Recently Pause Festival rocked Melbourne’s Fed Square and surrounds for the seventh year. Amongst the range of creative, technology and business events on the schedule, here are some of the panels, talks and workshops that really stood out for us..
Pause Festival 2017 gave me a chance to see the Character Supervisor responsible for my favourite childhood Pixar film, Monsters Inc. But while I’d gone in hoping to find a winning a formula for character backstory development, I instead was treated to a half-hour lecture on tentacles and big blue fur.
If you work at The Royals you would now know, by my incessant bragging, that I’ve just come back from attending the world’s biggest pop-culture convention in San Diego, Comic-Con. But I’m discovering that not many people really know exactly just what Comic-Con is. So here’s my experience and run-down of, what is quite possibly, the most nerdy thing ever.
San Diego Comic-Con (commonly referred to as SDCC) is basically a big shopping spree for those of us who are pop-culture inclined. It’s where you can buy all your favourite merch, and get a chance to check out all the new gear before it’s out. There are celebrity appearances, artists and heaps of other cool people there you can see. It covers everything from film, TV series, video games, anime, manga, technology, and even comic books (although that section grows smaller every year due to waning interest!).
I’d cut the whole thing into 2 parts; the market hall, and the panels. The market hall is, I want to say thousands, of little booths that are hawking their merch. It’s massive. Almost the entire convention centre is the market hall. I predominantly gawked at toys (“Dad, they’re called ‘figurines’ and they’re art!”).
Mingled in with all the stores, are activations and showcases from companies. I played a Playstation VR demo for Resident Evil 7 inside a big cardboard house, and played the upcoming Dead Rising 4 (and badgered a developer for information which he was not forthcoming with).
There are also mini appearances, where people of note do signings (or y’know, just kind of appear). This is where I saw Adam Wingard, director of You’re Next and The Guest, as well as the upcoming Blaire Witch sequel that was announced there. Being up close with one of my favourite directors was incredible, and the kind of thing most people can only get at a convention.
And then you have the panels. The things were all the stars of your favourite show sit at a desk and talk at you and a big audience about past and upcoming stuff. Then sometimes you can try to ask them questions through your flop sweat and stammering when that practised sentence comes out backwards and that guy you love so much on TV just looks at you weird. Exhilarating.
Most of these are impossible to get into. You’d have to get there hours before the event opens and then sit in line for hours more to get a chance of getting into something like a Game of Thrones panel. It’s not gonna happen for you. But I did just kind of walk into the Capcom panel where they announced a few video game tidbits, nothing of real interest (HOW DO I BEAT THE RE7 DEMO WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME YOU FRAUDS).
There’s also a lot of big activations around the exhibition centre. My favourites were South Park, which had photo-op props of notable scenes from the show, and Ash vs Evil Dead, which build an entire replica of the Evil Dead cabin which you could walk through (to get free shit).
And then there are costumes. Boy, are there costumes.
Or as we call them in the biz, cosplays. Not everyone dresses up, but a lot of people do. Saturday seems to be the peak day for getting costumed and sweaty. And in the San Diego heat, you’re going to get sweaty. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Which is why I didn’t do it. But it doesn’t stop most people.
(My friends dressed up as Howl and Sophie from the Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle)
The convention itself holds a competition for the best cosplay and gives out prizes. I’ve never attended this event, but I’m sure it’s great. And yes. There are “Furries”. Although recently they’ve been usurped by the new gross fandom I saw a lot of this year, Five Night’s At Freddy’s. A horror game where animatronic pizza parlour robots attack you while you cover the night security shift. But I guess people want to have sex with the cartoon robot animals. Don’t google this.
To give you a good idea of this phenomenon, Adam Savage of Mythbuster fame has videos where he dresses up as his favourite thing of the year and roams the market hall incognito. It gives you a sense of scope of the place and just how much effort some people put into their costumes. He’s so renowned for this, attendees will just come up to the best costume they’ve seen and just ask ‘Adam?’. And most of the time they’re right.
Last year he totally jacked my Dredd costume, but we worked it out and we’re still cool. Brian Cranston once did this, wearing a big latex mask of his own face from Breaking Bad. Truly horrifying.
And then we have the mostly ignored and unfortunately neglected part of the market hall – artists and (very) minor celebrities. Last year, the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, attended and had a stall where people could just come up to say hi and get things signed. But every time I walked past, he was just sitting by himself. Everyone too focused on the big pull of the Star Wars or whatever. The same goes with the comic book artists, it’s a few aisles that have significantly less foot-traffic than the rest of the convention. Considering it’s the longest running tradition and namesake of the convention, it’s sad to see. But every year I visit one of my favourite artists Jason Edmiston, of Mondo popularity. He signs my toys and I buy a poster, it’s a great relationship we have.
