A conversation with filmmaker David Farrier, who likes Substack
Hello, look at this. I interviewed David Farrier, maker and host of Tickled (Magnolia Films, HBO) and Dark Tourist (Netflix), about his career as an independent creative person and his new substack, Webworm.
We are both New Zealanders, so this content has some Kiwi themes.
You may consume the interview via audio (above) or video (below). I’ve also included some transcribed highlights (further below) for the readers among you.
The audio and video quality in these presentations is very good. We are each recording from our “home studios.”
And here is David’s logo for Webworm, mentioned in this interview and drawn by his older brother.
Highlights from the transcript follow.
On getting Netflix money
It’s better wages and better money than I got working in a small New Zealand station, like MediaWorks. I mean, one of the joys of working in journalism, which is all I’ve ever done, is that you get really used to not having money.
On leaving a job to go independent
In my experience in life, part of working in an organization is that you become so reliant on it. And part of that, and part of the reason you stay working there for so long for very little money, is that you think you can’t possibly survive on your own. But if you leave, and you've got passion for a topic, you’ll find a way to make it work. And I’m just so glad that I left when I did, because I’d just be, I would be just unwinding in that place completely. And folding mentally, I think.
On using Substack to explore ideas
What I want to do is make documentaries. I want to make visual things that take people on an intriguing journey somewhere strange. But to get that happening, you need to poke things, and investigate things, and find things out. And typically, I’ve sort of been doing that either on Twitter – writing about things and seeing what the feedback is, lots of Twitter threads – [or] I’ll write for The Spinoff, which is a site that just lets me write, and really let me write like 10 parts about a weird antique store... But when I saw [Substack], I was like, ‘Oh, man, maybe I can do this myself.’
On the power of direct relationships
The reason I’m Substacking is that I sort of thought to myself, ‘Why am I giving all this information to a platform that I have zero control over?’ I spend so much time writing on Twitter and putting things out on Instagram, if Instagram disappears and Twitter disappears, I’ve got no way to keep in touch with those people. And they’ve got no way to keep in touch with me. The first article I wanted to write when I started my substack was that: instead of doing a 10-thing Twitter thread, I just turned that into an article, and put that up. And so suddenly, I’m able to directly correspond with people. I know who they are, they know who I am.
On personal communication
That’s something I hadn’t really clocked on. You know, for a lot of people out there, they check their email, which is quite a personal thing. Like, you check your Twitter and Instagram, it feels like this public forum – but email is this personal thing. I mean, people have had email addresses for going on decades. And suddenly, if they receive a message from you, it’s a personal thing. And so I think it’s neat for people to receive, because if they like your work, it's a curated thing from me, to them.
On doing paid subscriptions
As a creator, you don’t want to be that asshole who’s got a Netflix thing and then comes out and it’s like, ‘Give me your money to support my life.’ It shouldn’t feel like that... This feels like a good balance of the free content that just keeps coming... And then if people want to contribute at some point, maybe I’ll turn [paid subscriptions] on, and they can.
Subscribe to David Farrier’s Webworm at webworm.co.