A month in Sweden with Boho

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It’s the beginning of February 2016. For a few of my own quiet reasons, it’s taken me a while to really get my head around planning this year, and now it’s upon me, I’m realising how crazy intense it’s going to be. But in good ways, I think. I hope.

2016 is a big year of Boho stuff. After a huge push in 2014 to get to London and finish Best Festival Ever, it felt like 2015 was a down year, at least for the BFE project. We did the first Australian season at the Street Theatre in Canberra, and also some corporate and private gigs, but no new developments of new work. And that was good, we needed that down-time, and it got us excited to get started on something new. And that’s now.

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A few weeks ago, the BFE crew (myself, Muttley, Nikki, Rachel and Nathan) jumped on a plane to London to spend a week with Forum for the Future‘s Systems Innovations Lab. We’ve been chatting with Forum for a while – they do incredible work using systems thinking to help businesses and large organisations tackle sustainability challenges. We developed Best Festival Ever as a tool for organisations like Forum to use in their work – and now we’re hoping to be able to create something more specifically for them.

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So we shared BFE with some of their partners, ran a game design workshop with them, and had some good days hanging with like-minded people.

Then to Sweden, for a month-long development with Miljoverkstan, an NGO based in Stockholm. We’re here to build a new game, in the systems-science-meets-interactive-performance format of Best Festival Ever, but based on the Flaten nature reserve south of Stockholm.

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Flaten is a lake, surrounded by beautiful forest (oaks, pine, spruce, trees 500 years old or more), and a place where a lot of different groups intersect – swimmers and dogwalkers, itinerant workers camping in caravan parks, squatter camps in the forest, the nearby suburb of Skarpnack… Miljoverkstan want to try to capture some of the complexity of this system, and they want to do it through a game. So they’ve invited Boho over, to map the system with them and turn it into a game experience, a platform for learning and conversation.

We’re working in Miljoverkstan’s office in Flaten, a beautiful cabin on the shores of this icy lake (which I walked across on the way to work last week!). It’s a pretty stunning location to be in, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere like it.

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The first week was spent in meetings, some preliminary resilience assessment mapping, performing Best Festival to a group of teens from a high school in Karrtop. Important work, but a bit fragmented, and we were all a bit dazed and sick, flying straight into the Swedish winter.

This last week – our second week of work – things started moving quicker, going deeper. A few days with just the five of us, in the fun creative phase of turning our research into a systems model, then making games. 11 of them so far, all terrible, but good to test our skills, generate material and be sure we still know how to do it.

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On Friday we built a loop of five mini-games – games that each took inputs from each other and spat out outputs – in a mirror of our ‘Bateman’s Vegas’ effort from University College London in 2012.

By the end of this month, we’ll have completed our systems mapping R&D and settled on a broad format for the work, as well as creating some placeholder games. And then we come back in August and October to finish it off, and present it for the first time to a Swedish audience. This is a big project, with a short timeframe, and that’s pretty intimidating, but it’s exciting, too. And it feels like exactly what we’ve been working towards all this time, a practical application of all the things we learned making Best Festival Ever.

Plus it’s beautiful here.

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(This was just a brief outline of the project – if you’re interested, we’ve got a really active project blog maintained by the five of us, diving deep into the creation of this work.)

All the pretty nature pics in this post are by Nikki Kennedy. The London ones I think I took, and Rachel Roberts took the Deer and the Fish shot.

This is my alternative Asialink acquittal

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Dear Asialink,

This time I tried something different.

I went to the Philippines twice this year (well, three times, but you didn’t fund me the first time and it was only two weeks anyway). I did my Asialink residency in two parts: 11 weeks from March – May, then 6 weeks over November – December.

From March to May, I was in town doing all the things I promised in my residency application. Worked with Sipat Lawin on our new large-scale participatory work Gobyerno, which we toured to Korea for Festival B:om in its prototype version, before running large-scale tests in Manila. Helped produce the international stream of Sipat’s Karnabal Festival, bringing 18 artists from around the world to collaborate with local artists in a two week festival laboratory. Wrote some new pieces with long-time performer collaborator Isab Martinez and kicked off a new American-Australian playwriting collective with a development in Camiguin and a scratch show in Karnabal.

This was all the stuff I promised to do in the application and it went well, I promise it went well, albeit as ragged and emotionally chaotic as always.

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In November, though, I came to Manila with a whole different set of goals. Still worked on Gobyerno (we toured it up to Baguio and ran it for La Salle University students up there), did a bit of prep towards Karnabal 2016, but honestly, for a few weeks, I turned my head in a completely different direction.

This trip was my ninth visit to the Philippines in nine years. I have this sense that I’m in it for the long haul with my relationship to this country. And it seemed like time to do something with that relationship.

I spent a lot of my time this time listening, waiting, sensing – rather than leaping towards a project that I’d already articulated, I arrived with time up my sleeve, ready to follow opportunities where they emerged. I wanted to absorb more Pinoy pop culture and go deeper in my relationship with the culture.

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Full disclosure: my collaborators and host company, Sipat Lawin, are also my dear friends. We live together, we tour together, we make art together and we also hang out and talk, constantly, unpacking and chewing over ideas, stories and feelings. This time I let myself be guided somewhat by that friendship, and I offered my time to them, to give each of them a nudge towards making something new, beginning a period in which Sipat will be presenting a series of new solo works. The earliest nascent forms of some of these solos were kicked off at a Strange Pilgrims event, a performance night we held at the TomatoKick on Tomas Morato in Cubao.

But alongside all this organic flow, I also came prepared with a very specific purpose.

Before I went over there this time, Asialink, I spent weeks in preparation, putting together a weird little parcel. Long distance, over many conversations, the members of Sipat helped me put together a collage of iconic Filipino poetry, folk music and pop songs, a sort of audio sampler of Pinoy culture. We sourced kareoke and instrumental versions of all these tracks, and then Australian sound artist (and also Sipat collaborator) Nick McCorriston mixed them into a single audio collage.

I didn’t tell you I was doing this, Asialink, because I was worried you wouldn’t take me seriously. And this project is very, very serious.

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When I got to Manila, I began memorising this six and a half minute slice of Pinoy poetry and lyrics. I spent a lot of hours on this. It’s awkward to say how many hours, but one day I will share the rehearsal footage of me running each line of the Abra rap a thousand times, before piecing them together into the whole verse. You will probably say, why, what was the point of all this time and effort, but you don’t get anywhere great without a training montage, and this was mine.

At the end of it all, Sipat and I (and videographer Brandon Relucio) filmed the result – a one-take, long-shot performance video through the ruined school of Pugad Lawin in Quezon City. I framed it as an ‘audition’ for reality TV gameshow Foreignoy, even though Foreignoy is no longer being filmed. It seemed like a good way to help people make sense of it, though Carlos Celdran got it closer when he called it ‘an artistic intervention’.

