Serge Ou - Fusing Creativity and Practicality

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On this week's edition of the Canberra Business Podcast, we hear from executive producer and co-founder of Wildbear Entertainment, Serge Ou. Serge discusses his filter for decision-making as well as where the line lies between personal interests and commercial viability. Additionally, Serge shares his insight into how the media industry is changing, and why he loves problem-solving. 

Shownotes 

0:00 Intro

4:04 What does Wild Bear do?

7:48 Do we have an attraction to bad news? 
 
10:10 What have you learned from your father? 

15:57 How to tell a story well 

18:39 When did the vision for Wildbear originate? 

21:40 How did you conceptualise what you were offering initially? 

26:16 Did you become nervous?  

27:45 What keeps Serge motivated 

29:35 How do you risk turning an interest to a business?   

31:55 What is your default response under pressure? 

35:00 What was the first big win?  

38:25 How is the media industry changing?  

41:03 What makes great content? 

44:13 Where is the line between personal interest and commercial viability? 

49:05 Why do you love problem-solving?  

53:01 Serge’s filter for decision making 

57:12 The millennial talent-pool  

1:00:35 What’s the most difficult moment in Serge's journey so far? 

1:03:10 Why does Serge tell the stories he creates?   

1:08:07 How do you manage creative interests whilst completing tasks? 

1:10:49 What does Serge bring to Wildbear? 

1:12:25 What do you most enjoy about being a father?  

1:13:33 Serge’s three pieces of advice to young business owners 

1:17:32 How should Wildbear grow? 

1:18:56 What are the key elements for businesses in getting their story out  

 

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To find out about Canberra Executive Coaching Website please click here

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Jonathan Doyle: Hey, guys, Jonathan Doyle with you once again. Welcome to the Canberra Business Podcast. I know I say this a lot but this is a good one. This is a really good one. I've just got out of the studio after spending, a, a lot of time with the wonderful Serge Ou from WildBear and, ah, you're going to hear me part way through the interview, I suddenly stop and ask, "How long have we been going?" 'Cause I looked at the time on the recording and I was like, "No, we can't have gone for that long."

Jonathan Doyle: Like, I didn't feel we'd scratched the surface and we were already one hour in so either, ah, you know, at least I enjoyed myself and I'm really sure everybody else will, too, by the time you listen to this interview, 'cause there's some gold in here.

Jonathan Doyle: It was, ah, it was a real pleasure to meet Serge, ah, a-an intelligent, humble, passionate guy who, especially, towards the end of the interview when he sums up some of the key advice he has. I mean this is a guy that's really focused on bringing other people through, on, on giving back, on contribution to the next generation, coming through in business and media and creativity.

Jonathan Doyle: We talk about a lot of stuff here, there's, ah, you know we talk about sort of philosophy and, and, ah, creativity and then how you manage those things in business. I mean how do you trade off being creative, ah, try new things, when you're also dealing with budgets and time constraints. Really practical stuff. It's kind of a, an interview where we discuss the interplay between creativity and the practical constraints of business.

Jonathan Doyle: So, you know, ah, Serge and his partner Michael really brought a great business with the original Bearcage here in Canberra and now they've expanded by joining up with WildFury to create WildBear so there's been a great merger recently because they're building a bigger business, with a bigger global footprint. So there's a lot of wisdom here. I just hope you're gonna take as much out of it as I did.

Jonathan Doyle: Ah, a little housekeeping for me before we begin. Please make sure you've subscribed to the podcast, wherever you're hearing this today. Apple Podcast, leave us a review. This stuff is like oxygen to podcasters. So, we obviously create this content and we just want to get it out there as widely as possible but, ah, sharing the content, subscribing to it, posting a quick review, taking, you know, two or three minutes to do that is a huge help to us.

Jonathan Doyle: Look, also, I want you to grab the links to this, would you share it with people, maybe post it on your social feeds and just get people to have a listen because, you know, it's not often that we get people like Serge with, you know, 27 plus years of business experience, sharing it with us completely for free. I mean, you'd have to go to seminars and courses to learn some of the stuff that we just riff on here, so please pay it forward by subscribing, adding comments or sharing it with people.

Jonathan Doyle: Ah, check out the website, ah, for Canberra Executive Coaching when you're in the executive space and you want some help in, ah, personal or business performance. Reach out to us, staff training, ah, sometimes we get executives who've just got a big presentation or a big pitch and they want some extra help with shaping that content so I've done live, ah, keynotes now for over 400,000 people, globally. So if you'd like some personal help with me in shaping a message or looking at business strategy or consultancy, please reach out and check the website.

Jonathan Doyle: All right, that's it. That's enough about us, let's listen to Serge Ou from WildBear. I really enjoyed doing this one. Time flew. It was awesome. Let's do it.

Jonathan Doyle: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back once again to the Canberra Business Podcast. I'm your host Jonathan Doyle. It's really good to have the wonderful Serge Ou from WildBear in the studio with us.

Jonathan Doyle: Serge, welcome to the podcast.

Serge Ou: Ah, thanks for having me, Jonathan.

Jonathan Doyle: I know you're excited to be with us and I know that you spend large amounts of your time behind the camera and not behind the marker finds, so, ah, I really appreciate you coming in. Tell us a little bit, WildFury and Bearcage merged as production houses back in 2014, right.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But your story begins much earlier than that, but just tell us a little bit, before we go to the back story …

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: What does WildBear do right now?

Serge Ou: Ah, we're a factual entertainment company so we produce a lot of international TV documentary … Ah, what you'd call documentaries or documentary series, factual series. Ah, we also do a lot of corporate communications. We're working in the museum space, ah, as well, which is really fascinating, so it's a, it's quite a diverse businesses and that sort of ranges from Natural History, ah, Military History, Social History, Arts, Social Documentary, you name it, we've probably done it.

Jonathan Doyle: So what drew you guys into that broad documentary space? Of all the things you could do in production and media these days, where's the DNA of the business that drew you guys into that space?

Serge Ou: We began more or less as a sort of corporate communications company, but we had aspirations of doing things, ah, creatively I suppose, and that sort of led us to the point where we were … I think we were very good at making short programs. In a sense they were factual programs and so we had a goo- strong interest in history, strong interest in the arts, and so that sort of led us producing TV.

Jonathan Doyle: So when you say you had that strong history, we're gonna talk a little bit about how the business begins for you, but the back story's always interesting so …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: You have an eclectic background.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: You were born in Geneva.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And, ah, you were raised a-at times in the US before you come back Canberra. How old were you when you left Geneva?

Serge Ou: Oh, I, oh, I must have been about three.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Now are there any unknown perks of Genov, Gen, what's the kind of … What's the collective noun for people from Ge-Geneva?

Serge Ou: Well, that would be … oh, that would be a really good question actually. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: You should know of all people. I would … I've seen … I would …

Serge Ou: Well, you know, I'd suppose they'd be Swiss [inaudible 00:05:38].

Jonathan Doyle: I would have thought … Yeah, okay, so you wouldn't have many memories of it.

Serge Ou: No, very few, very, very …

Jonathan Doyle: You been back?

Serge Ou: Ah, yeah, I have a couple of times.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: So, are there any secret sort of benefits of being born there? Do you get keys to the cities or anything?

