How driven are you to create the work you see in your mind’s eye? Will you produce more excuses than scripts and films? Or push through adversity and rejection, doing whatever it takes? From the Gold Coast of Australia, today’s guest goes by the name of gough and is the director of Beernuts Productions, “a prolific producer of film, television, audio downloads, books and other forms of creative media.” And he happens to be legally blind.
In the past three years, I’ve interviewed gough eight times on Getting Work To Work, and every time I do, I learn something new that could be a game-changer for my career. This conversation is no different.
We dive into how he became blind and the rejection he faced because of his disability. He shares the journey from his early days in radio and audio production, stand-up comedy, and why he created Beernuts Productions. He also talks about various skills every filmmaker needs: from an understanding of business models and leadership to effective communication and why you should never use the word game-changer.
gough, is the first legally blind person to write, produce, edit, direct and star in a feature film unassisted. He was born in Sydney Australia and grew up on the Gold Coast where a love of writing and film was established early on in life. gough started his professional life as an audio producer in radio. A successful stint as a stand-up comedian followed, traveling through the UK, Canada and the USA. gough then moved back to the Gold Coast Australia where he decided it was time to start producing some of his written work through his newly formed production company Beernuts Productions pty ltd. Not allowing his disability to be a hindrance, instead gough embraces the challenge with great success as his work clearly demonstrates.
- Beernuts Productions
- I Will Not Go Quietly
- gough’s Filmography on IMDb
- gough on Getting Work To Work
- UHF (1989)
- Frasier (1993-2004)
- 2.37 (2006)
- Photo by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash
- Chris Martin Studios
gough: Hi, my name is gough and I am a legally blind filmmaker from the Gold Coast in Australia. I run a production company called Beernuts Productions, and we’ve been going for over 10 years now.
Chris Martin (CM): Wow. Over 10 years. I mean, I’ve talked to you so many times on the other show and what I, there’s several things that I realized that I neglected to talk to you about. And we’ll put my interviewer credentials aside for the moment, you know, like “basic stuff, Chris, come on, man.” Uh, but what’s interesting is legally blind filmmaker. Where does that begin? What is your origin story as gough, the filmmaker.
gough: I suppose, if you want to go way back to when I was a kid, I used to love writing. That was my number one thing was like writing little books or plays or school projects. That sort of stuff was all about writing and telling stories through writing. So I was always writing scripts. And then as I got older, you know, I thought to myself, well, you know, why don’t we try making some of these scripts? You know? So I tried sending them off to networks and production companies and distribution companies and private investors and all that sort of stuff. But of course, when they found out, I couldn’t see, they sort of pulled the pin pretty quickly. So I was like, well, it looks like the only way I’m going to get stuff made is if I do it myself. So that’s when I started out Beernuts Productions and I started making my own projects started putting the scripts into, uh, into life.
CM: Were you born blind?
gough: No, I lost my eyesight when I was a few weeks old, so I’m one of those rare people who had a bad reaction to the whooping cough immunization. So I had a hemorrhagic stroke, which is sort of like a brain hemorrhage comes stroke. So it’s a bleed on the brain essentially. So there was a lot of health problems with that. So I was only, like I say, I think I was about 12 weeks old, so I can never remember having eyesight, obviously. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been blind since birth because of, uh, yeah, I’ve never really experienced what normal eyesight is. I do have limited vision obviously. So I’ve got no vision in my right eye and very limited vision in my left eye.
CM: Fascinating. So like when, when you’re experiencing film for the first time as a kid, is it TV? Is it the cinema? You know, what, what was it?
gough: It’s funny, you should mention that because, uh, my parents were not great in a lot of ways. They would never take me to like the cinema and stuff like that. So I didn’t really go to the cinema until I was like 10, 11, 12 with my mates. And that’s when we would watch things like, you know, WAYNE’S WORLD and stuff like that was just coming out. And I was like, “Oh my God, what is this fantastic thing?” I mean, I had watched films before then. I remember when I was about six or seven, I won a competition and I forget even what the competition was, but the prize was a VHS copy of ET. And again, I hadn’t watched a lot of movies in my day, you know, I’m only six or seven and movies weren’t really a thing in my household. So I was watching this ET and I was like, “this is amazing.”
And I watched it like on high rotation. I thought it was amazing. And it is, I mean, you watch it as an adult, it is a very good film, but, uh, yeah, as a, as a little kid, you know, thought it was just mind blowing. So I didn’t really have a huge introduction to film. It was more about the writing for me and writing stories. When I was a teenager, I sorta got heavily into, uh, like TV sketch comedy and all that sort of stuff, and that sort of influenced my writing a lot as well. And then I was like, well, I was writing a lot of sketches and scripts and things. And that’s when that sort of a script writing sorta took off, then it was about how do we get it made.
I was 16 and sending scripts off to TV networks, thinking that they’d give me a TV show, because that’s what they would do. You know, I don’t regret doing it. I mean, I could only imagine the looks on their faces, but I got a couple of nice letters back. I mean, usually you get the usual standard, uh, responses where they haven’t even read your work. And it’s just the usual “Go Away” letter that they send you. But I got a couple of nice responses, and I think that all you need as a teenager, or even as an adult, I suppose, is a couple of people, you know, who actually do take the time to read your work or look at your work and they send you some form of encouragement and that sort of keeps you going and spurs you on. And I had a little bit of that here and there, and that sort of kept me going.
