30 Days of Becoming an Uncle

1 Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Name: Dave Dellar

Occupation: TV Producer

How we met: In the immortal words of Britney Spears, “There’s only two types of people in the world. The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.” David Joseph Dellar is certainly one of the former.

Dave and I used to live together and despite him being a cool urban hipster and me being, well, anything but, we managed to bond over a mutual love of sitting on our balcony overlooking the Yarra River and drinking copious bottles of wine at 2am on a school night.

His OCD tendencies – he’d spend hours perfectly aligning the knifes on the magnetic knife rack in the kitchen and years at boarding school meant his bed was ALWAYS made with hospital corners  – made me question his sanity on more than one occasion but his ability to make me laugh (he openly calls his mother Jan a ‘dirty bird’) is unsurpassed.

On my birthday this year he sent me this message informing me of the correct dance moves to Michael Jackson’s Beat it:

Happy birthday ya dirty big Cynthia – now follow my lead – in 5, 6, 7, 8 – feed the chickens, feed the chickens, now reach for the sky, right, left, right, left, pull into the pelvis, pull into the pelvis, front, back, front and eagle arms and eagle arms, then back to feeding the chickens – rinse and repeat – word!

Meet the Logie award-winning Dave Dellar:

If you’ve met me, you’ll know that I am loud and not so much obnoxious, but more obnoxious adjacent.  I love peppering the c-bomb into conversation and many would testify that I’m somewhat of a social hand-grenade.  My personality also dictates that I’m a little left of centre – think: Jim Carey when he goes rouge and decides to do a dramatic role… odd yet effective.  However, people do occasionally get to see the softer side of me.  Promise.  This is one of those times.  Score.  So with that, let us begin.

Towards the end of last year, I moved from Australia to the United Kingdom.  Don’t worry though, even before arriving I made a conscious effort not to be one of those annoyingly ‘Aussie’ Aussie’s who return to the motherland to work in a pub, live above that pub and then on my night off, get totally juiced in ‘said’ pub.  Quite the opposite in fact, I’m in TV and the move was a purely career based decision to further myself as a producer.

Noah in utero

Back home however, my sister, Sarah, had her first child, ergo, me becoming a first-time uncle.  A slight bone of contention in the Dellar household, as not long after I up stumps and moved to London, my sister went into labour – meaning I missed the birth by about 3 time zones.  Her husband phoned on cold British winter’s morning to give me the news; that at 8:34pm on the 6th of December 2011 weighing in at just less than seven pounds twelve ounces, little baby Noah was born.  A great result all round.  Zang!

That said, now might be a good time to pause and go off-piste in the hope of giving you a brief back-story to who my sister is. Point blank, Sarah and I are the antitheses of each other. Take my opening paragraph, reverse it, replace the words ‘I’ with ‘her’, add three years and you pretty much have my older sister.

Sarah is kind and warm and has always wanted a family of her own – whereas I’ve always been career focussed and all about the cash.  Put another way, if we both had the choice between a family or $1,000,000 (or GBP £650,000 – high five exchange rate); then she would hands down always take the former and I would without doubt be a couple of 0’s up in the bank account.  We are two polar opposite individuals.

Sarah and Dave – the wonder years

Cut back to me in London with a look of shock on my face as I was hit with a startling realisation – I actually love my older sister!  I mean, I always kind of liked her; but lets be honest, growing up, siblings can really give each other the shits.  Even into our late teens and early twenties, Sarah and I really knew how to get under each other’s skin.

We’re so different, the fact we share the same parents seemed for a long time only to be a coincidence.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always wished the best for my sister; but as soon as the news of Noah came through, all those years of pointless bickering and spats of sibling rivalry seemed to instantly vanish.  Something transcendental occurred that changed my outlook on our dynamic – I had been struck with a sense of unrequited brotherly love.   What the F? How could this be?  What had changed?

As I sat in the kitchen of may mates SW13 flat and looked out onto the Thames, it suddenly dawned on me – Sarah now has everything she’d always dreamed of…  and even for someone who’s as undeniably selfish as myself, I was actually truly happy for my sister.

Noah, now

Sure some 20 years ago she may have smashed me in face with a half-full cordial bottle because I spilt ice cream on her ALF nightie; but she is also the one who makes me laugh the most.  Yep, she’s the girl who dared me at the age of 10 to wee on our neighbour’s electric fence just to see if it was on; however Sarah is also the person who has always looked out for me.   And okay, this is the woman who in 1992 justified kicking me square in the nuts as a pre-emptive measure for something she was sure I would do to her in the future; but this is also the lady who has never stopped believing in me.