Serge Ou: Oh, I think I could have had ci-citizenship up to a point years ago. I think when I turned 18 I had the choice of doing that.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: But it meant a year of national service and …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: No, it wasn't for me.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay. All right, so you end up, you're father's working in the Foreign Service.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And you spent time in the US. Where did you … Where'd you grow up there?

Serge Ou: Ah, just, ah, outside of DC, so in Virginia, but my dad was working in DC, so it was a-an amazing time, sort of mid to late '70s in the US, so …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Eclectic, really influential in a lot of ways. Ah, very different country to what it is now, I have to say.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Best memories of the time in the US?

Serge Ou: Oh, gosh, I … we … Again, e-eclectic, it was, it was fascinating. I think the circles that my father was moving in were pretty interesting.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: It was … You know, that it is was the heart of the Cold War, there was still a lot going on, ah …

Jonathan Doyle: Did you ever have that feeling that most people probably haven't had? I can remember thinking around the end of the Cold War that, you know, it could actually happen.

Serge Ou: Oh, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Did you ever … and 'cause in the suburbs of Washington, there's not a lot of places to hide.

Serge Ou: No, there isn't. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: No, duck and cover was never quite going to do it, so, yeah, it was, it's funny to look back at that, isn't it? People …

Serge Ou: No, and I think, I mean, again, the people that we met, the, the circles that we moved in, it was, it was absolutely fascinating.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And for a kid who was incredibly curious and, um, when I call … I call myself a bit of an info freak …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: (laughing ) I  like to sort of just devour stuff and, ah …

Jonathan Doyle: You still do that? Are you still a …

Serge Ou: Yeah, I still do, yes, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Multiple newspapers as soon as you wake up?

Serge Ou: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: Absolutely, obsessed, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Although I'm getting (sighs) … haa, very dejected at the moment.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Serge Ou: (laughing) Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: There's not a lot of good news around, is it?

Serge Ou: No, there's not. (clearing throat)

Jonathan Doyle: I thought, there's got to be a business opportunity for nothing but good news.

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: It could be fake news, I don't care but just good news. Just tell us that the world …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: But it's funny, on that, you know, I was listening to s- you know, the people of Be Funny with Jordan Peterson, I mean, the, the datas pretty clear that there's essentially no better time really to live in a way.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: You know, penicillin, electricity …

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Like as much as it's bad … I mean just, ah, you know, as a random question, I mean you're, you're exposed in the media and news …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: At, at what level is bad news commoditized as opposed … Do you think we just have a, an attraction to bad news?

Serge Ou: I think that's what get the cycle moving.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think it really does and I think it is … It has become the sort of in a sense the, the mechanism for what we talk about in, on a daily basis. I think … Ah, it's, it's a very hard one because I think … Well, is good news news, really? I'm not sure, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: I think we need some reassurance that we're not as bad as we want … be … Sometimes led to believe …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: The other day, I was, um … Our office is in Monica and I'm walking to the car. I'm in a hurry, 'cause I'm really important, right.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: There's this o-o-old man in front of me and here I'm going, "Why is this old man making me step off the side of the path. I'm really important, getting my car," and there's this lady with him and I thought, "It must be his daughter and it's school holidays and maybe she's taking him somewhere," and she's on the phone but she's talking to her boyfriend or someone.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And she's going on and on, "I'm just helping this old man. [inaudible 00:08:42]," and long story short, she'd just seen this guy carrying heavy shopping bags so she's carry his bags all the way from Calsey, Monica, all around loads them into his car and I'm sitting in my car going, "That's a good news story right there we're never going to hear."

Serge Ou: I-indeed, indeed.

Jonathan Doyle: So, was …

Serge Ou: Not enough of that. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: There's not enough of that. Were you, um, as a kid born in Geneva?

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: Did you fit in the US? We-was that?

Serge Ou: I think you just adapt. I think you're at … You know, my business partner, Michael Tear is a, is an army brat. We're …

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: We're very much the same in regards to that. It's … You become very adaptable. There's good and bad things about sort of growing up here, there, and everywhere, but I think this idea is that you're forced to become adaptable and so I think …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Wherever you move to …

Jonathan Doyle: If you could wave a magic wand, would you have done it differently?

Serge Ou: No, not at all.

Jonathan Doyle: No?

Serge Ou: No.

Jonathan Doyle: So that whole, peripatetic background … Always loved that word … that, that moving around …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: What did it bring you? What do you look into your life these days and see that you bring?

Serge Ou: I think I feel like a global citizen, if that doesn't sound too corny.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think its effect is that I've always felt sort of connected to the world. I think it … Ah, I'm, I'm not a very parochial person, I don't think in sort of little boxes.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And, to me, I think that empowered me to sort of have a connection with the rest of the world.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah, so.

Jonathan Doyle: Is your father still alive?

Serge Ou: Yes, he is, yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Where is he these days?

Serge Ou: He's in Canberra now.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: Yes, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: And you're close after all these years?

Serge Ou: Oh, yes, absolutely, absolutely, very much a sort of influential person in my life.

Jonathan Doyle: He was?

Serge Ou: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:10:05].

Jonathan Doyle: So the question that many people have, ah, answered so beautifully, so no pressure.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you look into your life in that relationship and see present in your life now? What do you think you've learned from him?

Serge Ou: Insatiable for knowledge.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: The idea that actually looking outward and always trying to sort of connect with what's happening globally, I think, yeah, I think this idea of being aware of, firstly, what's come before but what's happening now and how it sort of affects us universally as opposed to your backyard.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I mean your backyard's important but I think this idea of, sort of, how, how does all this, as, sort of change us, affect us, move us along in sort of universal capacity, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: It doesn't, no. So what interests you about the world? Why, why not just put down the hatches, focus on, (deep breath) you know, just what's happen … W-what, what's, what's the interest-

Serge Ou: 'Cause it's, it's fascinating. It is fascinating. I'm blessed to be able to travel the world regularly, meet extraordinary people, talk to amazing people about amazing things that are happening. I suppose it's that electricity. It's a, it's a part of the human race. It's a part of our evolution. It's a part of what we're doing, how we connect with each other.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think that constantly, constantly, constantly excites me.

Jonathan Doyle: Inside of people, that our brains are, are literally hard wired for connection.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: Like at the neural level.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: I keep saying to people that our brains that we have now haven't changed much from the brains we had about 200,000 years ago, so our desire for connection, our ability to read facial structures and gestures and trying to read … you know, we're … It's not always just a question of preference, it's actually something that we almost need to do.

Serge Ou: We do. We do need to do it. It's, it's sort of … it is a primal thing and I think we do sort of connect with each other but I also think we find out how similar we are.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And that's an interesting thing. I [inaudible 00:11:43] talk about sort how your environment affects you, yes, it does, but I think also, we're very much the same.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, and if we're the same … This is just riffing on, you know, what are we … Metaphysics, I suppose, really now. What have you observed? What do people want? What do humans want around the world?

