The Interview Series // 15 (Part One)

glendynivin1

Glendyn Ivin (http://glendynivin NULL.com) is a Cannes winning, AFI toting, bearded film-maker with an ability to make cool shit. He’s been directing TV commercials for years now – some of which have made him very popular in the industry – but that’s not even the cool bit! He’s just released his first feature film titled Last Ride (http://lastridemovie NULL.com), featuring none other than Elrond (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Elrond) himself, Hugo Weaving (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Hugo_Weaving). Can you believe it? What a scoop! We’re totally journalists now. Who would have thought? Ha, OK, so this is how good we are at journalism: Last month we arranged to meet Glendyn at a swanky bar in Fitzroy. Running about ten minutes late after drinking some pints with Stan Lee (http://branddna NULL.blogspot NULL.com/), we stumbled out of the taxi, drunk as she-devils, and straightened ourselves up proper. What happens next? Will this be the interview that spells our demise? Ha! Of course not! Drinking makes us smarter! Read on and see…

Junior: Glendyn! Woo! We’re here. Sorry we’re late, we were getting drunk with Stan (http://branddna NULL.blogspot NULL.com/).

Glendyn Ivin: That’s cool boys. Let’s do this!

Jr: Here goes nuthin’! OK, so we heard you started out as a designer. How did you end up as a director? There’s gotta be a story there somewhere…

G: I studied Design at Newcastle in the early 90’s. I always wanted to do film when I was there. It was very different back then because it wasn’t like you could edit on any computer, and cameras weren’t everywhere, and the ones you could use were big clunky U-Mat or VHS. I was always inspired by film. I grew up in a country town and had no access to gear or anyone to help point me in the right direction, the path wasn’t as clear cut as what it could be now – it has changed a lot. These days you can edit a film on an iMac out of the box.

When I finished design school I moved to Melbourne because I thought it would be an easier place to make films. At that time, films like Romper Stomper (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Romper_Stomper), Proof (http://www NULL.imdb NULL.com/title/tt0102721/), Spotswood (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Spotswood_(film)), all came out in a row and I just thought, ‘I’ve got to go to Melbourne because that is where those films are made.’ It’s so geeky but when I first moved here I spent my time just going around and finding the locations where all those films were shot. The house from Dogs in Space (http://img NULL.photobucket NULL.com/albums/v91/Dr NULL.Shrink/dogsinspace21 NULL.jpg) is in Richmond – I was amazed that someone just put a camera there and shot it. It wasn’t this hallowed location – it’s just a house sitting there. It made everything very real and it felt obtainable.

I did get stuck working as a designer though and I got to the point where I turned 25 and had this early mid-life crisis, I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do in my life. That year I applied for film school; I had always wanted to have a photographic exhibition so I did that – I just did the stuff that I wanted to do and never looked back.

Jr: Imagine if you never did that.

G: I know, exactly. My Dad freaked a little at the time – I quit my job and he just said, “What have you done? You’ve quit your job?! Maybe if you go and ask for it back they’ll give it to you.”

Jr: Gotta love parents!

G: I was like: “Dad, it’s not going to happen.” It was really weird. My Dad left home when I was five and I’m so glad he wasn’t around, if it meant I was going to be so full of those kind of thoughts I would never have had the experiences and opportunities I have had since quitting that design job.

Jr: Exactly! I read once, never listen to your parents; you will never get their approval because they don’t get what you are doing. You’ve got to be completely faithful in exactly what your vision is and nobody else matters, especially your parents. Do the opposite.

G: It’s easy for me to say this now but if you are not doing what you want to do and you are young without a mortgage and without kids – quit your job and go for it. Now that I am married with a mortgage and two kids, I still try not to let the fear of money and those ‘more sensible decisions’ determine what I am going to do. If I want to make an experimental art film, I can do that. Maybe I’ve got to do an ad campaign along side it, but I’m still going to do it. Because if I don’t, then I’m really not going to like my work overall.

