My guest today is Natasha Pincus. Natasha is a Writer and Director who is probably most well known for her very distinctive music videos that she has created for artists including Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, and Powderfinger. Where you are probably most familiar with her work though is through her video for Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, which has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube and was awarded the first of Natasha’s back-to-back ARIAs for Best Music Video, and nominated for the MTV award for Best Music Video.
We delve into how the Gotye video clip came to be, including:
How Natasha came up with the idea for the clip
Why the final video idea was actually her Plan B
How you “train” for a 26 hour shoot
The record label’s initial reaction to the clip
And a whole lot more.
And we also explore the many quirks about the way Natasha works, including:
How Natasha uses the setting of daily goals to maintain motivation
How she comes up with her best ideas
The part of projects that she finds the most terrifying
Her strategy for gaining momentum at the very beginning of projects
When and where she comes up with her best ideas
The times of day she reserves for creative work versus meetings
How Natasha manages to keep the first three hours of her day distraction free.
The critical role that Voice Memos play in her work
How she uses wardrobe changes to partition her day
How she uses repetitive tasks to overcome writer’s block
How she builds exercise into her work
And here are links to some of the things that Natasha mentions during the interview:
A full transcript of the interview is below:
Natasha: This first day is terrifying for me. I say this with a half smile because I've just started a new project, so I'm refresh on this right now. You're furthest you're going to be from the mission. So there's a really the first day I feel often just overwhelmed by how much is the come. At the same time, it's got the most possibility, so it's always exciting, so I've got to keep a lid on it a little because I can better myself. I generally try to be kind to myself. My strategy is usually just to give us a very small goals to start with so that I can maximize my confidence on a project so that I can feel like I can gain and build a momentum.
Amantha: Welcome to How I Work, a show about the tactics used by leading innovators to get so much out of their day. I'm your host, Dr. Amantha Imber. I'm an organizational psychologist, the CEO of Inventium, and I'm obsessed with finding ways to optimize my workday. My guest today is Natasha Pincus. Natasha is a writer and director who's probably most well known for her very distinctive music videos that she's created for artists such as Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, and Powderfinger. Where you're probably most familiar with her work though is through her video for Gotye Somebody That I Used To Know, which has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube and was awarded the first of Natasha's back to back areas for best music video and also nominated for the MTV award for best music video.
During the first half of this interview, we unpack the entire process of how somebody that I used to know came to be right from when Wally approached Natasha about the video through to it hitting 1 billion views. It is a fascinating journey and in the second half of this episode I explore some of the very quickie habits and rituals that Natasha has variety. Over to Natasha to hear about how she works. Tash, welcome to the show.
Natasha: Thank you for having me.
Amantha: I want to get into probably the work that you've created that you're most famous for, which is Gotye's, Somebody That I Used To Know video, which I knew that must have been a couple of years ago was around half a billion views, which is crazy. I was looking at it today in preparation for our chat and it's over 1 billion views.
Natasha: It's a lot of zeros. Yes. It's entered the one billion club. It's just another weird, crazy, wild land market.
Amantha: What is the 1 billion club?
Natasha: It's by YouTube's measurements, so of course there are views outside of the YouTube platform. There's 1 billion views on YouTube is a small crew of music videos usually reserved for the Justin Biebers of the world, but made our way into it and pretty happy to be there
Amantha: So great, you and Beiber up there.
Natasha: Oh, and some cats sneezing videos, some panda magic tricks, that stuff.
Amantha: Not that's excellent. That's very cool. I want to delve into the story behind how that video came to be. I guess to start with, how did she get approached to do this video?
Natasha: Well, I've been making some music videos in a bespoke manner for a few years, handpicking and being lucky enough to work with some really great Australian musicians, like I'm Paul Kelly and Powderfinger, Sarah Blasko and so on. You get into the musical fraternity and through that I incidentally came to meet Wally De Backer who's the man behind Gotye. It's a pretty small community of artists down here in Australia. One thing led to another and he approached me privately, independently when he had a demo version of somebody that I used to know. At that point he hadn't actually confirmed the second singer yet who later became Kimbra. I was pretty chuffed to hear that song and to be approached because it's always nice when an artist actually approaches you directly. Sometimes it can happen through a record label or a manager, but when it's not as coming to you one on one, it seems to generate a better chance for really creative outcome.
Amantha: Yeah. Wow, it's a huge compliment that he approached you directly.
Natasha: Yeah, I think it's a big sign of trust. He'd had seen a couple of the videos I've done before and responded to them, especially the kind of, I think the performative quality in my videos, I really like to get great performances out of singers. Singers not trained actors for the most part so there can be some challenges there, but it's a really rewarding part of the exercise. We're closely in that way and direct to camera hardened you slave transparent stuff is really what I'm known for and I think that's what he was going for or hoping for, for a video for this song.
Amantha: How does that work when an artist approaches you to do a video for a song? Like did they just give you the song and go, "Hey, give me some ideas." How does that work? How did it work for this video?
Natasha: Well, it can happen any number of ways like the best where you get the most control. Like it's an interesting thing, you think there's I guess, of popular opinion misconception that the more brilliant and a visionary musicians and artists have really megalomaniacal behaviors and really controlled freaks. In fact, I've found that the stronger the artist in their vision and in their output, the more trust I give to their collaborators. There's no doubt, no doubt here that happened as well. Wally basically gave me two songs said, "Dream away, come back to me with something that you like and we'll discuss."
He was definitely involved. He's an incredible person. Let me just frame this whole thing by saying he's not your regular human being. I mean this person is, he's off the charts in every way in creative, analytical, rational, intellectual, everything. I wanted his input creatively and also in terms of his pragmatic skills. So he came on then in development of the idea, but certainly in that conception ideation stage, it's great to have the full faith of your collaborators, so you can be in the quiet and dream without feeling like someone's critiquing you every step of the way.
Amantha: Do you remember the moment that you came up with the concept?
Natasha: Yeah, I do actually.
Amantha: Tell me about that.