Serge Ou: What do they want? They want to be safe. They want to be secure. They want to be liked or loved. Yeah, I think we have to do those basic human traits that we all have.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: We all have. I think we're all very similar and I think … Oh, you can, you can, I can be in Africa or I can be in the middle of Manhattan, it's the same thing.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think the … I, I would … and again, and please, I don't want to sound too pretentious but, you know, it's the idea, all sort of philosophical but the idea that, ah, that the façade is slightly different, if you know what I mean.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Our game faces are different but …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Fundamentally, we're the same people.

Jonathan Doyle: Indeed. I spent a lot of time, years ago, in the education space and that desire, particularly for young people that we all had as adolescents that, you know, that desperate desire, "Am I okay?"

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: It'd be nice if we could all just experience that more easily, more often, but, um …

Serge Ou: Indeed, indeed, but that's the complexity of who we are. (laughing) I don't think that's a …

Jonathan Doyle: So let's … I want to jump forward, so you are studying at the University of Canberra.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

Jonathan Doyle: So what year was that, roughly?

Serge Ou: Oh, that would have been about '80 … Well, I started in '84, I think, would have been about …

Jonathan Doyle: At UC?

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: He's remarkably well preserved, ladies and gentlemen.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: We'll put some photos in the show notes, but I, I, 'cause I didn't get to UC till, I think, about '94, '95, and he's, he's looking very well preserved.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: So what did you study at UC?

Serge Ou: I studied professional writing.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: So a-again, what I … I'd spent a lot of my youth and adolescence making silly little films and, you know, it's the typical story. I got a Super 8 camera from my dad when I was …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Eight and off we went and I was pretty driven in regards to what I wanted to do so I'd worked out the sort of mechanics, I mean the basic, basic mechanics of film making very early.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: But I wanted a … (sighs) I suppose I wanted an insight into writing and so I started this course at UC. It was the Professional Writing, Script Writing Course.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: Which was dropped, ah, after the first semester (laughing) I started my, my degree so …

Jonathan Doyle: Why did they drop it? They just didn't feel it was commercially viable?

Serge Ou: It, it was … Yeah, perhaps something like that. I can't even really remember.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: But it was kind of a bit of a, "Oow, okay, that was a wake up call."

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: So I sort of streamed into Creative Writing, basically, so professional writing in a creative sense.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: Like sort of catch all term, I'd say.

Jonathan Doyle: Gosh, that's fascinating. Believe it or not, I actually did Creative Writing units at UC as well, there you go.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes, well, we have many things in common, Jonathan. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: We do. Ahm, so I wanna ask you, you said something about, you know, you get this Super 8 camera from your dad.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: I'm interested, like, the desire to tell stories …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: To capture …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Where'd that come from?

Serge Ou: I really don't know. I mean I-I, I'm told, I was, as a kid, I was flipping through books and magazines and sort of inventing sort of narratives and …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, again, ah, it's a big cliché, you speak to a lot of film makers and it's probably the same answer.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, you get this sort of opportunity, this … I suppose this mechanism to start being able to tell stories and I think that's how it sort of flows.

Jonathan Doyle: Is that … You know, the basic human anthropological desire to story tell? Other kids at the same age want to grab the guitar.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And written terrible songs.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Ahm, did you write poetry at that age?

Serge Ou: No, I was hopeless at poetry. In fact, I … Poetry, I've never connected with poetry, to be honest, no, no.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh.

Serge Ou: I still write really awful lyrics for some of the bands that I were in …

Jonathan Doyle: (laughing) We're gonna publish those in the show notes, ladies and gentlemen.

Serge Ou: Yeah. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: So I think, you know, if I was ever to be tortured, captured, and tortured, I don't think they'd need water boarding. They just need to get some old journals …

Serge Ou: (laughing) Yes, exactly.

Jonathan Doyle: And go, "We're going to publish Jonathan's ..."

Serge Ou: (laughing) I think we've all got a cupboard full of those.

Jonathan Doyle: (laughing) "Jonathan's poetry." I think what I was asking, I guess, was that the, the desire to tell stories seems to be very human, right?

Serge Ou: Mm, mm-hmm. (affirmative)

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: It is. It does, and I think we, we kind of all want to  know about each other. We want to examine each other, too. We kind of secretly do. We kind of want to know what you're about.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think that's why we're sitting across a table, we're talking to each other.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Again, I think there is a lot of that in us and, again, giving a device or making [inaudible 00:15:42] to be able to that …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think, it gives you a momentum to sort of push harder, I suppose.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And, and look, they were awfu … I don't even wanna go into how awful my early films were but it was that that sort of desire to do that.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you think it takes to tell a story well?

Serge Ou: Gosh, what a question. What a question. Empathy, an understanding of your subject. I think empathy is a really big thing. I think if you can't listen, if you can't listen and you can't understand where someone's coming from, I don't think you can tell their story.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: When have you done it most effectively?

Serge Ou: Gosh, I hope I have done it at some time effectively. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Well, you're still in business. (laughing) The market's will even do eventually always right, so you're still, you're still got it. You're running a great business, so something's working.

Serge Ou: (laughing) (sighs) Ah.

Jonathan Doyle: When have you done it best or well?

Serge Ou: Well, I would hope most of the time, honestly.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I mean I think this is the idea of kind of you're only as good as your last piece of work …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And if your work isn't any good … I mean, in my business anyway. You know, I hope that I've sort of created a skill set, sort of understanding how to tell our stories. Yeah, I wouldn't say, "I'm the greatest …"

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: But I, I, I think that there is, again, a mechanism there that sort of … To get that out. I would hope I do it on a regular basis. I really hope I would.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so you're at UC,  you, you end up in, ah, Creative Writing. You meet Michael there?

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: What was he doing there?

Serge Ou: He was doing an Economics degree to start with.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: So is this a classic case of we have a, a cerebral numbers man …

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Who goes into business with a, with a dreamer story?

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: Is that what happened?

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: It's textbook, I think, actually.

Jonathan Doyle: So you first met there?

Serge Ou: Yes, we did.

Jonathan Doyle: What did you like about him when you first met him?

Serge Ou: Ah, I loved his, ah, confidence.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: (laughing) I think I liked his confidence. I liked his attitude. I think we were very similar, we had very similar sort of likes and dislikes.

Jonathan Doyle: Hm.

Serge Ou: Ah, I think we connected very quickly. I-it just felt like a really nice sort of match.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, so this must have been around the early '90s recession, right?

Serge Ou: Yes, yes, we were graduating, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, I was thinking about that because you are now … You and I are both at that age where we start to sound kind of like our fathers, right.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: So I'm now saying things like, "If you tell young people these days about the Recession and what it was like, they won't believe you."

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But I remember that time. I actually was, ah, incredibly happy to get a job at a local chemist.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: I remember getting that job and my job was just to unpack stock.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And to make fun of the other staff and I did both of those really well.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: And, but I remember thinking at that time, a, how hard it was to get any kind of work.

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: So you guys look at a Recession around you, you're in a government town.

Serge Ou: Mm. Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: The smart thing would have been to get a entry level public service position …

Serge Ou: Indeed.

Jonathan Doyle: If you were lucky.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: You didn't.

Serge Ou: No, no.

Jonathan Doyle: So what'd you do?

Serge Ou: I'd say we were mad, honestly.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And said, we, we thought, "Well, let's try this ourselves," so we (laughing) at that time I had a typewriter and answering machine.

