Stories from inside life’s big top.

Posts from the “Documentary” Category

From A Whisper To A Bang! – The Podcast, The Marathon

Posted on September 3, 2019

You might have noticed, it’s been a bit quiet around here lately. Well, for the last 6 months or so anyway.   Something really BIG has taken up my time. For the best part of two years really… The biggest creative project of my life.   I’ve been working with sound since the late 1980s, and working in radio most of my life – from the early days at 3RRR, to triple j, then on ABC Local Radio and Radio National too.   Radio’s always been my “first love”. When I relocate to Berlin in 2015 as a freelance media maker (and as a newly-minted meditation teacher!) I add “podcast maker” to my suite of skills. It seems a “no brainer”. Helping set up…

Before Hollywood: Kriv Stenders

Posted on October 1, 2017

Watching Kriv Stenders’ film about The Go-Betweens made me homesick.   Hearing ‘Cattle and Cane’ killed me. It’d been a while. Only music can do that. Bang! That forlorn bass-line wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed out a river of tears. From the depths. From a lifetime ago.   Nostalgia had come calling. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of where you’re from, especially if you’ve given over swathes of your life to leaving it behind. I’ve come to know that a sense of ‘home’ is necessary. Especially when you’re living oceans apart.   Viewing the film in Berlin, Germany – my home for not much longer now – it also stirred a deep sense of yearning. For the lush tropics of northern…

Woman Of Substance: Vanessa Ellingham

Posted on July 1, 2016

Human rights journalist, magazine editor and social storyteller Vanessa Ellingham seems to regularly be mistaken for someone else.   It’s something which has beset her for the past five years, since “Jasmine Cooper” first got glasses.   “Jasmine Cooper” is one of the characters on New Zealand’s most famous soap opera, ‘Shortland Street‘. It seems Vanessa and the actress who plays the troubled teenager share eerily similar features: honey-brown hair, perfectly-manicured bobs and cat’s eye glasses, framing heart-shaped faces and delicate smiles.   Both call New Zealand home. And as I discover soon after meeting Vanessa at a writers group in Berlin (where she now lives), it’s a case of mistaken identity the 25 year-old is wont to write about in hilarious, excruciating detail.…

Hearts Wide Open

Posted on June 20, 2016

This is my music video tribute to ‘the present moment’, in all it’s authenticity, goofiness, love, humanity, beauty and ragged wonder…

‘Salted’ by Cooperblack stars “Cooperblack” (then Jeremy Conlon, Simon Kormendy & Oliver Budack), and a rag-tag group of Darwin friends with playfulness and courage in their hearts. Recorded in 2009, before I even knew what mindfulness was – and meditation for that matter (I now study and teach both) –  I also layed claim to inventing a new genre: Music Video Diary.


It even got played on rage.


Inspired 1000% by Jeremy‘s exceptionally beautiful song – such an exceptionally talented musician and composer! – footage for ‘Salted’ was (mostly) recorded on one infamous Darwin balcony, in the heaving, sweaty climes of Northern Australia. Channelling Warhol (one of my biggest documentary inspirations), I asked my willing ‘non-actors’ to sit together, listen to the song “and kiss when you feel like it.”


Furthermore, “I’ll leave the room once I hit record. Just be yourselves. The rest is up to you!” Such was my sparing yet golden direction…


The biggest challenge was getting the song playback to work and not tipping over the wee camera! (I’d bought a very cheap, crap tripod.) Some months later, one afternoon, my talented, kind filmmaker friend Tom Salisbury drove several hours to edit it on my kitchen table. For nix.


Looking back at ‘Salted’, I still find it such a funny, intimate, moving clip. A series of moments unfolding in real time of people just being: being playful, being thoughtful, being authentic in ‘the now’… And trusting the music to support them in front of the camera and me ‘behind’ it (well, in the other room), whatever the hell they thought I was doing! Some people have moved on from Darwin; some from each other… The beautiful dog Chio is no longer with us. Jack the galah flew off into the bush. Yet there they all are, perfect – and perfectly themselves – embedded in a sweet, living, present moment experience, together.


It’s a tribute to love, actually. While it might be difficult for some to watch now, I feel so grateful to have been allowed to submerge this moment (and song) in the river of time (and video) with such a bunch of bighearted people, to one of whom I’m now married.