The video went up on Youtube and got 1500 views within three days. After a huge cluster of people shared it with the producers of Eat Bulaga (the daytime show that produced Foreignoy), they got in touch to let me know they’d put me in the next lineup for the show, when and if that happens in 2016.

There’s a new show in this, Asialink, and here’s what happens next:

I’m going to get back to the Philippines in the next 12 months, and then I’m continuing on my journey to get up close and personal with the Pinoy showbiz industry. The machine, for want of a better word. I want to see it up close and get my head around it.

There’s a particular place that foreigners occupy in Pinoy pop culture. It’s hard to put your finger on precisely, but you see it in the over-representation of Mestiza (people of mixed Filipino and foreign ancestry) on TV, in the countless adverts for skin whitening creams and soaps, in the tense place that Americans occupy in the country’s cultural discourse, and particularly in shows like Foreignoy, in which foreigners literally compete to prove their ‘Filipino-ness’.

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It’s hard to justify a project that doesn’t exist yet. We do it in grant applications frequently, but often there the language is, if not dishonest, at least not very true to how artists think and talk about our projects among ourselves. I can make a clear case for the value of engaging with the Filipino television industry in formal terms, if I need to. I would say things like, ‘this subject speaks to the complex ways in which Australians are represented within Filipino culture, and to our place within a broader Asian cultural context.’

All of that is true, and important. But honestly, I’m pursuing this because I have a gut feeling that this is a story worth pursuing. There’s something there. I don’t know what, and I won’t know what unless I dive all the way, and even then maybe I’ll be wrong (I’ve been wrong often enough before).

But in the meantime, Asialink, I got within striking distance of being cast as STEVE, a 40 year old ‘man of power’ and father-in-law of Filipino reality TV star Daniel Matsunaga in new ‘interracial love story’ soap opera BE MY LADY (I was not ‘heavy’ enough to pass for 40 years old, dammit), and I know this isn’t the first time you’ve accidentally nearly launched a south-east Asian soap opera career, but isn’t this at least slightly why Asialink exists? Don’t most, if not all, Asialink recipients end up as E-list daytime TV celebrities in whichever country they’re travelling to? (Don’t answer that question.)

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I didn’t put this down on my official grant acquittal form, but I got really really close. And the quest isn’t over. Not even a little bit, not even at all.

Thank you for letting me sit with Sipat Lawin pursuing mad schemes this last few weeks, Asialink. I promise it’ll make sense in the grand fullness of time. You will look back on this and there will be some kind of meaningful artistic result, some kind of creative outcome that adds up to something worthwhile.

Or there won’t, but you still won’t regret it.

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Sexting Play pitch

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In 2010 I received a phone call from a Canberra theatre company that makes work for young people. As one of several ‘emerging’ playwrights in Canberra at that time, my name had bubbled to the top of a list of potential writers for a new project.

The lady asked me if I’d heard of something called sexting. I told her, ’Yes! Yes I have!’ She explained that they were interested in producing a new play about sexting, aimed at 14 – 17 year olds, and would I be interested in writing it? I said, ‘I absolutely would, I already have some ideas. It’ll be pro-sexting, right?’

The pause that followed was one of the most awkward silences I’ve ever had over the phone. Eventually she said, ‘It should portray both sides.’ And then she promised to email me a brief, which I could respond to with a pitch.

I never received that email, which means I never got to submit them my pitch, and as far as I know their sexting play never got made. In the meantime, after I complained at length about my missed opportunity, Hadley beat me to the punch by writing his superb piece ‘The Sexting Play Finnigan Was Commissioned Specifically Not To Write’, which is the best piece of theatre anyone has ever written.

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EXCERPT OF HADLEY’S ‘THE SEXTING PLAY FINNIGAN WAS COMMISSIONED SPECIFICALLY NOT TO WRITE’
USED WITHOUT PERMISSION

A kid with a wild gleam in his eyes, Ricky, crashes into the room.

RICKY (outrageously): FUCK YOU SIDEWAYS, YOU MESSY PACK OF CUNTS!

Everyone cheers – Ricky is their king!

AMIRA: Did you get it?

RICKY: Did I fucking get it, I’m Ricky. I get what I want.

ANITA; Show it to us!

JIM: This is going to be fucking awesome!

BEN: Anyone need cigarettes?

SAL: On us, motherfuckers, this is too fucking exciting!

The kids all throws cans of beer to each other, pack up bongs, light up cigs.

MARCO: Wait, what are we doing?

JENNY: Yeah, no one told me!

Ricky poses, a light shines on him.

RICKY with great magnitude: We’re going to sext Corrigan’s mum.

JENNY: Hahaha, Corrigan… Mr. Corrigan, the woodwork teacher?

RICKY: Yeah boiiiii

JENNY: Haha, well you’re not using my phone.

RICKY: Oh, we’re not using a phone. We’re using this.

Ricky pulls an Ouija board out of his bag.

RICKY: Corrigan’s mum is dead.

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(I got distracted writing this blog post by re-reading the whole of Hadley’s script, it’s a goddamn masterpiece, maybe the only real masterpiece to exist)

But now, chewing through some old notes, I found my notes for the proposed youth theatre / theatre-in-education play, which sadly never even got the chance to be taken for a spin. Never even got rejected.

Fast forward a few years.

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Mid-2014, none other than Glyn Roberts sat down and chatted with me about being a playwright in the Australian arts ecosystem circa 2015. He made the excellent point that in many ways, actually writing a playscript is a negative thing.

Have a great idea, sure, share that great idea with a theatre company, offer to build something in collaboration with a company or self-produce and go wild, but having a written script? Who wants an unproduced playscript? No theatre company wants to be inundated with completed scripts that they have to read, have to struggle through, have to shrug over and reject.

I can only imagine the dismay that you must feel as a literary manager when you receive another perky email from a playwright with a 125k PDF attached to it. (obviously a pdf because if they sent you a word doc you’d edit it and run away with the ideas yourself, right?)

I’ve grossly oversimplified Glyn’s comments here, so apologies to him and please don’t take this as a real representation of his opinion. If you’re curious about his actual take on the industry (and you should be, he’s a wise soul), go on and find him.

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What I took from Glyn’s comments is that it’s time for me, as a playwright, to stop writing plays, and instead do a better job of finding theatre companies, directors and collaborative artists who are willing to jump on board and support the growth of a good idea from the outset.

So the hell with it. I didn’t write this one, it’s there waiting to be written. All I need is a committed, passionate partner with the strength of will and conviction to turn this grit in the oyster into a pearl of Australian theatre.

Get at me let’s do this.

