Your free what's on guide to the top end

Life At The Top

The Top End is an incredible place to live and work, where opportunities abound. Artsworker and emerging artist Hannah Illingworth and photographer Jacob Hazeldine of City of Darwin’s LAUNCHmedia caught up with three young Darwinites for Off The Leash, who are kicking their career goals in the Northern Territory capital.

JONATHAN SAUNDERS

Pick your weapon. As an artist, what do you prefer creating and what industries can we find you working in? 

My art weapon of choice at the moment is a stylus. I work using a 13-inch HD Wacom stylus, which is a screen-based tablet. Although when I’m working on the Zero Point Project (a new anime web series) in Sydney I use a 24-inch, which is a lot nicer, so I might be upgrading soon. At the moment you’ll find me doing a lot of 2D animation and a lot of writing, but before that I was a stencil artist. I think I’d be a bit rusty with a Stanley knife and spray can now.

When people talk about Darwin, what’s the most amazing thing that you never hear?  

The potential for growth and change here is often not talked about, especially for the growing film and screen community. And hopefully, with Zero Point, a growing animation community. For the screen industry, there’s a real need to keep talents up here, to build that community. I believe we can create things that are the same quality or rival to Melbourne or Sydney. 

Why Darwin over somewhere like Melbourne? What happened for you to decide that Darwin is the creative playground for you? 
 
I made the decision to stay because lot of people with a creative streak and talent have traditionally moved down south because there’s no work here. So it’s a double-edged sword where people want to work here, but there’re no jobs – but if there’s no one up here then no new jobs will be created. With the Internet it’s not a hindrance like it used to be and with Season Zero I’ve been working in Darwin but I also work with my animation director in Sydney using the web or phones. Being so close to South Asia, Darwin is in a prime position to expand; providing opportunities to work with animation companies in Singapore and Malaysia where there’s been a big injection of money for those industries. You also get to stand out more. You can focus on making a good product instead of worrying about getting your foot in the door, which is not as crushing or detrimental to the end result. Don’t be discouraged by the isolation, I found an audience online as well. If you put in the work and promote yourself you’ll get the audience and the opportunities.

What’s been your favourite unique opportunity? What job has made you think: wow, this is definitely something I’d never do anywhere else? 

My day job at ANKAAA (Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aborig-inal Artists). I travel to a lot of remote Indigenous communities and you really wouldn’t be able to do that anywhere else. Compared to going out bush down south, the Territory still has that ‘Last Frontier’ vibe, even now. It’s a bit special. We still have a lot of freedom in terms of travelling and living. For good or bad we’re still the final frontier.

You need to feel comforted and inspired. Where’s your favourite secret Darwin hideaway? 

I’m afraid to say, as it won’t be a secret – but if I want to get away I usually go to the foreshore in Nightcliff. It’s not particularly a secret but it’s nice. I like it because it’s relaxing and everyone has their own story from there. Living in Darwin, one of the good things is the laid back attitude – but that’s also a bad thing, because if you’re too laid back you’re not going to push yourself to seek opportunities. You have to be confident in your abilities. If there’s an opportunity you’ve just got to grab it. Even if you don’t think you’ll get it, just try anyway.

FOLLOW facebook.com/zeropointanimation | jonathon-saunders.tumblr.com


CJ FRASER BELL

Pick your weapon. As an artist, what do you prefer creating and what industries can we find you working in? 

I predominantly work in theatre and live performance, so I really enjoy writing and directing. I very much enjoy performance practice that’s innovative, new and risky, working with queer artists and trying to experiment with new and old ideas. I also spend a lot of time as an arts manager and a producer, including with Darwin Fringe Festival. 

When people talk about Darwin, what’s the most amazing thing that you never hear?  

One of the things I really love is the art scene. People don’t seem to know how awesome our art scene is – that it’s huge and different to other scenes in Australia. I didn’t realise, until I started travelling and seeing other work and other festivals, how unique and special it is here. We care about each other and we care about each other’s projects. We are a community, people have your back, people want to see you succeed and they want to give you opportunities. There’s a real sense of pride and achievement, and I don’t think you find that in larger art scenes so much. 

Why Darwin over somewhere like Melbourne? What happened for you to decide that Darwin is the creative playground for you? 