Jonathan Doyle: Electric or manual?

Serge Ou: Well, it was an electric one.

Jonathan Doyle: So electrical, hm.

Serge Ou: We were advanced and, ah, we set up in the bedroom and basically started to sort of get out there and start talking to people and trying to find some work.

Jonathan Doyle: Can you even remember when you guys first started talking about building a business?

Serge Ou: I think it was quite organic, to be honest.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: We both were driven. I don't know, we were both crazy. We were both mad. We were both, I suppose, we were risk takers. I think we were … I mean if you look back at it now, you go, "You're insane. You're absolutely insane."

Jonathan Doyle: But did Michael come from a entrepreneurial background?

Serge Ou: He came … Ah, well, he's an entrepreneur guy.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yes, he's very motivated, very, very focused, very outward looking.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: I think we were both risk takers in some ways.

Jonathan Doyle: Define that for us. A question we often ask, what is … We, we just talking about it in the previous interview … What is the essence of risk? When you say that word and look at those choices you made early in the game …

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you … What does risk mean?

Serge Ou: I think in probably today's world, risk is financial security. I think it's, ahm, knowing what's going to happen next month. I think those sorts of things. Half the people we knew were at art school.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Eh, you know, which was f-fabulous, you know, they were just total creative beings …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And they were allowed to be and then the other half were getting these kind of public service jobs and …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And sort of bunkering down and sort of starting, you know, buying property and …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Things like that and we were sort of stuck in this middle ground where we were these kind of …

Jonathan Doyle: You were creative with pragmatic …

Serge Ou: We-well, we were, you know, we had creative ambitions but with, you know, we also had sort of business ambitions and …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: This idea but we sort of … We weren't in either of those camps and we sort of had to make our own way.

Jonathan Doyle: So the decision to go out and start looking for work.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you remember that season?

Serge Ou: Oh, very well. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: You do?

Serge Ou: (laughing) Very well.

Jonathan Doyle: So have you ever read a book called Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang?

Serge Ou: No.

Jonathan Doyle: It's a … I recommend it to everybody. It's a cracker. Chinese guy, comes, gets a scholarship to maybe Princeton or somewhere.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And when you see him, he's a, he's a pretty heavily built unspectacular looking guy. He had this idea for building roller shoes …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And he's quite a [inaudible 00:20:37], his uncle made fun of him and he was crushed and then he just got fascinated by rejection.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: So he decided to try and be rejected once a day for a hundred days and he goes out and gets rejected brilliantly, like this craz …

Serge Ou: Mm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Every day, he had to come up with something new and it's a brilliant book and he did a video of every one of them, so I'm fascinated by rejection. You're in a recession.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: You've got no business background.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: You're likely to have a whole bunch of people say, "You must be joking."

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you remember then?

Serge Ou: Well, I remember that … That bleak, bleak days, bleak days.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Serge Ou: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:21:09].

Jonathan Doyle: Canberra winter, sort of?

Serge Ou: Canberra winters, we … I remember we had … I think … Where were we? Ah, our office was in Michael's house and I think we sort of ended up … It was an Emu Region BeaCon …

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: And it was a small apartment. We had a post office box at Monica and we used to sort of drive over to Monica to see if anything had come in the post office box.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: It was (laughing) … It was kind of … You'd open the box and it'd be empty. We'd be calling people. We'd sort of hear about opportunities. We'd try and sort of make these opportunities happen. Then we started to land one or two very, very small projects.

Jonathan Doyle: What was your pitch back then? What was the essence? How did you conceptualize what your offering was even then?

Serge Ou: I think it was this idea that we're bringing creativity to what's, uh, perceived to be a non-creative kind of endeavor. So when we talked about … So in those days, we, we … might have been corporate communications was not seen as a … You know, a glamorous creative endeavor… (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Is it now or …

Serge Ou: Ah, look, I think …

Jonathan Doyle: It's definitely creative writing these days.

Serge Ou: I think it is. I think it's a fascinating space. I still do, I really do.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: It's a really fascinating space. What often is interesting is you're talking to a cynical audience.

Jonathan Doyle: Exactly, and that's what I … so educators …

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: So most of us when we hear that, and you, you're fascinated by corporate comms.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: Most of us are thinking, "Ah, we just did another oil spill, how do we tell everybody this never happened?"

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: That's our cynicism.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: What fascinates you about this space?

Serge Ou: Well, I think it's, ah, this idea of actually sort of cutting to the message, actually getting the message out and I think … but, you know, doing that in a creative way, doing … I mean, creative, I know that sounds a bit amorphous and this idea of sort of what is creativity but this idea of sort of taking to people in their own language to understanding your audience, understanding the message. You know, I'm not into propaganda.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I mean the idea of actually, sort of being effective communications people, I think …

Jonathan Doyle: So, so educators, I'm genuinely interested.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: My sense is there's been a huge infantilizing of aspects of culture.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

Jonathan Doyle: So the assumption is how do we boil a message down to the most … you know …

Serge Ou: Simple base message.

Jonathan Doyle: The most simple, basic, I mean, often said of people, the Gettysburg Address as a 164 words.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But you don't look at that and say that infantilized anybody.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Just, I'm, I'm genuinely interested …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: Many of our politicians do seem to, you know, they talk in ways that we don't talk.

Serge Ou: No, indeed.

Jonathan Doyle: Like have you ever been into barbecue and go, "Well, my fellow Australians genuinely think that …"

Serge Ou: Mm, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Or, "It's not the Aussie way to …" You know, we don't … so wh-what brought about that infantilizing do you think?

Serge Ou: I don't know and I don't … I think it's a perception of what people think people want to hear.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think there's a really big problem s- e-especially, and you, you put it quite nicely with the idea of politics now. People relate to their constituents, the population and this idea of, I don't think people read the room anymore, if you get what I'm saying.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Know your audience, know how to talk to them and I think, I mean … I don't wanna get into a political debate but that's, that's how Trump succeeded, to be honest.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: He read the room and I think … I mean that's been awful for everybody involved but …

Jonathan Doyle: Sure. Well, it's …

Serge Ou: But this idea of actually understanding who you're talking to and how you talk to them.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, how does it breakdown? What happened? I'm curious. I'm just riffing, 'cause I don't really know. I think about it sometimes, but I wonder did we just get busy and we just had minimal time to pay attention to [inaudible 00:24:17] …

Serge Ou: I, I, I think we don't pay enough attention, actually. I think that's exactly right.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I don't think we do the diligence, to be honest, but a … is it … Has it been any different, you know, ah, i-in the past and I'm not sure, to be honest?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, I think the big change is the technological changes that there's so much more content so instantly.

Serge Ou: There is. It's  harder to wade through it. It's not curated the way it used to be curated. I think we were … in a sense, whether we like it or not, it was curated and we were fed certain things in certain ways.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: But I think we were, probably a little more blessed in regards to who was feeding us that content.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think it's less so now.

Jonathan Doyle: The … In the sense that there was a more genuine public interest, perhaps? As in … yeah.

