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Notes from down under

Karina Astrup has just produced her first independent documentary film. In the film she follows an underground rock band, “6FT HICK”, on tour 6000 kms across Europe and Australia.

Karina is born in Hamilton, New Zealand, but has lived the last 11 years in Brisbane, Australia. Recently she married and moved to Bekkastua in Norway.


How did it you get into making documentary films?

– After working in advertising for four years I really wanted to leave it. I had discovered that what I enjoyed most was production. I enjoyed working on corporate videos and television commercials, more than websites, prints or animation.

-I thought about maybe going into feature films and started asking people about it, looked into the industry and found out that I wasn’t really interested. All they were making locally were big blockbuster American films that I often didn’t really like very much, and the hours are shitty. People are working between ten and fifteen hours a day and you have to completely sacrifice yourself to the film. I thought I don’t want to sacrifice myself to a film that I don’t even like that much at the end of the day.

-What I enjoyed the most about corporate video and television was working with real people, not celebrities. I am not really very interested in celebrity culture. But I love everyday people stories, they are so interesting. I love stepping into other people’s worlds and lives. So I discovered that documentary was a natural thing to go for.

-My first real documentary experience was working with Faramarz K-Rahber, a highly acclaimed and awarded documentary filmmaker. This was the Fairdinkum Manjit Documentary. The film is about an Indian man, a Sikh. He is an immigrant and a taxi driver. He loves living in Australia so much that he wrote a song about it called “Song Australia”, and he would always sing to the passengers in his taxi.

He recorded a CD, an album full of his own music and people would sit in his taxi and they would go “Oh, what’s this song?” and he would go “Ah, but that’s me, that’s me singing!” And he would pull out this laminated song words and pass it on to them in the back seat, and he actually sold 3,000 albums to different people in his taxi!” (She is laughing a lot).

Tell me about your latest project; 6FT Hick – Notes from the Underground.

– 6FT Hick: Notes from the Underground is my first ever independent film produced by my own company House of Gary. It was my concept and my contacts. I am the producer, so I carried this baby from start to end.

-There is only one funding grant and broadcast deal in Australia offered to people at the start of their career, where you can get your film broadcast with limited experience behind you. It is a nationwide competition to get your concept accepted, so it is a very tough pitch process. I teamed up with emerging director Marty Moynihan who was at a similar career stage to me. We put the proposal together, and we won! It was amazing, it is so hard to get in! My hands were shaking when I got the final news “Oh, my God! I can’t believe we made it!” It’s just such a hard process.

-I received a budget of 1 million kroner and for that I had to produce a one hour documentary for ABC TV. Our budget paid for all the band members plane tickets, or else they could not afford to go that year. The Lead singer had been doing his masters in addiction studies, so they had not been doing as many paid gigs as usual.

They are normally very private guys and because they are from the underground sub-culture, there is a real mythology about who they are.

There is a lot of performance aspects and sometimes they look like they are killers or just generally really horrible men. It’s mostly show though, part of the overall experience. They were pretty concerned at first letting a documentary crew come in to reveal them and had nightmares about us trying to make it into a Metallica style ‘some kind of monster’ documentary.

-We had to keep a certain level of respect, but they understood that they had to give us access as well. It was scary for them since anything can happen in the editing room. People can take small pieces of conversation out of context and paint a picture that isn’t true. It was very hard for them to totally trust us. I had been friendswith two of the band members for nearly ten years, which was the other reason why they agreed to it. If I did not have a personal relationship, I do not think they would have agreed to it.

-I really love going to these heavy dirty rock gigs by myself. I love the energy they give out. It’s just so strong and so passionate, it smacks you in the face, it makes your pulse run fast, and it makes you energized. I often go away from these kind of gigs feeling pumped about life, and pumped with a feeling like “Yeah I’ve really got to get out there and do it, just gonna push my energy out, yeaah!” I like the fun, and I like that it’s not serious, that’s its pushing the boundaries and that you are stepping outside of boring mainstream land.

Karina Astrup. Photo: Gry Monica Hellevik

What is the best thing about having a creative profession?

-That I am never bored. I am always feeling like I have purpose for myself. I have some friends that don’t have creative professions, sometimes they just get bored. I never get bored. I never think “Oh what should I do with my time today?” I always wake up feeling filled with purpose and reason and things to do, I feel excited. I think that what’s amazing is; you dream something up in your head and make it a reality. Whether you make it with your hands, or you take picture, or you sell a concept to investors so you can build it in real life. The action of making a dream true, it feels so good!

