Kirsten Ainsworth and Greta Welsonhave been together for five years aftersparks flew when they watched the70s film adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstartogether.
“She’d played drums in her high school’sproduction of JCSS and knew it all by heart,”says Ainsworth.
Despite each of them having distinctlydifferent musical tastes when they met, theduo was quick to form their two-piece punkrock group Newtown.
“Newtown began naturally soon after westarted going out. As musicians, we couldn’thelp but play music around one another,”says Welson.
“We started Newtown because we weretalking about how we were both pissedoff about a few things and we were like,‘let’s write a song about it!’ We’d had afew beers and so we sat on the bed withtwo guitars and wrote our first song,”explains Ainsworth.
As lo as fi can go, the girls recorded theresulting song on a ghetto blaster and thenplayed that tape loudly on a stereo while theysang and re-recorded it onto a new tape.“We had to do it that way because we wereprobably too drunk and uncoordinated toplay guitars and sing at the same time.”
Ainsworth and Welson had not previouslycrossed paths musically. Ainsworth says shewas from a world of folk music and recorderorchestras and was mainly singing with lotsof harmonies. While she loved the whimsicalfolk–pop outfit Belle and Sebastian, Welsoncame from a punk, metal and rock’n’rollbackground. And both have noticed a shiftmusically in their tastes.
“Yeah, we ended up blending our stylestogether and called our new genre ‘Bogan–Indie Core’. I have learned heaps of nice vocaltechniques from Kirsten such as singinglovely and not trying to sound so mean andhardened,” says Welson.
“And vocal harmonies. I also taught herhow to play the drums and then ended uplearning other awesome ways to play thedrums again from her!”
“It’s funny how our tastes have merged.Now, it’s not unusual for Greta to put someBelle and Sebastian on the stereo, or for meto play some King Diamond. Our recordcollections were pretty polar, but now they’reall muddled up and it rules,” says Ainsworth.
She says Newtown is the first group she’sbeen in where there is a lot of screaming.“Which is nice! I have also learned towail on the guitar a bit better. I think myinfluence on Greta has been through forcingher to sing lots of harmonies with me.”
She describes sharing a stage with Welsonas entertaining, hilarious and fun but stressesthat the importance of their relationshiptrumps any group they might be in together.
“We consider this relationship – andtherefore our band – as long-term activities.”Musical clashes do pop up from time totime, however. Like the time Ainsworthdiscovered Welson loathed a cappella singing.
“We were practicing a bit over and overand she suddenly just got up and lay downon the bed. When I went over to see whatwas wrong, there was a single tear on hercheek. I asked her what the matter was andshe said, ‘I just really hate a cappella.’”
So she promised to never make Welsonsing a cappella ever again. Ainsworth saysone of the most difficult things about beingin a relationship and a group with Welsonis that she is not as naturally motivated asWelson, and finds she gets worn out tryingto keep up.
“This is usually remedied by getting moresleep or by me hardening up because it’sworth it. Or otherwise I manage to persuadeGreta to just hang out and do nothing withme,” she says.
“Sometimes we practise and it isn’t fun sowe just stop. There’s no point trying to forceit, eh?”
Ainsworth says Welson inspires her topush herself.
“I think being with Greta motivates me tobe the best I can be in all aspects of my life.She is my light.”
Director/producer team Robert Sarkies andyears, yet their film adaptation of Sarkies’brother Duncan’s dark comic novel Two LittleBoys i s their fi rst p roject working together.“We live and breathe our work. But we’veintentionally never worked together before,”says Pope.
After reading Duncan’s novel, both Sarkiesand Pope instantly knew it would makea terrific film. When friends heard of thecouple’s plans to work on the feature filmtogether, they were quick to offer disasterstories of filmmakers in romantic relationshipsworking together.
“The reality is that film is an incrediblystressful and demanding creative enterprise.It’s not too different to renovating a home,”laughs Sarkies.
“With the producer/director relationship,you’re both coming from slightly differentcamps for what the priorities are. And theytend to not make another film together.We thought very carefully about workingtogether,” adds Pope.
Despite the friendly warnings, the couplefelt confident their relationship was strongenough to deal with the challenges thatmay come.
The couple liken the experience of workingtogether on Two Little Boys – which is setfor an April release – as being on the samerollercoaster ride together.
“Creative work is always such arollercoaster. The shared successes andfailures come with the terrain. I didn’t reallyrecognise how much support we gave eachother until we jumped on the same ride,”says Pope.
Sarkies says one of the most difficult thingsfor him was how inescapable the film becamefor him, working and living with his partner.“There are horrible production meetings atmidnight,” he laughs.
“And financially it was tough. Our capacityas a couple financially went out the window.Usually, one of you is earning while the otherone isn’t,” says Pope.