And then when I became older and I was doing it more regularly, uh, as in sending work out, that was the frustration for me. So then I was having people read my scripts and go, “Oh, this is really fantastic. Let’s get it made.” And then when they found out the backstory that I couldn’t see, that’s when they sort of would pull the pin on me, because by then I wanted to direct the films as well then, because, uh, I had the thought, and it’s a good thought, why would I give my script to someone who doesn’t know anything about it, to direct it? They’re going to ruin my script because they don’t know the characters, like I know the characters, they don’t know how I want this to look like. I mean, when you, when you write it, you can see it in your brain. They don’t have that vision like I do. So why would I give it to someone else to direct? So I want to direct it, you know? So it’s made properly, you know, which is my way, because my way is properly. So, like I say, once I found out I couldn’t see, they, they didn’t really want to know.
CM: Wow. So did you have a lot of that level of discouragement growing up, or did you have a lot of encouragement to write and to create?
gough: No, probably a lot of discouragement. There was a couple of people that I had who were really, really encouraging. And I had a particular school teacher, actually, who was really fantastic. And I actually still talk to her from time to time, which makes me sound like a giant nerd, that I still talk to a school teacher. Yeah. She was a wonderful lady and she, uh, she really encouraged me. She was like in elementary school, as you guys would call it over there. When I was a young kid, she really encouraged the story writing and all that sort of stuff. And, uh, one thing that is very important for all blind and vision impaired people to learn is how to touch type. We need to know how to type, because handwriting isn’t really an option for us, so we need to know how to type.
And so she was old school, cause this is back, we’re talking like in 1990, 90, 91. So she would old school secretary type and put like a tea towel over my hands and make me type, you know, so I couldn’t cheat and see the keyboard. And so to make the learning how to type fun, you know, I was allowed to type up stories and things like that, which was really cool. So it gave me a chance to, you know, type a little story up and learning how to type at the same time, which is very clever on her part. And then, you know, she, she would, yeah, be really encouraging with a lot of things in regards to me and my disability and my work and all that sort of stuff. So, so yeah, absolutely.
CM: Yeah. That’s great. It’s nice when you can hear at least one example of someone who goes beyond the call of duty to encourage someone, instead of just, you know, like, like all the rejection that you got like, “Oh no, great. But we’re not going to hire you because you’re blind.”
gough: That’s exactly right. You know, it’s kind of like I said earlier, you know, you only need those one or two people to give you that bit of a pat on the back, a bit of encouragement and go that little bit extra. Like I said, even when I was 16 and I’m sending stuff out to networks, I remember, see I can remember it so clearly. You remember things that are important, I think. And you know, I remember getting a letter back from Channel Seven, which is kind of like your NBC or CBS. We have Channel Seven. And uh, I got a, a letter back from the guy, John, I forget his last name, but I remember the man’s name. And uh, he said, I was only 16. And so obviously I didn’t have my age in the brief, so for all he knew I was in my twenties or whatever.
And he wrote a really nice letter saying “I really enjoyed your script. And it was really funny and I really liked it. What we do is we don’t really go off scripts though. We need a more of a video tape submission with actual work, but we really liked the script. I read it all and I thought it was…” like, that was a really, for a 16 year old to get something like that from a program director of a major television network. That was really something that was really, you know, uplifting for me and gave me a real big boost, you know? And I’m like, wow, well, he liked it now I’ve got to try and figure out how to progress now, you know? So those sorts of things, keep you going, I think.
CM: Yeah, absolutely. Cause you don’t strike me as someone who lacks ambition. So any, any bit of praise is probably just like, you know, catnip to a cat.
gough: Yeah. And I think that’s a, that’s a fair assessment, Chris. Yes. I would say that is correct.
CM: So when, when you get this encouragement, you’re 16 years old. At what point do you decide I’m gonna make my own movie?
gough: Probably about 18. So, I’d written a script, it’s never been made, I’ve still got it on my computer actually. So I could make it one day, hopefully. It was like your standard sort of romantic comedy kind of a script, but obviously being a gough written script, it’s probably a little bit left of center of the romantic comedy genre, but that was the sort of genre that I was going for. I wanted to get funding for that. So I contacted a bunch of government agencies to get grants because that’s how a lot of films get made over in Australia is through grants. And that was my first experience of being rejected because of my disability pretty much. So I was 18 when I sent my first feature film script out to get made. So yeah, I was only young. Like I was doing other stuff at the same time, but that was like, I had that thought to do that back then. That’s when it sort of started.
CM: That’s really interesting because most people are 18, they’re not making movies. They’re not trying to make movies. I mean, some people are, but for the most part, you know, when I was 18, I was an idiot. I didn’t know what I was. I was dumb.
gough: Don’t get me wrong. I was drinking heavily and doing all sorts of shenanigans as well. But you know, you can do more than one thing at a time, just multitask.
CM: You can? What? No one told me.
gough: It’s a good thing I’m here then.