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SEXTING PLAY: A PITCH FOR A SEXTING PLAY
by david finnigan

It is the recent past, say 2013. A teen girl is contacted by an angel
             through her phone

The angel advises the girl that in the past, the agents of the Lord are struggling against the forces of those who oppose God’s word. The angel has managed to obtain smartphones from the present day, and sent them back in time to key moments in history where the conflicts are most desperate.

The girl can text help to those soldiers fighting in the past for God’s cause. By sending them nude pics, she can support their battle against paganism, against heresy and against tyranny.

Naturally, our heroine goes right ahead and sends nude pics to those phone numbers. She is rewarded by news from these ancient battlefields that her contribution has turned the tide, that the fight is finally going their way.

But! In history class at school, the girl learns something extremely disquieting about the Australian frontier wars, the Crusades, the anti-Communist purges in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, and many other historical atrocities. At a number of famous massacres, a naked female soldier with a strange accent and unusual turn of phrase stepped into the fight and slaughtered many innocents.

She realises that every sext she sent into the past has become a vile killer, a murderer of the helpless and a weapon for the unjust.

She refuses to send any further sexts, despite the angel’s demands and pleas. When she refuses to capitulate, the angel becomes angry and curses her.

Around the world, ancient naked versions of herself that she sent into the past and who have slumbered for many centuries begin to awaken in creaky museum cases, archive drawers and on ochre-painted cave walls. They gradually amass and march inexorably towards their originator, to slay her.

Now it’s one girl against her own message history in a bloody fight to the death, and there are no excuses and there is no escape.

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‘I think there’s something worth mentioning here about the fact that most conflicts feature men, not women. And history is made of men’s stories rather than women stories. So there’s something sad and ironic about her part in history being made by the fact that she can send pictures of naked body, the main commodity. So this is a political conversation.’
– Jess Bellamy

For real, if you feel anything about this, go ahead and get in touch. There’s no reason this can’t happen.

when I win Foreignoy more sex to a better soundtrack

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There’s a Jorge Luis Borges story called The Zahir. It’s about objects which ‘have the property of being unforgettable’. Once you see one, you won’t be able to get it out of your head – and eventually, it’ll be the only thing you think about. The zahir in the story is a coin – the protagonist finds it and then throws it away, the same evening. But he can’t forget it.

At first he tries to forget it – and he’s able to, more or less. In fact, he’s able to forget it so well that he thinks he can even afford to bring it to mind, occasionally. But that’s a mistake. Because more and more he finds his mind turning to it, and it’s constantly in his mind. He sees it day and night, awake and asleep, at all times the coin hanging in his vision. He sees both sides of the coin – not because it’s transparent, but more like his vision is spherical, with the coin in the centre.

He’s writing the story with what he knows is gonna be his final coherent thoughts. He says, ‘other people will think I’m mad – I will think of the zahir. Maybe I can wear it away by thinking about it. Maybe on the other side of the zahir I will find god.’

I didn’t think, when Ness told me about it, that I would ever watch a full episode of Foreignoy. I didn’t think that I’d ever expend any energy on an oddball reality TV show on a daytime GMA talkshow. But that was 18 months ago. In the last year and a half I feel like my whole life has narrowed down to a very sharp arrow – pointed straight at Foreignoy.

I don’t really remember what I used to want – if I wanted anything different, it was the product of a life that I no longer subscribe to. I want to be on Foreignoy. That’s the only thing that I want.

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Now one minor issue is that I speak konti tagalog (maraming konti! grabe konti!), which is a major feature of the show. Another, more significant issue is that they are no longer producing Foreignoy. But this is only a real problem if you don’t have willpower.

Willpower and a group of patient, caring friends who are willing to manifest your insane quixotic dreams into being against all rational sense.

So my team of expert advisors devised a strategy for me to get on the show.

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First of all, JK Anicoche, chief architect of my dreams. JK’s plan is to present me as something non-threatening. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, but maybe my awkward helplessness will be appealing in itself? My target market, according to JK, is the Titas of Manila. Now it goes without saying that my audition would include a pabebe wave, but JK stepped it up a notch and insisted that I give a wink while waving – he’s hoping to push #pabebewink into being.

Ness Roque, pinoy cultural expert. Ness, as well as teaching me all the tagalog I know, translated my poetry into filipino and selected and arranged a collection of classic pinoy poetry. Francisco Balagtas, Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Jose Corazon de Jesus. I’m going to share Ness’ commentary on Florante at Laura as a piece unto itself, because holy shit she’s good, and also utterly foul-mouthed.

Alon Segarra, Clyde Enriquez, Teresa Barrozo, Sarah Salazar, all helped me pull together a selection of classic and contemporary pinoy pop. And Ienne Vergara, who reverse engineered Sarah Geronimo’s choreography from watching this videoclip.

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Nickamc, with his mad audio chops and extraordinary tolerance for my insane bullshit, mixed this collage into being. And it was filmed by Mr Dreamboy, aka Brandon Relucio, with the help of Ralph Lumbres.

This is me asking for your help. Help me. Help me get on this show. Help me get inside the machine.

Look I understand that there’s a lot of confusion, panic and pain in the world right now
but when I win Foreignoy, I promise, things will get better

When I win Foreignoy there’ll be no more pain
no more panic

when I win Foreignoy you’ll wake up in the morning with those aches and pains just gone
just gone
just flowing out of your system like the rivers to the sea

when I win Foreignoy everything will be a remix
everything will be a cover
I’ll be sarah geronimo, JK will be sarah geronimo, we’ll all be sarah geronimo
nothing but sarah geronimos, as far as the eye can see

when I win Foreignoy more sex to a better soundtrack

when I win Foreignoy it’ll be okay
it’ll be okay
daijobu dayo
magiging okay lang ang lahat

when I win foreignoy no more bad dreams
when I win foreignoy no more bad dreams
when I win foreignoy the heat the energy
when I win foreignoy the fire in the street just like the fire in your heart
when I win foreignoy the scream only you can hear

when I win foreignoy your only certainty is the certainty that we are not coming down. not ever.

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#pabebewink there it is JK there it is!
so far no titas have expressed their appreciation for this move but the future is bright, the future is orangutan

we are all john lloyd cruz (but we are trying to be bea alonzo)

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Hi, I’m Clyde Enriquez, I’m an actor and snowboarding champion. I was 2009 silver medallist at the European International Winter Sports Games, representing Switzerland.

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I don’t snowboard so much these days. I still like to get out on the slopes and cut a few sharp turns on some fresh powder, but what I really like to do these days is to think about what it means to be a human.

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Today I’d like to talk with you about being alone. We’re all alone, really, but sometimes on our journey through life we meet someone else. And sometimes, like it or not, we lose that someone. And what happens then?

I learned a lot about this very topic from two very dear friends of mine: John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, in their documentary ‘One More Chance’.