Good and bad, my family have left an indelible impression on me; and granted I may have only just recognised this; but regardless, I would not change it for the world.  I look forward to the day when we’re all together again and I finally get to meet my little nephew.  I’ll take him for a pint and tell him about the night he was born, where I was and what it means to be part of our family… sans a crack to the head with a cordial bottle, of-course.

30 Days of Fighting Cancer

0 Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Name: Adam Keam

Occupation: Chief Financial Officer

How we met: Adam and I went to school together. Well, kind of. He actually went to a different school but took a couple of subjects at my school so in our final year we ended up in the same English class.

Prior to that I had known him only vaguely as the guy who dated Lisa a girl I worked with at McDonald’s and who would come through drive-thru every other day with a car load of friends and order the exact same thing each time – large fries with a tub of Mac Sauce. 

But it wasn’t until well into our uni days that our friendships was cemented over a dozen or more 50cent champagne and raspberry’s at a mutual friend’s birthday party. We have been good friends ever since.

Meet Ads:

Christie has never been known as someone that does things by halves (I should know – she once married me in Vegas on a whim!), so it came as no surprise to me when she outlined her vision for 30 Days 30 Years.

Ironically, Christie’s first 30 days, were my last 30 of chemotherapy.

To anyone the word CANCER is a hateful, terrifying and horrible word.

On Friday the 8th of October 2010, THAT was the word my gastroenterolist muttered over the phone to my wife Amanda, asking her to convey his diagnosis to me.  Stage III Dukes’ C to be exact.

Following a total colectomy to ‘excise’ the tumor that was invading my colon, I commenced chemo. I opted for the Xelox regime: a 12 course program over six months which incorporated a combination of IV infusions supplemented by 10 Xeloda tablets, taken daily for ten days with four days of rest before repeating.

One of the main benefits of the Xelox regime is that some of the most outwardly visible side affects, ie the loss of hair, don’t commonly occur. This meant that upon initial contact I looked remarkably well.

I wasn’t prepared for the comments that would flow because I didn’t fit the stereotypical ‘bald’ cancer patient mould; “You don’t really have cancer!”, “You can’t be that sick – you still have hair!”.

I kept telling myself that I should be thankful not to be as frail as the other patients I would see each week at my oncologist appointments.

But after a short time the side affects did begin to flow; Total fatigue, a lack of energy, the constant feeling that I had the worst hang over in the world was horrendous; the nausea was worse than the actual act of vomiting.

Like a snake I shed the skin on my hands and remarkably in a single piece, my feet, due to hand-and-foot-syndrome.  I lost feeling in my extremities and bizarrely became hypersensitive to the cold, which meant avoiding the refrigerator isle of the supermarket!

The frustration that comes with “Chemo-brain” (which still plagues me) is inexplicable…I have a new found appreciation for the over 70’s.

I will not begin to describe the added complications that come with life without a colon.

Last lot of pills

My final 10 Xeloda tablets were washed down with a bottle of champagne (one of over 12 bottles consumed that night!) surrounded by friends and family. My oncologist would not have approved, nor, I am sure, would the scientists at Hoffmann-La Roche (the manufacture of Xeloda).

Fighting off cancer is nothing short of a miracle. But, for me, it was also a wake-up call. I was not taking my life seriously. At 30, I was working myself to death – 15-plus hour workdays was the acceptable norm, a 10-hour bender with mates to wash away the working week was a must.

Attempting to reexamine my self-worth, I now believe a life worth saving is certainly one worth taking good care of. Everyday, like many others, I walk that delicate fine line of living life for the moment and planning for a vast future and onto retirement. To me the future is a funny thing, the present is incredibly important. I would be lying if I said I’m not constantly worried if it is coming back.

I am often asked, or more so, confronted with the question of remission: Are you in remission? How long have you been in remission? I loathe the term. To me it’s either exclusionary or overly broad. So I don’t define it, I avoid it. Instead I embrace a term championed by Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG Foundation: Survivor.

A lot of cancer patients I know maintain that you become a survivor the day you are handed a cancer diagnosis.  One friend put it bluntly, saying “a cancer survivor would be someone who a) has cancer and b) is not dead.” And still others define survivorship as crossing the finish line to remission or a cure.