I’m also reminded that impermanence is a constant and vulnerability only a kiss away. And while a great physical distance now cleaves us, I  love that we’re all still in each others’ lives, somehow. This funny little clip unites us us together, forever. Much love and thanks to Jeremy, Oliver, Simon, Jess, Mega-Jess, Deb, Karen, Lauren, Aaron, Amy, Erin, Jack the galah, and vale Chio the dog.


Travelers, it is late.
Life’s sun is going to set.
During these brief days that you have strength,
be quick and spare no effort of your wings.

(Jalal ad-Din Rumi)

  • Words + video: Megan Spencer
  • Poem: Rumi

Buzzing + Humming: Samantha Wareing

Posted on March 16, 2016

Sam Wareing and I first met when I visited Berlin in July 2014.   It was the height of a stinking hot summer, extremely humid, and glorious as Berlin summers are wont to be. I remember being shocked that a Central European city could have such capacity for a ‘Darwin summer’, a place I’d also lived, with weather I’d been equally astonished by.   My husband Oliver and I spent 10 days soaked in sweat zooming around the cobble-stoned streets, getting to know the city. At the back of our minds we were scoping it out hopefully, as a potential place to live. Meeting Sam, and listening to what she had to say about it, helped clinch the deal.   I was also there…

One Adventure In A Whole Day: Hanna Nordqvist

Posted on March 10, 2016

A long distance relationship made it possible for Hanna Nordqvist to leave her home country of Sweden for Berlin – plus a few magical nights when as a teenager, she visited the ‘City of Dreamers’.   Hanna is one of the women featured in my photo series for Circus Folk + Flower Punks, the photo exhibition put together by myself and Kate Seabrook. It opened this week and Hanna was at the vernissage, along with around a hundred other people…   Living in Berlin as an adult, she has moved through academia and publishing to find her way to studying the Grinberg Method, a particular bodywork therapy currently on the rise in Europe and the US. This year she will to graduate as a…

Der Himmel unter Berlin (Heaven Under Berlin): Tim Anders

Posted on March 3, 2016

I literally stumbled upon Tim Anders and his music in a tunnel, en route to a rendezvous at the “Berliner Siegessäule” (Berlin Victory Column.)   As the Victory Angel towered over me gleaming in the sun, I heard Tim’s voice way before I saw him. It seemed to float up from the underground and into the busy street.   Descending the stairs his music echoed around corners and filled the labyrinthine, ‘otherwordly’, fluorescent-lit space, like a cloud that had somehow escaped from the sky above and had taken a wrong turn.   Many metres later I spied him from a distance, singing his heart out for no-one in particular and anyone who would listen.   I asked if I could take some photos of…

I made a new Music Video!

Posted on October 20, 2015

On their recent international tour, Australian indie-pop legends the Cannanes stopped by Berlin to play a house concert as part of the Sofa Salon series, a live music enterprise run by Berlin-based Australian singer/songwriter, Samantha Wareing.


And I got to make a music video for them! I like to call it a music video documentary…


We chose their 2015 single release, ‘Grotto Capri‘, which came out on  compilation album, ‘Nail House Party‘ through US indie label, Emotional Response.


I don’t get the opportunity to ‘film-make’ very often these days, so I was grateful for this opportunity, which combined my passion for ‘snapshot’ photography, documentary and music video. Perfect.


My partner in crime was Gentleman Jim Coad (Video Architecture), who I charged with editing responsibilities. We made it over a couple of days here in Berlin. (It was a cruisey creative collaboration – just the way I like it ; )


Jim was in Berlin on a four-month “self-imposed artist retreat” from Central Victoria; we had initially met there when I had photographed him at several live arts events, as part of my documentary work with Punctum Inc.


Jim is a projection artist: one of his major projects in Berlin was a live video projection on the outside of the famed Bauhaus Archive.


Many thanks to everyone who supported and/or took part in the ‘Grotto Capri’ music video project: to the various members of the Cannanes dotted around the globe (including Fran and Steve), and the generous members of the Sofa Salon Berlin community. And if you’d like to find our more about the glorious former Sydney restaurant which inspired this song, visit this blog post.


As a filmmaker and film lover, I’ve always been a bit in love with ‘the music video’ form. It’s such a creative, free and fun way to express yourself inside the dual worlds of music and film.


– Read the Double J feature Megan wrote about the Cannanes.

– (c) Megan Spencer, October 2015