Serge Ou: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Yes, and of course, we've had media moguls who've pushed us and barren, that sort of thing …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: That's always been the case time memorial but I think generally, I think, we were looked after a little more than we are now.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, I'm curious, 'cause I've been noticing, you know, if you look at websites like news.com.au at the moment …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: It's gone hard tabloid. It's like … It's …

Serge Ou: Oh, it's, it's click bait. It's total click bait.

Jonathan Doyle: I don't even look at it. I have … I see it occasionally, I'm like, death, murder, death, murder, death, murder, you know, awful behavior.

Serge Ou: Mm. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Whereas sometimes, oh, you know, you read The Atlantic or something.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: And they still have this rich, long form journalism, which is a …

Serge Ou: Absolutely, absolutely. Which is sad, because I think, yeah, the journalism is dying in some ways.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think there's no opportunities for people to actually practice that skill and that craft anymore.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah, I think it's, it's limited now. It really is and it's a … It's a sad thing.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, no, so I'm just really [inaudible 00:25:44]. I think it's … The, the polarization stuff's fascinating because I think what we're seeing globally is … Greg Sheridan said this, "The death of the center."

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: So it's we're just gonna pitch hard …

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Left or hard right.

Serge Ou: Left or right, yeah, exactly.

Jonathan Doyle: And we're to gonna fend tribal stuff inch … Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So there's a great … Look, in terms of the work you guys are doing, I think there's a, there's a great need for nuanced, empathetic, rich storytelling.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: So you guys decided to go out on a limb, I just … I'm just trying to imagine this season in your life.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Did you get nervous?

Serge Ou: No, I think we had the arrogance of youth, to be honest.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think we were determined. Ah, looking back at it now, I think it's mad, honestly.

Jonathan Doyle: What were you determined to do?

Serge Ou: To be successful in some way, to sort of build … I think we always felt that … Again, the industry that we work in, it can be a gig to gig reality.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Ah, you know, it's, it's … and it ge- I've known people that have been, you know, out of work for eight, 10 months between gigs. Those sorts of things, we never wanted to be that. We wanted to be prolific, ah, prolific in a good way. I didn't think … we just didn't want to make any, a, a, just a lot of stuff. We wanted to make great stuff but a lot of it. We wanted to have a career.

Serge Ou: We wanted to sort of have this pathway we could evolve as, ahm, you know creative people as business people, this idea of actually sort of building a business and honing our creative skills, honing our business skills. This idea that there was a longevity to it, it wasn't this kind of smash and grab kind of mentality and I think it was a bit of youthful arrogance. I don't think we ever thought … a, a, uh, "Nah."

Serge Ou: Ah, you had your black times, you had very dark days but at the same time, we've kind of had this kinda crazy belief in ourselves that we just had to keep going.

Jonathan Doyle: So you talk about the start being determined …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: And that you had to be successful, however that was going to play out.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: I'm always interested in what sustains people over the journey because when you're 21, 25 …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: You literally, you'll charge the canons.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But in … Ah, unless it's just me projecting my (deep breath) 44 years of rich experience on the road …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: You do get to a point where it does get a bit … Does it get harder to sort of go … What keeps you going?

Serge Ou: What keeps …

Jonathan Doyle: What, what keeps the fire going after all this time?

Serge Ou: Belief in what you do, I think, for me it is anyway. I can't talk for anyone else but the idea that I still get up in the morning and I'm jazzed. You know, "This is the idea and I wanna go to work," and I wanna do it because I think, again, I'm very blessed. I'm blessed that every day is slightly different, that there's a new challenge, that there's something else.

Serge Ou: There's a new project, there's a … Something else to explore and I … I mean, unfortunately, a lot of people don't get that opportunity …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: So I'm very lucky in that sense. I think that's what keeps me going.

Jonathan Doyle: So that's a gratitude thing to a degree, it's-

Serge Ou: It is a gratitude thing. I think I am very lucky, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think we, we're … With our business, we've been very lucky. We, we, we get to do this every day which is just fascinating.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, that's … It's fun.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, [inaudible 00:28:28] that for most of human history, you never got a choice, like …

Serge Ou: Indeed.

Jonathan Doyle: Industrial Revolution, right, ye- Until 1760, and even then, you went down the same mine as your father.

Serge Ou: (laughs) Yes, exactly.

Jonathan Doyle: I mean, but before that, you …

Serge Ou: Or the same factor, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, we got surnames like Cooper 'cause you made barrels for 500 years.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So, yeah, I think we can often, ahm, pinch ourselves that we get to do different stuff.

Serge Ou: Right, absolutely. Ah, absolutely, I think we are living in a very lucky age in some ways, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: So we had Richard Watkins last week from BentSpoke and one of his key bits of advice [crosstalk  00:29:01] …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm. How were the samples, by the way?

Jonathan Doyle: Magnificent.

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: He actually brought them … Did I say that on the interview? "Yeah, I know, no one's heard of you. They wouldn't publish that one."

Serge Ou: No.

Jonathan Doyle: He did, God bless him, he did. He did, he brought, he brought a four pack of Crankshaft.

Serge Ou: (laughing) Could be.

Jonathan Doyle: So, ah, yeah, I try and select my guests really carefully, and so …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: I got people from Mowets coming in next week.

Serge Ou: Nice. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Ahm, so, yeah, I was just saying that, you know, people who, you know, historically never got to choose what they do, you know …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And, ah, but what Richard was saying was one of the crucial things is to love what you do.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: It's easy to say, "Yes, I subscribe to that," but for people listening, starting out, how imperative is it, do you think, to go … Ahm, reason I'm asking this is the tension between hobbies and businesses.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Somebody who's listening to this going, "Oh, I'm really passionate about quilting, so let's start a global quilting empire."

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: They're different things.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Should you do what you love? Is it … How do you risk taking an interest and making it a business?

Serge Ou: If you're willing to give up things perhaps that you won't have on that journey and you believe in it, why not? Why not take the chance? I subscribe to that, that's my, that's my personal …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Kind of perspective. I, I think it's … You can play it safe and that's great.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And that, that works for a lot of people. With me, it doesn't. I think you have to take the risks. Is there a reward? Well, maybe, maybe not but I think the idea of … You've gotta … It's, it's again the old cliché, "Life's too short." I think, honestly, I think, ahm, I've always believed that, that you just have to … Always been a risk taker, always been interested in sort of looking out …

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: Looking forward, this idea of, "Hey, what's over there?"

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And, look, if that means I can't drive a Ferrari or I can't have a, you know, a six bedroom house, or I can't do this, that's fine with me.

Jonathan Doyle: I often talk about that French proverb that the goal of life isn't to be the richest person in the graveyard.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And, ah, I was joking with Michelle Melbourne who was on the show about you know …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, yeah. Michelle's fantastic.

Jonathan Doyle: She's cool and she …

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: She's like a … You know, one of the best things is, ahm, you know, she talks about is, we joked about buying the next yacht, you know.

Serge Ou: Yes, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: If the purpose of business is fundamentally buying the next yacht …

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: You can only sail 'em one at a time.

Serge Ou: Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: Did that drive you? Was there a sense early on that you wanted to be financially successful? Does that, was that a drive?