Natasha: Yeah, it's a funny one because I'll let you in a bit of a secret. Just before this email from Wally came into my inbox, I was feeling a little like I might not make any more videos. I was unofficially a, no one's ever retired but on a hiatus where I just was feeling quite, I guess I'd lost a little bit of my spark about what I thought I could achieve. I just felt quite tired just from that particular format. I was working a lot more as a screenwriter and I just gave so much to music videos. I didn't know if I had much to give. When I first heard the song I was a little bit cautious. I wasn't really planning to work, go ahead. I was going to respectfully say no. I heard the song and straightaway I was like, "Okay, look, this might be the one that gets me out of my earlier retirement time.?
Usually the first listen, especially when I come up with an idea is I protect it really, really carefully. I got it. I don't just give that away, like pop my creative cherry so to speak. I have to be alone. I have to not have distractions. I have to a really get one first blush. I heard this song in the quiet of the apartment at home, which was a good place to hear it. I had an idea, actually to ideas immediately, which is quite unusual for me. Usually I hear it a few times and things come and sometimes not at all, not for days. This particular time first listen, two ideas, bam. That was it. Then it was a process of converting a creative to the rational, try to make decisions between the two and the practical ramifications. The final result isn't that far away from a very the kernel, the first idea.
Amantha: Wow. What do you put that down to, having that almost immediate spark of inspiration?
Natasha: I think some of it's going to be kismet. I'm not one to really put my outputs in the creative gods. I'm not really into the genie idea. I think there is something else going on. Something lack or incidental or something magic fairy dust that you can control. I think the quality of the song, my head space, maybe the fact that I wasn't, that I said that I wasn't really invested on the first listen. I'd taken that burden away because I didn't think I was going to be doing anything. I could be more free to just dream. There's been a lot of factors involved. I think also, I mean, not a downplay all the work that came next because as much as that first inspiration was powerful, there was weeks and weeks of labor and each of those things are what really crafted the outcome.
Amantha: Can you describe what that initial concept was like in your mind before you have to get into all the logistics and the mechanics of it?
Natasha: Well, like I said, there were two concepts and they were quite related to each other conceptually, metaphorically, but that were visually quite distinct. The other concept actually is the one that I explored first. Not The one we actually know today.
Amantha: What was that?
Natasha: I was lucky it didn't work out. Huh? I was so despairing when that didn't work out. It's so interesting that sometimes the thing that you think you need a portion that is the one, although doors that close down in front of you and prevent you achieving it, are actually the gifts for you. If that had come through, who knows if that would have ever penetrated the same way. Right?
Amantha: What happened with that first concept? What was it and where did it not work?
Natasha: Well, it was an impossibility. Well look, there's always three things they say in the film industry: time, quality and money. You can have two. This was a low budget music video. It was funded entirely by the artist himself, which is what really gives you great creative control, but at the same time more limitations because of the pecuniary basis of that. What we did have was time and I had someone who could really appreciate that I had more time to work with. That was great and I wanted the quality. The nonnegotiable thing really was the financial one and the idea that I had was a really high and VFX nightmare.
It was a made according … I can only tell you that from experience because my VFX knowledge is quite poor. The number of people I went to see and ask about and looks I got back in return and a lot of expressions like that's impossible. Technology is not available yet or you know, come back in 10 years or you know, Avatar, that stuff. It was pretty high end.
Amantha: What was it? Can you paint a picture of what it was? Metaphorically, it's similar to the current idea in a sense it was still telling the story of two particular people who were separate. We watched them come together as one in the current clip. To me it's about the painting being a metaphor for our relationship. Basically in cases the two people in it, so they become part of a common fabric and then when they break up or when one leaves the relationship and is rendered naked, they leave the painting and become just this person that used to know.
The same thing, in the other concept, it was just two heads, two faces. While his character was marked, painted like, not in the same necessarily pattern we see now, but it had certain distinctive visual markings on him and very slowly, incrementally his face was joined by another phase coming from behind him into his face so that the two faces were morphed into one phase. The second phase had complimentary markings, so together they became one face and then went through to the other side for the front, leaving him with the markings in replacement. It's the same kind of like a switcher room mark. Same, idea, but just a lot of technology. When it came down to it, I was like, I don't really. I tend to avoid technology when I can, only because I can't control it.
I prefer something handmade and physical. The second concept suited me better because it's stop motion and it's much more low visually as well. It's much more my aesthetic and Wally's. To start with I was much more attached to that original concept.
Amantha: How did you feel when you learned that that was a technical impossibility and you had to almost go to plan B in a way?
Natasha: Well, heartbroken and it's a new feeling for me because one thing I've always said is it's not like the how is not that impossible. Nothing's impossible. It's the what that's really hard and once you can, it can be really impossible, seems possibility to find that one thing that you want to do, that one truth you want to tell, that one project you want to invest in time. That can take forever to deter. Once you've got that, then it's just a process. It's pragmatism and that's everything's achievable. To find out that I had the what, but I was being told, the kind of how that was just outside my experience. Truth be told, I quite possibly could have pushed some way. I believe I probably could have found a team, a mechanism, a tool. The fact that I diverted into step two or plan B really probably reveals that I was equally as in trade in there. That took off so quickly once I was in the throes of research. It had its own energy. It was like a freight train. I didn't grieve for very long.
Amantha: What's the timeframe between going, "Okay, I need to go to plan B, but it's like an equal plan A to getting to the day of the shoot." How long does that take?
Natasha: Oh, every video is different. Some of that stuff, as I said, it's fixed. You have no choice, so you're inheriting a timeline because it's working with a rollout delivery of other elements that are outside the video, like the album and so on. You always need a limitation. It's just that classic law where everything happens in the time you have allocated, so you don't want things to go on forever. But here we had more time than normal. We needed it because every project, whether it's a music video or a book you're writing or anything there's three stages to me.
There's the pre, the doing and the post. They're never equal. Some projects I get, some of the video projects I get by their nature are post heavy, some are pretty heavy, some are shoot or production heavy. This one was going to be pretty heavy. I needed all that energy and time in the planning, in all the testing and in that execution. I used most of that conception to hare time I could and left less time at the other end.
Amantha: How many weeks was that from conception to shoot?
Natasha: Well, overall it was two months. I'm going to say from my memory it was about a month.
Amantha: About a month.
Natasha: Yeah, and it was pretty tight.
