This interview appears in the May 2021 Issue of The Open Doors Review.
The full interview will be available by Podcast. Subscribe on Apple podcasts (iTunes) so you don’t miss it!
Kylie Flavell is a video maker and creator that has made YouTube her medium. Her videos are immersive experiences that cover a range of subjects from life in Italy, to cooking, to travel and exploring the country, to poetry and reflections. Each episode she posts transports the viewer to an almost fairy tale reality, with careful attention to detail, sound effects, music and a consistent focus on finding the beauty and magic in every day expereinces. They hearken back to a cinematic past while always remaining quintissential “Kylie.”
We talked about some of the difficulties of following your dreams, the satisfaction when it pays off and how the fairytale always comes with witches and dragons. However, that’s all part of the adventure. The following excerpts have been edited and our full conversation can be found on the podcast.
On choosing a creative life
Lauren: What was it about Italy that made you want to give up the career you were building in Australia and move here with no exact career in mind?
Kylie: I suppose I wanted to live in a way that felt more cinematic and more poetic and I found that every year that I’ve been here (by now it’s been on and off for about 10 years of living in Italy) so yeah it’s definitely become that sort of fairy tale for me but when I say fairy tale I mean even the low moments are a fairy tale – the wicked witch and the Dragons!
Lauren: They’re part of the fairy tale too – you need to have the lows in order to have the highs!
Kylie: The hero’s journey, you know that traditional narrative where you really are slaying the dragon and “fighting off the wicked witch” and all of that even if the wicked witch is just your expat anxiety.
Lauren: I do agree that you find what it is you’re looking for. So if you are someone who thinks nothing works out, that gets confirmed over and over. And if you look for the beauty in the world, then you might be someone who moves to Italy to be surrounded by beauty and then within that context find even more and more wonderful things around you.
Kylie: I think any foreign country I’ve moved to – it just amplifies whoever you are as a person. So that’s always something that I say to people who are considering moving to a foreign country: whatever you are it will be amplified so just to keep that in mind!
Lauren: That’s so interesting because so many people want to move to escape themselves and the truth is they will be even more themselves if they go. You’re kind of stripped bare in a foreign country. Do you think that if you had stayed in Australia you would have made such a creative life for yourself?
Kylie: I suppose I’ve just always had a real innate sense of adventure and I just really respond well to living as an expat – I love the challenge, I love the stimulation, I love that sense that you are, I don’t know, perhaps it’s a sense that you are in a constant state of growth, right? And of course people can grow and evolve in their home country but for me it really works to be living in a foreign speaking country. It makes me constantly alert and aware of my flaws and my growth and that’s how I love to live, I suppose.
Lauren: You like the challenge.
Kylie: Yes! But that said I mean I suppose I was always doing a million projects back when I was in Australia as well and so I was already in a creative role. I think some people write to me and they’re doing something that they hate in their home country and then they have this idea of moving to italy to follow their passion. I was, I suppose, I was already pursuing a passion – it was one of my dreams to run a magazine and interview people around the world. It was a business magazine that I was editing and I was writing long feature articles and one of my first loves is writing so I really loved that. But then I achieved what I wanted to achieve there and then I was wanting something more. The more for me was saying, “OK can I be creative and also be living in a place that is very sensual and very ancient and very stimulating culturally?” So that was the missing piece for me.
Why Film? Choosing a creative direction
I asked Kylie why she chose film over any other creative medium that she’s passionate about – writing, poetry, photography – and she told me the story of how her first job in Italy was hosting a TV show in which she traveled across the country, conducting interviews. But she was frustrated by the slowness of the production, of making compromises on her artistic vision. Ultimately, the production company sold the show but didn’t pay up, leading to some long, drawn out legal battles with no satisfying conclusion. This was her response to the challenge:
Kylie: I just thought the whole thing might be easier if I teach myself to do every single person’s job on the set and then I will have the flexibility to go and do what I want without having to try and convince others. I just thought when I was kind of screwed over by this production company, I thought, Right I’ve got two options here. I could really wallow in self pity and think “Ah how unfair is this!” but I thought, No I’ll just see this as: that was my film school and I put it down to a really great year of learning.
Then in a way it worked out really well because I think all of that injustice and that drama sort of pushed me to learn every single role and then it sort of set me up to then have really great flexibility because I could travel the world with all of my film equipment on my back and I found opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Lauren: Your ability to take total creative autonomy over the film medium, I think is is very rare. You’re totally in control of the videos that you make. Would you be willing to work with a team again or have you found your groove on your own?