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the film begins with john lloyd cruz and bea alonzo, talking to each other, flirting and being lovely, EXCEPT in classic rom-com style, it turns out that they’re both talking to DIFFERENT PEOPLE

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I’ve seen this done a few times, most recently in Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis’ Friends With Benefits, and it’s always terrible, but Friends With Benefits was the worst on so many levels, One More Chance is smooth in contrast

So both JLC and Bea are flirting with people who aren’t their partners. But whereas JLC goes in for the kiss with his friend, Bea is shocked when the guy goes in for the kiss with her. She is upset and she leaves, which means that for the rest of the movie we never see this guy again

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WHICH IS A SHAME

JLC and his male friends stand around and complain about Bea, Bea and her friends stand around and they all insist she goes back to him.

This is the beginning of a major disparity in this film – Bea’s friends offer her very little support, when she says she wants to be free of this clinging, cloying relationship, they push her back into being with JLC because it’s convenient for their mutual friendship. JLC’s friends, by contrast, bend over backwards to support him no matter how much of a callow asshole he’s being.

All of this makes it even more impressive that Bea manages to push away from him, find herself, and grow as a human being, because she has to do it ALL BY HERSELF.

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JLC and Bea break up because of the misunderstanding double-affair thing, but then JLC is a total fuckwit and won’t even let Bea leave the house without being a total fucking manchild about every little thing. Where I come from we call that abusive rather than cute, but whatevs.

Then after harassing the hell out of her, they begin to flirt and then they’re about to have makeup sex

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one of the least appealing things I’ve ever seen in a film: JLC creeps under the bottom cover of the doona, so his face appears like some kind of beardless gremlin between her legs at the bottom of the bed. Fucking nightmare territory, man, I was making the sign of the cross at the screen like crazy at this point

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BUT THEN his work calls, and he blows her off for work, and then begins the long, harrowing sequence of the movie in which he is both ignoring her and micro-managing her, controlling her, shutting her down, hemming her in, pushing her around, gaslighting her, flirting with other women in front of her, and then whenever she says anything about it to him, shutting her down in this super-reasonable, mature-man voice that makes me want to hit him

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The highlight of this whole sequence was Kuya Bodjie as the cranky architect boss giving her shit about the scale model, because architecture something something. The whole architecture thing in this film isn’t really worked out in detail, but Bodjie goes for it nevertheless,

AND THEN THE CRISPY CHICKEN SCENE

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JLC – It’s a good thing we got that model fixed or we would both be in trouble. I would be in trouble. You think I’d ever let that happen? Basha, remember, we’re a team. Don’t let your emotions rule you. You’ll end up hurt that way.

JLC takes Basha’s chicken and peels off the crispy skin. Basha watches it happen with hate blazing in her eyes.

JLC – Then you’ll complain that you’re tired of it. Don’t forget your 7pm deadline. We don’t want to be late for dinner at Kenneth’s.

Bash grabs the crispy chicken skin. Poy grabs her hand.

JLC – Bash!

Bea – Just this once.

JLC – You know that’s bad for you. That’s cholesterol.

Bea – Poy, just this once.

JLC – What’s your problem?

Bea – I want space.

JLC – Space?

JLC moves his seat away.

JLC – There. Space.

No-one has ever hated anyone as much as Bea hates JLC in the look she gives him now. She gets up and leaves.

There are another couple of forgettable scenes, and then it builds to a break up where Bea quits her job, and finally lays it out in front of him in one of the most beautiful, honest breakup scenes I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t accuse him of anything, she doesn’t complain, she just says that the relationship’s not working for her, and she needs to leave in order to be able to figure out what’s what.

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This scene speaks to the universal misery that is a breakup. You don’t know exactly what’s not working, you don’t know in perfectly clear terms what you want, you can’t break it down in plain simple language, you just CAN’T, because it’s messy as fuck, and all you know if that something’s not right. But at the same time, you don’t want to walk out on the other person without giving them a clear and reasonable explanation.

But what if the only thing you know how to say is ‘It’s over because it doesn’t feel right?’ I mean is that enough?

I think it should be. At least to begin with. You can come back and debrief later, but at the time, if your partner says that to you, I think all you can do, as awful as it is, is listen to them and accept.

Of course, JLC doesn’t listen, he tries to shut her down and ignore her, even when she drops the bombshell line:

‘I want to stop wondering what if. I want to know what is.’

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(I guarantee you when the scriptwriter finished writing that line, they threw their pen down, punched the air and said HELLO SUCCESS)

Now we move into the part of the film where they’re both a mess. Bea does the right things, she gets a haircut and becomes a new and different woman, JLC devolves even further into a spineless blob, his friends take him out to date someone new (!) while Bea works on her t-shirt design business, focuses on her art, and gets on with shit.

In one of the many uncool moves made by Bea’s friends and family in this film, her mum invites JLC around to fix the sink and surprise her when she’s trying to get ready for work. DO NOT DO THIS THIS IS BULLSHIT.

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JLC even creepily goes to her house and watches her from the bushes for ten seconds, because… why? How is he a matinee idol? I hate him so much.

AND THEN beautiful lounge singer Maja Salvador rescues a drunken, vomiting JLC from the carpark, he grotesquely tries to make out with her and then pukes. Maja is a ray of sunshine in this movie and her acting is a whole other thing, but it is beyond even her to figure out how to make it make sense that her character falls in love with JLC.

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Is he a witch? Does he have magic powers?

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GOOD QUESTION JLC

He pashes her, she slaps him, he pukes, she leaves.

Next, we are introduced to our other top billing star. Bea parks her car outside a house, for no reason, gets out to look at it. Another car stops and out gets DEREK RAMSAY.

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Derek – Can I help you? You’re lost, right?

Bea – Huh?

Derek – That’s what it says on your shirt.

Bea remembers that her t-shirt says LOST AKO and she laughs.

Derek – So what are you doing here?

Bea – I’m just looking at the house.

Derek – And?

Bea – This one is owned by a man without any plan to start a family.

Derek – Why do you say that?

Bea – The house is not kid-friendly. It has too many edges and the materials are too masculine, too tough.

A BIT LIKE DEREK, HEY

Bea – If I were the architect, I’d lessen the edges and put more curves to balance it out.

The subtext here is that Bea would be a sexy feminine influence on the rich male bachelor who owns this edgy man-pad

Derek – Maybe that’s why my ex-girlfriend left me. That’s what she said when I designed this house.

BOOM! In one line, Derek has dropped the following three bombshells:
1. I’m single
2. I own a house
3. I listen to your opinion

Bea – This is your house?

Derek – Mark Yaneza. The man who has no plan to start a family.

Bea – Um, I have to go.

Derek – You’re an architect?

Bea – Used to be.

Derek – I’d actually like to hear your creative input. Here’s my card. We have an opening at the firm.

The subtext here is that Derek would like to have sex with Bea.