-The sucky thing is that you are always short of money. That’s the down side of it. Being in art school sucks as much as it is massively fun. You spend so much money on film and paint and canvas, you are always short of money for food, rent. It’s really hard to survive financially.

What kind of education do you have?

 -I did one year at university of a bachelor of fine art and photography. I did not finish that because I was just so poor that I couldn’t stand it. Plus I decided that I couldn’t see how I could sustain myself, I saw lots of people that depended too much on their parents or brothers and sisters, and they couldn’t look after themselves. I thought “I have to be able to look after myself”. I can’t let my family have to support me to be an artist, I have to stand on my own two feet. So that is what made me interested in the whole multimedia thing, and made me go down the path of advertising.

 I was very fortunate that I got this amazing job at Bigfish advertising, which gave me all the skills that I could possibly need on the job, and fortunate enough to begin my film career working with such great filmmakers as Faramarz K-Rahber and Axel Grigor. In this field, the only way to grow is to keep attaching yourself to more senior mentors, and so you keep trying work with people who know more than you, and learn as much as you can while you’re working for them.

You just moved to Norway. Will you be able to stay here and work or will you go back to Australia and New Zealand for working?

 -It’s really exciting to be in Europe. I really want to break into the film industry over here. I am hoping to become a link between Europe and Australia, and help creative business flow between the two worlds. That’s a goal.

I am also in the process of developing 2-3 projects with Australian teams, so in the next couple of years I see myself go between the two worlds quite regularly. Maybe if a major thing gets commissioned, I might go back for 6 to 12 months, but at the end of the day I want to be mostly based in Norway, and stay here for a few years.

Karina Astrup in short:

Name: Karina Astrup (formerly Averlon-Thomas)

Age: 31

Profession: Producer

Likes to watch: True Blood, Deadwood, Rome, British Comedy such as League of Gentlemen and Spaced, good cartoons and generally anything art house.

Likes to read: Biographies and autobiographies. I like stories about real people, which is probably why I like documentaries.

Listens to: I love underground blues and country influenced rock n roll and stuff you often hear around the Brisbane and Melbourne scenes,also P.J.Harvey, Peaches, Björk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes just to name just a few.

Likes to eat: Healthy wholesome homemade food, with lots of vegetables.

Hobbies: Fine art, photography, travel, tango dancing.

Favourite colour: I can’t choose. Impossible, they are all great for different moods.

Favourite film: Impossible to choose, but I do love the works of Jane Campion.

Favourite artist: Frida Kahlo inspired me greatly at Art School.

Dictionary:

 Dinkum, fair dinkum: true, real, genuine (“I’m a dinkum Aussie”;“is he fair dinkum?”)
1 foot = 0,3048 meter
6 FT: ca. 1, 83 meter
Hick: hillbilly, redneck

Links:

Karina’s media company: http://www.houseofgary.com/

6FT Hick – Notes from the Underground website: http://6fthicknotesfromtheunderground.com/

Facebook page of 6FT Hick – Notes from the Underground: http://www.facebook.com/?sk=messages&tid=1500831638091#!/group.php?gid=117794754908534

Flickr photos of 6FT Hick – Notes from the Underground: http://www.flickr.com/photos/6fthicknotesfromtheunderground/

Big Fish Advertising: http://www.bigfish.tv/  

 An article about the Fairdinkum Manjit film: http://www.smh.com.au/news/tv-reviews/inside-australia-fair-dinkum-manjit/2006/06/06/1149359731430.html

Film festivals showing the film 6FT Hick  Notes from the Underground in November 2010:

BIFF (Brisbane International Film Festival) will be hosting 2 screenings in November – see times below:

Friday 5th Nov – 9:15pm at Tribal Theatre
Saturday 13th Nov – 6:30 pm at Centro

you can pre-order tickets through their website: www.stgeorgebiff.com.au

Also in Norway the film will be hosted by WT Os International Film Festival – this event is held in a town just 20 minutes out of Bergen and is the indie festival that comes straight on the back of the Bergen International Film Festival – see times below:

Friday 12th Nov – 19:00

also see their website for more info on where to go etc: www.wt-festivalen.no

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