Ubud is a village filled with creative humans. There is an abundance of painters, sculptors, dancers and craftsmen in this village-come-city. Before becoming known as an international hub for yoga and healing, this charming town was known for its diverse creativity and artisans. In recent years as the co-working culture has boomed in Bali, Ubud has become a hub for creative entrepreneurs. ‘Creative Humans of Ubud’ is our ongoing feature to highlight both foreigners based in Ubud and locals who are creating just a little magic in the town we call home.
Recently, I was introduced to Fraser whilst working at Hubud Co-Working Space. With a mutual love for photography we soon began talking about his creative endeavour with his partner Eszter, ‘Far Features’. Here is our first look at just a couple of the ‘Creative Humans of Ubud’…
Tell me about Far Features
Far Features is a storytelling project founded in mid- 2016. It’s a travelling story studio documenting human-interest features in film, words, photography and multimedia. We document stories on the road and feature characters with real stories that we believe spark the curiosity of our audiences.
The goal for us was to do good work, create a sustainable company without corrupting our creativity. We are particularly interested in documenting stories about what motivates people and the complexity of the human spirit, good and bad. The one overriding theme we look for in our stories is adversity. It is the glue that pulls together the greatest stories in our view.
For the most part, it’s the two of us (Fraser & Eszter) and our good buddy Sadiq Mansor. We collaborate together on most of our projects. It’s a small company. We don’t have an office, so we take our work on the road whilst Ubud remains a base. For the most part it’s just the two of us travelling and producing our stories remotely.
What was your motivation to start your own media production company?
For us, working for a multinational news agency and our desire to fulfil our creativity were always at odds. By the nature of big news business these days, and big documentary production, there’s little room for creative people to really test themselves. There are exceptions, but we believe the best way to be creative is to do it on your own rules.
We think there’s a real desire and hunger in audiences for trained journalists and creatives to be leaders of industry. We’ve taken a huge confidence boost from seeing journalist and creative friends have the gusto to start their own companies, both in news and production capacities. That brings us immense joy.
The digital age is allowing us – journalists and creators – to be entrepreneurs and successful if we are willing to take a risk. To create our own little media brands. But with that, there must come responsibility. It was this line of thinking that made us want to go out on our own, and decide who we work with and what stories we tell.
How have you monetized Far Features?
There’s a problem right now creative publishers face in the digital age: How to get paid. How to express themselves creatively but maintain editorial independence. It’s a fascinating conundrum and a question we continually grapple with. How to put out independent journalistic work and earn a living? There are multiple platforms available to creatives these days to get paid for their work: AFP, Getty, Patreon, Genero, 90 Seconds for production work. But these are platforms to get paid, not for individual creative expression.
We distribute our stories to media and apply for independent film and photography grants to fund our work. We also have a studio and create custom factual stories for selected NGOs and brands we respect. We don’t work with everyone, and this was a clear value from our inception. In our line of work – telling stories – we believe we’re in a time of massive journalistic and ethical disruption that creators have to face.
What do you think is the most powerful thing about sharing the stories of others?
Human-interest stories spark the curiosity in others. By definition, human-interest features are longer in-depth pieces about the motivations of a person. We think feature writing and photography assignments, and video portraits are the best way to spend time with a person and get involved in their lives. To create a true reflection of them. People appreciate it, too. That someone takes the time to tell their story. It’s a hugely gratifying experience. It’s hard to think of a better job where you get to see how people live from different walks of life. It also makes us both better travellers.
What stories have you created in Indonesia?
Locally, we’ve done a few stories that had great feedback: The Man Who Sleeps In A Volcano is portrait of a miner who works in Kawah Ijen Volcano. Also, Volcano Horses about the Tengeresse tribe and their horses. Both of these I (Fraser) documented with my good friend Dan. And in Ubud, the we did a little video called The Masked Men Of Bali.
Why were you drawn to living in Ubud?
We were drawn to Ubud because it’s known as an enclave for artists and culture. And it has proven to be that. It’s a great place to feed creativity. We live in an area surrounded by mask carvers, painters and sculptors. There’s a great network of foreign entrepreneurs and creative people, too, at the co-working spaces. Many of our friends are here. We first started visiting in 2013 and knew Ubud was a place we could see ourselves staying for a long time.
How do you find life as a creative digital nomad?
We feel incredibly lucky to be able to live a lifestyle that allows this kind of remote travel for the past 11 years. We both relish meeting new people on the co-working circuit and appreciate any interest in our work. We try to keep a balanced lifestyle, but we enjoy our work so much that ideas for stories do tend to infiltrate our personal life. The two, work and life, are intrinsically linked. Because we produce documentary assignments remotely travel is a big part of what we do, we are on a plane every two or three weeks but it is good to have a home base which, for us, is Ubud.
Thanks so much for sharing a little about your work, your photos and creating something wonderful from Ubud!