Now we see Bea get a new job, a fulfilling job, she begins to rebuild her life, she makes a new friend in Derek, Derek drives her to a gathering of her old friends, a gathering where JLC is at. It’s a five year anniversary of their friend Kenneth going blind. JLC is a piece of shit and causes a scene, upsets Bea, makes everything awkward, ruins everyone’s night, picks a fight with Derek, and for some reason Derek does not pick up a folding chair and beat him to death with it.

JLC explains that you have to let three months pass before you find another boyfriend. It’s a good rule of thumb, but every case is different, and how do you know when you’ve moved on, when you’re ready?

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Derek, in this shot, does not give a shit for the three month rule.

Not long after that, we find that JLC has somehow (black magic) seduced Maja Salvador into being his girlfriend. Bea rolls with it, and kindly wishes him the best. And then JLC’s deadbeat aunt and uncle decide that they need Bea and JLC to work together to design their house, because they’re insensitive to the most basic currents of human emotion.

But all of this is just a prelude to of the most moving scenes in the film, maybe one of the most moving scenes in modern cinema history: JLC and Maja Salvador’s monthsiversary.

Just FYI, the monthsiversary is a pretty pinoy tradition, or at least it’s not an Australian tradition, so this shit is new to me.

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Maja jumps in the car.

Maja – I thought you were having dinner with Chinno and Kenneth!

JLC – I feel like being with you.

They affectionately hug and kiss.

Maja – It’s a Thursday. And what is Thursday for?

JLC – Music day. But can’t it be another Popoy day?

Maja – Baby I also have to give time to my music.

JLC you LEECH, just let the lady pursue her art, what’s the matter with you

JLC – But I want you to be there. I want to introduce you to them.

Maja – Baby you can do it. And you better do it now. Sooner or later you have to face them.

She squeezes his chin.

Maja – But since you’re here already… I wrote this for you.

She gives him a framed picture. She reads out:

Maja – I love you and I will tell you every day,
Every day until you forget the things that hurt,
I hate the things that hurt you,
And how I wish I could take them away,
If only it could be done,
I’d do it for sure.
Those are just the lyrics. I’m saving the music for our second monthsiversary. Happy monthsiversary!

He gives her a weird flat look.

Maja – You forgot, didn’t you?

He hugs her apologetically, but then SURPRISE he gives her a box. It is a bracelet.

JLC – Looks like you don’t need it.

Maja holds out her arm, he bracelets it up.

Maja – I love you baby.

JLC – Love you too.

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Maja you stone fox! Maja is wonderful, Bea is wonderful, Derek is wonderful, everyone is wonderful in this film except for JLC.

There’s a scene where JLC and Bea meet each other, and he’s basically polite, and she’s so delighted with his remotely adult conduct that she calls Derek to be all excited and ‘why was he so nice to me, he didn’t scream at me!’ because that’s how low the fucking bar is set for this character, if he doesn’t yell at you it’s like he’s won an olympic gold medal or something

Christ, if you have a friend whose biggest achievement is that sometimes he doesn’t scream abuse at you, I think you need to Let Him Go

Now there’s a whole series of scenes where JLC and Bea are working together on building this house. I hate the house and I hate JLC’s aunt and uncle, but it’s worth it for some heartrending shots of Bea just looking full of feeling

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Depressingly, a lot of the character arc in this bit of the movie is Bea realising that she’s still attracted to JLC. I get this, to a degree – if you’ve broken out of a shitty relationship, especially a long-term one, and you’re striking out on your own, there’s gonna be points along the way where the loneliness and the challenge of the unknown feels heavy and hard, and you crave the familiarity of a love that you let go, especially as time and distance softens some of the shitty edges. This is hard, and this is where good, true friends can help by reminding you of what you’ve got, of who you are, of keeping your eyes on the prize.

Bea’s friends, however, are total flakes, and they want her back with JLC for their own damn convenience. So she gets no support, no reinforcement, and JLC meanwhile is flirting with her like crazy, safe in the knowledge that he has another relationship on the go, a plan b, because he’s an emotionally crippled man-child.

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If I were there, I would be helping Bea move on. If I could beam myself inside a movie, this would be it.

It all comes to a head in this scene, which is one of the saddest moments of defeat I’ve ever seen in cinema. Bea and JLC are arguing about designing his stupid aunt and uncle’s stupid house, and finally she gives up, because honestly, what’s in it for her, doing his family a favour after all the shit he’s put her through. They’re midway through an argument, he’s being patronising and insulting, and then interrupts her to take a call from Maja, with whom he starts being needlessly affectionate on the phone too.

Bea stalks out of the meeting because frankly who needs that bullshit?

JLC – Basha wait! Let’s talk about the revisions!

Bea – I’ll take care of it. I’ll just text you.

JLC – Basha let’s try to be professional about this, okay?

shut up you hypocritical patronising twat

Bea – I am being professional.

JLC – Yes, I can see that. Why are you being like this? Because I’m commenting on your plans? I’m not sourgraping. I’m in line.

Bea – There you go again.

JLC – There I go again what?

Bea – There! Saying that there’s no problem when there is!

JLC – Because there isn’t any. How can I fix the problem if you’re not going to tell me what it is? If I don’t know what it is?

Bea – Popoy, you can’t solve every problem. And believe me, you don’t want to know what my problem is.

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JLC – Just tell me what’s wrong!

Bea – You really want to know? It’s me, Popoy. I’m the problem. Because I’m hurting even though I know I shouldn’t be. How I wish I can just pretend I’m okay and that this isn’t painful. After all, I wanted this… How I wish I can say I’m happy for you, for both of you. How I wish I can… But I can’t. And I feel so horrible… because the truth is, I’m still hoping that you’ll tell me… that’s it’s me… that it’s always been me… that it’s still me you love.

JLC – I love Tricia.

Bea – I know. I know.

JLC – She loved me at my worst. You had me at my best. And you threw it all away.

WHAT A FUCKING A-HOLE

Bea – Is that what you really think? Popoy, I just had to make a choice.

JLC – You chose to break my heart.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.04

Remember, guys, always make sure to stick the knife in and twist it. If your ex-girlfriend confesses her feelings for you in a moment of weakness, make sure you use the opportunity to grandstand about how much she hurt you, throw it back in her face and make her feel like shit. God forbid you employ a little bit of compassion or kindness.

The next scene comes out of the fucking blue – one of their friends has just tried to kill himself by drinking shampoo after being broken up with. All the friends gather around, including Bea, JLC and Maja, and JLC delivers a speech about how good it is being broken up with because sometimes then you find someone better, really pointedly making it awkward for his ex-girlfriend, his current girlfriend, his suicidal friend, all their other friends, and the doctors who are wondering why he’s being such an asshole and making it all about him when his friend is on the verge of death.

