The ‘Beautiful Chance’ of a Technology Driven Life

The North Shore Times , June 2011

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It’s Monday afternoon and Jarod Green hasn’t slept in 36 hours.
Coming straight from Sydney airport, he meets me in his Crows Nest office for our interview. After apologising for being so tired - although his boyish looks and energetic personality show no signs of fatigue - he shows me around the small apartment-like space.
“This place use to look like a crack den,” he jokes. “It was quite depressing.”
Now the walls are brightly coloured and filled with photos and paintings. There are two angel fish floating lazily in a tank along one wall. A toy train carrying coffee as its cargo sits on a little black track that circles the whole office.
The room that’s covered floor to roof with hundreds of blue stuffed whales is the only one that gives away who Jarod is.
‘Beached Az’ merchandise, he tells me, creatively used as soundproofing in the small recording studio.
Jarod and his friends are the creators of an animation about a whale and a seagull that pokes fun at the New Zealand accent. It is the most profitable Australian short film ever made. For an outlay of about $16 in production costs, the film has netted its producers over $1 million so far in merchandise alone; all this for a film that was launched for free on YouTube.
Now, the 29-year-old has a hugely successful ABC mini-series under his belt and is fast becoming a name to watch in the media industry.
His business’ most recent client is the reason he is so tired. Jarod spent the weekend filming Richard Branson and Delta Goodrem in an aeroplane hangar in Melbourne. He was being paid to create the online content for Virgin Blue’s 10th birthday party- now being featured on the Virgin YouTube channel.
Jarod insists it is very much the ‘beautiful chance’ of his life that it has run in parallel with the development of digital technologies. He attributes much of his success to luck and timing.
But although growing up in a digital age has had an enormous influence on his life and career, his love for acting, the limelight and all things digital as well as his talent and drive have shone through from a young age.
“Looking back it was quite obvious I was going to get into film,” Jarod told me. “I remember watching Jurassic Park as a kid. I put it in my VCR and clicked through it frame by frame trying to figure out how they animated it.”
Jarod recalls the first time he felt a real passion for making films. It was year 12, and the director of the school play announced that all the performers would be getting a video of the production to take home.
“My brain just went crazy when I heard this. My two loves- performance and film- were coming together,” Jarod told me excitedly.
“I came up with all these images of a perfectly lit and cut Hollywood spectacular but what we got 22 weeks later was this fuzzy, out of focus, hollow sounding video. I remember watching it and it stung me deep down. I never really got over that,” he said.
So, while studying media in visual production at university, he started up his first company with two friends. They spent almost 10 years filming school productions and producing professional videos in the hope that the young student performers would not suffer the same painful experience he did.
But after a while, Jarod realised that this company couldn’t give him the creative opportunities that he craved.
“I had bigger dream than being the guy filming private schools sports carnivals my whole life,” he said.
As I hear more about his life, I notice that Jarod’s career seems to revolve around a number of seemingly small but significant moments.
“I remember I use to drive past this laundry mat all the time and instead of advertising its business out the front it would put up weird fortune cookie-eque proverbs,” he said.
“One morning it said ‘the smallest deed is greater than the biggest intent.’ It was then I realized that sums up what I’m about in a career sense.”
So Jarod began with those small deeds to see what would happen. He met up with school friend Anthony Macfarlane who he now affectionately refers to as his ‘business partner and BFF’.
“Jarod and I were in the same drama class in high school,” Macfarlane told me.
“He was so funny. We both annoyed the teachers cause all we would do was think up ridiculous improvisations and comedy skits.”
Macfarlane was living with budding actor Nick Boshier. This naturally evolved into the three getting together on the weekends to write, direct, act and produce short films. It was on one of these weekends that Beached Az was born.
Beached Az was spawned out of Boshier and Macfarlane’s (the whale and seagull respectively) love of putting on foreign accents. Jarod said the two came up with the concept when asked what a beached whale would be thinking about.
“Macca said ‘He’d be beached az, bro’,” Jarod said. Hence the show’s catchphrase was born.
The two-minute script was originally designed to be filmed on Bondi beach with paper mache costumes.
“There was high enthusiasm for this idea for about 4 hours before we realised how hard it is to paper mache life sized outfits, so we decided to record the script and animate it,” Jarod said.
Pixar dreams turned into frustrations as 3D animation proved too challenging at the time so Jarod decided to take it as far in the other direction as possible. The result was a seemingly basic 2D short film with a simplicity that its online audience immediately fell in love with.
Two months after posting it on Youtube, the clip had been seen by 500,000 people. Two months after that, hits reached a million and they were hearing snippets of the clip on radio.
“We thought 'OK, this is taking off’’,” Jarod said.
A link on the website of hit New Zealand show Flight of the Conchords followed, then a deal with retail giant Supre to produce a range of T-shirts; 800,000 of these sold and the ABC came calling.
Jarod insists that the amount of money they made from the film ‘is silly’ and ‘just doesn’t make sense’. He and Macfarlane call their work place ‘the office that a beached whale built.’
Far from wanting to be known as the Beach Az boy forever though, Jarod has used the success of the film to further his career. Having the skills to create an online film that goes viral and makes a lot of money means that Jarod is of interest to both the creative and strategic sides of the media world.
He is now well known in the ‘media traps’ and is often invited to universities and forums to be the keynote speaker on new media. Jarod and Macfarlane’s business, Radical Love, has found a niche point in a growing industry and Macfarlane tells me they will be the leading social media concept advisors within Australia in the next five years.
Being young and becoming an expert on social media through the experience of growing up with it means that Jarod can also use the online world to his advantage in a fascinating way.
Earlier in the year he came third in the online competition, Cleo Bachelor of the Year.
Jarod was keen to push things as far as he could and cleverly used his online skills to see if he could manipulate the outcome of the competition.
“He pulled every string he knew. He knew exactly what he was doing and the right people to speak to. He even knew the best times to be online,” Macfarlane told me. “He enjoyed the strategy of breaking the system down.”
A smile spreads across Jarod’s face as he insists being a Bachelor had nothing to do with looks or the limelight but a career boost- his name would now bring up one more hit on Google.
“Are you kidding me? He lived for it!” Macfarlane laughed. “He loves a bit of limelight. He plays it down but throw a spot light on him and watch him shine.”
Jarod’s sense of humor and understanding of social media is evident from his Wikipedia page, which he wrote himself and uses as a ‘test’ of people.
“People that know me know that I love a joke,” Jarod said. “If you come to me and ask me what my time in Antarctica was like with the penguins after reading about me on the Internet then you’re probably not someone I’m going to get a long with.”
But although he loves to joke, Jarod tells me sincerely that he hopes people can see past the humor and find him insightful.
“I’m not just the funny guy, I use humor as a tool to explain my ideas,” he said.
This month, Jarod Green is jetting off to the French Riviera for Mipcom, television’s version of the Cannes film festival, to speak about his success in front of thousands in the industry. It will be the highlight of his career so far.
As we sit in the office built from his success, Jarod is still determined not to take all the credit for where he is now.
“I’ve led a very fateful existence,” he says. “It has all just fallen into place.”
Jarod has no idea where he’ll be in ten or even five years but the thought doesn’t scare him.
“Id like to think I’m steering myself in a certain place but a lot of it is just being swept along in a strange and wonderful existence,” he says.
“But that’s the beauty of the creative industry; the unknown.”