CM: Exactly. You’re the voice of reason and my conscience. So you’re trying to get these films made, at what point do you go from writing to audio production?
gough: When I finished high school, one of my first jobs was working in radio as a commercial and promo producer. So essentially making up their ads and their promos. So that sort of taught me how to edit. When I edit films now, I treat it like I’m editing a very long radio commercial. That’s my background, so I do it all by audio. So it’s the same sort of principle because when you’re editing audio, you got whatever computer program you’re using, you got multiple tracks, you know, one’s for your voiceover, one’s for your sound effects, one’s for your bed. You just make the ad and you put it all together, you mix it all together and bang, you’ve got your 30-second commercial. So I guess you need some level of creativity to do it, but the commercial dictates what you’re going to be making. So if it’s a commercial for Harry’s Plumbing Supplies and you get the, the DJ in and he reads the ad for Harry’s Plumbing Supplies, and then you find an appropriate music to go under it.
And if you need a couple of sound effects, you stick them in. And all of a sudden you’ve got your, your 30-second ad. And it also, because a lot of the places, back then even, a lot of the radio stations were starting to cut back a lot, even back in the, what was it like 2000 to 2003, they were cutting back a lot on staff. So for example, one radio station I worked at would do ads for, cause there’s monopolies in Australia. So there were essentially three companies that ran the radio sorta stations around Australia. So like for example, the old stereo network had about 50 radio stations nationwide that they owned. And so the particular radio station I was working at for a short time, I would make ads for five of their stations. So I was I’m on the Gold Coast, but I was also making ads for the Sunshine Coast, for Cairns, for Shepparton, and for Toowoomba. So I was making ads for those places as well.
So I’m directing voiceover talent as well, which is obviously a good lesson in how to direct actors, because, you know, obviously if the commercial needs to be presented in a certain way, then you know, you’ve got to tell the, the DJ or the voiceover talent, what the salesman will tell me that the client wants. And of course the worst one, the very worst one is when, uh, Harry from Harry’s Plumbing Supplies wants to voice the ad himself because he thinks he’s a star and he has absolutely no voiceover ability at all. And so you have to direct him. I mean, I remember there was one dude who ran a travel agency and he got in and to record his 30-second ad, took us two hours and we almost had to do it word by word and I had to stick it all together because he was atrocious yet.
You know, it’s just ego with some people, what can you do? And it’s, I’m only 19-20 at the time, so I don’t have a vote, you know? So I just got to do as I’m told. So yeah, but I’ll never forget that dude, god, he was atrocious, but, um, yeah. And his ad sounded terrible, but I mean, it’s not my problem. So, but yeah, so essentially that’s audio editing was, uh, I guess to go back to your original question, I just wanted to do creative things like, you know, editing up film, audio, writing, it’s all creative, it’s all under the same umbrella. So I just figured that that was a good thing to do. It turned out I was right, because it taught me a lot of things, like editing and directing.
CM: What’s interesting too, is you also learned the art of collaboration as well, because you had to collaborate, I’m assuming, with people who could run the computer, that could do the precision editing, right?
gough: Well, no, I did all that. So yeah, no, no. There’s no collaboration. I don’t work well with others, Chris, you should know this by now. No, no, no. So I had a production manager and he gave me the ads or the salesmen would come into the studio. He’d say, there’s your ad. And then I’d make the ad. So yeah, there was no collaboration involved at all. So yeah, like I say, they were making cutbacks. So even back then they were making massive, massive cutbacks. So there was a staff of, I mean, at one of the radio stations, actually, I think most of the radio stations I worked at, there was only ever a staff of two doing all the audio production, the production manager who’d do all the bigger and more important stuff. And then me who’d do all the crappier stuff, so yeah.
CM: Man, it sounds like you were working with Weird Al at UHF.
gough: Well, I don’t know what that is, but I’ll say yes.
CM: Yes. I dropped a reference that you don’t know, all right. That’s very rare. UHF, kind of one of those indie comedy films where Weird Al inherits, does he inherit or does he, I think he just ends up working at like this late night, uh, TV channel. That’s like low on the dial that so like all of them are making all these weird, obscure, uh, shorts and comedies bits and stuff. Hilarious, I think you’d like it.
gough: You know what that means now, that means you have to, uh, in the show notes, you have to put a link to that particular IMDb page or YouTube channel.
CM: Absolutely. So when you’re in that moment, you’re essentially, they essentially threw you into the pool to like, do this work, like what’s going on in your head? Like, are you worrying about it? Or are you driven to like prove to them that you can do this?
gough: Well, no and no, really, because I’m not driven to prove anything to anybody because I don’t think that way, I just do what I do. And I’m not one of those people who cares what other people think. Um, I really don’t. As kind of funny, just to put it in context, I’ve got a friend of mine who I go to the gym with because I act like a, a bit of a dick, like a lot of the time. And so she said to me one day, cause I did something stupid, and she said to me, gough, you just walk around, like you’re starring in your own 30 minute sitcom, just trying to amuse yourself, don’t you? And I’m like, yeah, I really kind of, that’s how I live my life. I just, you know, I just do things just to try and amuse myself and hope that somebody else wants to come along for the ride.
But I really don’t. Yeah. I’m not driven to prove anything to anybody, I’m really not. I want to do what I want to do. Like I want to make my entertainment and I want to entertain people. Obviously I want people to enjoy my work, but it’s not about proving anything. It’s just about entertaining them. And on the flip side, if people don’t enjoy what I do, that’s fine. That’s totally cool. I’m well aware that my work isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea and that’s totally fine. I’m not upset by that. I’m not, I’m not like Frasier Crane that has to be loved by everybody. That’s not who I am. My disability did come into it. I remember, uh, so I got hired to work at a radio so I can mention them because it’s in my documentary. I got hired to be a fill-in guy at Four BC, which is like a talkback station in Brisbane, which is about an hour away from where I live.