I’m from Darwin, I was born here. But unlike a lot of people who stick around, my family doesn’t live here. They left and I decided to stay because I’d started to feel that sense of community. And then a few years later I realised that the art that gets made here, and the artistic voices that develop here, are unique, special and formed by this place. That’s really exciting and should be shared with the rest of Australia. I think it’s a really great place to develop a unique voice.

What’s been your favourite unique opportunity? What job has made you think: wow, this is definitely something I’d never do anywhere else? 

With very little experience, I think it’s unlikely that I’d be the director of a Fringe Festival anywhere else in Australia. Darwin’s a place where you can make your own opportunities. A bunch of friends and I decided there was a need for an independent arts festival for emerging artists of different art forms in Darwin. Being able to start that with my friends, and now drive it as the director, is a really cool opportunity. In Sydney or Melbourne you go to uni and get a degree and then beg people to let you work for free in the area you’re qualified in. In Darwin you can be kind of interested, but with no experience, and there’s probably an opportunity to be paid beside a team! The attitude of making things happen is really exciting. 

You need to feel comforted and inspired. Where’s your favourite secret Darwin hideaway? 

I live in the suburbs and I love those gorgeous little parks that are between streets. Often there’s not even a playground or even a proper walking path. They’re just beautiful and really serene, these little pockets of green. I love that about Darwin, how green our suburbs are. It’s something that’s really unique to here. And everyone loves being on Nightcliff foreshore catching a storm roll in. Even in the city you’re a minute walk away from the Esplanade. Being able to walk out of your office and be under a tree is the best. 

FOLLW @cjfraserbell | darwinfringe.org.au


LEVI DOBSON

Pick your weapon. As an artist, what do you prefer creating and what industries can we find you working in? 

The last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed mucking around in Adobe; really playing around in Photoshop. Through trying new things and getting fresh ideas from places like Pinterest, I’ve gotten to see my progression in a digital media space and it makes me feel a bit proud. Generally you can find me working with AFL NT – press conferences, interviews, and media related work. You can also find me in the television industry working on The Scoop for Southern Cross Television. 

When people talk about Darwin, what’s the most amazing thing that you never hear?  

A lot of people are quick to talk about the weather – “it’s hot” – the markets and beautiful sunsets. Yeah, it’s all awesome, but the thing people really don’t talk about is the sense of community. The past three years have shown me that a lot; how tight and close our community is. My boss and I joke that there’s zero degrees of separation between everyone up here. Recently there was a horrible accident in the NTFL and seeing the community band together reinforced how strong our community is.  

Why Darwin over somewhere like Melbourne? What happened for you to decide that Darwin is the creative playground for you? 

People say “aw what! You’re still up here, what are you doing?” I think there’s a lot of misconception about how far you can progress in Darwin, but it has so many opportunities because it is so small and because we have a tight community. The lifestyle is so laid back. Mum’s always saying “go with the flow” whenever I stress – and it’s true. I think back eight years to when I was living in Brisbane, and I wouldn’t be doing things down there that I do here. For me, I was at that stage where I was thinking I’m not really getting anywhere, but as soon as you start putting the work in and getting your name out, going places, conversing and meeting with new people, things just open up.

What’s been your favourite unique opportunity? What job has made you think: wow, this is definitely something I’d never do anywhere else? 

The most unique opportunity would be The Scoop! If it weren’t for The Scoop we wouldn’t be having this interview! That’s opened my avenues to heaps 
of opportunities, places and locations I never thought I’d go. I’ve been lucky enough to do international trips, filming episodes in places like Vietnam, Sin-gapore and Thailand. The Scoop’s so unique and I’ve met so many people. I’m so lucky and fortunate to be involved.

You need to feel comforted and inspired. Where’s your favourite secret Darwin hideaway? 

It’s not much of a secret, but Nightcliff Jetty. For a lot of young people it’s got such a connection to their childhood. Living in the suburbs and going there with mates, I’ve had so many good experiences and made so many memories. You’ve got sunsets, fish and chips, you can bring the family, watch the king tide when a cyclone rolls in or hunt the rock pools for seashells. The wider Darwin community resonates with this place. I really love it. 

FOLLOW facebook.com/levidobsonpresenter | @ldobs

Thanks to interviewer Hannah Illingworth and photographer Jacob Hazeldine of City of Darwin's LAUNCHmedia for this content.

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