Jr: When did you start at Exit Films (http://exit NULL.com NULL.au/)?

G: When I left film school I knew I didn’t want to do design anymore. I didn’t want to do anything commercial at all. I had it in my head that I was just going to do purist, long form, observational documentary filmmaking. Even now when I think about filmmaking, it’s doco I’d love more than anything to do. Just me, a camera and a subject that you follow for ten years. I quickly realised though that no one is going to support you to do that. There is no funding for that kind of film.  So I had it in the back of my head that I was going to have to earn a living doing something.

Around that time an agency named Pure Creative – they’re not around anymore – came to the film school I was at and wanted to make little documentary ads. Which I guess ten years ago was pretty out there, but now there is a lot of work like that. It made me think, “Oh man, that sounds really bad.” It was for cat food. But I went along, and basically was told to go find people who like cats, make little documentaries about them, and cut them into 30 seconds. For every one that went to air they would give us $10,000. Ka-ching!

Jr: Money!

G: The carrot was big enough – it was dangling. But more than the carrot, I thought, “OK, alright, I want to make something”. I’d wanted the opportunity to get a camera, shoot it and cut it – this was it. In the end I went for it. I ended up ringing 3AW and got on air, chatted about what I was doing and then foolishly announced my home phone number. I think I ended up talking to 75 people on the phone, all cat lovers, and every one of them thinking their cat was great. I went out and met five people who I thought sounded good, and we shot four, cut three, and they bought one. I got some money, my first ad, and from that someone else I knew who was working for the Salvation Army wanted me to make an ad…

So anyway someone on the Salvos’s spot said I should go and have a chat to Exit Films. I had no idea who Exit was and I thought if I talked to them I should go see someone else too, kind of to get a second opinion. I went and saw Renegade (http://www NULL.renegade NULL.com NULL.au/), showed my reel and they thought it had some promise but they had a full house but said to stay in contact. Which I thought was great – it wasn’t a ‘no’. So I rang Exit and made an appointment. Garth (Davis) (http://exitfilms NULL.com/directors/default NULL.htm?DirectorId=23) looked at my reel, and then he showed me his reel. It was similar work in some ways and we had a really good conversation. I liked his reel because it wasn’t ‘addy’ – even back in those days. I walked off and thought it was good to meet him, but I won’t get any work there because we were doing similar work. A day later Henrik (Damnerfjord – Exit’s founder) rang me and said he’d looked at my reel and to come in for a meeting. I walked in and he said ‘What do you want to do?’. It was a really powerful moment in my life because someone who owned a production company, that had a lot of work coming in, was asking me what I wanted to do. It was a hard question and I had to work out on the spot what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure but I knew I wanted to make films. The experience of creating those little ads was really fun and I realised it could be a way to learn more about film and get paid. It was a big decision at the time for me.

Jr: So what did you say back?

G: I think I said I didn’t know if I wanted to tie myself down to a production company because I felt like I was getting a job, and I didn’t want a ‘job’. In hindsight you think, “Why would you not take a job at Exit if it was offered to you?” And then you realise how many people want to work at Exit. I took the position. I didn’t have a producer or anything; I was given a desk and eventually teamed up with Jane (Liscombe). I was so naïve, I didn’t know about how a production company worked or any of that stuff. I was given a few no budget jobs. But film clips are where I cut my teeth.

Jr: Yes! We heard about the work you did with Magic Dirt from Jack (Hutchings). He told us that working with you was the seed of his career.

