The Interview Series // 35

Do you want a DVD for free? Yes! Of course you do! That’s what the Pedestrian TV (http://www NULL.pedestrian NULL.tv/) boys, Oscar (front right) & Chris (front left) thought when they got onto video content turned zine, before anyone knew their hipster from their skinny jeans. From issues filmed at the Wet on Wellington, to interviews with Neon Indian, Chris & Oscar were on it. Now, they’re working with peeps like Virgin Mobile, and Honda Jazz (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=eW4D1lWq9Io) to create some pretty cool branded content. And, they’ve just launched a new site (http://www NULL.pedestrian NULL.tv/jobs/) for creative types to help them find their dream jobs in music, fashion, art, design, publishing, film, tv, photography, radio, advertising, sport and more. All of this coming from two guys who started out not knowing how to even edit footage. Legends!

Junior: Pedestrian started from the Plastizine (DVD magazine). Is that something you wanted to have in the real world and it just switched over?

Chris: There wasn’t really any definite plan. The Plastizine came from an idea of looking at what was out there and wondering why it hadn’t been done before. We were working in a traditional media buying agency – essentially helping big advertising clients buy ad spots on TV, radio, billboards and magazines. Media buyers are the people that fund most of the publishing industry, so they have a lot of power. I was always a little bit obsessed with street press and loved the idea of picking up a magazine for free. But rather than do the same thing and release another free magazine, we wanted to do something different. We asked ourselves why we couldn’t film content and put it on a DVD, and release it. We thought that there must have been something wrong with the idea because no one had done it before, and it seemed simple. So we looked into it, crunched some numbers, and while working our other jobs worked weekends, lunchtimes, evenings and whenever we could to help this idea that was sketched on the back of a napkin – to make it come to life. We were running around filming interviews..

Oscar: Meeting lots of great people..

Chris: Mocking up examples, and then finally it got to the stage that if we were to go anywhere with the idea, we had to take the plunge and go full time. Most of the world operates full time, and if you want your dream to become a reality you have to take that step. You can work weekends and every evening, but the people you need to fund your ideas don’t work like that. We left our jobs and that’s how it started. The plastizine went for 15 issues and three and a half years, and it’s still an idea that has it’s merit..

Oscar: And is very close to our hearts…

Chris: It’s an idea that was almost too different in a way. Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you just need to make a better wheel. The DVD was trying to reinvent the wheel, it was a new product and we had to sell in the type of media, and the brand as well. I think that was the biggest obstacle we faced.

We were also really young. I was 22 and Oscar was 23 when we started. It’s a beautiful time to start something because when you’re young you’ve got nothing to lose. But you also don’t have many people who can help you out, in terms of people helping you to fund something. We had so many people that taught us things, like how to edit. It was a labour of love for us, and a lot of people who gave their time.

Oscar: I think everyone saw how passionate we were with the idea, and it rubbed off on them. Everyone came to our aid and helped us out. It was a daunting time leaving our jobs, we were working in a pretty reputable agency. I think taking the plunge was a really risky thing to do, but we just said stuff it, what have we got to lose, and we did it. We had countless all nighters working around the clock, we set up offices in our family homes… And it’s all still worked out five and a half years later.

Chris: There’s a quote I like: “If you act boldy, a million unseen forces will come to your aid” which is something I really believe in. People to do find that energy around people doing creative things and you can sometimes do a project and people will work for virtually nothing just to help you out – to see something come alive. In the first couple of years when we started, and even now, there’s staff that I’m sure could probably leave and go and work for bigger corporations and get paid a lot more. But there’s that energy there and you feel like you’re part of something bigger.

Jr: How long did you have the Plastizines out before you left your jobs?

Oscar: We didn’t. We were pretty much spending all our spare time putting together video content to go and pitch to advertisers. We chucked on our suits and traveled around Australia, and hounded people on the phones to get meetings. We finally ended up having a great meeting with Mini. They came on board and sponsored the first few issues, and gave us the confidence that this could be reality, and could actually work.