Today – as my dear friend Christie publishes this post I celebrate being a two-year survivor…

Adam with his wife Amanda and son Noah

30 Days Getting Used to the News

1 Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Name: Dan and Allison Podlich

Occupation: Helicopter pilot and Massage Therapist

How we met: Dan and Allison are Couch Surfing friends who kindly let me crash in their spare room in East Tennessee in the lead up to Christmas last year. While I was there the three of us competed in the Santa Hustle, a running event where the entire field dresses up like Father Christmas.  It was hilarious. Take a look at how we went here.

Meet Dan and Allison:

Our Backstory:

When Christie visited us in Tennessee last December, we lived our lives very much like most people; from day to day.  I was in massage school and Dan had a five-day-a-week “normal” job (though flying helicopters for a living is pretty exciting in its own way).  We’d complete one day, then started the next. Weeks zoomed by, all the same, and months came and went hardly without notice (except, thank goodness, for weekends hiking through the Smoky Mountains, where we did get to witness the beautiful change of seasons).  Christie brought a fresh outlook…challenge yourself to do something new each month.  Dan was looking into a new job at the time, and Christie was very encouraging.

In January, Dan took a job flying helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico. In March, we moved to Lafayette, Louisiana.  This is a relatively common job in the helicopter world, but compared to what we had done before, very unique.  Unique because he works two weeks on, then has two weeks off.  When he’s on-hitch, he’s gone.  He lives on a base somewhere along the coast; and when he’s off-hitch, he’s completely off. We now live our lives in 14 day increments, or “hitches”.

I work three days a week as a massage therapist and three days a week as a barista. My schedule does not allow for two weeks off every two weeks, so when Dan is home, our schedules take some coordinating to do all the activities that he plans in his free time.

Our Last 30 Days (plus a few):

Three hitches ago (six weeks), we found out we are pregnant! A little surprising, but not totally unexpected (we’d been told about the birds and the bees).

Taking time to process the news, the first thing we did was go camping, checking out North Louisiana and Kisatchee National Forest. It was hot and the little river was pretty much dried up to a trickle, but we found the nicest beach we’ve ever seen in a swamp, and some pine trees, which we hadn’t seen for awhile.

Next we cancelled plans with our good friend Leelan (so sorry!) in New Orleans because we were becoming just a tad overwhelmed with impending parenthood. We also cancelled the next weekend’s camping in Mississippi. That will have to wait for another time. Instead, we spent our time touring birth centers and hospitals, and comparing doctors.

We did make it to a BBQ at the beach with a local group of Couchsurfers though, and made a batch of beer that I won’t be able to drink until March!

Dan went fishing a lot too, which sometimes meant (when it was stormy) he ending up drinking at our neighborhood bar called the Wild Salmon.

Dan went “on-hitch” and I slept a lot. I ate all my meals out for two weeks, except for the one night I visited Dan and he cooked for me.

Dan came home and we left the next day for a long awaited trip home to the Northwest. We took our dog, Baxter on his first airplane ride and he did very well and was very glad to arrive “home” to his Auntie Noelle.

The first weekend we took some good friends to our favorite hidden gem of a swimming hole and they loved it.

We had dinner with my family and made the big announcement.

We had dinner with Dan’s family and made the big announcement.

We spent a week in a tiny town called Stehiken at the headwaters of our beautiful Lake Chelan. No roads to get there, no cell service, or even landlines. Just pristine views, fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing (with an amazing experience of fighter jets doing a practice run up the valley. Talk about a contrast). It was a great week and we got our much needed mountains and crystal-clear water fix. As much as we like to travel, see and experience, there is still no place like home.

A weekend with our niece and nephew had us questioning whether we’re really ready for parenthood after all but what can we do now?!

Baxter, (and our box of fresh Washington State produce) made it back safely on the plane.  We had our first doctor’s appointment.  They confirmed what we suspected, we are in fact pregnant.  It’s real. 
We saw it on the big screen.

Now we’re back to work, waiting for that next off-hitch because the beer should be ready for tasting (by Dan) and we can enjoy another 14 days of possibilities.Our next adventure: Louisiana’s high point – Driskill Mountain. All 535 feet of it!

30 Days Learning to Walk

5 Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Name: Teagan Glenane

Occupation: Photographer

W: childrenfirstfoundation.com

How we met: Teags and I worked together at Fairfax in Melbourne. She was the cadet photographer in our newsroom and one of the most loved members of staff because of her willing to help others and do everything with a smile on her face.

The media world can often be all-encompassing and what I admired about Teagan was that she always seemed to have really good perspective amongst the cut-throat nature of it all.

You’d subtly hear about little side projects she had going on in her spare time, perhaps a mid-week exhibition raising money for kids in Africa or something equally as valuable.