G: When Jack came in, I saw him like he was a comrade. We were both beginning. Even though his reel wasn’t that great, he seemed like a cool guy, and I could see the potential in what he wanted to do. We just clicked straight away on that first job. We’ve been best friends since and I’ve cut everything I can with him. Same with Greig (Fraser) (http://www NULL.greigfraser NULL.com/). He was working as a runner when I rocked up to Exit. It was all punk-ass with Greig shooting, just the two of us, setting up the camera ourselves. It really cemented that fact of starting relationships with people very early on in your career and going through the world together. What I’m doing, what Jack’s doing, and what Greig’s doing – we’ve kind of all climbed up and helped each other on that ladder. I read recently that you choose people for their hearts not their CVs. I guess that really rings true for me. The thing about doing commercials is that I get to work with a whole heap of people, and even though they all do the job, you realise that they all do the job differently. And discovering and negotiating that difference is the most important thing.

Jr: That’s one of the best pieces of advice I think we’ve ever had. Early on in Junior we were all about networking being a stupid fucking buzzword and it was all about making friends. And obviously to keep developing together.

G: It might sound wanky, but I see them as sacred alliances. That first Magic Dirt clip (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=vk7qGU2hNmg)I cut with Jack, we both sweated over it frame by frame probably more than we ever have on any job since. But there was someone who was as dedicated as I was trying to make it as good as it could be. Same with Greig. When you are in that zone, you become a machine and you try to find other people who will become machines as well, to encourage and bounce ideas off each other. It doesn’t feel like networking, it feels like you are hanging out with your friends.

Jr: There are a lot of creatives who go straight into university then straight into production companies or newspapers or advertising agencies and they become very involved in the corporate or professional world, and they’ve lost sight of getting in touch with human nature. As a storyteller, storytelling is about real human experience and it’s hard to do that when you’ve been living in a professional world. Do you try and look back on your childhood – is that where you get your ideas from?

G: For me I just try to immerse myself in as many different things as possible, and get inspired from a whole lot of different areas. Talk-back radio, or public transport, or high fashion mags. I search for inspiration like I’m trying to quench a thirst. I’m always trying to find stuff that makes me think ‘Fuck, I wish I did that’, just to push you a little bit further. The more experience in life you can get the better. You know those books, ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be’ – they’re full of those things. Getting the sack can be a really good thing. Getting your heart broken can be a really good thing. Having an argument with someone could be a really good thing. Seeing someone shot…? I don’t know… I’m just trying to think, you know, all these things people try and shelter themselves from. They’re hard things, but that’s where you learn things. You don’t know you are alive until you have to struggle a little.

Jr: Have you ever been through a really dark time?

G: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I think it’s in my personality that I constantly ride that line between light and dark.

Jr: It’s all about hindsight! You can look back and say, “Oh it was horrible but jee, that was really good for me to go through’.

G: There are definitely a lot of things happening for me in my life at the moment where I can’t wait for the hindsight to kick in so I can say ‘Ahh, I know why that was happening, and now I can use that in my work.’

Jr: Haha! Yes. I think we all do.

G: The good and the bad, you’ve got to have it. But you know, sometimes you see work that feels so immersed in someone’s personal experience that you can’t actually access it. I think good art is where it feels like it is coming from your own heart, but someone else can access it as well.

Jr: As a young twenty-something did you travel and see the world? Or did you stay in Melbourne?

G: I started to travel later than I wanted to. My first trip overseas was to Japan by myself – I think I was 28. It was the most amazing experience. I don’t think I blinked for three weeks; I just soaked up every single experience. I thought Japan would have a western edge to it, but it doesn’t. They take it and they consume it and then they make it their own. Even things that were familiar were done very differently. It was an alien world. It was an alien version of what our world is. Everything you do whether it is buying a drink or walking down the street or seeing a concert or something, it’s all through very different eyes. It’s all being interpreted very differently.

Jr: How long did you stay?

G: I was only there for a few weeks. I had just finished film school. I think what it did in a very refined yet intense way was begin to hone my own way of seeing things. If we were in Japan right now, everything would be new. I try and take a step back and try and see everything new, keeping your eyes wide open and observing. I try to see everything with fresh eyes all the time. We’re all trying to find inspiration, and find the clues about who we are and why we are the way we are.

There’s still plenty more where that came from. Part Two coming tomorrow!

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 08/07/2009