Chris: We left our jobs in Feb 2005, and the first issue came out in May 2005. So it was a fairly quick turn around. We gave ourselves a deadline…

Oscar: And worked around the clock to reach it. Chris and I were doing everything. We learnt how to edit and were bickering over edits all night. We were running around distributing the DVDs ourselves in our cars with boxes everywhere.

Chris: We did that until about issue five or six. Even interstate. We thought it was cheaper for one of us to fly down, get a car, and run into all the stores. We’ve gone up and down Brunswick Street, Oxford Street and Chapel Street, carrying hundreds of DVDs and dropping them into places like General Pants and Fat. It’s a bit ridiculous when you think about it, but that’s what you’ve got to do. When you look at anyone starting a business you do need to learn how to manage a lot of different tasks. Which is great too because when the business expands, you know how to do everything. So you understand the pressures on people whether they are carrying a camera or video editing or writing articles.

Jr: To get the guts to walk into those meetings — to call them up and organise the meeting in the first place, does that all come from working at the media agency?

Chris: Not really. In an agency you get lots of people calling you, you don’t have to call anyone. I think it just came from the fact that we really believed in it..

Oscar: And we had no jobs, so we had to do it.

Chris: I remember we sat there with a spreadsheet filled with all the clients we wanted to sponsor the DVD, and it was just basically any youth brand. We didn’t even know who half the contacts were, so it was a lot of cold calling. But that’s the thing, that even people who control the money for big brands like Coca Cola, or BMW Mini – Australia is a great place in that people here like enterprise. So, we never really had that much trouble getting meetings – they like to hear people that are passionate.

Jr: So there was the spreadsheet, what was the sell on it?

Oscar: We had a couple of good points.

Chris: The big sell was that you just needed to take one spot off your TV plan, and put it on our DVD. The idea was that every youth brand in Australia would do that for us, and then we’d have Ferrari’s and boats and shit like that.

Oscar: And who is going to throw away a DVD, you know what I mean? It’s not like a magazine.

Chris: The sell was different, and that’s probably why it helped us to get meetings. The positives are, that if it has never been done before, then people want to hear about it. It literally hadn’t been done anywhere worldwide.

Oscar: There were lots of great sells to it – like the ads were non-skippable, and once you put a DVD in you’re on the couch. That was the thing we faced though – the content had to be good. We were pretty confident, despite not being able to edit. The content was interesting stuff that you couldn’t really see at the time. Before YouTube, and Vimeo existed. It was different, interesting, fun and a bit quirky.

Chris: That was a big part of the sell at the time — that the content was really different. Digital video was around at the time but no one had found a way to really get it out there that was feasible. This was right at the time that YouTube started, so the idea of lots of video all over the internet hadn’t really happened yet. If you wanted to see videos, you had to watch TV. And if you watched TV, TV stations have to cater to a really large audience. If you wanted to take a video camera and film a band that has played a handful of shows but you thought were a great act, you just wouldn’t see that kind of video. At the end of the day music and fashion are there to be seen and heard. A music festival is to be experienced. Obviously now with the amount of videos out there on the internet, you can clearly see that there is a demand for it. We always say that we should have started YouTube because that would have been a lot more profitable.

We were onto the new things that captured people’s imaginations but they weren’t really big enough at the time, or mainstream enough to get that type of coverage where TV stations would come with their camera crews. And I guess that’s what we’re trying to do now with the website. Give people content presented in a way that they can’t necessarily find anywhere else. Give them local or overseas content that is unique and different and not just the standard type of fare you’d find on a news site or entertainment portal.

Jr: That type of content, that is the flavour of Pedestrian, obviously comes from you two. Do you have the confidence in yourselves that the things that you are into, everyone else would be into?

Oscar: I think we’re so different that we cover everything. We’re quite different people. Chris plays in a band, I surf.

Chris: I think the fact that our personalities were really different probably contributed a little bit to the somewhat schizophrenic nature of Pedestrian at the start. People used to come up to us and tell us how we’d interview a model, and that interview would sit alongside an interview with an indie band. And yet it sort of made sense.