I bought so many things and got so much free loot that I had to buy another carry-on to take it home and now I’m poor again. But I went, I conquered and I patted the furries. Until next year!
For every Lennon and McCartney there are a hundred more tales of bands that don’t go the distance. And then there’s Tim Rogers, musician and songwriter, who’s been fronting You Am I for 25 years and still going strong.
Turns out there are a handful of things you should know if you’re in the business of forming enduring creative partnerships, like we are here at The Royals.
#1 TRUST OVER TENSION
Tim Rogers: “I don’t believe you need creative tension to make great work. The only time our creativity suffered was when I was picked out as the ‘main guy’. Having an ego as I do I thought, ‘Yes I’m the main guy, I’m the main songwriter, the main singer, the biggest drinker.’ But the music we came out with at that time was really dull. If you try and provoke tension for the sake of creativity, people tend to clam up.”
#2 PICK THE RIGHT BAND MEMBERS
Jen Cloher: “You’re in the wrong band if you have to have a discussion around what you’re creating. You’re in the right band if there is clarity of vision, which attracts like-minded people. It’s also important to know when to move on from a creative partnership.”
#3 TREAT EVERYONE LIKE THEY’RE MEMBERS OF ONE BAND
#4 DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE
Tim Rogers: “Not being an asshole is a good way to start. Of the group of people we’ve had working with our band for a decade or more, we have always tried to be really inclusive. We don’t hold ‘meetings’; we invite everyone down to the pub. If we did hold meetings, nothing would get done.”
#5 BIGGER ISN’T BETTER
Jen Cloher: “We live in a world that’s so obsessed with getting bigger and making more money at the expense of this tiny planet hurtling through space … how ’bout some businesses that just stay small and efficient and sustainable? When you’re driven by money and fear, you’re going to come up with really boring ideas. When you’re driven by doing something different and inspiring, that’s when you blaze a trail.”
#6 “FEEDBACK IS A GIFT: I HATE YOUR IDEA”
Sophie Hirst: “At Google, if you want to tell someone you don’t like their idea you begin with the phrase, ‘Feedback is a gift’. It’s in our culture. Another thing we do really well at Google is fail. At our weekly WIPs, everyone can say one great thing they did, as well as something that didn’t go so well. It creates an environment where people aren’t scared to share their ideas.”
#7 TAKE MONEY OUT OF THE EQUATION
Tim Rogers: “Money is something we never talk about as a band. In the early days of You Am I, when I was paid $20 more per day on a tour of the US, even that caused a problem. So we take money out of the equation, and that’s helped us stay together.”
#8 WORK HARD, BUT NOT TOO HARD
Tim Rogers: “We rehearse about 5% of the time we’re supposed to. The other 95% is social, which may look like we have bad habits or we’re not working hard enough, but so much of what goes into our music is social. I’ve been around people who think they must work 100% of the time and I’m pretty sure they’re only being productive 5% of the time anyway. It’s amazing what revelations can come through listening and fraternising.”
Thanks to Tim, Jen and Sophie for making this such a cracking discussion .
I went to Underground Cinema.
The only details we knew about the cinema experience was the name, Hope 2.0 and the dress code, foreign.
Communicating only via Facebook, we were told the location of the event the day before – Coburg, and given the instructions to be on time, we won’t wait!
We arrived to join the line of other foreigners, mainly Mexican’s and the French it appeared. The line snaked along a chain link fence – on the other side of the fence, where guards dressed in army fatigues and swat gear whilst directing large muzzled Alsatians along the line. With the odd gypsy lady walking along and singling out people and placing an orange in their hand… I was “lucky” and received one.
Screeching around the corner, engine revving and slamming on the brakes to come to a sliding stop appears a white battered van. The Guards start shouting and swearing at us to get us running into the back of the van, the van is dark, the windows are blacked out with newspaper. There’s a few a laughs and giggles – these soon vanish as the driver tells us to “shut up, you think this is fun, you won’t for long!” With a heavy right foot we hoon off going who knows where, a couple of handbrake turn’s and never seeming to slow down, people are bounced around the back and laughs are replaced with screams.
We come to abrupt halt and a gun comes through the door and more shouting as we get pulled out of the van and pushed into a large covered processing area, guy’s one side, girls the other side we’re told. I’m holding my orange, not sure what would happen if I dropped it. We all get shouted at, “don’t look at me”, “look at the ground”, “hands on your fucking head!”. Two members of the armed guards see the orange I’m holding and roughly pull a black back over my head and drag me off, making me run with no idea where I’m going.