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THAT’S OUR JOHN LLOYD CRUZ, HEY

Then JLC and Bea have sex, because why not? I mean you’ve just made your ex-girlfriend feel like shit for the last six months, why not cheat on your current girlfriend with her?

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It’s hard to tell, but the impression I get from the soft lighting and mournful power ballad soundtrack that this is pretty melancholy mopey ex-sex, rather than being fast, furious illicit sex out of a hunger and desire. Do either of them come? It looks like a couple of friends catching up for a quick coffee rather than anything super intimate.

Okay so skeezy deadbeat that he is, JLC has just cheated on his girlfriend, and the polite thing to do would be to confess and break up with her, right? But this is JLC, so even that much effort is beyond him. It’s up to the girls, as always, to do all the fucking work. So here we go, Maja Salvador to the rescue YET AGAIN.

JLC is sitting at a cafe, staring guiltily off into the distance Maja sits opposite him, her eyes full of knowing.

Maja – My song for you is done. Will you read it for me?

She passes him a napkin across the table.

JLC – ‘I love you and I will tell you every day,
Every day until you forget the things that hurt,
I hate the things that hurt you,
And how I wish I could take them away,
If only it could be done -‘

Maja – …but it cannot be done. I can’t do it, Popoy. Because you won’t let me. Popoy just say it.

JLC won’t say it because he is a coward.

JLC – Trish…

Maja – There’s no easy way to do this, because it already hurts too much. So just tell me the truth. Please. Do you love me?

JLC – Trish, you know I love you.

Maja – Do you love her?

JLC – I can’t stand seeing you hurt.

(while he sits there and casually hurts her)

Maja puts her hand over his eyes.

Maja – So if you hurt me, you won’t see. Do you love her?

JLC – I’m sorry.

Maja cries.

Maja – Do you want us to end this?

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 1.06.18 am

JLC – Can you still forgive me?

BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU, ISN’T IT MATE

Maja gets up and leaves.

Now the next scene, JLC finds Bea on a park bench and apologises at length for being an asshole. This is quite a nice scene, I like this one. Finally he lets her know that he’s taken a job in Qatar for the next two years, and he’s fucking off. He farewells her, and off he goes to grow as a person.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.23

In the ACTUAL final scene of the movie, he comes back after two years and they get together, but let’s imagine instead that he loses a leg in a workplace accident in Qatar, stays there for good, Bea meets someone else, someone who really cares for her, and she’s happy, and they never see each other again.

I think the point that this film is trying to make is that as hard as it is to be with someone else, it’s really fucking hard being on your own. We make all sorts of terrible choices to be with anyone – anyone – rather than being alone. We’d rather bone John Lloyd fucking Cruz than face staring at that blank empty darkness without another warm body to grab hold of.

Loneliness is freedom, freedom is loneliness. How do we be alone?

Are we gonna be okay on our own?

We have to figure out how to be okay on our own, or else we’ll end up with John Lloyd Cruz. That’s the fight we’re fighting. So good luck to all of us.

clyde_02

(As a little context, if you’re interested, I wrote this piece for Clyde Enriquez, who performed it for Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s Strange Pilgrims event at TomatoKick Tomas Morato, Manila, 16 December 2015. And she made it good and it was a grand performance. All the better because Clyde is actually an ex-professional snowboarder who did indeed represent Switzerland back in the day, so that added a certain verisimilitude to the whole thing.)

Pag pinagmamasdan kita, parang nagmamalikmata


(play this tune while reading this post for full effect)

I’ve been here in the Philippines since Thursday, so five days now. Most of that time and all my mental energy has been going into learning this slab of Filipino text which I’m going to try and use to get on to Foreignoy, the GMA Network’s reality tv show for foreignors with the ‘heart of a Pinoy’.

BfXkcJZCQAENsal

What is Foreignoy?

It’s a reality TV show / game show on Eat Bulaga, which is the GMA Network’s long-time noontime show and a bastion of Filipino daytime TV culture. And they have a special segment just for foreignors, or at least, foreignors who have some relationship to the Philippines, where they have to sing, improvise a skit in Filipino, and then face each other down in a popularity contest of some kind.

Why do you want to get on Foreignoy?

I don’t know, except that I want it more than I can ever remember wanting anything ever before in my life. Do you think the albatross knows what it’s doing when it starts flying halfway across the world to its winter feasting grounds? I don’t think so. I think it just knows that it needs to go, and it starts to fly, and that is that.

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What will happen if you get on Foreignoy?

I WILL WIN.

Actually I won’t win (except I will), but the real point is, get on the show, and then see what happens. In this life I guess the finish line is always moving.

How will you get on Foreignoy?

I DON’T KNOW. HELP ME.

My current plan is to put together an audition video showcasing my skills and hoping someone from GMA sees it and is duly moved by it. But I mean, if you have a better idea, let me know. If you know someone from GMA, give them my email address. If you ARE from GMA, get at me let’s talk.

2015_05_02_15_13_34

But Finig, you can’t sing, you can’t dance, you can’t really speak Tagalog, you’re not that pretty and you have a stupid beard, what do you have to offer the audience of Eat Bulaga?

All of these things are true, but I want this more than any other Foreignoy competitor has wanted it in the history of the show. If raw unfiltered urgent passion counts for anything, I outstrip everyone in the history of the show.

How’s the rehearsing going?

Maraming hirap. I spent 90 minutes last night pacing around the living room repeating the line ‘pag pinagmamasdankita, parang namamalikmata’ over and over, because my wretched English-speaking mouth can’t hack it. My voice is going, my throat is sore, I’m having weird lucid dreams about fumbling lines, and I’m not even halfway through.

I have listened to this timestretched loop of Abra’s Diwata over 2000 times today and it’s not helping.

Photo on 24-11-2015 at 7.15 pm #2

But I will get there. Magiging okay lang ang lahat. Because Donnalyn Bartholme. Because Abra. Because Sarah Geronimo. Because Salbakuta. Because AlDub. Because Asin & Freddie Aguilar. Because Ryzza Mae, because Ryzza Mae, because Ryzza Mae, because Ryzza Mae, because we have 84 years left of this century and it’s up to determine what it looks like, and I don’t want to live in a future where I didn’t win Foreignoy

Because I AM a kakaibabe

Singapore interlude

pfinnng

It’s mid-November and I’m sitting in Singapore on Circular Road watching all the pretty office workers go by looking fancy and sharp as razors. I’m on my way to Manila, where my challenge is going to be (a) having a bullet planted in my baggage, (b) sitting on EDSA for 5+ hours because of APEC, and (c) my pabebe wave is rubbish. Still though, I think the technical term is CANNOT WAIT.

