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showing my workings: being of use

Ming-Zhu Hii

"some of it cannot be described" - artist unknown

"some of it cannot be described" - artist unknown

UPDATED: 4th February, 2016

Freelancers frequently find the holiday period stressful. I have to admit, I'm no exception. The majority of my income these days comes from voiceovers, and with all the studios and advertising agencies closed, the absence of paid work can be frightening.

There's no holiday pay when you're living invoice-to-invoice. And no matter how many times I tell myself to better financially plan for next year's summer break (Southern Hemisphere here), I always end up feeling a bit bottom-of-the-barrel-y by January. 

It's also a time when the world feels like something of a ghost town. Half my friends and neighbourhood locals are off actually holidaying, and shops, bars, restaurants, cafés are all keeping irregular and annoyingly unpredictable hours. 

In short, summer can feel a bit gloomy. 

But the upside is that it's a pretty tremendous time to knuckle down and get work done that would otherwise struggle to make it through the mess during the normal working year.

And I've done precisely that over the last week since recovering from Christmas: I've re-drafted an upcoming short film several times, worked further on completing a film I've been making for the past year, compiled a massive list of filmmaking resources for a girlfriend (more on said list in a post soon to come), and written a comprehensive script report for another girlfriend's TV pilot. 

It's incredible what you can get done in a reasonably short amount of time without distractions. 

But it's also been quite wild to discover the not insignificant trove of storytelling skills I have under my belt that I've gone so far for a while not fully realising until now - until this point in this relatively "quiet" period where I've found myself drawing on a broad range of them at once, across a bunch of different projects.  

The other thing I've realised is that while it's great to have all of these skills and learning at my disposal (and continued professional development now very much in constant play), it's even better when you can share those resources and lend them to others to put to use where they can be useful. 

It's this notion of "usefulness" that I suddenly find myself obsessed with. 

And so, with this realisation I've decided it's time for the next phase in the evolution of The Public Studio. UPDATE 4th Feb, 2016 - the following described evolution will be somewhat mutated! Well, moved, at leat over to Find & Replace

For years, and in several different guises, TPS has produced and facilitated a broad range of art - and in its early days was a space where other people could come and explore their own creative practice, and the practical, market-based manifestations thereof. 

But for the last 12-odd months, in terms of creative output, The Public Studio has itself lain relatively fallow. 

Last year, I founded "Find & Replace" a film production company in its own right, and the rubric under which we are producing my first short narrative film, "Close Observations of a Single Subject". 

It has always been my intention to continue to make more experimental artwork, video art, installation and commercial collaborations via The Public Studio. But finding the time and space for TPS to be a useful body in between those (so far sparse) projects has always been something worrying away at the back of my brain. (And quite frankly, I didn't want to let the very bloody expensive internet hosting to go to waste.)

In my recent ruminations on how I can best put my learning and knowledge to use in the world beyond my own filmmaking practice (and also leverage some of Nicholas' whopping vast knowledge of text, dramaturgy and performance for both screen and stage), it has become blindingly apparent to me that slowly, gradually, over the space of the next year, The Public Studio (Update 2/16: Find & Replace) can become a resource that I hope will, in some way, be useful to other people professionally. 

We will continue to use the space for our own art production and experimentation. In that way, the artistic and learning ground stays fertile and active, and naturally (given that we are the same artists working across both practices), our creative projects at TPS will inform our filmmaking work at F&R. 

But beyond that, I intend to use [the Find & Replace] space - its blog, the website it sits on, and F&R + TPS's social media accounts - to share not only my own workings - my processes, honest struggles, my learnings, and successes; my aesthetic and philosophical investigations and discoveries; but also the more practical skills, knowledge and resources I've picked up (and am continuing to pick up) along the way. 

While I've been working in the storytelling industries for 15 years, I don't pretend for an instant I have all the answers, and I've shifted foci and occupation more times than you can count on one hand (almost two, let's be honest). Over the course of my career I've worked as (or still am working as in many cases) an actor, a voiceover artist, writer, director, shop owner, business consultant, teacher, marketer, event producer and film producer (shit, that's two full hands).

But while sometimes this can be a disadvantage and make me seem like a lightweight, today it does stand me in halfway decent stead to begin to share dribs and drabs of what I have learned across a reasonably broad range of areas when it comes to this work. This work that can so easily be written off as inconsequential - as superficial; but that I am now learning is one of the most important professions in the world. 

It's taken me a while to find my feet in the film world. To own my practice as a director (which is, alongside my work as an actor and voiceover artist, where I am from here on in placing the majority of my focus). But now that I've begun, I'm not slowing down. While we're still finishing off my first short, I've got the next two in play and am about to enter the second round of script development on my feature film. In addition, I'm either consulting on or attaching myself to a handful of other people's projects. It's an exciting time, about time, and the right time to start to open up my process: to show my workings; to let my work be of use, beyond just being the work itself. 

So, expect a work-in-progress all the time. Expect nothing hard-and-fast. I can attest today only to being a beginner, perhaps somewhere near the middle of my beginning.

