A Creative Kingdom for the Sunshine Coast
Jon Coghill shares how four pairs of undies and an addiction to being creative is driving a quest to provide a brighter future for likeminded locals.
My two best mates in my mid-teens, Andy and Shane, were always looking for the next challenge, the next thing that would test your mettle, that would prove your manliness. One of those things was always paddling out in gnarly, violent waves no matter the conditions, be there exposed rocks, scary underwater shadows or a giant paddle (to Old Woman Island). You would often nearly soil your boardies all so the other two could laugh as you copped inside-out waves on the head.
The thing was, the biggest waves mostly hit the Sunshine Coast in the middle of winter and I owned nothing that resembled a wetsuit. Wetsuits were expensive then and I was a 15-year-old kid who did one shift a fortnight at Nambour’s only Chinese Restaurant if I was lucky. So instead, I relied on my inventiveness, my creativity, some might say my fashion sense.
One dark winter afternoon the three of us stood frozen watching a big swell pound a spot called Sharks near Alexandra Headland. Andy had a wetsuit, Shane had thin neoprene top and I had my weirdly wired brain. I searched my bag and pulled out a singlet, two t-shirts and two pairs of boardies. Then I found my piéce de résistance – four pairs of undies. I put them all on, one over the other because there was no way the cold was going to touch my soon to be tested family jewels. I ambled to the water like an upright sea lion and jumped in.
You see creativity comes in all shapes. Some weird, some appealing, some extremely successful. I know it’s a stretch, but my weirdly wired brain was why I fell in love with drumming and songwriting and playing loud music in front of thousands of people (jeez, can you believe this wanker??). But I had to leave the Sunshine Coast and my hometown of Nambour to allow that creativity* to grow.
Here on the Coast in the late 80s, there was no music school of excellence, no university, no art college where creative kids (wearing four pairs of underwear) felt they could explore a world of making shit that buzzed your emotions and tingled your spine. So, I moved to Brisbane and met four obsessed twenty-somethings that were addicted to the feeling that rock music gave them. They were part of a thumping indie music scene exploded around town, all because no one questioned how addictive songs and loud guitars and drums and dancing and banging your head were.
Deep down, I wish I didn’t have to leave the Coast to create stuff. It’s one of my dreams that today, creative kids should be able to experience the same stuff without moving away and one of the artforms they can get that creative feeling from is film and TV – pictures and stories that sing and play with our emotions just like rock songs. It’s an artform that’s just as addictive. The trouble is, we don’t really have a film and TV industry that provides careers for creative kids on the Sunshine Coast.
A couple of years back, a former school mate, Dan Munday, and I were on a family holiday on Minjerriba. I’d written and made a short film and had an idea: “Hey Dan, you’re from the TV world (he produced US Survivor for 12 years) – why don’t we run a screenwriting competition, choose the best scripts and make them into short films – maybe raise some funds to pay for the production?” Dan didn’t say I was an idiot. His brain is wired differently too (I’m sure he was wearing four pairs of undies that day). He absorbed the idea and made it bigger because that’s what he does. Then we approached the Sunshine Coast Screen Collective, a local film and TV advocacy group, and the Sunny Coast Showdown was born. Three years later, we’re about to launch Showdown number three.
We now describe the event like this: Showdown is a not-for-profit talent incubator where locals win funding, support and mentoring to produce their own film and TV ideas. Over two Showdowns we’ve made 14 short films and will make six more this coming year. The films are developed by local producers, directors and cinematographers, produced by local cast and crew, and post-produced by local editors, composers, sound designers and colourists. They’re delivered at a Showcase festival night in June and are a catalyst for up-skilling a huge amount of people on the Coast and showing the rest of the world what we’re capable of.
The seven projects we made on Showdown #2 in 2023 have won 28 laurels from international and domestic film festivals. A laurel is a big deal in the industry – sort of like the awards you see on a bottle of wine but better. People actually start taking you seriously when you have laurels.
One of our documentaries, Skate or Cry, about Indigenous roller skater Tia Pitman, won a couple of bigtime awards from two Los Angeles film festivals; Bin Day, a zombie comedy by Ryan N Butler, recently won the Fun is Good Bill Murray Comedic Short Award at the Twin Cities film festival in Minesotta. The category was judge by the man himself! Crikey! We’re now telling people the Showdown is ‘Bill Murray certified’. Damn! Imagine if we could entice him to the Coast for a feature film or two?
However, the Sunny Coast Showdown wouldn’t happen without a bunch of amazing, hard-working volunteers who are passionate about telling great stories from our region; stories that are making the rest of the world stand up and listen while giving local kids and screen workers something they can proudly display on their CVs in the process. It also wouldn’t be possible without the support of our sponsors and supporters, such as Bendigo Community Bank Tewantin-Noosa. So, perhaps the Sunny Coast Showdown will play just a small part in the growth of a new film and TV industry on the Coast. I think it’s an idea that we can build on that keeps creative kids on the Coast and that can help attract bigger productions to the area too.
In any case, it’s an idea that has more legs than the four-pairs-of-undies-wetsuit I experimented with in the late 80s. On that dark winter afternoon surfing Sharks beach, I knew they wouldn’t take off (pardon the pun). I exited the water like an icy pole; my lips blue and my teeth chattering like a speed metal tune. At the shower, as I removed the last pair of undies, I realized my mistake and their biggest flaw. The undies kept the cold in, not out. My family jewels were barely visible; shriveled to within an inch of their life. And oh, did my friends laugh…
*Creativity to me is the act of creating something that sparks your emotions out of nothing – like a story, a song, a photo, a painting, a movie, or an invention. And the pay-off is this weird feeling that you’re the king or queen of the world for a few hours. It’s ridiculously addictive.
PS – SUBMISSIONS are now OPEN until 12 February for the 2024 Sunny Coast Showdown!
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