Craig Jansson : The Backlot Studios, Southbank : Melbourne, Australia
“Fear’s got to be there, it’s a natural human instinct, but fear’s ruled my life for a long time. It’s crushed relationships, it’s crushed opportunities and it’s been really tough. But it’s also kept me alive and needed to be there, but not on such a level. I think that’s part of life. Every single experience I’ve had has made me who I am, and I like who I am. The negative, the positive, the indifferent”
Hearing from your year 10 guidance counsellor that you’ll never amount to anything and it’s likely that you’ll end up in jail within three months of graduating isn’t the greatest motivation for any adolescent. The reality is it says more about how creatively motivated personalities were – or indeed are – interpreted in a structured school system that shows little tolerance for outliers of the understood and accepted learning or behavioural curve. Craig Jansson didn’t let that waver his drive towards the big goals he imagined for himself; and now is realising it on a daily basis in his own way.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years now. I’ve begged, bartered, stolen, hassled, hustled my way here and have done it with full integrity, full morals; and I feel like hopefully it’s my time. My whole life is based around my art, what I do, how I play, how I perceive myself; and as a 42 year old bloke who was told he couldn’t do it sitting in a multi-million dollar re-record cinema called The Backlot, clearly I’ve done okay so I’m pretty proud of myself on those terms. I always knew that I would. I always knew that I would do something. I always knew that it’s just a matter of time, and if you want to be good at something you have to put the hard yards in and listen, learn, teach and never give up”
Craig is a sound designer for film, which Wikipedia will tell you is “the process of specifying, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements” but in practical terms he adds an essential layer to the cinema experience that you may not actually be aware of but would be unconsciously grateful for. Think, the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan, the first 22 minutes of Wall•E, or anything from Star Wars. Effective sound design is one of the key ingredients to help transport us to another world and truly immerse us in the film-maker’s fantasy, and Craig – along with his team at Backlot Post in Australia – is one of the best in the business. Long days in the dark, going over sections of film countless times, testing endless sample and effect options to ensure you’re creating the best family of sounds and audio to emphasise the cinema experience and vision of the film maker.
And in a world of suits or black jeans he’s not hard to pick from the crowd; just look for the shoeless guy in shorts – with his dog by his side – smiling from ear to ear. Craig’s comfortably embracing a bohemian existence after a life of living to others’ expectations and realising that it was limiting him both professionally and personally and inevitably affecting his happiness. He’s comfortable in his own skin and happy to create the contrast in his working environment, but it’s an authentic approach to work and life that didn’t come quickly.
“I just like to be me. I’ve spent a lot of my life pretending, having masks and trying to be the rockstar – or trying to be Mr Important – and it’s tiring. And it does get you nowhere. At least 80% of my life and my career has been driven by fear, negative fear… But in the last few years, I’ve discovered…imagine the possibilities if I can get so far on the negative energy imagine how far I can go on positive?”
His latest and largest venture – The Backlot Post – was launched in early 2015 with his partners Mark Dangelo and Tony Laniro, and they have big plans. It’s a brave venture into what is a notoriously under-funded Australian industry, but their vision is so much more than simply imbedding themselves into the circles that call the shots (and have the finances) for the major releases. They are living their plan to partner with young film-makers to help them realise early ambitions; to offer the support and guidance that Craig was never offered and assist them to do everything they can to bridge the massive gap between them and those ultimately funding film projects. And it doesn’t end there; they’re creating an alternative means in Australia to help get these films completed, to encourage new talent and provide a fresh perspective on the industry over the long term. To give young film-makers a go and offer a professional environment for them to stretch their creative-muscle and develop their ideas and confidence.
“We’ve got a few of them that we honestly look at and think “that guy’s got something…you watch…you watch this space”. We’ve done so many free jobs and low budget jobs but we’ve treated it like they were giving us a million dollars because we love working with these people. We’re nurturing film-makers and hopefully they’re going to take us along with them and we’re all going to create this new industry; we ARE creating this new industry where it ain’t about a 10 million dollar stale recording suite where you feel uncomfortable, it’s sitting around a place like The Backlot Post with your mates who have been along the journey with you for a long, long time…with the dog sitting in the corner!”
The irresponsible diatribe he received at his Hobart high school is now far behind him, but the same passion and vision he had as a teenager has been nurtured and shaped into something both amazing and aspirational. He’s working behind a mixing desk in state-of-the-art facilities on incredible projects he helped realise with sights set on massive but achievable goals. Here he is generously opening his arms to work alongside others in what traditionally is a closely guarded creative space; whether it’s opening his doors to other sound designers to exchange ideas and learn from one another, or guiding fresh works into a reality they may almost certainly not have achieved.
Craig wants to change the way things are done. To help share the love of creative development and commercial potential for film makers. It’s about creating a legacy with The Backlot Post for Craig of involvement and great results, all the while looking at the industry through a different lens; one that creates a commercially-relevant and unique opportunity for new talent while also providing impressive results for established film-makers alike.
Check out the website at The Backlot Studios