And so the, uh, the production guy was going on holidays and they hired me to fill in for the week. And I remember on the Friday, the production manager came in and he said, gough, I need you to take all the commercials out of the Sydney because it was a nationwide computer that they had. You need to take all the commercials out of the Sydney computer with these particular codes and you need to put them onto our system to play through the weekend, which is fine. That’s fair enough. But the problem was because it wasn’t set up for somebody who’s blind or vision impaired. The screen was so small. I literally could not see the numbers properly and I’m trying my best. I really am because you know, it’s important. People paid thousands of dollars for their advertising to be played on the radio station and I’m trying my best, but I just, I couldn’t do it.
I honestly couldn’t do it. And they, they never hired me again because obviously the blind guy can’t do it. Now, if they had a screen with a bigger screen or they wanted to be a little bit more cooperative, then that would have been nice, but they decided that wasn’t how they were going to roll. So, and it is true. Look, some of the tasks that I did, I could do very quickly and very easily, but some of the other tasks, not so much. So when, for example, you would hear on it. I mean, all of this is kind of old fashioned now because radio is really not a thing anymore. So your younger listeners probably won’t know anything that I’m talking about, but when you would have like the breakfast DJ’s obviously then between nine and 10. So they’re off the air at nine, between nine and 10, I have to now edit up a promo.
That’s going to apply for the next 24 hours with the best part, the best 30 seconds of their show, put that into the computer and that will air. And you’ve only got an hour to do that. Now I can do it, but that sort of thing would take me a little bit of time. Cause I can’t, you know, reading time codes and that takes me a while cause I’ve really got to focus in, you know. So the producer of the show would call my office and say, Oh, there’s, there’s a funny part around 8:15, because that’s all you’d get. So now I’ve got to listen to like 10 past eight to 20 past eight and pick out what I assume was what they think is the funniest part. And if anybody’s listened to breakfast radio, none of it is the funniest part, but I’ve got to pick out what I think is the funniest part of that 10 minutes.
I’ve got to quickly squeeze it into 20 seconds because you’ve got obviously the voiceover up top that you put in saying, you know, this is the best of, you know, Charlie in the morning. And then you put in your 20 seconds and then make sure you tune tomorrow at six for Charlie in the morning and you’ve got the bed underneath it obviously that goes in as well. So that kind of stuff where you’ve got to look at time codes and things like that, that takes me a while to do, you know. So I would usually only make that by like 9:59, it would be going into the computer. So whereas for somebody else, they knocked that over in 20 minutes, it would take me a lot longer. So there were some things that took me longer and I did struggle a little bit with, but I never, like, I never told the production manager or complained, like, I mean, things got done. That’s all that mattered. But yeah, it wasn’t about proving myself. It was just about doing the job. So, and I enjoyed it. I like, I mean, it’s editing, it’s being creative. I enjoyed doing it. It was a lot of fun. Like I said, it educated me a lot and helped me with what I’m doing now. So yeah, it was all good.
CM: And how long were you doing that? Was, was it a few years?
gough: Yeah. Yeah. So I reckon I worked one, two, three, and then bits and pieces at others. So mainly three different radio stations I was at and I was, uh, yeah, from 2000 to 2003, so three years I was doing it. So yeah, cause I left school in 1999. So I graduated in 99 and then yeah, 2000 to 2003 and then 2003 that’s when I went overseas, which was good. That was a good thing.
CM: After radio, you go into a standup comedy, all of this is perfect groundwork for film production because you know, not only are you writing, but you know how to like make promos, you know, how to direct actors. And now you’re starting to get that foundation of funny, the foundation of humor that is gough and Beernuts Productions.
gough: Yeah. Well, it’s funny you should mention that cause you’re quite right. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it? Because looking back, like I never went to university, but I would suggest that what I did doing radio production and stand up comedy is kind of like my apprenticeship. That was my university education. Even though at the time, I didn’t know that, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s kind of funny how that kind of thing can happen. So yeah.
CM: When you’re writing these promos, you have a very distinct sense of humor. Were you aware of your sense of humor then of what you have now? Or was it still kind of in its, you know…
gough: No, I’ve always been me. So even as a little kid, I was like this, I was, you know, I was the same sort of, uh, odd, obnoxious kind of smart ass, kind of pain in the ass kind of kid, like even as a seven year old. So yeah, no, none of that has ever changed. I’ve always been me. Uh, so yeah, there was no, no development. There’s no, uh, there’s no light bulb a-ha low, but I can’t give you I’m afraid, Chris. And look, stand up comedy was great in regards to like, there’s a lot of life lessons learned doing that because obviously I’m on the road touring around. I got to fend for myself, I’ve got to do my own thing. You know, I’ve got to figure out how to get to the gigs. I’ve got to, I had merchandise that I used to sell.
