highlighting the problem in this whole thing.

That the issue of marriage equality is still seen as one worth questioning or contesting is an issue in itself. The fact that there is even the need or reason to vote on it at all, or even have the discussion, is what really boggles the mind; it’s a no-brainer.

If two people, one from Australia and from New Zealand fall in love and want to get married but are told they cannot do so because they come from the same Continent, would that be fair? No. However, if these people happen to be of the same sex, suddenly it’s okay to discriminate against them and deny them those same basic human rights?

I’ve never felt particularly strongly on gay marriage and marriage equality from a place of personal motivation because I can’t help but think my own nuptials would end up being like that scene in Sex and the City 2 with Liza showing up and singing and dancing to Beyonce songs, although it would more likely be Lady Gaga or Kylie (I know, how cliché).

However, I do appreciate the need and desire of anyone in the LGBT community wanting having the option to commit to the person they love in the same legal manner as everyone else. Otherwise, if we are brought up with the notion that the ultimate commitment when you are in love is to get married, then what kind of message does it send to young gay people when they learn they cannot do that? That’s where those feelings of difference come from, it’s what fuels the bullying, the denial, the identity crisis and sometimes suicides. It makes being anything other than heterosexual something that makes you feel as though you are a freak or abnormal (aside from the obvious feelings that come from knowing that you’re in a minority as it is). Essentially, I believe in treating people equally and as long as they’re not harming you or others, then what is the big problem here?

So often, those who oppose the law being changed say that it’s harming or damaging the sanctity of marriage and their religion if gay people are allowed to marry because the Bible says that marriage is between one man and one woman. But we are talking about marriage under the law people, not marriage according to the Bible and religion – no matter what happens with changes to the law, that’s not going to change those words or force everyone to tear those pages out of the Bible, so what exactly is there to be afraid of? If marriage is really about love and commitment, how is the gender of those in that marriage any different, according to the law?

Even if you consider marriage to be a religious right of passage, marriage under the law was originally something influenced and put in place as a result of a religious stance and the law can be changed, and in my view it should never be controlled by religion. After all, if the Bible was truly the law, then eating shellfish would be considered criminal, wouldn’t it? For the record, I don’t eat shellfish because they creep me out, but I don’t think that means others shouldn’t have the right to eat it. You see where I’m going with this, right? I should stress that many Christians I know are supportive and accepting of the gay community, so anyone religious is not automatically an enemy or opposition no matter how it may sometimes seem to be portrayed in the mainstream media.

“People are questioning why we are going down this path,” MP John Murphy added of the gay marriage debate. “There are so many important things the Labor Party has to be dealing with. They do not include same sex marriage.’’

Exactly John, it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. It’s an equality and human rights issue that no so-called developed country should be denying as a right to its citizens, and while we’re on the topic of the equality, the same goes for adoption too. Oh yes, I went there.

The question being asked should not be about what someone is, it should be about who they are and if they are in love, they should be able to legally commit in the same way as everyone else. The same thing applies in the case of parenting, it doesn’t matter whether someone is a single parent, two parents of the same sex or what is considered the more traditional mum and dad environment; what matters above all is if that child is going to grow up in a safe and loving home.

If marriage equality is now considered good enough for somewhere like New York City, one of the biggest centres of international trade and commerce in the world, then surely it has to be good enough for other countries who seek to do business there and be considered as competitive and equally as progressive?

“Liberty is the right to choose. Freedom is the result of the right choice” ~ Jules Renard.

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“To The Mountains”

I’ve been busy working on several film projects over the last month which I’ll talk more about soon, but first there’s something even more exciting that I must blog about…

Those of you who were regular readers of the blog I wrote for Stuff.co.nz will have heard me talk about a Wellington band called Supermodel before. Even if you don’t know who they are, by now it’s quite likely you’ve heard one of their songs on the radio, seen one of their videos on TV or online, or been at one of their gigs. In May last year I went away for a few days with them on their North Island tour and I had a great time, it was an exciting experience to be an honorary roadie for a few days and it was during this time that I became truly familiar with their original material after they first caught my attention when I saw them at TK Vineyard when I attended Toast Martinborough in November 2009. After several days watching them perform live, I got to know many of the songs and every now and then I find myself humming one of their songs to myself and trying to figure out what it was only to realise it’s a Supermodel track.

Supermodels second single “Send Me Dreaming” is the theme tune that runs over the end credits of what is now an award-winning web series I made last year called “101 Dates”. Not only were the band kind enough to allow us to use the song, but they also played at our launch event which I was and still am eternally grateful for. It was at that event back in July 2010, almost a year ago to the day, that I got to hear a few snippets off the album they had just recorded in the UK and my excitement was palpable, I actually remember physically shaking afterwards. So, you will have to forgive me for being pretty amped that “To The Mountains” is finally here. The best thing about that is that I can finally talk about it, so here goes:

1. “Blondie” was the third single taken from the album and one of the more commercially appealing tracks. When I was on tour with them, the band would often play a couple of covers to keep the crowd buzzing in between originals and when I first heard this track live in Palmerston North I asked their road manager who the song was by, assuming it was a Kings of Leon cover. When I learned the song was one of theirs, I just about fell off my chair and remember being stunned. With the electronic sound underpinning it, the heavy rock track is the story of the guy who is always there as the shoulder to cry on when he wishes he was something more. It’s a powerful and catchy tune and the perfect opening track as a taste of what’s to come.