Amantha: What was the most difficult part of going from concept to shoot?
Natasha: Well, we have to find the personnel. We had to find our body painter. We had to find a body painter who could body paint in stop motion, which means one dot at a time because the budget was tight. I had to also make it work and everything else had to fit. All the research and acquisition of all the tools and personnel and studios and all that thing, basic production. Then there's all the creative what's going to be on their bodies, what's the painting of, what's the store, where is that painting going to be positioned so that it has maximal meaning across the canvas there.
Then researching that lining and testing and changing, all that general R&D. In this case we used a painting that … Well, his father actually painted, Fran De Backer.
Natasha: But it was tiny, it was the size of my hand, a very small, beautiful little painting that had to be scaled to the size of a mural. Then you're finding a scenic artist and then a scenic artist who can stop motion painting. It's like building a house or planning a wedding. There's lots of different departments and steps and no two are the same. By the end you just need a holiday.
Amantha: Tell me about the shoot. How long did that shoot go for and what was that like?
Natasha: Exhausting isn't the word I would use, but it's the only word I can think of. Everyone can understand. It was next level for me. It was a marathon. They were physical and mental elements that were beyond my capabilities even though I was pretty well trained. What I mean by that is, I did seven years of uni, I was used to intense periods before exams where you're up all night and where you'd force your brain into cognitive terrain. I had a great team that I'm used to pushing into similar kinds of circumstances. I didn't feel under prepared. To be honest, I physically trained as well. I knew I'd be tough. I had Wally and Kimbra physically getting ready for the endurance sport it was going be.
Amantha: Doing what?
Natasha: Everything from yoga to exercise to withholding caffeine for two weeks to managing their diets, right footwear. This was going to be tough.
Amantha: What time did the shooting start?
Natasha: The first day we painted the backdrop with a stop motion approach, which is basically a photograph and then painting a dab and then taking another photograph and then painting a dab and then photograph, so thousands and thousands and thousands of times. We did that the first day with Wally alone as well. That stuff you see at the beginning with him across his face and body that took 18 hours.
Amantha: Eighteen hours. Is that 18 hours nonstop?
Natasha: Nonstop, yeah. [inaudible 00:17:54] a little bit more flex because Wally could get up and move around a bit. We also had to sit up at the beginning of the day and leave. We had a four-hour turnaround and then we came back and the next day was 26 hours.
Amantha: Twenty six hours.
Natasha: Yeah. That was tough. That was really hard. I was prepared, but I met some new challenges in that day and so did everybody else.
Amantha: What strategies are you using for yourself, but also your team because you're essentially like the director on a shoot that's like the CEO of a business, like you're there to keep everyone motivated and on task and everything? Firstly, how did you keep your own energy levels up and your focus up for 26 hours?
Natasha: Well, there is some things you do purely because of adrenaline. You're in the moment. It has a limit on it. The fact that it has a timeframe, forces your focus, the fact that it's going to be over soon. I think sometimes when things try to eternity, that's when you start to lose hope and focus, but you know you'd have to hold your breath through this and you can get the other end. There are moments and tricks you can do. Usually I would never stop. I think what I mean by that is I've never really delegated very well. This, I had no choice. I think it was about 11:00 PM on day two, I started feeling like I needed a break, but we couldn't break. I delegated for 45 minutes and I lie down for 45 minutes. I knew I had another 12 hours to go.
I was really starting to get physically, I'd see some weed signs. I've only recently started telling the story. It's interesting because I don't know why. It's not a secret, but I think it's been a bit painful, but now it's an anecdote I can share. I did have some mental cognitive lapses from the overwork. I was only aware of it about midnight on day two where I was looking down at a white floor and I didn't know it was a white floor. I remarked to the cinematographer that there was so many triangles everywhere. I never noticed how many as they were before. "Isn't it so interesting we have these triangles?" He didn't know what I was talking about at the time really. Looking at the floor, I explained I was seeing this line work in the paint.
I thought it was some magical coincidence, but of course I burned a little, I guess impression of the artwork on my retina because I've been staring at it for so long. I was starting to see it on my hands and my arms. I started realizing if I'm feeling that the others will too, if they're not already. I think Kimbra fainted. Kimbra went down as well, so there was a couple-
Amantha: She fainted?
Natasha: Yeah, she fainted. That was a bit awkward.
Amantha: Oh, goodness.
Natasha: That was a little bit expected because she was staring at the artwork for too long with a focal point, started messing with her. There's some really athletic brutal like physical challenges. The harder ones were just this emotional, spiritual ones. You are leading a ship, you are maintaining a mood and a positivity and those various personalities and everyone needs different things. Some people need activity, some like quiet, some people need to rest, some people need jumping around. We had a lot of playlists. I had already prearranged some good music for various parts of the day and the night.
Amantha: Really? How do you pick your playlist?
Natasha: Just mood, I guess, trying to sense when people need various things. I did have a couple of pep talks. I've reserved them though because you've only got a couple of really important moments you can have. There was a really serious pep talk at about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning when everyone was really tired. Basically once Kimbra and Wally both got painted, they had to start working and that was when all the singing and performance happened. That was 18 hours into the shoot.
Amantha: Eighteen hours?
Natasha: Oh, 20 hours actually. That's when they just start singing.
Amantha: This is like early hours of the morning?
Natasha: 4:00 in the morning. We had like a full shoot ahead of us, eight hours left and our resources. It was time to time to bring everyone into the kitchen. I remember I was just standing there. It's not like you're saying anything new, you just reminding everyone of what we all know, which is that this will only hurt for a little while, but it lasts. The effect of it they'll last an eternity. Just really-
Amantha: What a great thing to remember.
Amantha: That's awesome.
Natasha: Well, I think of that quite often. I think every time things started getting really difficult, it's like this is a classic. This too soon shall pass. It's really a great tenor. The idea is not just focusing on that moment, but focusing on that aftermath and that feeling of pride, personal pride that we can attach ourselves to because we collaborate on something so challenging and together. In that moment I also told them I was failing and I think that was important.
I told them how I was feeling was that I was exhausted and I think it was important for me as a leader to not feel separate to them and tell them, "Oh, you're filling this. You'll be good." We're all collectively experiencing this challenge and because after all it needed all of us to be on the same level for us to pull through. On reflection it was just something that came on the day, but I think that really helped.
