AN ARTISTIC DREAMLAND: The Northern Rivers offers a variety of arts and entertainment not seen in bigger cities such as Dreamland by NORPA, set at Eureka Hall, 2016.
AN ARTISTIC DREAMLAND: The Northern Rivers offers a variety of arts and entertainment not seen in bigger cities such as Dreamland by NORPA, set at Eureka Hall, 2016. Kate Holmes

Artistic community, let's talk this weekend

ART as a business is a creative matter.

The most creative side of it is how to make it prosper.

Northern Rivers artists know exactly this, so we asked three of them about their experiences working in the area.

Dustin Clare, Karla Dickens and Will Gammon are three of the speakers at Artstate Lismore, where a number of local and national experts will discuss Creative Practice and Creative Partnerships.

Dustin Clare - Ballina


BUOYANT: Ballina actor and film distributor, Dustin Clare.
BUOYANT: Ballina actor and film distributor, Dustin Clare.

Dustin Clare has first-hand experience on and behind the cameras, as a Hollywood actor and a film distributor via his company, Fighting Chance Films.

What are, for you, the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities for artists in areas like the Northern Rivers?

As an artist living regionally, you get to connect to the environment in ways that wouldn't be possible in a city. For an actor, you need to leave the area to work, it's more of a place to live and re-charge.

How hard is it for a local small business to operate in an area like ours?

There are barriers with distance, especially for those businesses with a global focus. I think, for a lot of digital and online-focused regional business, the NBN really can't arrive soon enough. It's a major priority in terms of productivity and to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

What projects do you have for 2018?

I have Pacific Rim: Uprising releasing in March 2018 internationally. And Fighting Chance Films has two releases scheduled for early 2018: the Australian feature Pinch, a drama about a light fingered teen stealing to save his dying mother.

Plus the Australian documentary feature Meal Tickets about The Screwtop Detonators, a rag tag punk band from Perth. Filmed over 10 years, it really is a postcard to youth met with the realities of growing up.

Karla Dickens - Lismore


IMAGE: Indigenous artist Karla Dickens as Artist in Residence, 2010.
WIRADJURI: Aboriginal artist Karla Dickens during an artistic residence in 2010.

Born in Sydney and living in Lismore, we also spoke to Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens.

What is the biggest opportunity for artists in the Northern Rivers?

I studied art at The National School in the early 1990's and started my career as an artist there.

I made the decision to move out of Sydney and plant roots on the Northern Rivers over 15 years ago, it was initially a lifestyle choice that has turned out to be the best career move I could have made.

The biggest opportunity for any artist living on the Northern Rivers would have to be the quality of life, affordable living, space to create and beauty. I am far more able to give my life to making art without the stresses of city living.

What artistic projects are you working on after Artstate?

I have work included in Four Women, an exhibition created by Djon Mundine currently on show in the new Lismore Regional Gallery, along with an Installation at the Old Regional Gallery for the exhibition We're Closer Than You Think curated by Natalie Bull and Zoë Robinson-Kennedy as part of Artstate.

I'm excited to be working with Kirk Page next year in a project that NORPA will be hosting called The Horses Mouth.

Other projects I'm working on at the moment are based in Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne and Bingarra Western NSW.

Would leaving the Northern Rivers to live in a big city had enhanced your career prospects?

I have no interest in city living ( although I'll never say never ).

I'm represented by Andrew Baker Art Dealer based in Brisbane and have found myself in a very fortunate stage in my career where the location of my studio has no effect on career prospects.

Will Gammon - Bangalow


SCREEN LEGEND: Bangalow animation and 3D cinema expert Will Gammon.
FILMMAKER: Bangalow animation and 3D cinema expert Will Gammon.

Bangalow filmmaker Will Gammon stays at the forefront of technological advances in animation while living in regional Australia via his company Cumulus.

What are for you the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities for artists in areas like the Northern Rivers?

The biggest challenge working in the Northern Rivers has been convincing people that it is viable to utilise a remote studio working in a holiday location.

Clients are so used to needing studios operating from CBD areas because of the accessibility to be able to drop in and interact with the artist working on their films.

The reality is that this happens very occasionally and it is not too hard to jump on a plane and fly for one hour and stay the night.

Even more so, the technology that is available to collaborate over the internet has come a long way in the last 10 years. Companies all over the world are often working in one film and able to bring everything together relatively easily.

Obviously internet speeds are a huge factor in our ability to be affective and the internet in our area is less then satisfactory, but with a lot of planning and crafty strategies we managed to make it work just.

Now that we have gained the confidence of our clients and joined a business grade NBN account, we have all of a sudden seen a massive increase in capacity and have more then doubled our work force overnight. 

What is needed for big projects such as the Byron Bay Movie Studios to become a reality?

Byron Studios is a vision I have to establish a professional film industry in our region by providing infrastructure to make shooting here a reality.

The first step in the process has been to establish (his company) Cumulus as a picture post-facility offering VFX, grading and editing facilities to enable film makers to complete their films right here in the Northern Rivers.

We have also identified sound facilities capable of handling the other side of the post process.

Our next step is to work closely with Screenworks and utilise their extensive database of film professionals to start attracting films both locally, interstate and even overseas to come and complete Development, pre-production, production and post all from the beauty and convenience of our region and utilising the huge amount of exhausting talent we have here.

We are currently in discussions with some of the government bodies to assist us in bringing this vision to life and how it will provide a huge amount of new employment opportunities for our creative community.

We also have some amazing projects lining up for the new year which will already begin to capitalise on our work so far.

You have passed on some of your knowledge in 3D animation to local students already. Are you planning to do so again?

Absolutely! Have had great success finding two passionate, creative, innovative trainees who blow my mind everyday.

We are already starting to look for our next candidate. There is a global shortage of trained VFX artists. There is already a blockage of films being completed.