I don’t think there was a week that went by that we worked together that I didn’t think to myself, “gee, that Teagan is a good egg!” After reading her remarkable story and watching the video  below (it’s great trust me), I’m sure you will agree.

Meet Teagan:

It was semester break during my final year at uni. I was exhausted, and uninspired. I couldn’t think, let alone lift up my camera and I was frustrated that I couldn’t come up with a project for my final folio.

I’d gone from being completely focused on commercial photography, to suddenly jumping into the realm of photojournalism.

Though I had loved the previous six months traipsing around photographing models on catwalks at fashion weeks and festivals, I was feeling like a drop of water in a vast ocean and I wanted a total change.

I realised all of a sudden that I had to commit at least the next four months of my life to documenting something different, something that would be meaningful, useful, and would have a positive impact on someone else.

So began hours of researching local organisations, trying to find the “thing”, I wanted to contribute to.

Somehow I came across the remarkable story of Moira Kelly and her organisation, Children First Foundation (most commonly known for their work with conjoined twins, Trishna and Krishna).

Among other things, the foundation provides the ways and means for children in need of medical attention to receive it. I immediately set up a meeting and within the week I found myself driving to the Children First Farm, about to meet a little boy who would have such a big impact on my life.

Issa was seven, and from a small village in Tanzania. We didn’t speak the same language, and we had vastly different lives, but somehow we connected and over a period of weeks, found a way to communicate.

The first time we met, I tagged along on a trip to the swimming pool. He had rarely seen water and was trying to learn to float. Such a small thing for us, but it’s difficult to comprehend what these experiences must have been like for him. I would bring disposable cameras to teach with, and on the next visit bring back his photographs. The joy and astonishment on his face when he saw them was priceless. It built a great bond between us.

Born with a severely clubbed foot, Issa found it difficult to walk, run, ride a bike, climb and do other basic things. His disability made him an outcast in his community.

My camera and I document the early stages of his treatment, from the stretching of his legs and casting sessions, to physiotherapy.

At the last minute, I was invited to be in the room during Issa’s surgery, where doctors attempted to straighten his leg completely. I’m not sure I can accurately describe the day, as it was such a blur.

My most vivid memory is watching him go under for surgery. Those who have been through that would know that it is a horrible and emotional experience. It was at that point, for the first time, I felt myself breaking down the boundaries of the photographer/subject relationship.

One that some contest should remain separate, but for me at least, I find the smaller that gap, the better my work becomes.

The days following the surgery were difficult, but Issa was a trooper. He was in a cast, and wheelchair for sometime before he was able to start wearing a brace, and having physio to be able to walk again.

During this time, I had completed a short multimedia piece, which was used to help secure Issa a sponsor, for his return to Tanzania. The day I got the news he was sponsored, I was completely overwhelmed, and relieved. This meant for the first time in his life, he would not only have a solid roof over his head, but an education, and three meals a day. This should be a basic human right, but it is one that so many around the world are denied.

I mean, we all know this, we’ve seen the ads. Some even know the statistics. But it wasn’t until I met Issa, that it became real, that I could see the impact of this deprivation in front of my eyes.

After a few months of rehabilitation, it came time for Issa to go home. I was lucky enough to accompany the incredible Gwen, and the now, very grown up, healthy, and healed Issa, on his return journey to Tanzania. But that’s a story for another day.

Issa and his brother are now in a boarding school near his hometown in Tanzania and I long for the day when I can go back to see how he has progressed.

Since working with Issa, I have spent many hours with the wonderful staff and kids at CFF. They are an incredible collection of people who in ways (big or small) all working together to give a chance of a new life to those kids who may otherwise have had a much more difficult fate.

Though you wouldn’t know it from meeting the kids, no matter the race, religion, age or ailment, they are all exceedingly happy, and get along like one big family. Driving away from the Children First farm, you always feel a great sense of purpose, and hope.





30 Days of Directing a Short Film

1 Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Maida, left, with script editor Truls and production assistant Ada

Name: Maida Hals

Occupation: Videographer

How we met: Maida gave me my first job in Norway. I was a lighting technician on her film. It was a rather strange decision on her part given I had zero experience in lighting but she was desperate. Her original choice had been injured just hours before shooting commenced and I got a call up. Maida and her colleagues were one of my first introductions to Norwegian people and culture and one of the reasons why this fjord-filled Scandinavian country will always hold a special place in my heart.  

Say halla, hva skjer’a? (hey, what’s up?) to Maida:

Coming from a career doing camera for documentary, news and reality TV, I wanted to try out directing fiction. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to shoot a little story written by myself, and based on my own experiences.