Amantha: That sounds insane two, three days. After the shoot and getting it to the product that everyone now knows what was that process like?
Natasha: The pain continued for there. Everyone else went on holidays because I was the editor. For the next three weeks it was just me and that was pretty tough because I'm a bit a bit many echo about the possible, I guess I can generate and wanting to explore every single last corner of an idea. I'm always alone and just there are 52 times I had Wally say that one line somebody. I wanted to say every single one of them lined up against everything else and just permutations of that were enormous. I did shoot a lot the nature of it, music video often has a spray and pray approach where I often get one hour per one minute of onscreen footage. I'll have three to four hours of footage to go through and while you've got a storyboard like key things you want to keep in there, the rest of it's a scramble of possibility. That's fun. It's fun, it's exhausting, but it's rewarding and you never really know when you're done because you can go on forever.
Every time I've done a video I think, "Oh this is never going to end. Then one day, one moment it's just finished. An hour beforehand, your model away from the goal and then all of a sudden 59 minutes later you're kicking back in your chair and you already pressing send. It's interesting. It tells you often when it's done.
Amantha: Do you remember what strategies are used in the editing room to stay focused like that? That's a marathon of a task.
Natasha: Yeah. I like to give myself goals, whether I'm writing or editing. Editing to me is quite like writing screenwriting or prose writing. It has a similar daily target for me and no matter what video it is I've done and I've edited a lot of the videos I've made and no matter what the ratio is of footage to output I tend to try to get one minute done a day, first part, which means they'll get four full days, I'll have a cut and they'll start playing. The reason why that one was a bit longer was because of all the brutal mechanics of the building, the stop motion photo by photo. Again, there's probably been more footage than unusual.
I gave myself a break as well because I was allowed to, which is ideal, where you can be away from the footage for a while and return. That was a gift. That would definitely improve the product 100% where you're not just going straight through in one breath, but you're having a pause and refreshers. I built that into the timeline too. Yeah, I think daily goals in terms of the one minute for me is good. At the same time being really honest with yourself if you don't make them and also knowing to stop if you do make it. You start early, don't necessarily use momentum. Don't drain yourself too fast.
Amantha: Yeah. That's nice and trying almost not to be an overachiever against yourself.
Natasha: Yeah, I think you can do that towards the finish line, but not in the middle. If you had one big day, sometimes I let myself have a big day, but then I have to expect the next day I might be a bit off, be tired, be drained. I mean for me, I just can't keep tapping the resource over and over again. I need to let the bucket refill.
Amantha: Do you remember when the video was done and what's the film like in the bag? No.
Natasha: In the camp.
Amantha: In the camp.
Natasha: Unless the cat's in the bag as well.
Amantha: Right. It's good old bag cans, can bags. Do you remember who the first people that saw the finished product were?
Natasha: Yeah. I'm usually quite protective of these because I don't want to show people too soon because if a first impressions are right, they can make you doubt too quickly what you've achieved. In this case I think I just was so exhausted and I'd been on it so long. I literally didn't know what I'd done anymore. I thought this could be brilliant or terrible. I can't tell.
Amantha: You had no idea which way it had gone?
Natasha: Honestly I had lost my perspective. I mean I was making what pleased me, which is in a sense you really should do most of the time, but in a day this is a communication for the world. It's a representation for your client, you're collaborator. You want it to speak to people other than you and usually you get a sense, but I really thought this could be to obscure to a peg. Is it got meaning to people? Can people hold onto it? Is it going to translate emotionally? I was getting really terrified. I needed someone new. I have a friend and a collaborator who I trust really intensely, but he was living overseas at the time, totally talked different time zone and I remember thinking maybe, and he wasn't across what was going on. He was completely fresh.
I sent it to my friend in Oslo and I said, "Can you just check this for me really, really on the down low? Don't let it out of your side and honestly just come back to me." I trust him to be, which is crucial to be really honest with me. I waited and I waited and I waited. It was the middle of the night and the next day I was almost forgotten about it. He rang me and we didn't really do any phone calls and he said, "What have you done?" Which of course I was panicked. He said, "This is it. You're on the [inaudible 00:28:26] right? This is huge, this is going to be crazy, like unbelievable." I thought he was just floating my boat, but he was incredibly passionate about it and I thought, Okay. Well, if Kevin likes it, it must be good."
Amantha: Who were the other people that saw it before it was released to the world?
Natasha: Well, then you could obviously share it with your other, so I showed it to Wally. I mean a few reasons. One, you want his reaction, but he might have a couple of entity shots or other reasons. Kimbra obviously, and then it goes to management. Wally gratefully, he had said no cuts, no one had any changes, which was-
Amantha: Is that rare?
Natasha: Look, I'm actually been really lucky. I don't think I've had many changes ever to do in any of the videos I've done, but that's certainly not what I've been exposed to. I think mostly because I spend so much time making sure all the same creative page, the outset. Then there's no surprises really. It's quite rare in that this is, it was quite an unusual video. Then I sent to his management who is also his label or partly responsible for his releases. That's a team I've worked with before.
I worked with him, with Missy Higgins and other brilliant artist. I really had a relationship on foot and I trust them implicitly and their opinion means a lot to me too on a personal level. I was quite nervous about their response. Obviously they have to really believe in a product to push it, so they have to love it. It's in your interest that they really dig it.
Amantha: What was that like waiting for their response? Did they get back to you quickly?
Natasha: Look, it's always painful. This one was especially painful. I'll tell you a little funny story. So I sent it off to these guys are called Eleven Music Melissa [January 00:30:06] is the main contact that I work with and she's amazing and very sensitive to us artist in a delicate egos. So she generally gets back to me super-fast and I had nothing. It was like radio silence. I was like, this is bad, this is so bad, this is the worst. I was already-
Amantha: For how long?
Natasha: We're going to reflection it's probably a day, but that's a long day.
Amantha: It's a long time for a day.