So you’ll like this actually Chris, I had two t-shirts cause one thing I learnt when I went to America was that every comic I was working with was flogging merchandise. And I mean like the kind of crap that they would sell and when people are drunk at concerts, they will buy anything. They will, I mean, I’ve done it, you’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Oh, there’s a merchandise tent. Let’s get into it. So, you know, so every comic was just selling just crap. And so I thought I’ll sell two t-shirts. So I had one t-shirt that I sold, which had a picture of a brick on it and written on the t-shirt was “I couldn’t get laid if I was a brick.” And then the second t-shirt, uh, had a picture of a Pogo stick on it. And it said “I’m as happy as a one legged lesbian on a Pogo stick.”
CM: Which shirt sold more?
gough: Uh, the Pogo stick five to one.
CM: Wow. This is in the early 2000s, right?
gough: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, oh, because it’s not PC, is that what you’re getting at? Because that really doesn’t bother me, that’s not who I am either. That’s never been a concern to me, that sort of stuff. You’ve seen Beernuts Productions films. The last thing I’m thinking of is this PC, is that okay? It is what it is. If it’s funny, it’s funny. I saw a documentary once and there was a comedian on there and he said, and I agree with him. He said it, look, if it’s told with the funny bone, it’s funny. And something as a blind person that I can tell very quickly is, cause obviously I can’t see body language and stuff. So I go by people’s tones and inflections of their voice, uh, which is what I do when I direct my actors as well.
But I can tell very, very quickly if someone’s being a jerk and if they’ve got malice and nasty intent, or if they’re just trying to be funny. Now they might do a joke about blind people. Now it might be a really funny joke and I might laugh and it could be great. They could do a joke about blind people. The joke’s not funny, it’s a terrible joke, but they weren’t meaning any harm. They were just trying to be funny and trying to break the ice in their own way. And so they’ve meant no disrespect or harm. So that’s cool as well. On the flip side, if they say something nasty or negative or malice intent about one people, then that’s different altogether, then that person is a jerk. It’s about tones and inflections. You know, I guess that’s what everybody’s mum used to say to them. It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it, which is, uh, uh, you know, that’s something that I think most parents would have told their kids, you know, it was one of those lessons when they’re a kid, you know, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So yeah.
CM: Yeah. Interesting. I like that a lot because so much of podcasting, for example, is tones and inflections. I mean, it’s very rare that I actually see the person that I’m talking to. And I mean, that has to be super refined for you at this point.
gough: Oh yeah. Well, it is. It absolutely is. So when I’m directing the actors in my films, for example, you know, I’ve even been known, some of them again, some like it, some don’t and that’s fine. I’ve even been known to break them down into word by word, like, they’re getting that word wrong. You need to use this kind of a tone for that particular word. So when we’re doing the rehearsals, yeah. I’m really particular with how they deliver the lines because I always figure their facial expressions will, for the most part, take care of themselves. For example, if you’re yelling, then your face is going to be portraying someone who is yelling your face will contort in a way that you do when you’re yelling. So your facial expression will take care of itself. But if your voice isn’t right, then nothing’s going to be right. You know what I mean? So you got to get the voice down perfect.
CM: It really speaks to your devotion to the craft, the storytelling, what you’re really trying to draw out.
gough: A joke’s not funny if it’s not delivered correctly. And if a joke’s not funny, then people won’t laugh. And if people don’t laugh, they’re not going to download the film. But if they don’t download the film, then I don’t live in a house, and if I don’t live in a house, then I’m homeless. So, you know, it’s important to get the tones and inflections, right? Cause otherwise I’ll be homeless.
CM: So when you’re traveling overseas, you’re doing standup comedy. When does a documentary film about you pop up into your mind?
gough: So I traveled overseas. I did one year in the UK through 2003. And then I did 2004 and 2005 through America and Canada, all doing stand-up comedy. And then in 2006, I came back to Australia. I started up Beernuts Productions in 2006, not with the intention of producing my own work, but having mainly just started it up because I wanted people to take me seriously. I know that sounds ridiculous with a ridiculous name, but I’m a proprietary limited. So I’m a legitimate, proper business company so that when I was to send work out to people, it’s coming from a legitimate source. It’s not just, Charlie Johnson. You know what I mean? So I thought it was important to have some legitimacy and then they can read my, my fart jokes. Then I spent four years, you know, sending work out and getting rejected. Like I said, predominantly because of my eyesight.
And then in 2010, just out of frustration, I was like, I need to do something because obviously doing the same thing over and over again, it doesn’t work. You’ve got to try something else. So that’s when I was like, okay, what can I do now? And then I thought, well, if I pull all my savings together, I’ll have enough to buy some basic equipment and I’ll be able to do a film. So what kind of film can I do that’s nice and cheap? And the obvious choice is a documentary because it’s talking heads and that doesn’t cost any money to do. There’s no stunts. There’s no actors. I’m the crew. So a documentary it is. So what am I going to do a documentary on? Well, what do I know? I know disability and I know mental health. Okay. That’ll be my subjects. Again, It’s not some light bulb moment, it’s out of, well, I guess it’s kind of necessity. This is what is now required. So how am I gonna do this? It’s about problem solving, I suppose, how am I going to do this? This is how I can make this work.
