Listen to Kirk on the The Naked Creative Show Podcast HERE
2016 has been a 'tipping point’ year for documentary maker and content creator Kirk Docker. After years of producing clever and subversive video and TV as a gun for hire, he has championed his own projects, making not one but two series for ABC.
Earlier this year ‘Hello Stranger’, a beautifully shot vox-pops series, asked everyday Australians personal yet universal questions and then followed one of them home to document their life. This was followed by the release of 'You Can’t Ask That’, where in each episode, groups of marginalised Australians - like Indigenous people, transgender people, Muslims, obese people, disabled people and sex workers - answer audience-submitted questions traditionally deemed too un-PC. The intention: to de-stigmatise, to open a space for conversation and to give mainstream audiences a chance to see someone other than those that look just like them on TV.
It’s interesting to note also that You Can’t Ask That was originally created for the digital streaming platform iView, but ABC decided to screen it on ABCTV.
To top it off, Kirk is currently in post production on the third TV series he conceived, Demolition Man, reality series for Foxtel’s A&E channel - and he already has an entirely different series in the early stages of development with another network.
As a longtime friend, I have been an observer of Kirk’s process for some time, and I loved talking to Kirk about his attitude towards cultivating a career in an industry where nothing is certain. How do you carve out a career in television? How do you support your dreams for the work you want to create while still earning an income?
1. For interview, it's hard to beat the revolutionary work of Errol Morris. I have since used a similar (down the lens) interview device as his own "interrotron" for both Hello Stranger and You Can't Ask That to wonderful results. Having the IV subject talk down the lens to the audience gives a connection unlike anything else. All his work is worth a look, even if some isn’t as good as others- his TV series First Person for example, wasn't the best content, but his ideas were really great - interviewing a “cia operative and master of disguise" or a “lawyer to New York mobsters” for example. But a good place to start with Errol Morris is a newer feature films of his called Tabloid. It shows the power of a simple story (made almost entirely of interviews), if you find fantastic IV subjects and be clever in your use of music and graphics.
2. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, by John Ortved. I read this recently and choose it for a couple of reasons. If you are a fan of the Simpsons (Season 1-10), as I am, and religiously watched new episodes, (7.30pm Wednesday nights Channel 10), then this is great as it tells the story of how the show was made, through interviews with many of the major players, from Rupert Murdoch to Conan OBrien. Secondly, it's also great for those who are interested in how a tv show comes together, from conception through to its ultimate success. Plus it reminded me to keep pushing for my own ideas- if The Simpsons, with its mega personnel, had to push hard to get it off the ground (and ultimately make the best sitcom ever), then why should I expect anything less when it comes to my own ideas. High Concept, Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess also gives an insight into the lengths it takes to get something off the ground (plus it’s outrageous).
3. I am working on a new idea at the moment, and as a general rule, when I do, I immerse myself in the right content to help me design that idea. There are many other things that are helping this idea apart from media consumption (interviews with real talent, observing live examples of the subject matter), but in terms of media, I have been watching, East Bound and Down, Ballers, The Larry Sanders Show, I’m Alan Partridge, The Thick Of It, Frontline & 30 Rock. These are all programs that show what happens in front and behind the “camera”, which is relevant to the new idea.
4. Documentaries: The Act of Killing, Senna, You Don’t Know Bo, Catfish. There are docos that inspire you at certain times. Here are 4. I won’t say a heap about them apart from.. The Act Of Killing, wild idea, incredibly executed. Senna, biographic film where no interviews are show, all epic archive footage. You Don’t Know Bo, one of many great 30 for 30 films if you are interested in sports films and Catfish for the way the film is shot and designed and a wacky story.
5. Tim Ferriss, Ben Greenfield - both of these dudes have podcasts that I listen to. Both are into life hacking or body hacking which interests me a lot and interview people (in an often frustrating way - they are not great interviewers) with the aim of getting practical, useful tips. They also couple their shows with great support material on-line. I like their attitude to being open with the knowledge they’ve learnt and about encouraging their guests to give too. Interesting episodes. Tim Ferriss speaks to Alain de Botton (Ep 118), Tony Robbins (Ep 37 and 38) and Dr. Peter Attia (Ep 50) and Sam Harris. Longform is worth a listen if you are interested in writers and how they do what they do. I recommend Gay Telese (Ep64) and Evan Wright (Ep67). Find episodes HERE.
Watch it HERE on iView