Natasha: I think I sent it in the evening and by the next morning I would have expected to hear and there was midday nothing, 2:00 PM nothing, end of business nothing. I was like, okay, this is the longest I've ever not heard for. I remember being stuck in traffic at like 7:00 PM the next night, 24 hours after I'd sent it off and my phone rang and it was hurting and I was already bracing for the worst ever response. She started chatting with me, nothing really immediately but what I learned was that day one of her major artists had actually announced they were breaking up and retiring and so understandably that had a busy day and she hadn't got around to watching the video till that evening.
So I'd missed that media because I was in the cave. So I missed the whole press conference debacle. Anyway, the point is, she said while living at this, she said, Tash this is a, what did you one video you get in a generation, we're going to change our entire release strategy of the song so that people only ever hear the song when they see the video, they're going to be one entity and this is going to be huge. That was it. And I didn't to be honest, didn't really believe her. I was like, "yeah, whatever."It's great. Thanks. But I didn't think that she was in any way control of this outcome. That being said, the response obviously exceeded all of our expectations and then some. I think their release strategy certainly had a hand in that. I think something else, bizarrely just lifted it up and blow it into the stratosphere.
Amantha: What have been the most memorable moments since it's been released and join the billion views club?
Natasha: Although so many different little things along the way because it had a life in Australia, well in advance of its life overseas. So we get to enjoy all that crazy stuff going on here before the Americans ever even heard it. We had the Aria, we won the Aria award year and then it went viral here and when to let beautiful fun stuff happened and I thought that was kind of it. Then a big turning point was Ashton Kutcher tweeted about the video and things just got really strange. That's when I really got picked up and next thing it was a hidden America, but that was 10 months after it had been released here. I was actually over at Austin South by Southwest where the video was selected to screen and I was standing in a queue for food truck and the song hadn't really come out there yet it was really obscure still. These couple behind me were like, "hey man, check this out."They were watching it on their phones and I was like, dude, that's my video. It was so cool.
I was obviously incognito, but it was just those sort of things then started after that and it happened a lot where I'd be at a restaurant waiting for my take out and there's a table full of people like eight or 10 people crowded on their phones watching the video and I'm like, "what are you watching?" They are like "check this out." And I'm like, "that's really cool."That sort of stuff just kept. I mean so real. It was just, it was one thing after the other. I was incredibly rewarding.
Amantha: Amazing. Amazing. What a story. I want to switch gears now because while we've been talking about a music video a lot of the work that you do professionally and have done for the last few years is writing work. Whether that be writing screenplays, I know you're working on a novel at the moment and I want to talk about how do you … like where do your ideas come from? How do you think creatively, where like when you're at the start of a project and you're trying to think of something an idea or a character I don't know, what do you do?
Natasha: Where do they come from? I think it depends for me, screenwriting can come from lots of different places sometimes let's say original idea of yours, sometimes you're adapting a novel, sometimes you're working to an assignment and they all have different kinds of creative processes inside of them. Sometimes it's from a more of a problem solving and in a way more of a rational kind of creativity rather than a kind of a brutal creativity, which is where you're sort of looking inside versus outside. So something I wrote, a script I wrote a few years ago called Clive was deeply personal to me and I came from a real life idea. So being sensitive to the world around you, not kind of mining the world, like in a kind of I guess selfish way for your ideas. Just being receptive, being open to being inspired if those things can lead to ideas. Then when you're in the actual throes of the mission and you've already had that decision, you've already decided you're going to write along that course.
Every decision you make along the way is to me more practical one, it's more rational, it's more kind of know mathematical in some way. In that case I kind of dip in and out from looking into myself and what I think is truthful or necessary or authentic or humane and then looking outside of myself, what's in the world, what's kind of resonating right now, what can I connect to a kind of a world event or some sort of will view that I can kind of infuse in this work. So you're constantly moving inside and outside in that way.
Amantha: So what is the first day of a project look like?
Natasha: The first day is terrifying for me and I've just, and I say this with a half-smile because I've just started a new project, so I'm pretty fresh on this right now.
Your furthest you're going to be from the mission. So there's a really the first day I feel often overwhelmed by how much is to come at the same time it's got the responsibility so it's the most exciting so I've got to kind of keep a lid on it a little because I can get a little bit of myself. I generally try to be kind to myself. My strategy is usually just to give myself very small goals to start with so that I can maximize my confidence on a project so that I can feel like I can gain and build a momentum.
Amantha: And what's an example of a small goal? Like maybe that you said for the project you've just started.
Natasha: So for the screenplays, it'll be page count and that's assuming I've already got an idea of what the stories I'm going to write if I read. I'm not someone who labels too much on pre-production of stories that are tend to write detailed treatments and breakdowns, but I do like to know where I'm going beginning middle and end pretty much and major turns, but I don't otherwise sort of plotted out. I might say to myself now I write very fast I mean it's my nature, but I'm trying to learn through my practice different ways I work in and maybe to sort of see how that might affect the kind of quality of what I write. It takes a long time maybe a lifetime to kind of accept how you are and to experiment with yourself within certain parameters. Like I've written 21 feature films and every time I'm sort of repeating myself and learning again both equally.
So I [win Le Morne 00:36:59] devices tend to write maybe three times more than I need to. That's just how I tend to find my way through the work. So a feature film should be around 100, 110 pages ish, but for some reason when I write my first drafts are 250 they are just long, but that's because I like to write opening doors because I think I feel it's like that thing I was saying earlier about the first time I listened to a song first time I'm saying, the first time I'm speaking through a character, I'll never get that freshness again and in that moment I might find two different ways for that character to go or the same move and rather than kind of making a note to try on later, I never get that same moment again. So I wrote them both.
I just keep kind of expanding and expanding so that we're not going first draft. My second draft is much more of a rational enterprise, much more like a crafting, carving. I've kind of got the face out of the block of wood and then I'm kind of putting in the eyebrows.
Amantha: That makes sense. What rituals do you have when you're sitting down to write assume you sit down to write?
Natasha: Unfortunately, I think to be honest is one of the limitations I find are physical rather mental.
Amantha: How so?
Natasha: I think I would work or I would continue to work looking forward more, probably more safely, more comfortably and maybe more if I could get my body right and I think that's some big challenge as I've gotten older and when I was younger maybe as a romantic thing, I just didn't think about it. I Just let myself maybe even looking at that go to video I threw myself into battle. I still do with passion, but I physically get tired, bored quicker than my brain gets tired. My back is sore, my neck sore I don't notice it while I'm working. Then as soon as I get up, I feel sick. Like I was being shocked.
