What inspires someone to spend the bulk of their time conjuring then embarking on an idea? What drives them to put countless hours and energy into a project that isn't paying the bills? For many getting involved in such a task would be seen as not feasible, filled with too many "what if's" and "can I's."
It's the kind of scenario most creative's find themselves in every single day, that constant struggle between chasing their passion or surrendering and meeting the day to day necessities. For artists, film-makers, writers, musicians, painters and performers all over the world they wake up with both a burning desire of passion and motivation and a touch of apprehension and fear. The "what if's" speak louder if you let them and the "can I's" become more frequent. This is doubt, this is fear, and these are the two great impediments to creativity and imagination.
Last week I watched a short-film, a debut short film by Simon Williams. It took over two years from idea to cinema. Two years juggling the powerful call of passion, inspiration and the tug of societal pressures and the like. The film was called Breathless and it delivered. Visually it was stunning and beautifully shot whilst the underlying meaning was powerful and undeniable. Breathless captures arguably the most powerful and meaningful theme on the planet - death.
What would be running through your mind moments before the end? Would you have spent a life well lived? Would you have done the things you loved with the people you loved? Did you make the important things a priority? Regrets? Wishes? Dreams unrealised? Too many of us wait until we are lying on our deathbeds to ask ourselves these all-important questions when we have the chance every single moment. We don't need to wait until the end to reflect on what's important to us, we can do that right now and we should do that right now.
People see death as sombre and dark, but we need to embrace it every single day as a catalyst for bringing more meaning, presence, joy, love, compassion, passion, happiness and essentially life into every moment. Death is life. When we learn to embrace death, we learn how to embrace life and all of its intricate beauties.
Any artist who continues despite the constant 'tug of war' battles deserves recognition for their efforts. But often it is not recognition that the artist craves, it might be defeating the inner-doubt, planting seeds for change, changing perspectives or simply fulfilling the dreams that burn inside so one day when they are lying moments from death they can say to themselves, "I gave it a crack and I did what I loved."
I sat down with Simon Williams, film-maker, writer, director, producer, thinker, and genuine good guy to discuss the film, passion, inspiration, life, death and everything in between.
1. I wrote about that battle between chasing your passion and all the other commitments that one needs to meet to survive. How do you find the right balance between giving yourself enough time and space to give your projects the chance to fly and making the rent, paying the bills and still actually living and enjoying life?
Originally, it was incredibly one-sided. I would spend hours and hours a day, and night, working on a script idea that had sparked while locking myself away in a house down the South Coast. Nearly all of my favourite art was spawned from loss and grief, and I am no different. During those times, I have found it is important to do a number of things - all of which are themes in my writing – AND one of those is allowing your grief to flow through your instrument of inspiration. Whether it is your pen, your guitar, your piano, or your paintbrush – whatever your hands are good at, put them to work on something original because idle hands do the devil’s work.That being said, a couple of years ago I figured out that it is equally important, and much more progressive for one’s work and oneself, to find a balance during your cycles of the sun and the moon. Life can’t be all work and no play. Life must be fun so it is important to figure out what you love doing. It could be as simple as the first sip of coffee, or reading in the sunshine, but knowing the list of things that make you happy allows you a greater chance of achieving them*, and in turn, happiness. However, one of the most important quotes, one that I remind myself of often is from Ghandi when he said, “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it.” At the end of your life, none of the things you achieve truly matter – nothing does. However, if its meaningful to you then it matters. Therefore, it is important to figure out what, or who, means the world to you and spend your time in their company as often as you can.
2. I loved your film Breathless. How did it come about?
Initially, the team and I worked six months on getting into the underwater location. Licenses, certification, test dives – it wasn’t just put your wetsuit on and dive in – people had died in the cave when it was originally used by the government for weapons testing and the governing body who have control over it now are not going to allow that to ever happen under their watch. I have my team to thank wholeheartedly for their support and commitment as it was a gruelling, but enjoyable, process. I think we all saw the potential in what was yet to be filmed by anyone else in the world. Once we secured the location, I felt there was an opportunity to tell a greater story so I spoke at length with my good friend Josh Oliver (free diver/lead character) about the physical and psychological process he goes through during a dive. In the end I felt it was my job to produce a film that held the audience captive in the journey of his character and also allow them to experience the same emotions he does in real-life when he descends into the abyss.
3. The film has a powerful theme of death. You mentioned that you have always been fascinated with death. In what way?
In all honesty, I’m scared shitless of it. I have no idea what happens after death, and that is fascinating. I’d like to think that what happens is wonderful and we humans are simply not smart enough to understand it but I don’t know. I’m a realist, I believe in science, but I also believe in the universe… I could speak to you for hours about how fascinating it is. But, as far as dying is concerned, I use it as a reminder to live a life that I love, everyday. None of us know when we are going to die, therefore, it is important to live a life we love so that if we do, we can hold our head up high and say we did our best with what we had available to us. But, ‘love is a verb’, my friend.
4. I find that the whole idea of death inspires me. It is like an oxymoron of sorts; death is death but in many ways it is actually life. Life is short, fickle and inconstant, so why do so many people live like they are never going to die?
I’ve likened it to floating aimlessly in outer space with no sign of rescue. The thought of it is scary and it is so much easier on the mind to hide it in the dark corners somewhere. But life shouldn’t be lived in debilitating fear, using death as a scare tactic. I don’t believe so anyway. More so, to flip fear on its head and see it as an opportunity to love more, to see colours more vivid, to see the brightest light emanate from the smallest flame, a friend’s eyes as they smile, the stars at night, the feeling when the head first hits the pillow after a long day. You have spoken to me about being ‘present,' to make moments more exceptional, and I have found that by focusing more on that it has slowed life down and helped me become more peaceful with the trivialities of life because I find beauty in most of them. Except traffic, I can’t stand traffic… and arrogance – put a lid on that shit.
5. You're a passionate man. As an artist and a human what inspires you?
Connection inspires me – ‘sparks’ - with nature, with people, with the universe – the way that it speaks to you if you ask honestly and truly listen. In the search and discovery of adventure and in people that have it far harder than I do. I feel it is my duty to offer my best with the senses I was born with and the skills I have worked my ass off to develop because it is the best I can do.
6. What's next for Breathless? What's next for you?
We’re hoping Breathless is selected for international festivals but I’m excited in the fact that we have something worth submitting so there is a win every time I hit the ‘send’ button. The goal, as is with all my work, is to affect people in a positive way. Whether it’s through the films I write or the music I make with THE WØØDS, I want to affect and effect people in the same way that films like Into the Wild and bands such as Bon Iver have done for me. They have inspired my life. That is my dream.
Next up – I am in talks about a feature script, I am working on a global initiative/film idea with directors from other parts of the world in a hope to come together and make a bigger splash in the big pond for those in need, and THE WØØDS go into the studio soon so I’m amped about that.
‘Love is a verb’, my friend.
Simon Williams is a Sydney based film-maker, writer and musician that creates under the moniker of The Stampede Trail. What's more he is a super nice, passionate and inspired man. He splits his time between his passions for film, writing and music with his work at a local charity. Simon is currently in the process of submitting his short-film Breathless to a plethora of film festivals around the world, a timely and costly venture. You can check out his work and help out with planting his seeds at www.thestampedetrail.com , www.derepublica.com.au & *www.side.life
By Evan Sutter