CM: I like that story too, because it’s about problem solving. And I mean, you don’t pick easy topics, gough. I mean, making a film about disability and mental health. I mean, that’s hard. Did you bring comedy into that?
gough: Yeah. Yeah. So you can still watch the film on the Beernuts Productions website. So if you go to BeernutsProductions.com, it’s a free download that film. So yeah, it’s a proper 90-minute documentary. It was important to put comedy into it. Otherwise it would be the world’s most depressing film. Also, people are going to respond better to serious facts, if they’re in a good mood and have had a bit of a laugh. Their ears are more open to taking on important information. So if you relax them and you give them a bit of a joke and then you give them a nice fact. On a similar note, that’s why Dr. Phil has been so successful because he’s able to put humor in with his seriousness. So people really like him and can respond to him well. Like he could be harsh, but also he does it with a level of humor and caring that makes people respond well to him. If he was just to walk up to someone and go, “Oh, your being an idiot for this reason,” they’re going to tell him to get stuffed. But if he goes up to them and you know, he has a bit of a joke with them and relaxes them and then he tells them they’re an idiot. They’re more likely to listen to him. Do you see what I’m saying?
CM: I do, yeah.
gough: So yeah, it was the same. It was the same with the documentary. If you’re going to put in heavy, serious facts, there needs to be an element of levity in there somehow so that people aren’t bogged down and want to kill themselves after they watch it, so yeah.
CM: I appreciate that a lot. And I appreciate that you’re not giving me the a-ha moment, the light bulb moment, even though I’m hunting for it, I’m searching for it. But I like that it is not there because you literally just want to do what you want to do. You want to tell the jokes, you want to make the films, and you want to make a living. I mean, that is it. That to me is the a-ha moment, right there.
gough: Yeah. Like I said, there’s no light bulb sort of thing here. There really isn’t, it’s just, I know what I want to do. And than it’s, “how am I going to do it?” And then you figure it out. It really is as simple as that. I think people make things a lot more difficult than what they need to be. You know, they, they probably, maybe they are looking for that light bulb moment or whatever. You know, the one thing that I hate is people who run around in circles pretending to be busy. I mean, everybody’s seen those people in their offices that, you know, dash from desk to desk and office to office, and yet they achieve nothing. You know what I mean? Like those sorts of people just don’t want to punch them all in the face. They’re just annoying, you know, just get it done, man. You know, I guess it’s about leadership in a way too. I’m a big football fan, right? And so I see the people who I consider to be good leaders. And they’re not the ones that are doing all the talking, they’re the ones that run up the field and take the hit first. They’re the good leaders because they’re the ones that are showing you how it needs to be done. You know, that’s what leadership is all about. It’s not, again, it’s one of those old phrases again, isn’t it, actions speak louder than words.
CM: Well, and what’s great is when you go to the Beernuts Productions website, you have built a body of work, that you shouldn’t be ever ashamed that you’re not productive.
gough: Yeah. So to date we’ve got, uh, 20 films, uh, we’ve done 14 audio downloads, which are like comedy sketches and five books. So yeah, in 10 years that’s what I’ve produced in 10 years of work, so yeah.
CM: From a business model standpoint, does that pay the bills, all of that body of work and creating new films?
gough: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Beernuts Productions is my full-time job. So that’s what I do. There is nothing else. When I first started, it was about punching out the work as quick as I could, because I need as many downloads as I can get. So I can keep punching out the work, which it is still about that as well. Obviously there was, you know, I don’t want to make it sound like the productions are rushed and so they’re bad. Obviously everything I did, I did with great care, but I wanted to get it done as quickly as I could get it done. So it can go up on the website and I’ve stayed with that sort of theory. But now I’m at a point where I can, like, I can focus more on other parts of the business, like marketing and stuff like that. Whereas I wasn’t focusing on that so heavily at the start, it was more about putting the content up and now that there’s content up, now I can tell people about it more. You know, now I can sort of focus on the marketing and the other stuff a little bit more heavily than I was, you know, seven, eight years ago, for example.
CM: I like too that you talk a lot about leadership because a film director, a filmmaker, is a leader in a sense of you’re leading the crew, you’re leading the actors. And how have you learned to communicate the vision that you see distinctly in your head? I mean, you talked a little bit about tone and inflection and what they’re saying, but how do you know to deliver what’s up in your head?
gough: Well, it’s not about so much that it’s about knowing the other people and how they best accept a message. For some people, for example, you might have to draw a diagram because that’s how they accept a message better. For other people, they might be more verbal. So you could just tell them. Other people, uh, there’s some actors that I work with where I deliver their lines for them and then they mimic what I do. So it’s about knowing who you’re communicating to and how they best receive a message because everybody’s got a different way of being. And so you need to know how they work best. So you need to know, okay, well that person they’re going to do what I say. If I tell them in this particular way. And this person’s going to understand the instruction better if I tell them in that particular way. So it’s about knowing how to deliver your message to certain people in certain ways, I think.
CM: And was there a lot of trial and error in that at first?
gough: Of course? Yeah, absolutely. That was so yeah, a hundred percent because I think another good thing about being blind is you kind of pick up on these things a lot quicker because again, I’m not distracted by body language and stuff like that. You kind of learn these lessons a lot quicker than if I’ve got eyesight and I’m looking at all other things, you know? So I think those lessons will, uh, probably a touch quicker.