Oscar: I think Pedestrian has always been cheeky and fun, a bit left of center, but still readable, intelligent and enjoyable for the masses. We have our little quirky edge on things.

Jr: When you were 22 and 23, you would have probably met a lot of people who talked about doing stuff. What made you take the step and actually do it?

Chris: Both our Dads had been fairly entrepreneurial I suppose, and I guess that was always the inspiration for us. It’s an interesting question as to why people don’t do it. One thing you see a lot is that people are perfectionists and they wait and wait until things are perfect. But the thing is, nothing is ever perfect. If you can get something to 85% you should probably do it.

Oscar: I think the imperfections with our first DVD were probably what made it so great. It was rough, it was raw – it was so dodgy that it was kind of cool.  When we started out we were working at this agency, and the salary wasn’t great at all, we were both living at home or near home where we had our parents nearby so there was always that option to move home to be able to save money.

Chris: I was living in a sharehouse, and just living the dream.

Oscar: And then you had to move home.

Chris: Not that living in a sharehouse is a dream. Actually, it had no natural light. The four months I was in the house, it got broken into twice. It was a horrible house.

Oscar: I think we set up our first office in my bedroom at my Mum’s house. Then eventually we moved into a very small office. We got our first staff member, which was a very big milestone. Things grew very slowly from there. I remember our desks were propped up with cans of Red Bull and V Energy.

Chris: I think there is a whole host of reasons why people don’t make their ideas come to life. I guess our advice will be, just do it. The worst thing that can happen is that you leave the security of a full time job and you have to find work again. But the amazing thing that does happen is that when you are doing what you really want to be doing, firstly, the highs are so much higher, and the lows are so much lower. But secondly you see all these opportunities. You hustle, hustle, hustle and take what is there, look at the world without blinkers on and just grab opportunities. That’s how Pedestrian started, and how it works now. If you just believe in yourself, most people can do a lot more than what they try to do.

Oscar: I think the experience you get if you just try to do something, is invaluable. No matter what happens you’re going to look back and know that you gave it a go, rather than look back and think that you should have done that.

Jr: You talk to some amazing names. It seems like you had access to some pretty big people back then?

Chris: We don’t have that much time to chase, as much as we used to. Which is a bit sad. Some of the biggest people we’ve spoken to we probably spoke to at the start of the DVDs. The way that you sometimes get those opportunities is pretty random, and just happens by putting yourself out there. We met one of the guys who used to run Agent Provocateur, the UK lingerie brand. We were in Melbourne for Fashion Week, at this bar. We were busy paying the bar staff $10 to give us drinks in the after party area on the bar tab. This older, really well dressed couple rocked up to the bar and we said hello, and offered them a drink on the tab.

Oscar: I think we’d had quite a few already by then too.

Chris: We got them two rounds, and then they tried to pay for the next round – not that we were paying in the first place. Anyway, they brought out this wad of fifties, and we were wondering who these people were. We ended up getting them more drinks, said bye eventually, and then the next night we saw them out again. We did a quick interview with them, having no idea who they were, and finally they got chauffeured away in a BMW. Finally someone told us who they were, and it dawned on us. We convinced Virgin to fly us over the UK to do the London issue of Pedestrian. I still had the business card of the guy, Joe Corre, who is the sun of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, and just called him up. I got his PA, who told me that he was away for the month but he was coming into the office for one day, and that she’d tell him I’d called. She called me back, and said that he would do an interview with us at 5pm. So we were sitting in the reception of Agent Provocateur, staring at all these models that were walking around knowing that they were wearing amazing underwear underneath their clothes. Joe came out and did the interview with us, and that was phenomenal.

Oscar: It was a pretty awesome interview too.

Chris: It was great, that was probably one of the more interesting stories of how we met people. We had the guys from Ksubi give us an interview for issue one of the DVD – that was about five years into their career and it was great to talk to them. We spoke to Bloc Party when they were on their first tour of Australia. That was a terrible interview, but it was the first time we had spoken to an international band that we were really excited to talk to, so it was quite nerve wracking. It’s definitely one of the more interesting parts of the job is the people you get to meet and the random ways that that can happen.