I get thrown into a seat, and there’s more shouting, this time asking for my name, then I hear a female voice and the bag is removed, bright flood lights are blinding me and the two guys in balaclavas are so close I can smell their breath. The woman is telling me that I’ve betrayed the uprising and I need to get back onto the plan and can I be trusted? My face is marked with charcoal and I’m given a slip of paper. The bag back on my head, I am ran out of the interrogation room and thrown into a chain link fence…
I walk around the corner and things are a little more relaxed. There’s food and a bar. The area looks like a makeshift camp, rooms made from blue draped tarpaulin. There’s guards walking around and hassling people, and odd rooms, with equally oddly dressed people in them – I lost the people I came with long ago.
After grabbing a drink, I pull the note from my pocket “You must find the preacher, repent your sins and find Bruno”.
Around the camp, it feels a uneasy, you’re not sure when the next thing is going to happen, there’s small explosions going off and the guards drag people off with black bags on their head.
Wasn’t too hard finding the preacher – she was walking around waving a bible to the sky and screaming. I talk to her, she demands I get on my knees, she shouts, there’s a lot of shouting tonight, “whats your sin”, “um, I stole an ice cream when I was a kid on the way home from school”, she call’s me a thief, hits my with her bible and makes me to scream to the sky that I repent my sins. She believes that I truely feel sorry and have repented, she gives me a sleeping bag and sends me on my way to find Bruno.
This finding characters and solving missions carries on for another hour – every attendee that night gets missions.
More shouting and we’re given cardboard signs with “freedom” written on them, what appears to the leader of the uprising, gets on a platform and delivers a speech about freedom and a made up government, he marches through the crowd, we follow, whilst banging our signs and shouting freedom – we’re lead into another warehouse – this time there’s a cinema screen and seats.
Guards get on stage and tell us to keep the event a secret until its all over.
I found my friends. We watched Children of Men.
The night was an incredible way to experience cinema. Amongst other things. Sign up to their newsletter and social account ready for when the next one is announced.
Yesterday evening, as the clouds rumbled and rain poured upon Melbourne, a small group of Royals were lucky enough to partake in an international meeting of minds and sharing of ideas with some inspiring German geeks from the Audi Product and Innovation Department and a couple of big (and likeable) brains from RMIT. The discussion rocketed through issues close to all groups’ hearts such as computer interface design, passive and contextual notification, and the eternal balance between form and function. It became clear that technology, regardless of whether its context is marketing or motoring needs to be aware of a sort of ‘positive compromise’. It’s only through compromise and balance that it can achieve its true function and optimum potential most effectively.
Take interface design for instance – there is an almost limitless volume of information that a manufacturer like Audi could display; current and forecasted weather, personalised news updates, incoming calls, proximity to networked friends or a multitude of contextually aware social notifications. The modern car buyer thinks they want, to quote British-metal-band-with-an-umlaut Motörhead, “everything louder than everything else”. They’re prepared to pay a premium to be enveloped in modern technology, flashing lights, bells & whistles. However, this hyper-functionality will often come at a sacrifice to aesthetics, ease of use, a purist driving sensation, and ultimately vehicle safety. As such a compromise leading to a more elegant solution must be made.
Audi, RMIT and The Royals are all enamoured with the possibilities of “humble”, or “glanceable” notification systems – methods of communicating information in an unobtrusive, peripheral manner. This could take the form of subtle audio or lighting signals or through haptic feedback. However, getting a driver to understand this text-free information without a steep learning curve involving a new semiotic language is understandably incredibly challenging. This delicate dance between usability, impact and restraint is hugely important when it comes to keeping your focus on the road as you take a fast corner in your R8, a part of your mind free to take in other useful information.
Another issue we riffed on – a concept I personally hadn’t spent much time considering – was the importance of providing an exemplary driving experience to everyone in the vehicle, particularly the passengers. At the top end of the luxury segment, the owners of the car often aren’t the ones driving it. Tapping into another one of our collective passion-points we discussed the burgeoning potential of second screen experiences. In car passenger entertainment systems aren’t new – and neither are iPhones or iPads, however currently these largely operate entirely independently of each other. This is a huge area of opportunity to involve the passenger actively and safely in the luxury driving experience through the device they already carry with them.
In true style, the evening carried on to additional beers and burgers at our favourite local haunt the Richmond Hotel, the hereto measured conversation spiralling gently towards the more theoretical and progressive realms of technology, psychology and philosophy… another post entirely..
Thanks to RMIT’s Dr. Steffen Walz for organising the meetup!