Life as a Digital Nomad and Masters of Creative Industries Student
12 Mar 2019
Life as a Digital Nomad and Masters of Creative Industries Student
12 Mar 2019
Angie Davis is a documentary filmmaker and creativity coach. A self described digital nomad, she travels the world with her family to pursue her passion and adventure. Angie has just been announced as the recipient of the Master of Creative Industries scholarship, we chat with her further about her enviable lifestyle, career and studies.
As a working documentary filmmaker, what drives your passion for this medium and how do you choose the subject matter for your films?
I’m driven by stories that invoke empathy and cultivate compassion in the audience. The unsung heroes, individuals who overcome significant challenges in their lives, stories about the environment and social impact.
I have been traveling extensively for the past four years as a digital nomad, and it’s the people I meet and the places I visit that inspire the subject matter.
For example, it was a trip to Peru as a travel writer a few years back that inspired my first film Double Barrel; I fell in love with the little surf town Lobitos but saw that it had been overrun by the oil industry for over 100 years, and the locals really needed help in gaining global awareness in order to have a go at preserving the marine environment and developing a sustainable tourism plan. I decided to make the film to help them achieve their goals, and as it happened the film toured globally and contributed to the NGOs raising the funds needed to conduct marine studies which last year finally resulted in a national protection plan for all the surf breaks in that region.
While I was filming Double Barrel, I met Dustin Hollick and Rhian Slapp who came with me on one of those trips to Peru, and through that we decided to make The Laps Tasmania, based on an idea Dustin had for a decade. It’s really about collaboration and by getting out of our comfort zones to travel, see the world and interact with people we create those opportunities for sharing the lesser known stories that I like to tell in my films.
Another example is a concept I am currently working on, based on a friend of mine Taki Gold who I met at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival a few years ago. Taki was a child soldier in the Liberian civil war from the age of six, and so we are collaborating together to develop a documentary in virtual reality to tell his story.
Why did you choose to study a Masters of creative Industries with SAE?
I chose to do the Masters of Creative Industries with SAE because I wanted to really dive deeper in filmmaking and my creative practice.
I don’t have formal qualifications in film studies; I did a BA Arts at Adelaide University 15 years ago, and a year of journalism before deferring as I began working as a travel writer and producer and photojournalist and so made a career out of that before falling into film four years ago when I was asked to write and produce some travel clips for a Tourism Victoria campaign with Yahoo!7 (NZ).
Last year I took my second only corporate job as a Content Marketing Manager at a sustainable fashion brand in Montreal, Canada, but after six months there the company laid off the entire marketing team due to financial troubles so I re-assessed my own career and discovered that I really am not fit for corporate and my greatest passion is with film, documentary, and storytelling. It was a good reminder not to follow your heart not the money and be patient, so I decided that at 36 years old now was as good a time as any to get back into studies with this master’s program and really dive deep into my creative practice.
It’s been a fantastic decision and I love the flexibility to be remote – I am still a digital nomad and planning to be back in France for most of this year – and being surrounded by likeminded people from all walks of the creative world is very rewarding. The mentorship with the master’s is extremely beneficial and most of the time I feel as though I am collaborating on my real-world projects and contributing to others’, rather than just studying. That’s the beauty of the program, you don’t have to give up your career for a couple years to participate, rather you can weave in your professional works and I think that’s win win for most people.
You also seem to live quite the nomadic lifestyle with your family, how does studying the masters online fit in?
- The flexibility of studying the master’s online is what attracted me to do this program with SAE.
- All of my work is done remotely; my team is scattered all over the globe.
- Being a digital nomad requires a lot of flexibility and this program offers me that.
- The webinars bring that face-to-face contact and the screen factor doesn’t hinder that connection at all. This is the future, remote collaboration, and I am particularly excited as we enter into this new age of globalisation of the Internet where communities in developing countries such as India, Africa, and throughout South America, have the same interconnectivity as we do here in the West. We have so much to share with each other and the more global these programs can become, I think the more we can all learn and the better the world can be.
Have you already formed the concept for your major project that you will complete as part of your studies? And if so could you please tell us a little bit more about it?
I am incorporating my real-life major projects into the masters.