Amantha: So how many hours are you sitting down for before you have this realization that, hang on, I'm, I'm feeling so hot?
Natasha: I do all those things you meant to do. I get up every 30 minutes and stretch, touch my toes. I've got a standing station sitting stations. I think I bought every gadget on the planet, especially really when I'm not when I feel like, I think I ended up on that kind of rabbit hole that looks like a good tool out of this stuff I've got into my bed. I've got Ricardo Ergonomic breakthrough autumn, but nothing helps.
So I've got to say it's not my practice, I think it's just the reality of being a desk worker. From writing in the zone like if I'm writing a first draft, I like to write two or three hours without a break. Like I guess a university exam length and if I wasn't held up, I would go … I have written 18, 20 hours in a day.
Amantha: 18, 20 hours in a day.
Natasha: And again, it's kind of the go to thing is because there's a limit to I know I'll do it for four or five days. I'll do it for a week and at the end of kind of expand it. I've got all the away from one point to another.
Amantha: So you're doing that because there's a deadline or because you work more effectively almost cramming?
Natasha: Probably both. I mean if so if it's my original idea, it will be because I want to just kind of vomit it, literally just kind of tell the joke in one sitting, but with some breaks for sleeping. But sometimes I've been in a situation where it is brutal. It's just a deadline situation and it's just sometimes it's a freelancers curse you just don't get these sort of narrative strands of your life occasionally collapsing on the same beat and you just realize you just got suck it and do it. Not often I've had times where I just schedule 24 hours in a day to get it done and you go, okay, I'm going to work on this project from 10 till two and then at that point from two to eight, now one to two.
And then you just … it's not like I would promote that as a healthy lifestyle and it's not something I will do or here by any means, but there are, you have to accept sometimes that is just what is necessary and I am very selective about the projects I do, but it just so happens sometimes that coalesce and you get through it and then you treat yourself and reward yourself and relax afterwards until the next time.
Amantha: How do you do that? How do you recover after, let's say five days doing 18 or 20 hour days of writing every day?
Natasha: That's getting harder and harder, I'll be honest. That's something you have to be really honest with yourself about it. Again it could be age, it could be an accumulation of work waste is aggregated in me. But like originally it used to be I'll take a day or two off or I'd sleep more or even go to the beach, go away. It's always really replenishing.
One of the things I will be honest with you the modern day is taken away a lot of my go to. I used to love going to the video shop, the DVD store and just strolling around anonymously looking at titles or go to borders, which we don't have any more down here in Australia. A lot of the things I used to do I can't do. But as things get more and more exhausting and harder I need to appreciate I need more and more downtime to cope as a balance. I mean generally speaking it's probably like five days on requires almost five days off at that level and a lot of noise keep it to myself but you know what, you need it. So I'll end up catching up later. It doesn't go away. It's like sleep. If you get a really slow, like a really low sleep night you are not winning, you just deferring that need to another time.
Amantha: Where do you write? Where do you do your best work?
Natasha: I used to have an office space and I use to use that to delineate the different parts of my practice. So I'd go there to do the editing for videos or production type work meetings and so on, and then I would reserve my screen writing work for home and now I could change modes. Recently last year or so I actually closed the office down because, well partly because I now have a dog and the pooch couldn't come to the office, but also because actually found other ways of petitioning that didn't require sort of I guess a shift of geographical shifts. I recommend them to people, but I don't at the moment in my life I don't need them though more hindrance because-
Amantha: How do you partition now?
Natasha: I guess in some ways I still maybe partition geographically I might move to a different part of the house, apartment I partition in the day and I might even change my clothes
Amantha: So you partition in the day. What do you get into clothes changing, that's interesting.
Natasha: I think I said that without thinking about it. But I think it's really true. I do change my clothes.
Amantha: Let's talk about petitioning the day first. So you kind of saying you'll do certain types of work in the morning versus, like what does that look like?
Natasha: So if I'm doing my deep creative work, which is my discovery work, so if that's creative work for say a music video idea or that first draft a screenplay stuff I was talking about, it's morning and I can get some really good stuff done later in the day, absolutely. Sometimes their sprints so I might, for example, a good sprint time for me is between say 4:30 and 6:00 like that kind of just before the end of the day, we're going to quickly get this out. Then I find that with that kind of really curtailed period, I can actually get some gems. But generally speaking, first three hours are my best creative work and ideally have not spoken. I've not done anything and I won't have put any other input. I wouldn't have read the paper. I love reading the paper in the morning. I'm old school physical newspaper, that's a great ritual. But when I'm doing my deep creative work, I will roll out of bed and roll into the computer.
It's almost like a dream site. I think what it does is it, for me it means I haven't even kind of assume identity yet. I feel really God this is going to sound really kind of arty-farty, but truthfully it feels almost much more like you're kind of a medium in that way. You're just is nothing interfering that so there's no prove. Nothing is providing static between the inspiration and the outcome. Whereas the more and more I live in the world, whether that's as me because of my clothing, because I'm answering an email as me with my name because I'm using my voice because I'm contacting the everyday kind of the exigencies of life.
Now there's a step between the mind and the fingers and there isn't one in the screen and I kind of … It gets polluted. It's just not as fluent, not as clean. I don't trust the ideas as much. So I'd try to protect that and not only that, it's also cause crap comes in, people come in work life everything interferes and next thing you know you've been diverted to 100 different directions.
Amantha: Yeah. Because I would imagine that would be very hard to do, to roll out of bed into the laptop and get three uninterrupted hours. Like how will you setting, I guess technology and your world around you app so that you can protect that time?
Natasha: I'm not mad on technology. I mean those, that's. Sorry, totally wrong. I love technology. I'm the med on the communicative aspect of technology. So I'm not a mad crazy Mela I'll do keep my phone next to me and because I always want to be contactable for emergencies for in my private life. I might have like a quick glance to make sure nothing's just like popped up like literally like a phone call from someone who shouldn't be calling me that hour unless there is something wrong. Otherwise I do protect it by telling people in advance I'm going to be doing this. So when I'm going into these work modes, usually I extend for a few weeks and I'll make sure all my meetings or anything happens in the afternoons and people say hi can we have a meeting next week about something and I would say any pick an afternoon.