Directing a low-budget short film includes so much more than actually directing. It is all those little things that happen.  It is impossible to draw a line between what is directing and what is just dealing with issues and people, because all these little things will influence you as the director, the crew, the actors and everything – and therefore it becomes part of it.

The story:

The script is about a girl hitchhiking. It’s also about judging people before you should. And about how your own fear can become your worst enemy.

The idea came to me several years ago while I was hitchhiking with a man – a stranger – who in my mind was a scary guy. As we were driving I desperately tried to figure out what kind of person he was. My mind drew quick conclusions and I decided he was dangerous. My own fear of him made him dangerous for no real reason. Of course I was wrong – he proved to be a very nice guy. The script is this story, just a bit exaggerated.

The crew, and how I met Christie:

When working on a low-budget short film you need a crew willing to work almost for free, but with a lot of enthusiasm. I loved my crew. A mix of friends, colleagues, and new people.

The problem is that when you can’t pay people very much they can, in theory, pull out of the project at any time. I felt quite happy and confident with the people I had gathered, but some things happen that you just can’t control.

The night before we were leaving Oslo for the shoot I got a message from the lighting guy. He’d been hurt at his part-time job – he got boiling water spilt on him – so he was in hospital, in lots of pain! I felt sorry for him, but I was also panicked because we NEEDED him, and we were leaving in only a few hours.  Then, luckily, I found Christie on a website (underskog.no). To my surprise she was actually able to join us for the shoot with only a few hours notice.

The location  –  Sigdal by night:

Suggestions from a friend brought us into the woods a few hours outside Oslo, to a place called Sigdal. This place has long, deserted roads with almost no traffic – the perfect area for a scary short film.

The house we needed for the last scene was an old, abandoned farmhouse deep in the woods, where it was almost impossible to get to by car. But with help from a local guy we managed to transport everyone and everything safely there.

Another problem was electricity, which there was none of. We solved this with a generator, which was so noisy that we had to place it as far away from the actual shoot as possible. Sometimes the generator ran out of diesel and stopped, which made the entire place go completely dark. Annoying, but magic moments!

Production, sleepless in Sigdal:

We were in Sigdal for four nights of shooting. Our accommodation was simple wooden cabins.

Every night the cars were rearranged and equipment for the night’s shoot was organized.

I briefed the crew and talked to the actors.  We needed darkness, so as soon as it was dark enough we rolled the camera, and as soon as the sun raised we went to bed.

As most of the film actually takes place inside a car it was important to find the right car.  And because the film is a scary film, the car needed to add to this. A friend of mine knew a guy with the perfect car, a dark blue volvo from 1985 or so. Most importantly it was big enough so that we could shoot inside it.

The actors sat in the front seats, and most of the time the camera operator, the sound guy, the script editor and myself were all stuck together in the little trunk of the car.  It was cold outside, but we kept warm – very warm –  in the trunk.

Most of the time I chose to let the actors go through with the whole conversation, or at least large parts of it, including the lovely, awkward silences that always appear between strangers.

The fact that we were actually filming the scene at night, whilst driving complicated the shoot, but more importantly it added to the acting. It simply made it more real.

In general the nights were filled with great acting, great ideas, not that great acting, not that great ideas, corrections, energy, enthusiasm, tiredness, frustration, joy, surprises, almost-accidents, lots of challenges, even more challenges and so much more.

The result:

My short film is far from a perfect film. However this short film was a big step for me. I learned so much about scriptwriting and directing fiction, and psychology. And I also learned that I have so much more to learn. I think the most important lessons we learn in life are when we make mistakes.

One of the most lovely things with art is that even if you feel that you make mistakes, a piece of art can still be wonderful for someone, as the mistakes I see might not be mistakes in other peoples eyes. And a ”mistake” might sometimes even be what actually makes something good, and human.

I’m forever grateful for all the amazing friendships and experiences that resulted from this shoot.

Important things I learned, or got reminded about, during this process include:

Things take time – Be patient, but also know when to hurry



Be specific

Safety first

Make (good) priorities

Eat and drink (water and coffee)

Trust yourself

Trust everybody around you

Know what you want, cut the rest

Don’t worry

Always let people know that you appreciate them

Dare to follow your intuition

Be humble, but strict


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Enjoy – if not why are you doing it?


For a sneak peak at Maida’s film click here or here 🙂

Kai-Kenneth – the male lead. He’s not scary in real life at all 🙂

The lead actress covered in (fake) blood!