Let’s face it, there’s only one true guarantee in this life: we are all going to die. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it, yet somehow we just can’t accept it. We run and shy away from the very thought of it. Australian artist and director, Stefan Hunt has made it his mission to explore the notion of fear as it relates to death — and life for that matter. In doing so, he has taken a more light-hearted approach to the most dismal of topics and created a very ambitious, multi-media project which culminates in a Festival this weekend in Sydney. Since we cannot make the event in person, we caught up with Stefan recently via the interwebs to tell us all about his epic project and what festival-goers can expect.
We are all going to die, obviously. Why is this topic and inevitable truth so avoided in our lives?
Death is tragic, scary and morbid. And whilst there’s a truth to this it’s not the only viewpoint you have to have. I also believe that death is one of the most beautiful aspects of life. It’s the ultimate equaliser, the most universal truth we know and, if viewed with a fresh perspective, the most inspiring force to truly live life by.
What was the inspiration behind this project of yours?
A few years back my anxiety got pretty bad and my life spiralled. I was so concerned about leaving a legacy, being “successful” and having a clear purpose that I burnt out. Career choices, relationships, cities to live in — I questioned it all, and didn’t know what to do with my life. This fear of the unknown crippled my ability to make any decision and ultimately led to some pretty heavy panic attacks.
Someone suggested I write to clear my head so one day, sitting alone, I penned a poem titled We’re All Going To Die, and I finally got a life guarantee. I know that sounds super morbid but it was actually the most pivotal moment for me. I realised that if we’re all going to cark it some day then the rest of life is a mystery and that’s where the beauty lies. There’s no point in trying to evaluate every situation and live with an expectation that you can control it all. Life will throw you curveballs. There’s going to be good times and shitty times, but if we’re all going to die then why not go for it. Death is the ultimate perspective check.
Why a festival?
It was originally just a poem I wrote for myself. This became an illustrated children’s book for adults before becoming a short film. At this point I’d put in so much effort that I wanted to deliver the message to people in a way that left them thinking and talking about the message for a long time after and a book launch or film premier wasn’t going to cut it for me. So the festival was born. The multimedia festival is only for one night and is being described as an amusement park for your soul. A place where you can come and think, talk and interact with fear, but in a super colourful, humorous way. There’ll be art installations, music, panel discussions, immersive experiences and a film festival. There are over 100 artists and crew bringing this independently funded festival to life which is bloody special.
I keep thinking about “Wayne-stock” from Wayne’s World 2. Wayne overcame a lot of challenges in that film to put on his dream festival. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face so far? What’s it like to organize such a big event?
I’m probably similar to Wayne in terms of festival knowledge and what it takes to actually make it happen. Naivety can be the biggest blessing and curse. Thank god I’ve found an amazing experienced crew who vibe on my vision.
The biggest challenge is funding and working on such a large scale project with a tiny crew. I purposely chose not to get any corporate sponsorship or grants as I didn’t want an external force to water down the message. That decision has meant I’ve had to fund it all independently by draining my entire life savings and run a Kickstarter
campaign to try and soften some of the blow. It’s so much work, but so rewarding.
What are some of the pieces you are most proud of that have come out of this massive multi-media project?
My book and short film (both titled We’re All Going To Die) are definitely very close to my heart because they’re based off the original poem. But I’m most overwhelmed in those moments when I stand back and watch over 100 artists, volunteers and producers willingly help me pull this festival together, just because they believe in the project and the message. This tells me that maybe, just maybe, this message is an important one.
What about the other artists involved — how did you go about asking for contributors? Can you tell us about any of their particular pieces?
I’m quite annoyingly pedantic so I didn’t just ask my mates to help me out over a beer. I spent weeks creating a 70 page overview of the project with the most detailed illustrations and imagery. I even had the whole thing branded all the way down to the logo. So when people opened the pitch document I guess they realised that I was serious about this project. So many people responded to the message, because fear and those internal monologues exist inside all of us don’t they? Also, if you’re going to get artists to contribute then you have to present the idea to them visually, they’re suckers for a good colour palette.
Anything else we should know / share about the project?
The festival premiers in Sydney on Nov 17 at COMMUNE, Waterloo and you should get your tickets here so that my fears of nobody turning up can be alleviated.