CM: One of the questions that kind of popped into my head as you’re talking is, I have a friend who’s completely blind, has no eyesight and he’s a fine woodworker. And he doesn’t want to be known as a blind woodworker. He just wants to be known as a woodworker. And is that the same for you when it comes to film, do you want to just be known as gough of Beernuts Productions.com? Or is being blind part of the package as well in terms of identity and wanting to be known?
gough: No, no, no, I’m not. I’m exactly the same as your woodworker mate. You could probably answer this better than me, but, uh, when we chat about my films, uh, with the previous interviews we’ve done, you know, you’ve never once sort of asked me about my disability because you’re more interested in why I wrote what I wrote and what that actor was like to work with, and why I cast that person. You’re more interested in the content, which is great. That’s what I want you to be interested in. I want you to enjoy the work and go, “Oh, I wonder why he wrote this script.” Not, “Oh, he’s blind. Yeah. He, for him.” That’s really got nothing to do with it, you know. It is what it is. I mean, it kind of annoys me to a point when people say, “Oh, you’re such an inspiration.” And I go, I’m really not because I’m just doing my job and being a contributing member of society, which is the rules for being an adult.
CM: Well said. I will say though, that I think you are an inspiration, not because you’re a blind filmmaker, but because you have built a media empire and you are fiercely independent.
gough: See, I’ll take that, that I respect, because that’s about my work ethic and what I do and how I do it. So I take that, but I mean, a disability means nothing. I was having a chat to a friend of mine who I’ve known for a very, very long time. We were talking about my disability and people’s reactions to me, because obviously I get on and I live my life and I do my thing and people that accuse me of not being blind, they go, “Oh, you’re faking it. You’re not blind.” And my response to that is always, “well, I’m sorry, I don’t suit your negative stereotype of what blind people should be.” Like, “Oh, I’ll go and get a dog and a cane, sit on the couch and eat Cheetos.” I mean, is that what you would prefer me to, would that make you feel more comfortable? Is that what you would like?
But that’s people’s perceptions because they’re just not educated in that sort of field. So, a disability really means nothing, you know. As an adult, you really have a responsibility to be a contributing member of society. But also more than that, you’ve got a responsibility to find out what your skills are. And you learn that as a teenager, what your skills are in life, whether it be a mechanic or a chef or a hairdresser, and then it’s your responsibility to take those skills and make them the best that you possibly can. And I figured it when I was a young lad, I thought that, uh, storytelling was my skill. And then it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to make that skill into a thing. And, uh, that’s what Beernuts Productions has become. That’s how I’ve done it.
CM: So where do you go from here as Beernuts Production? You know, like, the best compliment that I could pay you as you have more vision than most people that can fully see have. Like, and I mean that from a big picture, like you have a vision for the future. That is just amazing to me. So where are you headed? What else is in front of you?
gough: Well, uh, we’ve just started up a podcast, which is new for me. So there’s now a Beernuts productions podcast. Which obviously Chris, you’re going to be a guest in the coming weeks, which I’ve no doubt you’re feverish in excitement and anticipation.
CM: I am excited.
gough: So yeah, we started up a podcast and that’s something new. Uh, there’ll be a few more films. Obviously we’ve got a film coming out. Uh, hopefully it’ll be coming out before December 31st. That’s the goal at least to get that done before the end of the year. Then next year, there’ll be, uh, more films and more work and more, more hilarity and nonsense from Beernuts Productions. So you just keep going onwards and upwards and pumping it out. And there’s still lots of, uh, scripts I want to make. And still lots of stories I want to tell. So the ideas bank is not dry up, not even close. There’s tons more of work that I want to do.
CM: That’s awesome. Another question popped into my head as you were just describing, you know, the things that you’re making, the things that you’re producing. And I remembered a story with one of my favorite musicians and he found that in order to really make a good living as an artist, he had to produce two albums a year. And so is there like a number of films and content that you know that you have to produce each year? Or is it just whatever’s there?
gough: No. Well, that, that’s a good point. So that’s been trial and error because like I say, I started in 2010 and so it’s been a real trial and error of what I should produce and how much I should produce. So that’s actually a really good point. So I found that I was making my projects too big and therefore they were costing too much money and I wasn’t able to produce enough content. So I had to, uh, pull it back, just a touch, in regards to what I was doing. Like, I mean, again, it’s not a quality thing it’s just, as in, instead of hiring 20 actors for a film, we’ll just pull it back down and we’ll do scripts that only require 10 actors for a film. You know, that sort of thing. That’s what I’m getting at, so that way I can produce a few more projects.
And also again, like the last year that we’ve had with COVID, you know, has been, again, another learning experience where I was like, well, I’ve got to keep it going. So what am I going to do? We’ve got those audio pieces up on the website, the comedy audio sketches. So, okay, well, I’ve still got access to a recording studio, so I’ll punch out a whole bunch of them. And so we’ve actually done five of them this year. So we did five audio pieces where like in January I had no intention of doing five, maybe one or two audio pieces, but I ended up doing five because that’s what circumstances demanded I do. That’s a good point. It’s real trial and error to get that sort of balance right. Of how much content to produce, because you’ve got to keep it rolling as, as good as you can.