Serge Ou: Again, it wasn't money. I think it was about sort of quality and about, you know … Being good. Being good at what you did.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think … And, again, that's a, that's a personal perspec … I'm not someone that sort of flouts that.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: In regards to that, but it's, it's just an inward thing, this idea of sort of being good at what you do and I think if you are successful in what you do, I think those things come, come from that.

Jonathan Doyle: In time.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Did you have a time early in that phase where you thought, "This isn't going to work?" Did you have a moment?

Serge Ou: Oh, about 70, 80 times.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: And what's your default, people go to, ah, anxiety or depression …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Or rabbit in the headlights or they go for a bottle of Jack Daniels, back there, all of the above?

Serge Ou: All of the above, really.

Jonathan Doyle: Within 24 hours?

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: What did you do early on? What's your default under pressure back then? Did you freak out? Did you … do you stress? Did you get depressed? What's your default even these days?

Serge Ou: Ah … Step back.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Breathe, that's really, (laughing) that's it.

Jonathan Doyle: So you don't get … I mean, you're like a duck on the water, so you're calm …

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: In the office but the legs are going underneath?

Serge Ou: Absolutely, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That would be it, I think, and look, you have your own personal demons, you have to sort of deal with those issues.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You have to sort of go with those, the complexities of those problems can be very different, problem to problem …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think it's just step back, breathe, examine, work out a way through, and keep going.

Jonathan Doyle: And now, I've asked this to most people …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you wake up sometimes at two AM staring at the ceiling going, "Oh, my gosh?"

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: You do?

Serge Ou: Yeah, on a weekly basis. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Do you get back to sleep?

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Can you write a book about how you do that type of thing, please?

Serge Ou: (laughing) No, no, I can't.  No, I can't but it's, it's …

Jonathan Doyle: I should have rung you at two o'clock this morning.

Serge Ou: Look, I think that's part of the game. That's part of how it works. The day I'm sort of not feeling scared, I, I, I, I  did sort of talk about this a lot with the idea of every job, every project, you gotta feel scared, you gotta feel out of your depth. You gotta feel like you're pushing the envelope. You've got to feel that, 'cause the day I don't is the day I should quit, honestly. That's part of my motivator.

Jonathan Doyle: There's a heap in that.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: It'd be interesting, what if we could Charles Darwin in the room to say is there a biological advantage to placing ourselves in situations of potential danger.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: So we had the almo-

Serge Ou: I understand.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 'Cause it is easy to just kind of go, "We've made a successful widget. Let's just keep making the same [crosstalk 00:33:30] ….

Serge Ou: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: So why not do that, why not make the same widget?

Serge Ou: Because that's not what motivates me. I don't … A-again, if it was just sort of the idea that … I'd be pretty bored, to be honest.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you get bored?

Serge Ou: On occasion.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: But rarely.

Jonathan Doyle: What bores you?

Serge Ou: What bores me? Ah, the same thing.

Jonathan Doyle: Just repetition. You need do anything …

Serge Ou: The same thing, repetition, doing, doing the same thing again. I think exactly what you talked about, making the same widget and going, "That'll do."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think that's … That bores the hell out of me to be honest.

Jonathan Doyle: So where did the name Bearcage come from originally?

Serge Ou: Oh, it came from … When we started, again, we were … We went for our first grand application. It was a kind of $500 grant or something. We needed to have this entity name and we were kind of freaking out and it was sort of one AM and the thing was due at nine AM.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: We were going through our record collection … record collection in those days.

Jonathan Doyle: It's like name a band.

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah. It was … and it was a record collection in those days.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, vinyl.

Serge Ou: Those vinyl things, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: We sort of pulled that … an old, ah, string … We were fans of the Stranglers.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: The Stranglers and we were looking … Yeah, we were just looking on song titles and Bear Cage was one of them and we just went, "That'll do. We'll put it on. We'll think of something else in a week's time," and it went in and that just kind of stuck. That was it, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, wow.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: 'Cause I was thinking before the interview, I thought, I wonder if it was like, you know, because it was really tough at the start, it was like going into the bear cage, you know.

Serge Ou: (laughing) That sounds much better as a back story.

Jonathan Doyle: This has much [crosstalk 00:34:51] empathy. I'm an empathetic storyteller.

Serge Ou: Jonathan, can you, can you write the bio?

Jonathan Doyle: That's right. That's right, I'll do that.

Serge Ou: Yeah. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Ahm, so you, you name it Bearcage, if, if … What was your first big win?

Serge Ou: First big win was a, a job with health.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: The Department of … Federal Department of Health and it was a big $20,000 job and it was …

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: That was the turn.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: That was when it turned, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you remember when you … When you found out you got it?

Serge Ou: Yeah, we were ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: We couldn't believe it. It was like winning the lottery. It was like, "Oh, my God, imagine what we can do with $20,000. We can, [inaudible 00:35:23] We're going to do this, we're doing to do that." It was just insane.

Jonathan Doyle: Nowadays you can pay the electricity bill for months.

Serge Ou: (laughing) Yes, exactly. That's right.

Jonathan Doyle: That's right. Uh. Okay, so on the day, the business goes forward, tell us about the merger with Wild Fury in 2014.

Serge Ou: Okay.

Jonathan Doyle: What, ahm … Take us through that.

Serge Ou: So Michael Tear and I had, had had Bearcage for … Oh, my gosh, we're … Must be close to 20 something years …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: We've been doing it and I think … and you know a lot about business there, Jonathan, the idea is you do hit a ceiling in your space.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: And there's different ways to grow and one of them was to merge and we'd known the principals of Wild Fury …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Who we were merging with, ah, for a while. We talked a lot about this. They worked in complementary spaces to what we did.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: And I think what we always thought about was diversity in business. We never wanted to just do one thing. We did a lot of things ...

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: In the space of our industry, I suppose, and the idea that we wanted to diversify that next step.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And merging with Veronica Fury and Bettina Dalton, who are two mavericks in themselves in (laughs) the industry, actually broadened the scope of what we could do, so it took us to the next level and I think it, ah, opened up things like natural history which we'd never done before, so wild life …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Those sorts of things, opened enormous market for us there. Two very complementary businesses.

Jonathan Doyle: What were you nervous about??

Serge Ou: Hm, no, I was ready.

Jonathan Doyle: You were ready?

Serge Ou: We were ready, yeah, I think, honestly.

Jonathan Doyle: So why grow?

Serge Ou: Why grow? Because, again, it's this idea of momentum. In our space, as well, in recent history, if you don't grow, you die.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Serge Ou: I think that's really what it's about and I think gone are the days of the niche space …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: In what we do and I don't … We were never niche in that way, but I think you grow or you die, really.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Or you get acquired or whatever happens there, so I think we wanted to be, wanted to take it to the next level. We wanted to be bigger. We wanted to be broader, more diverse. We wanted to have a footprint in a larger sort of global market, that's really where it came from.

Jonathan Doyle: What excites you about that? About that growth?

Serge Ou: Well, it, it, it can be as big as you want it to be in a lot of ways and I think this idea that we've sort of gone … We went from as BearCage, producing maybe 20 hours of television a year. We now produce about a 118 hours.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: So …

Jonathan Doyle: And just on that, I mean with the highly disrupted TV market, my brother is one of the top grosser, Channel 9 in Sydney …

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Is big TV guys for years.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And … you know, it's like the old, "Don't mention the war episode of Faulty Towers every Christmas."