I’ve spent the last few weeks in between Sydney and Canberra. It was all prep work – prep for the new Finnigan and Brother EP, prep for Best Festival Ever travelling to Sweden next year, prep for Kill Climate Deniers coming up in 2016. And of course that kind of prep feels sometimes really positive, and sometimes like you’re standing totally still getting nothing done.

Maybe I’ve been getting nothing done. It doesn’t feel like it, but there’s nothing that’s quite ready to share, nothing that I’m happy to break out and put across the wires. So for now, I think I’ll just leave it and say I’m gonna be in Manila in that headspace very, very soon. And the future’s frightening, same as always.

lioness evil eye

Some funding applications for you to read, copy, get wealthy with

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This one’s probably a bad idea for reasons I’m not 100% clear on, but you know, fuck it.

Yolande Norris is going up to Crack in a couple of weeks to run a workshop on grant writing, which will be dope. She and I were having a chat over the phone about it, talking about what would be most useful for people to know, how best to communicate grant-writing practice for people who haven’t done it before. And the thing that I kept coming back to was: you need to see examples of other grants people have written.

My first grant application, Sylvie Stern sat down with me and basically helped me write it, paragraph for paragraph. Because she was fucking wonderful and had the time and patience to sit down with a wannabe theatre-kid and talk me through it line by line.

When Gills and I started the Crack Theatre Festival in 2009 I had no idea about festivals or anything to do with them. One thing that stuck out for me was Nic Low (National Young Writers Festival director at the time) showing me his budget spreadsheet for the NYWF – and it blew my mind. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like, and suddenly it all fell into place and I managed to fumble my way forward from there.

A year or two ago Bryony Kimmings kicked off her brilliant You Show Me Yours project where she started sharing her project budgets publicly, to open them up to discussion. It’s fucking scary sharing your budgets, because everyone’s a fucking expert, everyone knows what you’re doing wrong, and there’s no defending yourself against lazy armchair critics. But I thought it was a great initiative, and I wished then that I’d had the courage to share my own admin files.

It’s been said by heaps of people that signing up to be a peer assessor for one of the funding bodies is a great way to learn about grantwriting – you read hundreds of the things, and get an insight into what makes a good application and what makes one crash and burn. Being a festival director was similar, in that we were digesting and responding to heaps of applications and trying to glean the content out of the awkward grant-speak. But not everyone has the time or capacity to be a grant assessor. It shouldn’t be a requirement, should it?

With all that in mind, I decided it was probably time to share some of my old applications here, for anyone who might be interested, and particularly anyone who’s pretty new to the grantwriting game. They’re not necessarily any good (and they definitely didn’t all get funded), but maybe if you’re getting your head around the whole world of funding, these might be worth glancing at?

I really wanted to include a couple of the applications I wrote for Crack and the You Are Here festivals, but because there was a whole bunch of people involved in the writing of those, I don’t really feel I can share them. Weird how personal some of this stuff, feels, hey – especially when you think you mail this shit off to some random strangers you’ve never met to read it over and give you a thumbs up or down. But there you go. So I’ve shared what I feel I can share.

Good luck all you motherfuckers we’re gonna be okay we’re gonna be okay

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 9.37.42 am copythis has nothing to do with anything really but I watched How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days this week and here is a screenshot of Kate Hudson

ASIALINK
I applied for Asialink’s 2015 round and was successful – I don’t think you need to apply with a budget, or at least I couldn’t see one in my application, so this was the bulk of it.

David Finnigan – Asialink application 2014

ANAT – SYNAPSE
The Australian Network for Art and Technology has (had?) a program called Synapse, where artists undertake residencies in research institutions. I applied for funding to complete a three-month program of research at University College London in 2011 – and I didn’t get it. Not sure why, but I have a sneaking suspicion the hyperbolic last paragraph in the proposal didn’t help.

David Finnigan – ANAT Synapse application 2011
David Finnigan – ANAT Synapse budget 2011

BRITISH COUNCIL – REALISE YOUR DREAM
I’m not heaps into the name ‘realise your dream’ for this funding opportunity, which is (was?) the British Council helping Australian artists get over to the UK. But that might be just sour grapes because I didn’t get the funding.

David Finnigan – Realise Yr Dream application 2012

OZCO EARLY CAREER CREATIVE FELLOWSHIP
This is Ozco’s initiative to support early career interdisciplinary practitioners with a two-year fellowship to support their practice. I was really fortunate to get this one – I think the program has been impacted now by the $104.7 million funding cut to Ozco.

David Finnigan – Ozco Creative Fellowship application 2014

OZCO EXPERIMENTAL ART FUND
Boho was invited over to the UK to present the first season of Best Festival Ever in residence at the London Science Museum. To help cover our costs to get us over there, we applied to Ozco’s Experimental Arts fund – and we were successful.

David Finnigan – Ozco Experimental Arts application 2014

I had a hunt around my hard drive for the budget for this application, but because the project was funded by a variety of sources (seven, by my rough count) it’s a bit too messy to share here. Get at me via the email if yr curious.

Aight, I hope this is vaguely of interest to yall – if not, here’s Dean Blunt’s 100, get to it.

Where do your ideas come from, Finnigan?

11403122_878358258904464_9171899985380855876_nconfused finig. pic by toni munoz.

This is one of those weeks where I go around and around in frantic mental circles questioning the choices that got me to where I am. What is driving me to make work? What is the machinery behind my process?

Like I’ve said before, without the structure of a full-time gig, it’s easy for an artist like me to run into all sorts of existential questions. Unless I’m right in the thick of a project, I have time to stop and question myself. And right now I don’t have the momentum to ignore the worry that it might all be a total shambles. And so last night, sitting alone in a parked car, I was thinking over and over about how projects get started.

How does it happen, then? Finig where do your ideas come from?

Usually the seed of an idea comes from my frequent and high-dosage sensations of jealousy, fear, anger and particularly, spite. That’s where it starts, and later, if I’m lucky, comes a slightly more healthy mix of constructive emotions.

The seed of an idea is usually the urge to needle someone. Most of the YAH events that I programmed came from a specific urge to annoy Hadley or Yolande. This is how we came to hosting a Christmas In March event with a reenactment of the Beep Test in the middle of it. Or I air a stupid thought on social media, and as soon as someone criticises it, that’s enough to guarantee that it happens.

11201905_10153798855799505_1379026310089970685_neven my best ideas are bad, and involve me being a reindeer for hadley. pic by adam thomas.

Then, once an idea exists, you can apply your social conscience, intelligence, sense of craft and aesthetic values on top of it. Does it engage the community, is it accessible, is it meaningful, does it resonate with the context? These are crucial filters, but the idea itself doesn’t come from those questions. Nothing so noble or constructive in that first moment.

If enough people say something is a bad idea, I’m gonna double down on it. I could’ve let Kill Climate Deniers go, if not for the fact that some peeps insisted on making a feeble melodrama out of the fact that ArtsACT funded the script development. Now the sheer fact of that challenge has engaged those instincts, and it’s going to happen. Because it matters, because it’s relevant, because it’s saying something purposeful and worthwhile, but also because a bunch of people think it’s a bad idea.