My morning [inaudible 00:46:02] grayed out. Most people are more regular collaborators know what that means. It means they're not expecting any contact with me before lunch. So preparing yourself for that is quite good and the rest of it I just have to be rude I guess I just don't answer. Unless it's an emergency it can wait, really. It's also really important to have your food and drink and everything ready and make sure they literally just have your life ready for that kind of stuff and don't let yourself get diverted. I have no problem with distraction. I have problem finding the time and not sticking to the time.
Amantha: So you have no problem with distraction. Have you always been good at blocking out distractions?
Natasha: I think so. I think I'm a little bit, if anything it's a problem for me rather than what I mean is like I'd problem coming out of it rather than giving into it. That's the biggest challenge of this is that I would schedule things for the afternoons when I'm doing this work, but I can be rubbish and I need to know when … even though it's only three or four hours of work, it has a drain on you in terms of verbal fluency, your cognitive powers, you might get really tired, you might just be just to be zapped. I kind of make sure that I try to schedule things that are appropriate to what their site's going to bring.
Like I'll try and be physical. If it's something physical I need to do like errand running stuff that's mindless, I'll try to put those things in rather than another cognitive drain in for different type. You just can be clever about it also on those three hour sessions, if it's not working, you've got to know like don't push.
Amantha: So you just abandon ship partway through?
Natasha: Sometimes I'll push and then sometimes I'll do something else and come back and I won't necessarily do something of the same ilk. So I'll do a domestic task that's generally my go to because what I do is I switch off the kind of relationship between my mind and my fingers. My mind is screen, but my mind is still working so I'll pull out the washing or something repetitive. I love repetitive actions. I love domestic tasks like that because it just means that I've taken the pressure off myself to produce something, but I'm kind of liberating to just dream and think. So often I'll put that in between a session somewhere anyway if I feel like it's not great quality or I need a break physically if I need a break especially I'll get up and move and I'll do something repetitive that's useful.
Amantha: I want to come back to the clothes. What are you doing with your wardrobe throughout the day?
Natasha: Well, I've got a lot of wardrobe changes, actually. I have never spoken about this before.
Amantha: Like an actor?
Natasha: Yeah, well you are right? I mean you get cues from things color wise, physically. I've noticed it the first time when I was a lot younger I was like a lot younger. I was actually an actor funnily enough, maybe this is where it comes from and I noticed I wasn't like when I say actor, I was a kid actor, so it wasn't like an actor I wasn't like trained I knew what I was doing. I was just performing for cash. It sounds wrong.
But I noticed that after a while that I wear the same thing going to auditions and rehearsals, which was always like a uniform, like blue jeans, black tee shirt. It was just what I wore. Onset I always tend to in the same sort of clothes and I thought what is it about this? And I realize obviously you start teaching yourself, training yourself into certain modes of being and thinking depending on what you wear. Like sometimes you can be in control and sometimes you get a surprise. But for me a color can make a difference. How comfortable you are makes a difference. And so when I'm doing my hard work in the morning, I'll have to be as comfortable as possible. It's just tracks as basic. I've got like a house clothes. Like I said, of wardrobe for house clothes.
This one I need to change from that, that I'll put something on, I'll put my jeans on, like I'm about to do something even though I'm still going to be at home or I'll put shoes on, which is a big one for some reason I hold myself differently you might see, I feel different. I do most of my phone calls in motion. That's a big one for me as well.
Amantha: So in motion, like when you're walking or driving?
Natasha: Ideally either but ideally walking because I might as well because I need to get my steps up anyway. Hey, but I'm sitting is going kill you. I might as well walk because I get a good fluency of thought and multitasking, but also attach it to whenever I'm driving when the traffic is [trifle 00:50:03]. Trifle isn't it a word. I mean that as an actual word. Terrorizing and it's horrible and I like to kind of just get those calls done while I'm traveling from point A to B. But if not, they'll at least emulate that by putting my shoes on. Sounds wacky. But I think it's important you've got to be open with yourself about what works.
Amantha: I want to come back to what you were saying around how you'll do those monotonous, repetitive tasks to almost just to open up your mind and give your mind some freedom. Like where are those situations like that where you're finding that you're coming up with those, those gems of ideas, those Aha moments?
Natasha: They usually are a sort of either while doing those repetitive tasks or obviously that always in the shower. Everyone always has them in the shower. I walk my dog probably more than he wants to get walked, he's like a fetus dog in Melbourne. He's really good for that to. What's really important is to quarantine that time. So I love my podcasts and I love my audio books, but there's another cognitive assault, so. And I think it's one that's underestimated. I love learning languages and I love speaking and learning French, but I stopped myself on purpose from my French podcast because I didn't realize until quite a long time had gone past that there were that you see this is more work and if you're using your downtime for work time, then you haven't had your downtime.
None of that seems to make sense, but I think often we get addicted to that stimulus and the stimulation when I go, when I had a big period of like a written really important scene or something I got from my walk. I might be desperate to listen to a podcast or even music and I'll put my ear buds in but I won't put anything on while I'm walking two reasons one, well three, one just because it's a habit too because it tells anyone in the world don't talk to me or excuses may really if I don't hear them when they talk to me initially, but also because I make voice memos and they're the most important thing in my world. My voice memos.
Amantha: Really? Tell me about the voice memos.
Natasha: They are everything so it can be anything from after meeting. I'll just do a brain dump because so many little things I want to remember after meeting I won't physically write notes, but I'll almost score the meeting right back and I like to have to have those details in hand so if I have to meet that person again, I've had them. Let's talk about the meeting just a moment ago. But for little ideas or we can always I'll remember I'll go back to my desk and we'll be there, it's not. Also if you release it in a voice memo you got room for something else to come in. So I feel like if I don't release into a voice memo I'm holding on with a little bit of my brain and I'm preventing something else, kind of the caring to me.
Amantha: So would you use a voice memo over good old fashioned note pad and pen?
