Film-maker and visual story-teller Louis Bolton migrated to Tauranga a few years ago. We sat down with him to talk Nelson Mandela, Queen and Pearl Jam, and barbecue. You can learn more about Louis by visiting his profile on our Creative Directory.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do)
I am a freelance creative. I am a filmmaker and photographer.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. I grew up in a small suburb (the perfect place for childish antics). Once I left boarding school, I completed my national service as part of conscription in the South African National Defense Force. I then studied Drama and Teaching through the Trinity Collage of London, where I lived and worked for a couple of years.
Upon my return to South Africa I met my wife, and together we decided to escape to the wilderness of the Okavango Delta in Botswana where we worked as lodge managers for a luxury safari lodge. After a few years in the bush we returned to South Africa and settled in the Dargle Valley in KwaZulu Natal. I continued to travel extensively through Africa. I feel on some level that the things I witnessed and the experiences I had whilst traveling through Africa shaped me, developed my intuition, my sense of belonging to a human tribe. Two years ago we immigrated to New Zealand and now call Tauranga our new home.
What are the earliest stories you remember hearing? The ones that told you about the world?
Probably the stories from my mother about her growing up in the bush in Botswana. It gave me a sense that there was so much to explore and see, that there was a connection to the natural world around us. I also remember my grandfather telling me stories of the war and the darker side of the world—that there was no more space in heaven for all the good men that lost their lives. It helped shape my mind towards the good and evil in this world.
One of my earliest memories is that of listening to the radio being played in the kitchen where I grew up. Hearing the jingle of the news bulletin was a regular sound. The radio was the primary form of communication and news to the communities.
What’s your favourite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? Why?
Since moving from Africa to New Zealand I enjoy the clean air and natural beauty that abounds here. And this is found in abundance on the beaches, the many walks, the Department of Conservation lands, the tidal estuaries. The beauty here is astounding. I get a real sense of peace and joy living so close to it. I love Tauranga Art Gallery gallery too, its many displays offer such a rich insight into culture and art.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
I work from home as a freelancer. I film, edit, and run social media campaigns. This means that I am lucky enough to be a full-time dad to our 9-year-old daughter. My wife is the primary visa holder. Starting from scratch has been a challenge, establishing contacts and looking for new business is a primary factor in my everyday schedule. I’m constantly reaching out, getting out there and meeting people who I can collaborate with. This interview series and the Creative Directory, and the Creative Bay of Plenty organisation is a brilliant way to do just that.
What music was present and still memorable from your youth/adolescence?
I remember my mom playing me a vinyl record of Queen’s I want to Break Free which I loved. That probably set me on a path to rock music, and I am a rocker at heart. During my National Service while in South Africa I cultivated a taste for Rock and Grunge music: Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Sting, and others. There were also South African bands like Springbok Nude Girls, Boo, and Squeal—most of which you can find on the internet. They are great music and great memories, and I still listen to all that music to this day. Over the years my taste has evolved and changed, as there is lots of good stuff out there.
For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?
I have a friend in South Africa who is a land artist, sculptor, philosopher and all-round incredible human. His name is Kim Goodwin. He has definitely influenced my view on how to be free with my creativity and see things from a different perspective. He taught me that it’s better done than perfect, and to enjoy the process. We spent many months in the Tankwa Karoo desert back in 2016 building and filming a documentary for an art installation as part of the Afrikaburn festival.
Spending so much time alone in that dry, harsh environment made me realise just what was possible when we let go of preconceived ideas of ourselves and what was possible when faced with difficult circumstances. A truly inspirational and transformative time.
I’m not a big reader, never have been, and with the rise of the podcast it has allowed me to journey into the massive land-scape that is the human psyche. One of my go-to podcast and favourites to listen to is The Tim Ferriss Show, which has some amazing guests, thought leaders, artists, business leaders, you name it. They open up my mind, again to what is possible in the human experience and the journey that we call life.
If you went away from the Bay of Plenty for a long time and then came back, what are the first three things you would do or visit?
I would definitely go to the beach in Mount Maunganui and go for a long, long walk. Then I would make a trip to the Redwood forest in Rotorua and breathe in their magnificence. And finally, I would find a good fish and chips shop and get my fix.
Looking back at your childhood self: what one sentence describes that person?
Full of the promise of life’s potential.
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
As I’m South African by birth, a braai aka barbecue. Anything that involves cooking in the outdoors has to be a winner for me.
What are you planning for 2021 that nobody knows about yet?
Celebrating my wife’s birthday somewhere special, provided travel restrictions are eased.
Who are your favourite or most admired figures from history?
There are so many that have influenced me over the decades… if I was too shorten a very long list it would be: Nelson Mandela, Seneca, Nikola Tesla, to name a few
If the Prime Minister asked you to make up a new policy or law for New Zealand, what would it be?
To speed up the path to citizenship, make every applicant a priority, not just those who earn above a certain threshold and look at the process more holistically. Especially for those who are committed to making New Zealand their new home.
In one sentence, can you define art?
It’s the expression of self, manifested in a human creative way.
What is missing or lacking from your Bay of Plenty community or environment?
Dare I say it but a more culturally diverse community. I still have so much to learn about the region and the country as a whole. There is a lot going on and you can feel the change toward moving deeper into conversation and betterment for everybody living here. Who’s who in the zoo, so to speak. I would like to understand how we could collaborate and use our different skills together to meet and create bodies of work. Then actually do the work.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
Avatar, Star Wars, Inception, Interstellar, Pulp Fiction, Lord of the Rings, Shawshank Redemption, anything with Sir David Attenborough. I am drawn to great documentaries. My Octopus Teacher was a profound and intimate portrayal of man’s connection to nature and his place in it. The Work affected me deeply as a man—the healing and the stories we carry with us as men. It was just brilliant and utterly heart wrenching. I found myself sobbing like a child afterwards. And as far as streaming series go, my all time favourite is Peaky Blinders. It is just so beautifully shot and is such a great cast of characters.
What was your first real job, second, third?
I was a spot light operator for a theatre company. A waiter in a Portuguese restaurant. A multi-cam studio director for CNBC. And now, an independent documentary film-maker.
Where would you like to live, but have yet to?
Somewhere in New Zealand, my wife reckons Canada is worth a shot, but that’s too cold for me!
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Forget about what other people think or say about ‘you’. Just do you because there is nobody on the planet quite like you.
What’s the biggest problem about life in New Zealand? How you would solve it?
Having lived on the African continent my entire life and moving to a new country requires massive adjustments. New Zealand is amazing but man, it’s really expensive.
The Kiwis are amazing and I think that we are all solving the problems as we go. It’s a great country. It’s a journey, and I am walking it day by day.
What is your dream of happiness?
To be exactly that, Happy with a capital H. Or continually content, despite things being “good” or “bad.” To be financially free, have the respect of my New Zealand peers, building a legacy for my child. To be a good father to my daughter and a supportive, loving husband to my wife.
What one question would you add to this Interview?
If you could sit down and have dinner with any one or two people dead or alive, who would that be and what would you want to ask them?