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Where art meets filmmaking

Founders of Felix Media, John Maynard and Bridget Ikin on the convergence of art and the moving image and why they gravitate toward pushing the boundaries.

Jane Campion. Vincent Ward. Samantha Lang. Rowan Woods.

What do all these filmmakers have in common? They all went to art school.

“Without art schools I wondered if we would have ever had a cinema where people would be bold or innovative, or a rock ‘n’ roll business,” producer John Maynard of Felix Media says.

“They were the places where creative people came from and still do.”

Maynard has worked with each of those filmmakers over his four decades or so in the industry, from Campion’s first feature Sweetie, to Lang’s The Monkey’s Mask.

“Pretty much all the directors – except for Rob (Connolly) – that I’ve worked with came out of art schools.”

Some four years ago, Maynard together with partner Bridget Ikin established Felix Media, borne out of a desire to collaborate with exceptional artists on projects with unconventional presentations.  Prior to that, the pair produced through their separate companies, Arenafilm and Hibiscus Films.

“I guess we were inspired by what we saw around us,” Ikin says, “which was an explosion of interest by artists wanting to work in the moving image space. Sculptures and painters for instance, who could see the presentation of ideas could be as excitingly explored through moving image – multiscreen and single image as well.”

Maynard says filmmaker Lynette Wallworth, who he and Ikin worked with to produce Coral: Rekindling Venus, is one such example.

Coral Rekindling Venus

“Her first big budget project was in fact Coral: Rekindling Venus for the fulldome cinema. She then went on to make a fantastic documentary called Tender,” he says.

“She’d never made a documentary before, had never worked in film like that before, so it’s in that way which we can reinvigorate (the) industry… If you haven’t got someone that’s comfortable with living at the edge and working on the edge, you’re going to finish up with some pretty ordinary stuff.”

Then there are the artists who only work in moving image, such as Angelica Mesiti, who Ikin has worked with on four separate occasions – on multi-screen works The CallingCitizens BandThe Ear of the Tyrant and The Begin Again.

Ikin and Felix Media also collaborated with William Yang, whose dream to convert his theatre pieces into a moving image work took three years. In the end, three of his monologues were recreated for the screen: My GenerationFriends of Dorothy, and Blood Links.

“It’s a wonderful record of an artist reimagining a way to tell a personal story in a new medium,” Ikin says.

And most recently, Felix Media produced Hossein Valamanesh’s 4-screen work Char Soo, which is playing at Carriageworks until July 17. It also screened as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival as well as showing at the 2015 Adelaide Film Festival. And Felix Media also produced Jennifer Peedom’s acclaimed feature documentary Sherpa, which made more than $1 million at the box office.

Sherpa

In their efforts to encourage collaboration and ideas in moving image production and presentation, Felix Media are also running a two-day masterclass from June 30-July 1 at Carriageworks, where they are a resident company.

Ikin says they also want to start up a dialogue about some of the big questions in this space.

“Should the work be a two-screen work? A four-screen work? Does the audience stand or sit? How long is the work? Where can it be placed? These are questions which have to be asked of every single moving image work,” she says.

“Because every project is different. It’s not like making a film for a cinema where you know the rules, you deliver in a certain form, everyone sits in a cinema, there are rules attached to it. This world is totally different.”

It makes it challenging, but it’s also why Maynard and Ikin are drawn to working in this way – forever pushing themselves and others to think outside the box.

“I guess everything that we do, we always want to lead. We’re not followers and we never have been, so every single project we’ve done has kind of led the field in some way,” Ikin says.

“That keeps us on our toes as producers, reminds us of why we do what we do and forges new kinds of relationships with artists and fresh ways of thinking all the time. All of those things are important to the choices that we make.”

To find out more about the Felix Media masterclass and Char Soo, visit the Carriageworks website here