Kylie: I guess I’m not in a position financially where I could take on someone as an employee and that’s a lot of responsibility and I think I like the fact that I only have to be responsible for me. I know that I’m a survivor you know how it is like I know that having €2.00 in my bank account – it doesn’t scare me anymore. Or having to work 80 hours a week -that doesn’t intimidate me or get me down. So yeah, I’m not opposed to working with others but then when I’ve gone back and done little projects where I work for the team – Oh my gosh I forgot how much time is wasted and how expensive things are. When I’m working on my own everything’s a lot more authentic in terms of being able to conduct more intimate and personal interviews.
Lauren: What’s your aim with your YouTube Channel?
Kylie: I suppose what I wanted to do with You Tube is – because I started in TV and then went to YouTube – I wanted to bring the production quality of TV with the authenticity and intimacy of YouTube and and combine the two. I want to create a community of people who are bit freaky like me but it’s certainly not really the recipe for success. If you want to be followed on Instagram or YouTube or anywhere on social media, you probably shouldn’t take the path I’ve taken!
On Not Giving Up
Lauren: Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up on this dream of being able to make your videos exactly as you wanted?
Kylie: Oh there’s just… so many! I suppose putting yourself online with all the negative comments is really difficult and if you add not being able to pay rent and really being in financial difficulty and then also having your dream, your professional dream not work out and then feeling also alone because maybe you haven’t you got a support network around you. You think, “I’m putting my heart and soul into it and it’s something that gives me a sense of purpose – I believe in what I’m doing!” But it can be hard.
A lot of people say that you just need to find your passion and that’s the hardest part but I don’t believe that because I found it, I’ve always known what makes me happy and what I’m passionate about but I think there are lots of other steps that you have to overcome before you can make the whole puzzle work.
Lauren: What do you think is worse: The inner demons (self doubts) or the outer demons which are often online trolls leaving hateful comments?
Kylie: I think they are one and the same really, because oftentimes people are saying stuff in the comments and messages that you’ve already considered yourself or a lot of the time what they say has absolutely no element of truth at all. It can still get to you and you need to be really really strong at working out that detachment and not seeking applause and not seeking any kind of validation from the outside which is kind of counterintuitive because… isn’t art made to be shared?
Lauren: Often people don’t even get to the point of putting what they’ve created out there and it’s true you’re going to get some negative comments but you’re also going to get some positive ones from places you never expected. You know if you put yourself out there, if you are vulnerable, you are at least also exposed to the positive reactions too.
The creative beauty of restriction
Kylie: I think one of the the best and worst things about You Tube is that it rewards frequency and this has been a constant battle for me. But I have just bowed down to the monster of YouTube and said, OK fine I’m going to play by your rules and publish every Friday. And while I’ve hated that it’s also been incredibly good for me creatively because it doesn’t matter if I think it’s perfect or if I think it’s ready, I just have to finish it and I have to start something new every seven days. That frequency of production means that I am forcing my brain, and my heart I guess, to get a lot faster and say, “Just have confidence in that” or “This is the way you’re doing it this weke and that’s that,” or “That’s the segment you’re going to choose, that’s the sound bite, that’s the color grading, the music and I know that I’ve learned a lot from that because I have this self imposed deadline every Friday.
How to find your voice while dealing with self doubt
Kylie: I think often what works for me is, I have my times where I’m reading widely and I’m getting inspired but I don’t really follow people who are doing stuff that’s quite similar to what I’m doing. So I will follow people or consume work by people who are doing totally different things from me. I think if I were to, I don’t know, follow someone who is in a very similar environment to me and kind of with the same tone, it just can get a little bit difficult to really have clarity of creative voice.
I do think if you’re still at this stage of thinking, “I’m not quite sure if I found my creative voice or I’m not quite sure if my tone is really my own,” then it’s good not to follow people who are doing exactly the niche that you want because I just find you gotta be really strong person to not accidentally copy other work.
Lauren: You need to give yourself room to grow and to believe in your message.
Kylie: the easiest thing that you’re going to be able to maintain over the long term is something that is really authentic to you and and not even even if you find that your voice is is not as as as beautiful or as exciting as someone that you really admire like one of your creative heroes but that’s fine.
The thing that is really going to help you endure is when you get to that point where you’re not inspired by other people’s work, you’re actually just really hearing your own voice and you say, “I know my tone and I know what world I want to create and what sentiment I want to create and this is this is me.” I think once you find that, that’s wonderful.
How is your work going now?
Kylie: For a long time I was just doing the work that pays or that gets you the experience or that teaches you something and and so finally being at the stage where I can wake up and kind of follow my desires or my curiosity and let that dictate what I film and what I put out to the world, I mean that’s something I’ve just longed for my whole life and I’m finally at that point and I feel really really grateful.
You can find Kylie Flavell on YouTube and Instagram.