Serge Ou: Mm, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: It's like I'm fascinated by … 'cause he's … He's still in that game and he's still the big money spinners are state of origin …

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: [crosstalk 00:38:07] revenue, so that sort of stuff.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But in such a disruptive market …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Like, you know, high man, my ass now we'll have Foxtail, we'll have Netflix, we'll have …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm. [Fridaware 00:38:17], yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: X-box, Fridaware.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: We're very good parents, we only let them watch 16 hours a day and so far it's …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: It's working for everybody, so in terms of producing, you say you're producing a 120 hours of TV content.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: What, just help us understand that, what's happening in that bigger space of …

Serge Ou: That bigger space, yes, the industry's just fracturing, actually. It, historically, we were one of the biggest shake ups in the industry, historically, I would say.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Since TV began, but I suppose, our point of view is that content is content and the delivery mechasm, mechanism may change so it may be …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, that's good.

Serge Ou: Regards to Netflix or Fridaware or Foxtail, whatever, we work, we're working for all of those people. We work for cable channels around the world. We work for Fridaware networks. We, we work for Foxtail, We work for … Oh, I'm just about to start a project with Netflix.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know the idea is that it, content is content.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, it's good. Okay.

Serge Ou: You know.

Jonathan Doyle: So the platform i-i-in some ways, in what condition the content but really great content is great content.

Serge Ou: I would hope so. I really would hope so and I think that's been proven.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think the idea that Netflix can say, "Well, we're actually going to invest in really good content."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know … You, we see a shift from whether it's traditional cable or Fridaware at one point, traditional cable to Netflix, I mean the content, the bar is high. It's been high for a long time but that's been across Fridaware cable and Netflix but the idea where are we shifting. I think the idea that we don't have appointment television, I think is really, really important. I think …

Jonathan Doyle: Appointment television is you know it's … ah, you've gotta be there at five o'clock because at five o'clock …

Serge Ou: Absolutely. Absolutely, and I think now you can watch anything you want whenever you want. I … It's inte, it's fascinating. I'm in the car with my daughter and she says, "I wanna hear this now."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I put that song on, you know. I was the guy who would, when I was 13, would go to the Import Record Shop, place an order for a …

Jonathan Doyle: Used to be in Sydney.

Serge Ou: Yes, to place an order for an album …

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: That I'd just read a line about in a six month old …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: English Music Press thing and wait eight weeks for it to arrive.

Jonathan Doyle: But, whoa, didn't you appreciate it though?

Serge Ou: I, yes, it did. It's a different world, you know, and that's, ah, that's fine.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay, we need to apply a nostalgia filter now, so you know, I've got a …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: I've got an app on my computer and it glows red every time that Serge and I start …

Serge Ou: Sorry, I don't want to talk …

Jonathan Doyle: I can remember with Monkey Magic on me at five o'clock, ABC, every afternoon.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Feel like, this [inaudible 00:40:25], can wait for the 15 minutes.

Serge Ou: (laughing) Exactly, and so I think this idea that you can watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: So the idea is you're into sports documentaries or history documentaries or …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Super hero films, you know the idea is that you can watch when you want …

Jonathan Doyle: And it's just such great content, like I think one of the big ones for me was Chef's Table, which I came to late.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: I didn't know that much about Netflix, but my daughter and I, who's now 10 …

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: We just fell in love with it.

Serge Ou: Yes, yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: And I, in terms of, ah, I'm a neophyte to this in terms of … well, your background but just rich interesting people and fascinating storytelling …

Serge Ou: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: And I was like wow. So what makes great content?

Serge Ou: Gosh, you could put me on the spot there. Haa …

Jonathan Doyle: Is it in the eye of the beholder or are there certain …

Serge Ou: I think maybe it is a bit in the eye of the beholder. I think, I think, you know it's interesting, I look … I scan the audiences that we talk to and they're all very, very different …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And, uh, some people are looking for very traditional things, some people are looking for very insightful things, some people are looking for cutting edge interpretations of things. I think that's the beauty of where, where we are now.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think that's what I'm talking about … I think … Jonathan, you might want something. He might want something. She might want something, and we talk to a lot of different audiences in different ways, so I'm not sure what good content means anymore, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think it used to be great production values, awesome acting, ah, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Access, those sorts of things, I think it's very different things.

Jonathan Doyle: It's very fragmented.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: I don't know if you've ever heard of a movie called, "Into Great Silence?"

Serge Ou: Mm, no.

Jonathan Doyle: It's great back story. I'm a bit of an introvert by nature, but if I'm quiet … I, I like quiet.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And, ah, and it's a movie about a monastery in Germany called the Grand Chartreuse.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: It's a … The monasteries are over a thousand years old.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And the producer went to the abbot, this is a true story, and said, "We'd love to do a documentary about your life here."

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: So the abbot goes quiet, thinks for a few minutes, looks up at him and says, "We're not ready, could you come back in 20 years."

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: 20 years later …

Serge Ou: He comes back?

Jonathan Doyle: He comes back and films it. Yeah, if people remember Tom Hanks in, ah, in Castaway, it's like, you know, three hour movie with … you know, there's like silence for long periods of time, so in Into Great Silence, there is no dialogue, really in the whole film, but there's one moment where they're on, in the snow, and they laugh. So you've got dead silence for 200 … It just always struck me is …

Serge Ou: This magic moment of just …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, well, it's just, yeah, I mean in terms of great storytelling and …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: When, when an element's taken away and then the other ones are brought to the front and I just interested in … My background in my second post graduate work, we looked at things called the Transcendentals.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Ahm, which, you know, Aristotle was big on … They're called Transcendentals because they transcend individual occurrences of them.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So truth, beauty, and goodness.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So you can make things that are true, things that are beautiful or things that pitch to the, that's good, they'll sell but then again, you know, there seems to be a great obsession with murder documentaries and you'll say, "Let's just forget the editors and take that part out."

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: So …

Serge Ou: But you're right, three absolute key elements, absolute …

Jonathan Doyle: But when I look at your work, when I go through your website and I encourage people to do that.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: There's not a huge as … so fascination with, you know, awful topics, from what I can tell. There's a lot of interesting historical pieces and great stuff around different aspects of national history …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Like have you guys, uh, turned any work down or do you tend to gravitate towards particular stories?

Serge Ou: I think we've been very lucky that we can actually sort of … Ah, well, first of all, we can pitch a lot of ideas to people.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: So w-we're not approached by people to say, "Make this and make that …"

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, really, so you guys …

Serge Ou: We actually pitch a lot of our work.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: So we sort of initiate our own projects, we sort of conceptually development, develop them and then we actually take them to market.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, that's brilliant, okay.

Serge Ou: Yeah, so we're actually, in some ways masters of our destiny.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, I've gotta ask you on that, so I'm fascinated. So you're sitting in a room …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: And somebody's like, "We've got a great idea for this."

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Where is the intersection point between, "I've got a pet project that I'm interested in," and something that's commercially viable?" How do you resolve that tension?