With the screenwriting module, I am developing a screenplay throughout the two 6-week modules that will enable me to walk away with a full structured outline of the narrative film I want to make, to then go away and write the script.
The major graduate project I am working on is connected to the adventure travel series I have been developing, The Laps TV.
I have a production company Switchboard Media Group with Dustin Hollick, and together we secured funding for a pilot episode a few years ago, which is the film that we just screened at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. There were film scouts at the festival who came to our screenings and since then my inbox has been buzzing with international interest, and I can’t say too much due to a confidentiality agreement but let’s just say that I’ll be working on marketing assets for the series, such as an international sizzle reel and a series bible.
Do you have any tips for aspiring filmmakers or those looking to get into the industry?
When I graduated high school 19 years ago, I had no idea I would end up in filmmaking. I wanted to surf and travel the world, writing stories and sharing them somehow. I fell in to film by being open to life’s opportunities and taking on Richard Branson’s advice of saying yes to big opportunities and then figuring out how to do them after.
Tip 1# Seek out and connect with people with varied skills
I surround myself with people who know more about certain things than me, for example my cinematographers know far more about the technical aspects of the camera than I do, so I trust in their skills completely and then I bring my skill set of script and story to the table.
Tip 2# Do not follow the money
I always tell young people interested in film or any creative practice not to follow the money. Money helps and we do require funding to make films, but that’s not the driving reason we get into the creative field. Discovering your purpose and what drives your passion will lead you to the money, but you need to develop a few skills along the way, such as patience, learning how to connect with your gut instinct, and especially collaboration. The road is not easy, and hard work, determination, and motivation are absolutely required. So I tell people that if you feel uncomfortable throughout the process, you are probably on the right track; growth happens in the place you haven’t occupied before, where we feel most uncomfortable.
Tip 3# Don't let age define your decision to try
I am always encouraging people no matter what their age to try different things. You may think you were born to be a cinematographer but end up brilliant as a film composer. I have done everything from writing, producing, directing, marketing, editing, photography, fashion, travel, etc, and there’s something to learn about yourself in everything you try. You can’t lose; you win, or you learn.
Tip 4# Get out there and network
Another piece of advice is to network. I always say, “you’ve got to show up to blow up.” My bank account hasn’t always been favourable for jetting off to events like the international film festivals, but every time I take the plunge and show up,
I meet someone or I am listening to a panel and someone says a takeaway that has a deep impact on what happens next in my film career. It was taking my first film to SBIFF and attending the opening night of the festival, the world premiere of The Little Prince, that found me sitting alone in a sold-out theatre and having a brief chat to the woman next to me who turned out to be the producer of the film who then took my email, and in following up she introduced me to a distributor who I have now been with for three years and both my films. In this industry it is often WHO you know, so you need to get out there and meet people.
Tip 5# Practice self belief - one email at a time
Be confident, believe in your work and share your passion as you might only have five minutes with someone but if you are authentic and passionate you can get them excited and you never know what will come from one conversation. I often say, “one email can change your life.” Don’t be afraid to cold email people, although I am not a fan of cold calling as people are far too busy these days, but cold emailing works if you keep it simple, three lines, and be very clear in what you are asking for.
Tip 6# Be entrepreneurial
Sell yourself and your work. Don’t give up; I hear “no” far more than I hear “yes”. But you only need one “yes” to bring a project to life.
Learn how to decipher when you are hitting a brick wall and need to re-asses or change your tactics. Where there is a closed door, look around for a window. Persist, but diversify. If you are too attached to your concept you might not be able to recognise when you might need to adjust the idea or refine it to make it better. Research and know the most about the concept you are working on than anyone else, as again it’s your excitement and passion that will attract attention from buyers and sponsors or the likes.
Tip 7# Finally, invest in yourself.
By this I mean intellectually, creatively, and in regard to your health, physically and mentally. Work harder, not smarter, and learn creative hacks to help you along the way. I value my health so much as I want to be making films right into my old age with no plans of retirement, so getting enough sleep, meditating, eating a super healthy plant-based diet, sleeping eight hours a night and keeping active through adventuring, yoga, etc, are all part of my self-investment plan.
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