“There was nothing that either of us reallycomplained about. In some ways it was veryefficient. It was pretty intense though, and youdon’t really have the ability to talk to someonewho can give some impartial perspective,”says Sarkies.
He says that working alongside anyproducer can be like being in a relationshipbecause of the close working dynamic. Popeadds that they both endeavour to separatetheir emotional and private lives from work.
“We’ve been good at recognising we’rehaving a work disagreement and not arelationship one. You can butt heads andgrapple with that, but that can produce aninteresting outcome,” she says.
“If there ever was a fundamental creativedifference, I think it was probably quite oddfor people. It would have been like that weirdvibe you get when you’re the third personand you go to a couple’s house and theyhave a tiff. There’s no point pretending we’reperfect because we’re not! We’re a couple,”Sarkies admits.
“We were very aware [of that]; you becomequite in tune and say, ‘oh, we just crossed theline...’” says Pope.
Sarkies says a solid working relationshipcomes down to one word: respect. Pope saysshe is inspired by him as a director and thathe and Duncan as a writing team have anoriginal viewpoint.
“Demanding?” asks Sarkies.
“He is, but all good directors are, so that’sa good thing. If you’re not being challengedby the director then you’re in trouble asa producer. The last thing you want is aneasy ride.”
After first meeting each other when theywere both working at Saatchi & Saatchi inWellington 22 years ago, husband and wifeduo Maggie Mouat and Gavin Bradley set uptheir own boutique advertising agency, Luvly,one year ago when they decided they wantedto live and work together at Raumati Beach.
They wanted to run an agency from theirfavourite place in the world: home. Marriedfor ten years, the couple say being in a romantic relationship has a positive influenceon their business.
“All creative partnerships work like amarriage. So for us, I guess our marriageworks really well so our creative partnershipdoes, too,” says Mouat.
“I love the blurry edges. It’s wherecreativity dwells. Sure, we work 9am to atleast 5pm every day, but often it’s whenwe’re walking on the beach, making dinner,watching telly or some other everyday sharedmoment when one of us will go, ‘hey, whatif...’ And the great thing is your creativepartner is right there to go ‘yeah, and thenwe could...’ It’s great fun.”
Mouat says they both bring differentstrengths to the table and that it’s thecombination of their skills that not onlydrives their vision, but contributes to asuccessful business.
“Part of the magic is that we’re not bothgreat at the very same things. I’m definitelythe one who is driven. Gav’s incrediblyclever.” she says.
“I think my strength is a pretty groundedunderstanding of what makes people laugh,cry and be shocked, and how to turn thatunderstanding into things that make brandsstand up above the crowd and resonate withpeople,” says Bradley.
“My greatest weakness is my impatience.It makes Maggie mad sometimes. Maggie’sgreatest strength is her doggedness.Her only weakness is that she losescellphones, car keys and credit cards withmonotonous regularity.”
Bradley says Mouat runs the business andhe works for her. The couple work togetheron every project and they both developstrategies and concepts. Mouat says they areboth “thinkers” who passionately care aboutthe best possible solution and outcome forevery client. When it comes to locking headsover a particular detail, they try to discuss itfrom every angle and sometimes argue.“Fortunately we’re both big enough to stepback, look at a situation and simply say, ‘it’syour call.’”
“And then we just get on with it,”adds Bradley.
He says that sharing both a romanticrelationship and a business with his wife canmean that their work-related arguments canbe a bit louder than those of co-workers whoaren’t in a relationship.
“It’s natural that you would show a morepassionate and emotional side of yourselfto your soulmate than you would toa colleague.”
“If we do have an argument, I take muchlonger to recover than Gav. He just blowshis lid then a few minutes later will offerto make everyone a cup of tea. At whichpoint I’m still visualising stabbing him! It’sawkward when that happens at the end ofthe day and everyone else has gone. It’s onthose rare occasions that something negativewill spill over into the evening. I hate that,”admits Mouat.
Several freelancers and part-timers bringdifferent experiences and interests to Luvly.Bradley says that with colourful conversationand laughter, these workers contributepositively to the couple’s dynamic rather thanintrude on it. There is often a third personworking closely alongside Mouat and Bradley.Both say this person has a crucial role withinthe business.
“Gav and I depend on them to add greatthinking, organisation, and every now andagain cast the deciding vote,” says Mouat.She says that from a work perspective,the couple love great advertising, and from ahome perspective they both love each other.“I love living with Gav. I love working withhim. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Bradley agrees. “Working together is a joyand I do know how lucky I am. During herlast few years at Saatchi & Saatchi, Maggiewas the most highly awarded female creativein Australasia. She’s incredibly clever. I amone lucky guy.”