Monkey Monkey Shake Shake (AUS)

Art is all about expressing yourself in various ways. The selected Australian non-fiction web series Unboxed (AUS), Lessons from a Middle Class Artist (AUS) and Monkey Monkey Shake Shake (AUS) all take a look at the artistic journey and the stories behind the art made.

Unboxed follows filmmaker Sam Matthews as she meets other gender-diverse artists across Australia, challenging each of them to create a new artwork around the prompt ‘Unboxed’.

Speaking to Sam Matthews, also the writer and director of the series, she spoke about why she and her team decided on choosing the prompt ‘unboxed’. Sam feels that it’s common for people to feel the need to fit into a box; “limiting our various forms of self-expression.”

“My team decided that ‘unboxed’ was a single word that best encapsulates this, and felt it was a theme we use as a catalyst for discussion around personal and artistic identity,” Matthews says.

Unboxed (AUS)

Matthews loves that she’s had the chance to feature six transgender artists, all from different walks of life who are “ridiculously talented, beautiful people who just light up on screen.”

“It was fascinating to see how the practice of art could be a healing, meditative ‘distraction’ for some people, while other used it as a way to convey messages about identity and/or gender,” Matthews says.

With an industry career background but no broadcast credits as a director, Sam felt that an episodic web series would be a great place to start. The ABC Art Bites initiative came at the perfect time so Sam and her team applied.

Whilst the series divulges what the theme of ‘Unboxed’ meant to a range of artists, Sam told us what the theme meant to her.

“Being ‘unboxed’ is about self-acceptance and complete pride in my own experience and identity. I don’t need to try and fit the expectations other may have of me. It’s not about ‘passing’ as a cisgender woman, fitting the mould or going unnoticed. It’s about being proud to be me- and whilst that may mean I’m transgender, I’m perfectly fine with that”

Going from one of ABC’s Art Bites series to another, Lessons From A Middle Class Artist goes overseas to look at into the life of an artist and creative process.

The series follows Anthony, a failed musician who travels to America to learn how to make a living from a prolific online novelty songwriter Matt Farley. Here he sets himself the challenge to write 100 songs in 10 days.

Writer and Director Anthony Frith first found Matt’s album about office supplies while browsing Reddit. Weeks later Anthony found another album about pooping, and after a few days, he realised it was the same artist. He then found Motion Media’s website and discovered over 70 bands, 300 albums, 18,000 songs, 5 feature films, books, podcasts, a newsletter and the man behind it all, Matt Farley.

“I emailed him immediately, I was still in film school at the time, and said I want to make a documentary about you, he replied with ‘yes’ within minutes,” says Frith.

Lessons From a Middle Class Artist (AUS)

Matt Farley ‘games the system’ of online music streaming, by producing a massive amount of novelty songs. Even by earning a couple cents on each song, with the sheer amount of songs he makes, he’s able to make a comfortable living for him and his family.

The series looks at Matt’s life, the process of making novelty songs, artistic integrity as well as what it takes to be able to do what he does.

“I love Matt and his approach. Only someone with his personality and drive can do what he does,” says Frith.

“I think Matt is such an amazing person. He is exactly in real-life as he is on screen and I’m so glad I can share him with the world. More people need to steam his music”

Lessons from a Middle Class Artist was originally supposed to be an observational documentary about Matt and the life of a music industry spammer. However, he shifted to a web series format when he heard about ABC’s Art Bites, seeing it as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Over the series, as Anthony challenged himself to create 100 songs in 10 days, and through this he feels like he become a better songwriter.

“I thought pooping out a bunch of songs would make me become too complacent… But forcing myself to write and record that much made me look past the shame I’d normally feel about my own work and write songs that I never would have otherwise write. I think ‘Jaws 3 is in 3D’ and ‘Skeletons Are the Best’ are pretty good songs”.

We also asked Anthony if he had made any money from the songs he made during the series.

“I have made exactly $8.12USD, minus the yearly $30USH Distrokid subscription fee. I still live at home,” says Frith.

Moving onto our last featured series, Monkey Monkey Shake Shake is a charming and strange one.

‘Monkey Monkey Shake Shake’ are hard to describe because of their sheer uniqueness. Band member Sheldon Lieberman spoke to us about both the band and the web series.

“Monkey Monkey Shake Shake was born out of a need to break the shackles of routine, to rebel against music culture of coolness, and to express our inner joys and fears,” Lieberman says.

Monkey Monkey Shake Shake (AUS)

The band is a song driven, interpretive dance, costume based, audience participation and a lot of other things show. The series itself interviews band members Sheldon and Sem showing their friendship and their feelings after various performances.

”Our relationship is unique. We believe in each other when others wouldn’t. That’s where the music and dance comes from”, says Lieberman.

Sheldon and Sem meet through a series of events, starting with Sheldon’s invitation to speak at a design conference in Melbourne. Sem was a design student at a university in Seoul whose lecturer was at the conference. As he was a fan of Sheldon’s speech, he invited him to lecture for a week back at the institution. In a class there he had the students, including Sem, animate a stupid song he made.

“Sem nailed it and we worked together since. We made kids dvds, then we got bored of being in a room, so we started playing on streets. We were too scared and not very good so we covered ourselves in costumes,” says Lieberman.

Sheldon’s goal when making the series was to show that even if you have no idea what you’re doing, things can happen if you believe.

“It’s given us more confidence to be ourselves. That’s not all, but some people understand us.”

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