This is a continuation of ‘Always a Student’ with Paul Nevison | Part 1
Do you ever get ‘creative block’? What’s your go-to motivating trick?
I don’t think there is a creative person alive that hasn’t experienced the curse of the blank canvas. It’s just part of it.
So I have two completely opposite methods that usually help get past the blocks. The first is play. I’ll go and do something unrelated to the task I’m stuck on. So, for me, that’s going to the beach or listening to some music or just to go and sit somewhere beautiful. Often when I change the scenery, at some later point I’m rewarded with a new idea or perspective that I can explore.
The second, and completely opposite method, is to procrastinate until the deadline is breathing down on me. Sometimes the adrenaline of a fast approaching deadline can jolt me out of a malaise…the second method may be hazardous to your health.
Who is an expert in your area that you most admire? Someone who stretches you?
Ira Glass is pretty much the person I would want to be like when I grow up. He is an incredible storyteller and craftsman and he’s just one of these annoyingly nerdy people that just effortlessly oozes cool. I’ve learnt a lot about storytelling by listening to his radio show ‘This American Life.’
When did you become a Christian? How has that journey impacted the choices you have made?
As a child I always had a belief, but it was when I was about 18 that I had a pentecostal/charismatic experience. After which faith went from being something my parents believed to something I was figuring out for myself. So, in many ways, faith has always been the lens through which I see the world, but the aspect of that lens has changed and morphed over the years. I think I started out very narrow and quite fundamentalist…so in photography terms I was like a 100mm macro lens where you only see the close up detail of what you are focused on…and now I find myself much more of a 35mm super wide anamorphic cine lens to keep the metaphor going!
I relate to Franciscan theologian St Bonaventure, who embodied the spirit of Psalm 121 when, in the 13th century, he sagely said, ‘Our God is the one whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.’ That’s a big enough canvas that I can find some small place to stand.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
To do everything you can to be intentionally present. So much of our attention is wasted lamenting the past or worrying about various futures, that we neglect the present, which is where our lives actually happen one second at a time.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
It’s ok to fail. In fact, you will probably fail a lot before you make anything half good. Social media and the internet promise the instant audience and with it instant validation. But good work takes time and private struggle.
This wisdom from Epictetus in 50 AD says it best, ‘No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.’
You’re a key speaker at the upcoming Sparc Creative Conference. Why is sharing with other creatives important?
The term ‘lifehack’ has become popular and I think it reflects the human temptation to look for shortcuts and formulas that will ‘fast track’ you to where you think you need to be. I know I’ve learnt much more from stories of failure than ‘success.’ I think what we are mostly looking for is a sense of solidarity and a feeling that we are not alone on the journey. So, whenever I get the chance to speak to groups of creative people I think that’s what I’m trying to impart….this is the journey I’ve walked, the ups and the downs and this is what I’ve discovered so far.
Lord Byron talked about finding a “pleasure in the pathless woods” and I think there is much to be lost in the pursuit of the overnight success. Much better the long walk that, if nothing else, gives you a cracking yarn to share.
The internet and social media have made people more accessible and allowed for connections to be made, and I wish that had been available when I was coming up through the ranks. I always want to hold the creative gift with an open hand and to be available to others.
What are you most looking forward to?
The rest of the year is quite full with a lot of different projects on the go. I have an upcoming shoot in a village of the indigenous Zapotec people in southern Mexico. They have a vibrant rich culture I’m really looking forward to capturing visually.
I’m also directing a feature documentary about a Phoenix Police Officer who fought against the drug cartels and lived with serious threats against his family. I have a story on the child labour situation in the fishing industry in Ghana, and we are also in the final stages of completing the screenplay for a feature film I’m producing with Ben Field on the life of Bali Nine drug smuggler, Andrew Chan.
So after all that, I’ll mostly be looking forward to swinging in a hammock under a tree somewhere.