Create, Collaborate and Distribute with Cory McAbee

Words by Oliver Marshall

To say Cory McAbee is a man of many talents would be a huge understatement. The American director/actor/musician/author (to name a few), will be in Adelaide to give a seminar as part of the Open State festival.

McAbee’s talk will focus on the importance of collaboration and believing in yourself artistically.

He talks about the importance of collaboration whilst doing the same himself. “Right now I’m working on a global collaborative project, which I started a couple of years ago, actually I started the collaborative in 2012, with the intention of making a feature film (Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club),” says McAbee.

The aim is to make a globally generated feature film using all kinds of different mediums.

The director himself admits that he too is still growing and getting a better understanding of the importance of collaborating.

“I’m still learning how important it is (collaboration). It began in 2012 when my band broke up (The Billy Nayer Show) and I worked with people that were very insulated.”

The band was getting invitations for artistic opportunities with others, but this didn’t happen until McAbee went solo.

“When the band broke up I thought I’d like to take everyone up on their offer and see what can happen”.

Based in New York McAbee is excited to be heading back to Adelaide, a place he has fond memories of.

“I’ve done a lot of work in Adelaide with people there, I headlined the Barrio festival once, doing some of the music project for it, trying to develop that and doing a lot of artwork with some people in Adelaide, its been a real supportive city.”

As a director McAbee has done such films as The American Astronaut and Stingray Sam, that he also starred in.

Both films have been called ‘space western musicals’ however it was only the later film, Stingray Sam where this was the set purpose.

“When I wrote The American Astronaut I was basing it on my family, but making it in space and everybody called it a space western musical.

“A few years later I was inspired to do Stingray Sam and was like you know what this time I’m intentionally going to make a space western musical.”

The American Astronaut whilst an alternative science fiction film was named by time out London as the 73rd best Science fiction movie of all time ahead of films such as Avatar and Star Trek (2009).

“It’s a very strange feeling, because when the film first came out it didn’t do that well but the thing that benefited it is it just never went away.”

McAbee’s film and music projects are traditionally underground projects with a devoted fan base but he is not adverse to mainstream projects.  

“I’ve been approached by people saying we want to know your ideas and I tell them my ideas and they never call me back, I'm just not right for it I guess (the mainstream)."

A theme of Stingray Sam and American Astronaut, apart from singing, is dancing, but not in the traditional sense.

“I’m a big fan of putting dancing in my films of people who aren’t dancers, to make something that feels very real and organic and I think it has a lot more energy that way.”

McAbee’s many undertakings are uniquely different and really incomparable to anything and he says that’s because his greatest influence is curiosity.

“I’m always curious about new things and trying new things, and trying new forms of story telling”

Technology and becoming part of a global creative world will also be a big theme of McAbee’s talk and he has a lot of experience with new technology.

“Ten years ago I was commissioned by the GSM (Group Special Mobile) Association and the Sundance Film Festival to make one of the first films ever to be distributed on mobile phones (Reno), so I’ve always paid attention to trends and opportunities to work in new ways."

McAbee’s work transcends all through the arts fields but he has a very simple explanation for his doing everything approach.

"When I was young, I thought everyone did that (everything), when I saw an album cover I thought the band made the album cover, so I thought that’s what I had to do.”

The seminar really is a must for anybody who is looking for inspiration and belief to start their own projects.

There's also some whispers he may show off some of his iconic dance moves, although when asked if there would be dancing it was met with...

"Maybe [laughs], we’ll see I am going to be sitting on an airplane for 24 hours, it might have a bad affect."

Find out for yourself at McAbee's show at the Mercury Cinema on October 18 - tickets still available here.