Natasha: Especially when I'm out and about. Yeah. Physically I do use the notes in my phone all the time, all the time and I'll do that for anything from long notes, especially like at the gym or something where maybe recording a voice memo is not super cool. So I'll make some pretty extensive notes in there, but also just for little things. Again my goal it's almost like defragmenting your hard drive. I think that the more that you've got like little sort of little bits of fluff flying around in there, you're unconsciously holding onto them all the time and you just preventing, you just taking up space. So the more that I can just even put it in there, whether it's a to do item along raging to do item, goal setting notes on a screenplay whatever. I really genuinely can physically feel that space opening up and being exposed to other new material to come in.
Amantha: That's cool. What do you do with the voice memo? Are you getting them transcribed or is it enough just to have them there sitting in a library just listen back?
Natasha: Particularly a year for me to start titling them, which is annoying because the first year [inaudible 00:53:42]. I do back them up to my Dropbox and when I change phones, it's annoying. It's one of those really weird apple things where they just don't seem to sync well into your new phone so I buy Apple if you're ever listening, can you fix that.
I do back them into a voice memo, a folder in my Dropbox. Otherwise I just give them a name and I can easily find them again. Try to make that name really not obscure. Literally I have thousands, thousands of notes. But they great, they usually like two or three minutes long, but they can be up to 10 minutes long.
Amantha: Goodness, that's interesting. I love that. I love the efficiency as well and just also having that uninterrupted thinking time when you're walking the dog. I feel that's really rare in most people's lives.
Natasha: Really important. And you know, like sometimes it's not about thinking it's about, it's actually about an active process of letting go of the thoughts cause I think that's when they kind of untie and unravel themselves. I tend to only have the benefit of it immediately after a session if another day is gone past or I've done something else in between that's gone. Like those little the connections and associations, they're not coming back again unless you force them and that's a totally different thinking pathway.
Amantha: Now, I want to finish with some questions around what are you currently consuming. You mentioned podcasts. You know, I think it's hard for people to know, like what it consumes. So podcasts what are your go to podcasts at the moment?
Natasha: I'm obsessed with is one particular podcast which I've always been obsessed with, which is called script notes and obviously it's screenwriting, but it's not just screen writing. So I've sent a few people to this because John and Craig and my suitor friends, I feel like we … they are the host of the show and they're like my constant companions the only people understand me, I even bother much. So that's like my crack I can't go out and put treatments.
Listen to a lot of film ones because I think my pursuits quite lonely, screenwriting is a very lonely life. You can get some collaborators if you do TV. I do a lot of screen writing for feature film and sometimes you feel like the only voice in the woods. So for me they provide information but also community default community. That's a really good run. I try not to listen to too many podcasts like I said, because I think they take up a lot of that available space for me. So I'm now moving into audio books, which are, I'm obsessed with.
Amantha: Okay. So let's move into books. What's a great book that you have read recently?
Natasha: Well, so I always have one nonfiction one fiction going at the same time.
Amantha: Why is that?
Natasha: Because for me, fiction is immersive and that it helps me … I'll send you a little fun fact. So if I need to be writing the next day, I don't have to read the night before at least.
Amantha: So you'll read fiction the night before or either?
Natasha: Fiction. No, definitely not nonfiction. I find, I don't know. I mean I've done this for years where it just makes it look which one is nonfiction probably does it too. When I was studying law, I read so much, but because I was reading so much for uni, I didn't read any fiction anymore and my fluency was really good. I find that I guess it's something to do with tapping that center kind of excited always pathways that they are nice and grooved in for the morning. But I get a massive. It's a massive correlation between my fluency of a day, if I've been tapping that the night before and if I'm lost a little bit in the morning, sometimes I'll read 10 pages. Even just to wake up those centers before I start writing myself. So fiction I've just read less, which is the most beautiful book I read in such a long time and made me want to just give up because it was so good.
There's a fine line to inspiration in depression. It's just won the Pulitzer I think. So congrats because It's incredible. So I highly recommend and nonfiction. I'm doing Sapiens because it took me a while I was reading Homo Deus, which is a same writer and I went back to Sapiens before going forward in Homo Deus. I'm listening to that I'm already a book.
Amantha: I know you mentioned that you're not, you're not big on the email, but are there any newsletters that you subscribe to and actually look forward to receiving?
Natasha: Not really. Can I tell you though, since I've got pocket, which is a great little app I now got a tool because the problem for me in the past was it was never a good time for me to grade those newsletters and then by the time it was a good time just lost track of where I was up to. Now I've got pocket I kind of keep them in there and when I have a 10 minute disposable kind of on the toilet, we know I might just sort of pick up an article or a newsletter, but nothing that I'm super devoted to. I've just started looking at Morning Brew. But um, that's been a while since I've been doing that. So getting back into that now.
Amantha: I like Morning Brew it's a good one, fantastic. Finally, where can people find you?
Natasha: Usually at my computer or walking the dog. Hi Harry. I'm on twitter but I don't tweet. I'm a kind of, what's the thing twitcher when you look but don't contribute not for any sort of political reason, just because I just haven't really kind of gone there.
Amantha: And what's your twitter handle?
Natasha: It's a Natasha Pincus, I think.
Amantha: Will link to that in the show notes anyway.
Natasha: I'm pretty sure. And yeah [inaudible 00:58:55] less stuff. Look, I have no problem with it. I literally just never really got much out of it. Best way to find the work I do is probably at the Star Craving website or on the VIMEO channel for Star Craving productions.
Amantha: Fantastic starcraving.com?
Natasha: starcravingproductions.com.eulongest email address in history.
Amantha: Excellent, Tasha I'd loved our chat. Thank you so much for your time.
Natasha: Thank you for having me.
Amantha: Hello, are you there? That's it for today's episode. If you liked it, there are plenty of others that you might enjoy, such as my chat with Nancy Duarte, the global expert on presentations where we talk about how she prepares for her own presentations, or you might enjoy one of my mini episodes where I share some simple science backed productivity tips that I've discovered in the research. Finally, it's great getting feedback from listeners such as you. So I'd love it if you give this podcast a review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. If you liked this episode, make sure you hit the subscribe button so that you can be alerted whenever new episodes are released. See you next time.
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