2. “Red Carpet Girl” is rumoured to be the next single from the album and has a wonderful throwback 60s feel to it. With the swooning backing vocals of “ooh-ooh, la la la”, it’s a funky little number about a lover tainted by obsession. The song was also the inspiration for the flowing red carpet that wraps around the mountain on the album cover above; a cover that features a host of people who helped make this debut album a reality.

3. “Want To Move” has a sort of twisted rock sound to it, the kind of song that you can imagine all your mates jumping around to at 1am in your living room on a Saturday night bender singing it out loud with beers raised high. The infectious guitar riff is hard to forget, as are the haunting vocals about a mysterious dancing woman.

4. “Walk of Shame” was the first single the band released and remains one of their most popular, most likely because of the relatable subject matter of waking up after a night of drinking and wondering where you are. Most people have had a night like that at some point in their adult lives, maybe even before they were an adult! This is the best anthem for a hangover if ever there was one.

5. “Game of Kings” is probably one of my favourites on this album, every time I’ve seen it played live it has made me want to get up and dance. In a similar way that “Are you gonna be my girl” by JET makes me feel the need to get down on the dance floor, this song does that too. I always feel like this song is about living in the moment, being happy and not worrying too much about what tomorrow is going to bring.

6. “We All Live As One” was a song inspired by Mark and Rose Hanify’s grandfather who sadly passed away last year. I’ve seen this song played live a number of times and I don’t know if it’s because I know the personal connection behind the song or not, but there is a particularly spiritual vibe to it. Performed live, it’s a very emotional and powerful song and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being used as music to play over the new season promo clips that TV2 put together before their new shows air, or during the Rugby World Cup later this year.

7. “To The Mountains” is the title track of the album and just as the album cover is epic in appearance, it is also a song of epic proportions. With the heavy piano and strong electric guitar sound, it ends up with the kind of sound you would imagine getting if Muse and Queen were to have a love child together, yet somehow it still has its own unique sound and style like many Supermodel tracks end up with. That’s the thing with influences when you’re an artist. Regardless of whether you are a painter, musician, writer, filmmaker or whatever, if you can work with the influences you have and what inspires you and yet somehow harness that to make whatever work you do yourself feel like its got its own identity and uniqueness then I think you’ve truly earned the right to call yourself an artist. It’s something I’m still working out myself, but I know it when I see it or hear it.

8. “Fading Out” is a song that has to be heard live to be fully appreciated, it is one of the best tracks on the album and I’ve had several euphoric out-of-body experiences during the guitar solo which usually ends with me standing with my mouth agape in awe of what I’m witnessing Mark doing to his guitar. I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass by saying that, I really mean it, it’s just one of those songs that makes you glad you have working ears.

9. “Lonely Place” has a rhythm and musical sound with quite an unusual bounce to it, still a catchy number that I heard played on tour a few times but this tended to be the song where the crowd didn’t really know how to dance to it at first so they’d go and get a drink at the bar. They would then find themselves getting slayed by the chorus and by the end of the song they were all shouting the words back at the band throwing their hands forward. I even found myself doing that a couple of times too!

10. “Afterlife” is a song I haven’t heard much of, but it’s nice to hear lead singer Mark Hanify singing in his upper register so prominently on this track. It’s also a nice way to slow things down as we approach the end of the album.

11. “Send Me Dreaming” is a rock waltz that has quite a unique sound and fantastical feel about it. It’s one of my favourite songs and has that distinctively melodic sound to it that Supermodel are known for. It’s a nice way to finish the album with something slower but more optimistic than the tone of the previous couple of tracks.

With the aid of Producer Greg Haver in the UK, who is known for working with artists such as Opshop, Manic Street Preachers and Mel C, I take my hat off to him for managing to maintain and enhance these songs and make them sound their best when put together in a studio environment.

With influences that include Queen, Muse, The Strokes and The Beatles I see a big future and a lot more to come from Supermodel. The music audience in New Zealand often don’t really seem to “get” this brand of pop-rock, but somewhere like the UK or USA it’s a popular genre and the audience for it is pretty huge. It won’t surprise me if they end up becoming bigger overseas like so many bands do before Kiwis fully embrace them, but I would be thrilled if New Zealand proves me wrong. Given that they’re among some of the nicest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, it would not be for lack of trying and would be totally deserved.

My dad grew up being a fan of bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really embraced that kind of music and got more into rock music. Supermodel are The Beatles of my adult world and I can safely say that I’m one Supermodel fan who has literally been waiting a year for this album to come out and yes…for once, it has been totally worth the wait.

If I had to offer some criticism, it would be that eleven songs just isn’t enough to satisfy my greedy musical ears. Since four of the tracks have already been released as singles, it still leaves me wanting more, but that’s probably a good thing. If it comes to choosing between having 11 great songs versus 20 songs containing 10 filler tracks, I’d choose the 11 track album any day. It’s what made Fawlty Towers a comedy classic, they only ever made 12 episodes and it’s regarded as one of the best comedies of all time.

However, I can’t help but say it anyway, “please sir, can I have some more?” 🙂

“To The Mountains” by Supermodel is out everywhere from Monday 1st August. Listen to a preview of the album tracks and pre-order it on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/nz/preorder/to-the-mountain/id452615240

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