CM: Yeah. And, and I always marvel in just how in tune you are with the financial side of things, like you, don’t shy away from, you know, the fact that it takes money to make money. And I appreciate that about you a lot, because a lot of people, you know, that I know are just like, “Oh, I’ll just make, you know, this passion project and put it on YouTube and cross my fingers that someone pays me money.” Whereas you’re like, “bam money right now to watch my stuff.”
gough: Well, I’m of the opinion, whether this is arrogance or not, maybe you could tell me, but I’m of the opinion that my content is at a quality where it deserves to be paid for. I don’t believe that it’s crap that people should watch for free. I think it’s something that they would enjoy and therefore I deserve reimbursement for that. You know what I mean? I think that, you know, I pay my crew, I pay my actors, they get reimbursed for their work and they do great work. So ultimately I should also get reimbursed for my work.
I’ve got a real thing about, there’s a lot of like filmmakers over here who do like short films and stuff, and they get actors to work for free. And I don’t, I won’t have that. Nobody on my sets have ever worked for free or been asked to work for free. I would never do that. Because again, it’s, it’s what your mum used to tell you, which is treat people how you would like to be treated. I think that my skills deserve money. So therefore I would never work for free. If somebody wanted to hire me to work on their film, I would require payment for my skills and my time. Therefore, I treat people reciprocally. I think that, you know, I need to pay them as well.
CM: No, I appreciate that a lot because I think it’s a piece that sometimes gets forgotten when you’re in the earliest stages of filmmaking, where you don’t fully see the connection to the value and the financial aspect of filmmaking.
gough: Well, I mean, you go to the cinema and you pay your 15 bucks or whatever it is to go and watch your movie. I mean, I know Netflix is a streaming service, but you’ve got to pay a monthly fee unless you’re one of those jerks that downloads things for free, you got to pay for your content, man. It’s only fair. I mean, I’ve got to earn a living. Well, I mean, put it this way. If people don’t download a film, then I get no money. I can’t make no more films. So everybody loses if that happens. So if you just buy it, if you download it, it’s only 5 bucks, I mean, it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee. So if you download a movie, then it means that I can make another movie and you can get more entertainment from my next movie. So everybody wins, you know what I mean? Like you gotta, it’s like you said, you’ve got to see the bigger picture, man, you know?
CM: Yeah, absolutely. So if you could remake any film and make it the way you wanted to make it, what would it be?
gough: Oh, that’s a very good question. It’s funny you should actually mention that. So there was an Australian film [Note: The film gough references in this section is 2.37] that was released, actually this is a light bulb moment for me. So yeah, you get your light bulb moment, Chris.
CM: I get it, awesome.
gough: You get it. There was a film that was made back in 2006 and Australian film, and it was made by a bunch of university students. And I remember going to the cinema and watching it and being deeply affected because it was a really heavy drama and it had a brilliant premise. And it’s like, it was really, the acting was phenomenally good. And it was made by like a 24 year old. And I’m like, in 2006, I’m like 24. And I’m like, well, shit, if he can do it, I can do it. I mean, what’s the difference, right? So that was kind of when I really started ramping up the Beernuts Productions and really started to go hard.
And that film was a huge inspiration. Now on the flip side, there are, in my opinion, purely my opinion, there are some massive mistakes in that film. There’s some bad scriptwriting mistakes. And because it was only written by a young guy, he had no experience in film. It was just a, it was like a passion project, as you would say, and something that was inspired by a friend of him. And so he’d had no script writing experience. So just again, it’s purely my opinion. There’s some huge flaws in the script that require fixing. And there’s a couple of little flaws in the direction cause he directed it as well that need fixing. And I would love the chance to remake that film and just fix what I consider to be those few flaws, because the premise is so wonderful that if it was made properly well, again, I shouldn’t say properly because that’s disrespectful, but if it was made again my way, which again, sounds really bad.
If I got the chance to do it my way, I think that I could turn that, what I think is a fantastic little indie film that nobody saw. I think I could turn it into just something amazing that people would, cause it really affected me. Like I actually felt really ill in the stomach when I left the cinema. Like it really, it turned my guts upside down. It really did. And so I just think if, if I was given the chance to remake that film, it would be something that, because it’s, it has a really deep message at its core. And I think it reached nobody cause no one went to go see it. And I think if I got the opportunity to make it, I think everybody would go see it. And it would, it would affect so many people and people would learn from it and it would be an amazing, awesome thing.
CM: See, I’m surprised. I thought you were going to say PORKY’S.
gough: Either that or NAKED GUN. Okay. We’ll go from something really serious, heavy drama to the NAKED GUN. I’d start with my remake of NAKED GUN by not hiring a double murderer. Though, in fairness back then he hadn’t killed anybody.
CM: That’s right. They got their revenge, I think in the sequel where they, it was like where they pretty much put them in all the, the beat up scenarios throughout the film.
gough: I guess that’s early karma, I suppose.
CM: That’s right. Well on that note, gough as always, thank you for sharing your story. I am honored to hear the origin story of gough. And I appreciate just, again, the media empire that you’re building on the Gold Coast of Australia.
gough: That’s right, I am in the empire business. It is true. So yeah, BeernutsProductions.com because we got to get that one last plug in for BeernutsProductions.com. Go and download stuff, it’ll change your life forever. In Australia, I don’t know about America, well, I assume it is because we copy everything you guys do because we have no original thoughts. But in Australian media, the go-to phrase at the moment is “game changer.” And I want to punch people that say that for, I hate it’s so bad. “It’s a game changer.” So just so I can fit into the landscape: Go to BeernutsProductions.com, it’s a game changer.