My decision-making flowchart is a fucking shambles, and my internal mental process for What Should I Do Now is more dependent on what’s on my walkman than any kind of logical scheme. In general: If I’m not feeling scared, I’m not happy. If I’m not out of my depth, I’m not happy. If I’m not directly contravening someone’s well meaning advice, I’m not happy.

I don’t have a plan, but I know that I can’t really trust anyone else’s example, because I don’t know anyone who’s done what I want to do. And what is that? I don’t know, but I know it doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve seen before.

My decision-making is based off bad instincts, fortified by collaborators who, I mean we trust each other, even if none of us really knows what it all adds up to, and guided by cobbled-together bits of advice from my mentors. Brenna Hobson. Nicole Canham. Jan Wawrzynczak. Tassos Stevens. Robyn Archer. Good, thoughtful advice, applied haphazardly and without a sense of the big picture.

I think to myself, what are you doing? I think to myself, you have to do something, you have to make something. I think to myself, these are the stories you need to tell, these are the things you need to fix. I think to myself, have you fucked over anyone recently? I mean, specifically? I think to myself, make something, anything, to distract yourself from thinking.

I think about the refrain of this old Gomez tune a lot – the chorus goes, ‘you better convince me man, cause I don’t know what I’m doing – you better convince me man, cause I don’t know who I’m screwing.’

11703515_10155819472915704_4704864505902018753_othis was karnabal, which was also a confusing experience. pic by jordan prosser.

Some days you’re at a crossroads, and all you really know is that none of the roads go anywhere you want to be, but you need to keep moving or else you’ll rot on the pavement where thou rottedst half.

You don’t want to get a gig in any of the structures because you don’t believe in the system, you’re not looking for a full-time job as a whatever in an organisation. But outside those structures you can’t do anything, make anything, change anything. And you’re already implicated up to your neck and there’s no point pretending otherwise.

You want people to see your work, you want your work to be part of the ecosystem, you want to be a part of the conversation and somehow move the conversation towards that point of crisis, you want to build platforms where people can come together and begin to address the real challenges facing us as a species, as a planet. But you don’t know how to connect your work to all those people in the world. How does work find an audience?

Those institutions, the theatres and the TV studios and the radio stations, they’re full of beautiful people working hard, and some days they seem so porous and other days they seem baffingly impenetrable. And you feel like if you could fold yourself into the right shape maybe you could slide through the gaps. But there’s no logical way to do that and maybe it’s bad news to start thinking about folding yourself into anything.

Jess said our job is to keep flashing our lights at the sky:

The problem for us is having enough rocket fuel to beam up our signals for as long as we can, and to trudge along with enough water packed on our backs to stay healthy in all the right ways. Our job is to keep making, keep creating, while recognising that sometimes the sky is very full and even very bright messages can be dulled by the camera-flash cacophony that surrounds us.

JUST HAVE YOUR LUNCH SORTED FOR THE DAY

And today I just wrote, for no-one really, something that doesn’t really fit anyone’s template of the art they want, a piece about a vigilante group forming to rescue a kidnapped popstar, a thing just for me, probably.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

IMG_0596rev 01image by javier vela

Doing a show in Canberra after a long time away: what’s that even like?

And this week, the strange but kinda delightful feeling of being back in the Street Theatre in Canberra, presenting a Boho show. The Street Theatre is one of the places where I got my start, doing Boho and Opiate shows there back as far as 2002, and it has a lot of memories for me. It’s also rad to be bringing Best Festival Ever here, the first Australian season after three years of development and performances overseas.

In case you’ve not spoken with me for the past couple of years, Best Festival Ever is the latest production from Boho, the science-theatre ensemble I run along with Jack Lloyd, Mick Bailey and David Shaw. David (well, Muttley) and I have been working on BFE since 2011 with three members of Sydney ensemble Applespiel: Nikki Kennedy, Nathan Harrison and Rachel Roberts, as well as UK director Tassos Stevens and designer Gary Campbell.

Best Festival Ever is an interactive performance that takes place around a table, in which a playing audience of around 30 people program and manage their own music festival. The show draws on a lot of ideas from climate and systems science, and functions as a bit of a primer to some key concepts from complex systems science: ideas such as interconnectivity, feedback loops, the tragedy of the commons, tipping points and resilience.

I had a grand conversation with Richard Watts from Artshub about the work, and he circled in on some of the core ideas and themes of the show – well worth a glance if you’re curious.

Even after three years we haven’t come up with a good, simple way to describe it: ‘part theatre show, part performance lecture and part massive boardgame’ is how we’ve framed it for the Street Theatre season. But as complex as it sounds, it’s actually one of the most intuitive shows I’ve ever worked on – we’ve spent years working out the details, but the broad aesthetic shape we settled on within a few weeks of getting to grips with it during our residency at University College London’s Environment Institute in 2012.

After presenting it in a host of different spaces across London and Stockholm last year (I think 21 performances in 14 venues?), it’s a total luxury to be doing it in the Street Theatre, with lighting and additional design by Gills Schwab and sound design by Nick McCorriston. I feel kinda guilty because everyone this season is working harder than me – Nikki, Nathan and Rachel are performing every night, and Muttley has done a beautiful job fixing heaps of the props. With the script and marketing stuff all out of the way, my only job has been facilitating the post-show conversations with the scientists.

And this has been the loveliest part of this whole season. Being in Canberra, we’ve been able to assemble a lineup of some of our all-time favourite scientists, old collaborators and new, and conclude each show with a conversation / informal Q&A about the science content of the show.

Last week we had Will Steffen (Climate Council), who talked about planetary boundaries and global tipping points, Brian Walker, who discussed resilience and thresholds in systems such as the Goulburn-Broken catchment, rioting crowds and the human body, Nicky Grigg, who talked about modelling human behaviour and the Australia 2050 project, Joanne Daly, who talked about food security and dealing with invasive species, and Ellie Malbon, who talked about Canberra as a system and the issue of health inequality.

This week we’ll be joined by Steve Cork, John Finnigan and Bob Costanza, and Muttley and I are doing a talk of our own on behalf of the company after the Saturday matinee.

pic by the canberra times photographer Jamila Toderas

It’s been a really lovely experience – the audiences have been great, we’ve sold out the season and had to add additional shows, and we’re all really happy with where the show is at. The big question for me is, where do we take this work next? We really haven’t made any huge effort to line up an Australian tour for the show. That hasn’t really bothered me until now, because I’ve been focused on connecting in with some of our international peers, but right now I’m starting to see how lovely it would be to bring the show to more Australian audiences.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on this front, let me know, yo.