I’ve known filmmaker Tim Bullock for close to 15 years. Meeting when we both worked for Sydney advertising agencies, I’ve since witnessed Tim transform and flourish into an award-winning director of commercials and longer format films.
What strikes me about Tim, more than his ginger jokes and cheeky flirting prowess, is his ability to get a reaction to whatever he is proclaiming, he’ll draw you into conversation, often in a very convincing manner, to make you gasp, wince, or laugh out loud – to really feel, or more often in my case giggle whilst nodding my head in disbelief. It is quite a skill, or perhaps in his case, a natural talent he’s fine-tuned.
What I admire most in Tim is his self-belief, some may perceive as cockiness, but I see it as an inner pursuit to chase down what is important to him and to lead a life he’s proud of. I have a hunch this self-assuredness isn’t always the case, I detect an inner determination to keep pushing himself towards living and breathing his ability to provoke, whether it’s focused towards himself, or others. I recently pulled him aside to give me some insight into what he believes makes up a passionate life, because I feel there is a lot to learn from how he got to where he is.
L: What is your passion in life, how would you describe it?
T: It’s filmmaking. It’s an embodiment of a whole range of passions I’ve had in my life, from storytelling, music, acting, art – but the fundamental underlying thing is getting reactions out of people. Whether that is laughter, crying, being afraid, or shock, I like to affect people’s senses and I enjoy watching how their senses are affected. Filmmaking is the ultimate way you can do that, you can use visual, audio, and all manner of other elements to get reaction out of someone.
L: How would you define a ‘passion’?
T: I would describe it as almost not conscious. It’s an urge of excitement, an extra spring in your step, an ability to step out of comfort zones, just through the sheer exhilaration of your pursuit. It can be whatever presses your buttons.
L: So how did you discover filmmaking?
T: Whenever I saw a movie it always moved me. I’d leave the theatre thinking I was Terminator after seeing Terminator, Rambo after seeing Rambo, unfortunately I was a skinny red headed 15 year old, but the power of the movie to make me feel that way, to push my buttons was incredible. I wanted to be involved in some way when I was older. When I was a teenager, I was heavily into special effects, acting and music at school, I used to do things purely to make my friends laugh, silly cruddy videos, fake newscasts about zombie invasions, audio cassette tapes with a mock morning news show. Half the fun was making each other laugh with our own jokes and it was fun to pass the tape around to all our friends and seeing them laugh too.
L: What are some of the defining moments that got you to where you are today?
T: A few things, firstly I got weigh laid by the HSC and university and I began working at KPMG having done a degree in economics. I was a bit lost in my mid 20s. I remember having a bit of a breakdown conversation with my Mother, saying ‘I just don’t really think this is what I was destined to do, there is a bigger purpose for me’. She got me to write down all the things I would love to do, and I responded with all the things I could do. She asked me to consider the question again, I wrote down, ‘I would love to be a rock star, a director, a successful business man, an actor, a musician’. She said, ‘what’s your problem then, why can’t you do one of those?’ I responded that if I follow one of those I won’t be successful, and I wouldn’t make money. She suggested reconciling some of those passions through advertising, it’s a business and it’s creative. So my first true career passion came from working in an advertising agency.
Plus I always had the belief that filmmaking was for the ‘special people’ – those magical people from other planets were filmmakers, it wasn’t accessible to normal people like myself. But I still felt the under-current feeling ‘I want to be part of this’ every time I saw a movie. When I saw Pulp Fiction and it flipped me out. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it. I’ve been denying this my whole life.’ Because of the reactions he got out of me, I wanted to make people feel like I felt like when I watched that movie.
L: Through pursuing filmmaking, what have you learned about yourself?
T: For years all the passions where bubbling away, they just weren’t challenged. I was denying them. Once I shed the belief of what a businessman was, and saw advertising was a stepping-stone, there was no denying the fact I wanted to be Director, but it helped me get to where I am now.
Then there is the old adage, ‘nothing is impossible’ and ‘dream – believe – achieve’. I’ve got to keep reminding myself. Even as we’re talking here now, I’m thinking, there is nothing stopping me except for myself in going after my dreams, such as making a film that is worthy of winning an Academy Award.
L: Would you have any words of advice for others in attempting to work ‘it’ (their passion) out?
T: Go in search of your passion. Look into classes, expose yourself to various pursuits and see if anything tickles your fancy. Like massage. You could be the world’s best masseuse, you may get an incredible sense of satisfaction out of someone saying you’re good at that, and then you just want to get better and better, and it becomes something you really enjoy doing. Trying stuff, doing things, it’s not resigning yourself that you don’t have any passion, that’s lazy. Another important thing is belief. People shut off potential passions by not believing. Let’s say for example… I’m not a surfer, but I’ve always admired people that can surf. Every time I’ve tried it I’ve really loved it, but I think you can sensor your own pursuits and passions by being too afraid to try things. Look at it as a step-by-step process, get a lesson, you’re not going to be brilliant straight up, week-by-week you get better.
L: You’re pretty lucky that your passion evolved into your career and you can make money doing what you love, what are your thoughts about a passion having to be your career?
No, I think you just need to be satisfied. You can be a real estate agent by day and a guitarist by night, if you’re happy and content that’s fine, if your passions are suppressed in your life because of your profession or by a lifestyle factor then perhaps you can consider following the passion as your career. People need to be realistic, sometimes your passion isn’t going to yield the finances to survive, and surviving and working allows them to fulfil their passion.
Similarly, if I was putting all my efforts and energy into work, and at the end of the day I was exhausted, and couldn’t do what I enjoyed, and I didn’t have any passion for my passion, I’d have to evaluate what is wrong. If you follow your passion, you’ll become good at it, and the money will follow. You shouldn’t follow success. Don’t try to achieve success for success sake, you should follow your passion and success will come out of it.
L: What allows or enables you to keep the momentum?
T: That’s what a passion is, it alone allows you to keep the momentum. If there is a river flowing beside you, you jump in and you’ll be carried along with it. If you never jump in, you’ll never know, you’ll stand stationary.
L: Are you directed by goals or do you have a ‘go with the flow’ approach?
T: You need to set goals, but also allow yourself to not always fulfil those goals. My ambition at 25 was to do a feature film by the time I was 30, that didn’t happen but it’s still a goal I am striving for now. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack sometimes. My best example of using goals was when I wanted to try and make a film worthy of winning Tropfest. I entered three times, and the third one won. I won when I lost hold of the ambition to win, but instead the goal changed to get in three films. I was in a relaxed state of mind about it. I was doing that film for the love of it rather than the award.
L: Any final words?
T: Write down what you’d like to do in your dreams, rather than what you can do now. Take a shot at it. Start. If you’re doing nothing, you’ve got nothing to loose from trying… or you could watch TV for the rest of you life.