Interview by David McDonald.
Tristan Savage is an author, actor, comedian, and filmmaker from Townsville, North Queensland. He attended James Cook University and was awarded both a Bachelor of Creative Arts with a major in Theatre, and a Bachelor of Theatre (Honours). Since graduating in 2010, Tristan has performed live comedy across the east coast of Australia and has won national awards for his comedy, acting, and writing respectively.
In 2013, he was the recipient of the prestigious Black&Write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship from the State Library of Queensland for his science fiction adventure novel, Rift Breaker; and in 2014 he was awarded the Kris Hembury Encouragement Award, that recognises an emerging artist who embodies the spirit of creativity, self-motivation, and fellowship.
You wear a number of hats—Writer, Comedian, Actor, Filmmaker. How do all these different creative expressions interact with one another? Do you have one you consider your primary focus?
All the mediums I work in fall under the umbrella of storytelling, and good storytelling is always key – so telling a good story is my main focus and goal, and my projects are the vehicles to get me there. On a practical level, writing is king, as it’s something I can do anytime anywhere, and the higher the standards of my writing, the better the quality of all my other ventures.
Your book, Rift Breaker, looks like a lot of fun. Could you share a little about it, and how it came to be?
I started writing Rift Breaker at a time in my life when there was nothing better to do. I was just out of high school and no one would give me a job. With my mind free from the pressure of tedious class work, my creative proclivities took over and I decided to write a novel. Rift Breaker is essentially a book that my 17 year old self would want to read. The main protagonist, Milton Lance, is at the beginning of his journey through life, having just ventured out from his homeworld, and this is the story of him finding his place in the universe. Along the way there are weird aliens, killing machines, interplanetary communities, and villains who seek to use Milton’s talents to control and enslave. The only way Milton can succeed is if he tests the mettle in himself and gains an understanding of who he is and where he is going.
Looking through your work, there seems to be a strong focus on art that says something, that addresses serious concerns. As a creator, or performer, do you feel you are in a position to work social change and, if so, how do you go about doing so?
All artists have an effect on social change to a degree because politics is downstream from culture. However I don’t consciously set out change anything. When I’m creative, I’m focused on the principles of creating good art: truth, freedom of expression, and common sense; those qualities by their inherent nature enact the social change, but the way in which they do so is up to the universe.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
No Free Lunch by Simon Haynes, arguably the best of the Hal Spacejock series.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
I’d have to say Schwarzenegger. He has great life philosophies and has succeeded in everything he has set out to do; there’d be so much to talk about – plus we’d be on a private jet.