#13 - Adam Zwar (Writer/Producer/Actor)


This week we're excited to bring you our very first live episode, recorded at the St Kilda Film Festival with the one and only Adam Zwar. In addition to our regular audio podcast, we also have a video version you can check out below!

Adam Zwar is probably the closest we have to a renaissance man here in the Australian film industry. He is a writer/actor/producer, and is co-founder of production company Highwire Films. Adam is perhaps best known for co-creating & starring in the televisions shows Wilfred & Lowdown, as well as the factual Agony series on the ABC. We chat to him about carving out your own niche in a very competitive industry, and the journey he's taken from his first short films, all the way to getting noticed in Hollywood.

Thanks again to The St Kilda Film Festival for hosting us and make sure to keep listening till the end to hear Adam answer some questions for the Audience!

We will be returning to our fortnightly release for our next episode so stay tuned!

Highlights From This Episode:

On writing:

“I write from the position of what’s going to cut through. You’ve always got to think ‘Is this a compelling enough story?’ You’ve also got to think of it in terms of whether this will go for 100 episodes...”

"I do think conceptually straight away, I do try and make it contained. I'm not one for big budgets and lots of locations. So yeah, for me it's the characters, they're the big thing for me..."

On forging a career for yourself:

“There’s a class system in the Australian film and television industry. There are people who are looked after by the industry, who are connected with a network or a big production company, and they’re going to be fine, they’ve got jobs for life. And then there are the self-made people, the cowboys, because the Australian film and television industry is a little bit like the wild west. It really is a miracle if you get something up, and generally it’s force of personality that gets things up.”

On collaboration:

“Make sure you work with the right people, choose your collaborators wisely. It’s like a relationship... Say you’re making comedy, so they need to be comedically in line with you. They probably need to be smarter than you. They need to have easy-going tempers. They need to be good in a crisis... They can’t be dickheads... If someone comes up short in those areas, you’ve got to cut it off early. Don’t do it to yourself.”

On pitching:

“Don’t overestimate what the people that you’re selling to are actually seeing when you’re pitching an idea. Everyone creates these things in their own head, so it’s great to have a sizzle reel or a mood reel or a couple of scenes already done, just so they can see it. Because then, suddenly you’ll find that the conversation goes to a higher level, and the interest is more concrete.”

"I wouldn’t go into a pitch with untested material. You’ve gotta have told someone. It’s gotta be sharp, it’s gotta be bouncy and ready to go, it’s gotta have a punchline.”

“There are a couple of scripts I sent out too early. I think that’s a major mistake. Make sure you send out your scripts when they are thoroughly blooded. And you need to have good people around you to give you advice. Don’t just randomly select people around you to give you advice. The people that you get advice from should be people you trust and that you know have wisdom within them, and give good notes. So don’t send out scripts too early.”

On directing:

“I think there’s a lot of carpet salesmen out there, and a lot of snake charmers, and people who talk a good game when it comes to direction. Because it's very hard to quantify, you know, it’s not like a running race. It’s quite tangible running a race, who’s a fast runner and who's not. But direction is… it’s hard to tell and sometimes people do get hoodwinked by someone's who’s got a good way with words. It’s doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve got a good way of putting a film together."

“My suggestion is to always ask for two samples of their work, because you can fluke one thing but you can’t fluke two things.”

Chris Pahlow

Chris Pahlow is an independent writer/director currently in post-production on his debut feature film PLAY IT SAFE. Chris has been fascinated with storytelling since he first earned his pen license and he’s spent the last ten years bringing stories to life through music videos, documentaries, and short films.