If you are reading this, my very first blog post, chances are you already know who I am, and there is probably no need for an introduction. You’ve probably known me for a couple of years, maybe since my questionable Justin Bieber haircut in 2012, or at least during the awkward and challenging grow-out stage, and you’ve probably been expecting something like this for a while.
However, if you stumbled upon this blog organically (ummm that is amazing and exciting seriously how did you do that), you might be seeking an explanation of The Thirty Second Project and how it came about.
In an ideal world, we could sit down together and I could show you a brief yet engaging PowerPoint presentation featuring Windows 98 Clip Art, complete with animation whooshing sounds, and a consistent colour palette for the each slide. Hot. But I don’t think that’s how blogging works, so for now, I’ll stick with good old fashioned words, and a few visual aids and pictures to keep you from going to sleep.
Last Christmas, my Grandma died. She was my favourite person in the whole world, and a hug from her was my safest place. We spoke every day on the phone at 7pm, except towards the end… She’d had dementia for years, and in her final months, she couldn’t remember much at all. She could still sing and smile, and she still loved ginger beer (she said it tasted like Christmas), but she stopped eating, and became so very small. For my Grandma, death was a gift.
Like many people who experience the death of a beloved person for the first time, I started asking myself The Big Questions. I’d just turned 30. Was I living a meaningful life? Was I happy? Would I look back and be proud of the things I’d achieved and the people I’d connected with? Had I given it my best? If I had grandchildren, what would they say about me at my funeral?
I’d been a lawyer for almost 7 years, working in community law, family violence, and ultimately child protection. I’d worked pretty hard and I was a permanent government employee. I loved being an advocate, and for the most part, my work aligned with my personal values.
On paper, I was where I should be, but something wasn’t quite right, and I had a constant restless sensation in my chest, my brain, and my feet, no matter how much I told myself that everything was fine. It wasn’t just that feeling you get when you have a bad day, those days when you say to yourself ‘Fuck this shit man, you’re better than this, I can’t believe that Magistrate called you Ms Cock twice when she knows full well that your name is Ms Cook.’ Or more commonly, on serious note, the thing your brain does when you leave work and you have a horrible feeling that when you come in the next morning, one of your cases will have exploded, and someone will have been hurt, and maybe you should just go and do something nice and sweet and pastel like open a florist or a cupcake bakery, where women and children aren’t victims, and the world isn’t a dangerous place.
It wasn’t dread, frustration, compassion-fatigue, or boredom. It was simply the fact that practising law didn’t have my heart.
My Grandma’s death put a fire in my belly to finally do something about it.
I booked a one-way ticket to London and applied for a working holiday visa. I sold my stuff on Gumtree. Darling Sadie had been wanting a working holiday too. So together, we slowly reduced our worldly possessions to 30kgs of respective checked luggage, and said goodbye to our families and friends.
My last day in court was strangely uneventful. I wanted to leave with a bang, and give certain super-jerk lawyers I had opposed a real piece of my mind. Or at least the finger. But I left quietly, like a happy shadow, knowing that although I wouldn’t practise law ever again, I was so grateful for everything I’d learned, and acutely aware of my privilege. Not many people can walk away from a job by choice. I am one of the lucky ones.
When I arrived in the UK, I began reviewing my life as far back as I could remember. What did I want to be when I grew up? What were other paths I could have chosen? Was it too late to try to find them again?
In Grade 1, I had a brilliant teacher named Mrs Way. At parent-teacher interviews, she told my Mum that one day, I would be a movie director.
I don’t know why she said it. But I think it’s important. It’s Red Flag Number One.
11 years later, I put various law school combos as my top 5 preferences on my QTAC form. As my 6th, I put film school. Just in case. This is Red Flag Number Two.
When I was 18 and in my second year of law school, I watched American Beauty and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in quick succession, and subsequently saved my arse off for 6 months to buy a video camera. I started filming everyone and everything, and convinced myself that one day, when I wasn’t swamped with studying law and working three jobs, I would somehow make an amazing film. I still have all of my old mini DV tapes in storage and upon review of the now 12 year old footage, I have a new found appreciation for image stabalisation. Although my camera did not have this feature, it did have an insanely cool night vision mode which made you look like you were in the All Saints’ Pure Shores film clip.
Anyway. This is most definitely Red Flag Number Three.
Over the course of the next 12 years, the Red Flags continued, but also became buried underneath a whole lot of adulting. Loving and being heartbroken and making money and spending money and travelling and moving and keeping in touch and falling out of touch. Life Happens. Grown up goal-setting. I want to move to Melbourne! I want to travel to India! I want to buy a car! I want to save for a house deposit! I want to have kids! Everything costs money!
Then Grandma died.
And I emerged from grief with an unshakeable feeling that the goalposts had shifted.
Everything still costs money. I still want to have kids. And I think one day, I’ll want to use that house deposit. But life is short, and if I don’t dig up the Red Flags now, they’ll be forgotten until it’s too late.
I don’t want to die with regrets.
I want to be a filmmaker. I want to take pictures. I want to write songs.
I want to tell stories. I want to collaborate with like-minded humans. I want to make films about the things that I am passionate about – the fight for equality, women’s experiences, animals, racial justice, the way we treat old people, conservation, the environment, travel, human rights, the power of humour, education, challenging the patriarchy, raising boys who respect girls. Oh and craft. I really enjoy a good bit of craft.
The Thirty Second Project is my intensive, self-guided equivalent of film school. I will create and publish one 30 second film each day for 365 consecutive days.
I will shoot, edit, and score each film.
There are no limits as to genre, content or subject matter… the only rule is that each film must be approximately 30 seconds long.
Why 365 days? Why The Thirty Second Project?
I will learn something new about filmmaking every single day. An intensive learning process is necessary if I am going to build a knowledge base and a portfolio of work showcasing my improved abilities over time.
I will be accountable to my online self and also to my blog followers. If I fall behind, I will need to catch up. If I feel like I’m done and I want to give up, the public nature of the Project will motivate me to carry on. Even if only one person watches my films, I am now accountable to them.
Finally, the Project will enable me to network within the film community (please feel free to share it with your friends), and it will also differentiate me from other budding filmmakers by showcasing my filmmaking, as well as my film scoring.
The ultimate objective of The Thirty Second Project is paid work. By this time next year, I want this industry to be paying my rent. I don’t care what job I get. I need to start somewhere and I need to sustain myself on pay that doesn’t come from being a lawyer. I need to aim high.
Have you ever said to yourself ‘You’re not good enough’, or ‘You should lower your expectations’, or ‘You could never pull that off’? And have you assumed that this voice inside your head represents the consensus opinion of the people around you, keeping you down to earth, making sure you don’t get disappointed, saving you from the pain of failure?
Well, I have. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.
During these past few soul-searching months, I have been overwhelmed by the positivity and encouragement of my family and friends. The Project is pretty crazy and my end goal is possibly more than a little insane, but I have so many cheerleaders and it makes such a difference knowing that my friends believe in me.
I can’t remember ever feeling this determined.