Lake + Linsell from Poor Sailors Arts Collective

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The Poor Sailors Arts Collective started a few years ago and have since been working on projects in all sorts of areas. Their most recent, NZ Idle can be seen on The Wireless.

As always, let’s start with the basics: name and what you say when people ask you what you do at a party?

We are Poor Sailors Arts Collective, founded by Lake and Linsell a couple of years ago. At the moment we’re made up of a musician, a writer, an actor, and a graphic designer plus a few other crucial players. We each make and do stuff in various mediums. Most recently we all pitched in to make the web series NZ IDLE: Friends with Unemployment Benefits.

You’ve recently released 6 episodes of a web series called NZ Idle. Can you tell us a bit about how you came up for the concept?

The first sort of image for NZ Idle was two flatmates: one on the dole but real busy, and one working but kind of idle. As we developed the idea we thought it more interesting to anchor the show in a social welfare office, but also move between scenes from the rest of the main character’s life. We made this character an aspiring artist and called him BAM (we actually lifted him, actor and all, from a Fringe show we’d done previously), as that is the kind of beneficiary we could most relate to.

You guys clearly have a lot of views on politics in New Zealand, what would you say are the top challenges facing people at the moment?

Well we’re no Guyon Espiner or Duncan Garner (although Lake has been called, at various times, the Mark Sainsbury of his generation) but just the fact that, as a nation, we’re stuck rooting around a murky political malaise dominated by short-sighted profit driven crony capitalism propped up by the glib ‘charm’ of a certain leader – the net result of which is a ever growing gap between rich and poor & the sullying of our collective underbelly.

There’s been a lot of talk about “beneficiary bashing” over the last few months, how do you think NZ Idle informs these conversations?

Good question. We’d like to be clear that NZ Idle is first and foremost a comic sitcom web series with exaggerated characters and absurdist humour. Although we have been on the dole, we know people who have really struggled in that situation, and were saddened by the benefit reforms of 2013. NZ Idle is not exactly hard-hitting social satire, and certainly not reflective of your average beneficiaries experience or concerns. Most have it much worse off than BAM.

That said, we did really want to get people thinking about attitudes towards beneficiaries (we started making this last year). There is so much vitriol directed towards them, and the welfare system generally, in the public discourse (and more subtly in the political one). Much of it is mindless and some of it downright disturbing. We wanted to say – it’s not easy (even for BAM let alone real people), people usually haven’t chosen to be in that situation and valuable contributions can be made outside of full-time paid employment. Plus the welfare state seems to us an extension of values kiwis can be proud of, and (even ‘beneficiary-bashers’) often are in other contexts.

Also, although there are definitely great case managers out there, we hope NZ Idle does an entertaining job of satirising the way organisations such as WINZ, and policy makers more generally, engage with individuals at times. We hope to capture, in essence, some of the ways you can be made to feel on the dole.

“Millennial’s” are often thought to not have a huge gap between their identity and their work. Do you think this is true? Why/why not?

That’s interesting – it doesn’t seem so true to us. For some there is of course more freedom to choose your occupation and craft a satisfying career. And loving what you do for work is naturally a very commonly held dream – but it is still the exception rather than the rule. The majority of people have to work shitty and/or underpaid jobs, or just ones they don’t necessarily like. Though it is a little outdated in the treatment of some of its characters, people should read Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – it’s heartbreaking. Basically Jude struggles to change from the career he is born into to the one he really wants. Modern versions of this happen all the time and across the class spectrum.

What’s the change you most want to see in New Zealand?

A change of government + for the Hurricanes to win the Super 15.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Lin’s mum likes to say: “never trust anyone who is cruel to animals”  A motto of Lake’s grâce à Michel Gondry: “Tip #1: Start it. Tip #2: Finish it.”

Where’s the spot you go to in Wellington for a good night out?

Satay Palace. The veggie Nasi Lamak is pretty much the ultimate meal.

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