Jr: You seem to be able to meet people quite easily. For a lot of people starting up networking is so intimidating. Do you have any tips for doing that?

Oscar: We have horrible livers.

Chris: I feel like it is easier if you have had a bit to drink, and I think anyone can attest to that. Most of those interviews come from going through the proper channels and asking publicists, but again if you are doing something for yourself and it is your project you find the courage. Go out, and you’ll never know who you might meet.

Oscar: Chris had a work experience guy here on Friday that he met in the bar last week.

Jr: You two working together, how do you work? As a creative partnership it must be quite difficult at times. Do you have different things that you take care of?

Chris: We can fight like cats and dogs, that’s something that probably any partnership has. The fact that we are still here doing it after five years means that there is something there that works. We don’t really have designated roles because I think we started off coming from similar backgrounds, and we learnt everything at the same time. There are some things that one of us is better at than the other, or more interested in, but I think my advice for anyone going into a partnership is that you should both know what you are trying to achieve. Most of the time any arguments that arise or any disagreements are a disagreement in how to get there. Make sure you are on the same page and going in the same direction, because if you aren’t then that’s when you’ll come up with issues and things will fall apart, and people won’t talk to each other.

Jr: Where it’s at now, what’s it like being the boss?

Chris: That’s the big change that happens. You go from being two people that run around doing everything, to now where there are ten full time employees. You have to learn all these other things that don’t really get taught to you of how to be a good manager and a leader and be inspiring and keep people on the right track and with the same vision. And making sure you’re getting the right people together. We have amazing people working with us at the moment and everyone has talent and that’s why they’re here.

Oscar: We always say, employ people who can do things better than you can do it yourself. Because if they do it better than you, then let them do it. That’s been a hard thing, stepping back. We used to do absolutely everything and see it through and it would always be our collaboration, and now there are other people that are doing things, which can be a bit intimidating. But it’s great to step back and give other people responsibility.

Jr: Everything is online now. Is that mainly what you guys are focusing on?

Chris: The business has moved from those early days, from the DVD magazine to online. It hasn’t always been easy, the hardest thing as we said is getting known online, getting the brand known, and it’s probably taken about two and a half years for us to get the formula right and to get to where we are now. There’s a lot of people that come to the site, check it out, read it. It’s also up to us to keep expanding the site. The big exciting thing for us for the next six months is the launch of the Pedestrian.tv jobs site – which is basically a part of the site for people to find their dream careers of which we think that there is a big gap in the market for. Seek, CareerOne, all of those big companies, they market to the masses. So even if there is occasionally a creative job up there, they will get tons and tons of applications. So even for the people that advertise it isn’t great, as they have to sift through hundreds of applications. We’ve advertised on Seek before, and you get more applications than anywhere else, but the amount of people that you want to interview from the people who apply is about 5%. If we put something up on our site, the amount of people we want to interview is about 80%.  We’ve seen that as any creative does that it is really hard to find jobs in the kind of places that they want. We wanted to do something different and innovative.

Jr: When you see young people come in here, want do you want to see them have?

Oscar: Enthusiasm. Passion. Talent.

Chris: If someone is enthusiastic and wants to get involved and shows initiative, that’s what you’re looking for. That’s half the battle won.

Jr: What do you not see enough of? What’s the problem with the youth of today?

Chris: How old do you think we are? I don’t think that there is a problem. I think in the creative industries in Australia there are a lot of people doing the right things. I suppose maybe more initiative. I think Australia would be a much more interesting place if everyone took the idea that was sitting in their bottom drawer and just did it. I think there should be a national day – a quit your job and do what you love day. A day where everyone reflected on what they were doing, and if it was what they wanted to be doing. It would be great. You’re the master of your own destiny. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you can change that. I can speak for myself, I have the best job in the world and there’s nothing I want to change about it. And if there are things I want to change, I can do that. Quit your job.

Interview by: Jonathan Lim (http://www NULL.attheteaparty NULL.com/)

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 16/09/2010