I will share as much as I am able to whilst retaining the sanctity of sensitive elements of the work, proprietary elements, and protecting the discretion of my team and collaborators. I will share whenever I have the time to - and I promise, I'm going to carve out the time. Obviously in the heat of production, I may go slightly quieter. But most of the year, I'll aim for once a week.

While I will be honest and interrogative of my own process, I will also attempt to be as concise as possible. I'll get better at that, or at least attempt to. That too is a promise.

And finally, I will formalise some of it. I will at some point publish a resource, perhaps a catalogue of useful tools that I either use, or have learned from in my own practice. That will be available here, too. 

Maybe you're asking why I have the audacity to think that what I have to share could possibly be of use. I didn't go to film school. It's true I've formally studied writing and acting, but have only been making work for screen for a little over three years. My voice still sometimes quivers when I call "cut". The subtext of my biog translates as "early millennial life enthusiast" at best and "professionally suicidal" to most people my age and older.

So, the truth is, nothing qualifies me. I disagree with huge swathes of what I've been taught. I disagree with huge swathes of advice I'm given. I've read a bunch of the books and ignored most of what I've read. But I've ignored and I've disagreed in practice. I've not just rejected the notions, I've given them a red hot go, and then decided they aren't universally applicable. I've learned a lot on my feet, fucked up a lot, and picked myself back up, re-assembled a team and kept on going. I've never been afraid to start over or try something brand new. I've never been afraid to roll up my sleeves and do something for which I am obviously vastly unqualified. 

I do still work as a director, an actor, a writer, a voiceover artist and a producer. All of it. But crucially, throughout all of this work - across the expanse of the last 15 years (and earlier - when I was a green thing, training and studying, wide-eyed and plump with potential), I interrogated the crap out of everything. I've always interrogated the crap out of everything. 

The "why" behind the storytelling has always trumped the "how" for me.

I'm not a tech-head. I don't really care too deeply about the gear or the techniques beyond being able to capture the poetry I imagine in my head when I'm drifting off to sleep.

While I might share the odd bit of technical or practical whizzbangery here (see? That is how impractical I am - I use the term "whizzbangery" to mean things-real-people-have-expensive-degrees-in), I'll probably be more likely to point to a resource that can talk to the whizzbangery in far greater detail and with more accuracy than I can.

What I am most likely to discuss here is stuff that I am perhaps in some ways just as qualified to talk about than other experts on filmmaking and storytelling and performance making are. Only because I've spent the better half of my lifetime investigating it. Daily. Deeply.

So, those things may variously include approach to text, the physicality of poetry, the architecture of visual composition and rhythm of empathetic linguistic response, the articulation of dream space; the relationship of realism to the surreality of the interior world; the epic in the quotidian; the co-existence of the sublime and the mundane. Ecstasy, tragedy, monotony, divinity and heartbreak. (But not from an academic perspective. I'm an artist, not a theorist.) 

So, the answer is, I'm sharing it because I can. Because I believe it is important - and because I feel, right now, at this point in my life and in my practice, compelled to.

Because somewhere deep in there, I have this wild notion that maybe my experience of this crazy, wondrous, art-making, storytelling mess that we're in, and the solid, practical, real-world business container that holds it might be, to someone out there, somehow of use. 

Come over and join me (and our producers - Alexandra and Nicholas) as we get into the guts of it over at our narrative production sister, Find & Replace Films

xx

a new project + image triggers

Ming-Zhu Hii

I'm very excited to announce that we've begun working on another new project (while we have the pot boiling on several others) - it's still a bit of a secret, but this time it's a collaboration with a very good friend of ours who is a thrilling writer and immense wealth of both information and strident artistic passion. We're still beside ourselves that he said yes, but in the mean time - while we get over it - we've had to knuckle down and start work on the thing. 

So - what I can tell you is that it is a stylised narrative short film that toys with the idea of suspended rules of reality - and what happens when the line between reality and fantasy blur. Oh, and the working title is "Certainty". 

Here's a small selection of images I've put together in the process of script development. 

More, quite obviously, to come. - MZ.

L'année dernière à Marienbad

Ming-Zhu Hii

Last Year in Marienbad (1961) By director, Alain Resnais. 

Empty salons. Corridors. Salons. Doors. Doors. Salons. Empty chairs, deep armchairs, thick carpets. Heavy hangings. Stairs, steps. Steps, one after the other. Glass objects, objects still intact, empty glasses. A glass that falls, three, two, one, zero. Glass partition, letters.


BL&L Gifs (and a little screening)

Ming-Zhu Hii

To celebrate Federation Square's bonus screening of our collaboration with Chamber Made Opera and Zierle' & Carter on Z&C's film-of-the-performance Between Lands and Longings, we made you some gifs!

The screening is at 8pm tomorrow evening at Fed Square, which yes - is on the corner of Swanston & Flinders Streets, Melbourne. See ya at Chockie Buddha. :)

ZIERLE & CARTER - Between Lands & Longings

Ming-Zhu Hii

THE WRITING - Between Lands & Longings

Ming-Zhu Hii