Serge Ou: Okay, well, I like that tension and I like that tension about the sort of … This is about a talk about the sort of commercial and creative tension.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think I love the parameters of the business. I love the parameters of an audience, a market, those sorts of ideas and they actually do drive creative ideas. Th-there-there is a million great ideas, there always is. You know, we can sit and … You and I could sit in this room and within half an hour, probably have 30, 40 pretty decent ideas.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Humming, but are they marketable, are they commercially viable and I think that's really interesting, that tension, and I think that's what I love about this business, this sort of tension between commerce and creativity.

Jonathan Doyle: So you've describe it …

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: But what I'm interested in, and all the business owners listening …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: We often talk about opportunity and a lot of guests have talked about successful businesses, the ability to perceive opportunity where others don't.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So you've described that tension point.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: But how do you resolve it? Is this, is this part of your genius …

Serge Ou: Mm, how do you … The market determines it, I think, a lot of the times so you could take … We have a great dialogue with the market. We talk to the market constantly. We're in the market constantly and the idea is that they're feeding back on this works, this doesn't work, more of this, less of this.  More of this, less of this and there's been obvious trends over the years with regards to, you know, World War II's hot this year.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: Murder Mysteries are hot.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, you're … the idea and you sort of, you ebb and flow with that, with that market. The market is the driver in a lot of ways, so that sort of takes that out of your hands in a lot of ways, you know …

Jonathan Doyle: Is that hard for you, somebody that cares about stories and creativity?

Serge Ou: No, because you find stories within that market.

Jonathan Doyle: Even that.

Serge Ou: You always do. You always do, and I think that's what … Yeah, and I think you work in the space that you kind of you understand, you have some sort of capabilities in, you have some experience in, and you can sort of push that envelope within that space, but we are, again, we're lucky because we get to work in so many different spaces. We're not just the …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: History guys or the natural history guys …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: We, we do everything, so the idea, the relationship that we have, you know, in China, it's fascinating, so we do a lot of work in China.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think it's fascinating to see the market evolve there.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Because they're talking just a skewed language, you know, the idea of, of what you're making for China, it's just skewed slightly differently.

Jonathan Doyle: As in, that just what they desire as a culture, upon a …

Serge Ou: Yes, indeed, absolutely, and it's really fascinating to sort of, to sort of play in that pond and to sort of do that.

Jonathan Doyle: I'm not being flippant, I'm generally not, but I was always fascinated by the Japanese Hello Kitty thing.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: I was like, I was like, "What, what is that?" Like how does that emerge in a culture that, that this is kind of, this is a thing, like …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: So I guess it's probably just in part of your work, you get to see these different kinds at play.

Serge Ou: Absolutely. It's great, and it … and again, you have these amazing kind of experiences. We can do work in China that's not very high profiling and get a 150 to 200 million viewers. That's something you can't …

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: Even dream of in the West.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: You know, and then that's not a high profile geek, you know, that's something that, it was good and we did what we did, but you know, it got a 150 to 200 million viewers, you know, and I think that's fascinating.

Jonathan Doyle: It doesn't look too bad on the website when you hit those numbers.

Serge Ou: Well, yeah, yeah, it's not … I'm sorry, I'm not talking about it in the sense of, you know, we got more numbers than you.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, th-this idea is it's just kind of a different …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Again, it's a different space and, you know, we were, again, like I can't sort of explain how fascinating this kind of whole journey is …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Because you go from here to there and here to there and here to there and it's … It's always different.

Jonathan Doyle: One of the guys I ride with here in Canberra, uh, rides … He's with Foreign Affairs here, great guy, Paul, and he, ah, a very, very high level rider and he rides with the Japanese cycling team.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So he just rides back and forth, but he just emailed us a few months ago, going, "Ah," he goes, "I'm on this documentary," he had to watch it online …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: But basically, he's a six foot four, white guy …

Serge Ou: Yup.

Jonathan Doyle: Who just rides his bike around Japan talking to farmers and apparently this is huge.

Serge Ou: That's great. That's great. That's great.

Jonathan Doyle: And he said, it was just like he's just there looking at their crops and talking to them. I'm going, "It's just incongruous this six foot two white cyclist …"

Serge Ou: (laughing) I love that.

Jonathan Doyle: "Just rolls over the hill," yeah, so …

Serge Ou: And says, "Good day." (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: And says, you know, "Good day," and, ah, off he goes from there, so …

Serge Ou: Well, that's great …

Jonathan Doyle: It's interesting that there's just such a diverse need for content and [crosstalk 00:48:20] …

Serge Ou: Th-th-there is, there is.

Jonathan Doyle: So the parts that you love about it, some of the parts you really enjoy about your work are around problem solving, this interplay between budget and schedule so …

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: I would find this enormously stressful and would break things, so …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: My father was in construction. He's dead now but he sent his …

Serge Ou: Gan Chops?

Jonathan Doyle: Well, no, h-he, he had this, ah, this, this cartoon and it was like The Architect and it was the architect's perception of himself and in the eyes of the client and the architect, his perception of himself is he's got this big sack full of money just throwing it out and throwing it around the place. So obviously, when it comes to budgets some people …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Are like, you know, ah, obviously, some creative types would just like, "Look at all this money," and …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And then you've got schedule …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Problem solving.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you love about problem solving?

Serge Ou: I like the parameters around problem solving. I like to have a, have a box to work within, and I think that's what I was sort of saying earlier, this idea of creativity and commerce, this idea of bringing, sort of bringing those two together and it sort of forces you to be creative within a context and I think that's really, really important, so how do I answer that question? Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, I'm interested … Well, let me pin you just on that.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: The, wh … The interplay, the, the intersection of creativity and commerce.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: We don't probably think about those very often.

Serge Ou: No, we don't and …

Jonathan Doyle: Does c- The financial is condition creative or …

Serge Ou: In a sense, it's i- absolutely is, I mean it … Without a financial, there is no creative. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: In my business.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: It might be different for a visual artist who can sit, you know, in a backroom and paint, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Three hours a day, that's a different story but in my business there is no creative without commerce and I think that's sort of what underpins all the … It is the film and TV business, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: It's called a business for a reason because it's based on those constraints and so I think that creative industries, we can be … and I'm not being derogatory here. I think it's, it can be a bit floppy, can be …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Sort of talk a lot and use a lot and think of, think a lot. Personally for me, I like the idea of the constraints of time and money and the time and money sort of forces you to be creative. I think that's kind of the mother of invention in my world, you know, this, this idea of you're forced to use the parameters you've got.

Jonathan Doyle: So do you think that those enforced parameters lead to more creativity?

Serge Ou: For me they do. I can't talk for other people, for me, they do, and I know a lot of people in the business that complain quite a lot about it. "I want more. I need more time, I need more … more money, more people, more things," you know that a, a lot of people do talk about that …

Jonathan Doyle: So I'm wondering, like if I look back at those great Cecil B. De Mille epics, right.

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: I mean they must have been at their time … I mean for you and I, for, for our generation it would have been films like Titanic.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But I really can go on back to those original ones, they would have been absolutely culture breaking.

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: To see as a visual …

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: Even now, we watched Ten Commandments with my kids a while back … Is your sense that if you just had unlimited resource, that the creative process would be retarded or dragged out indefinitely or …

Serge Ou: It just would drag out, and again this is purely subjective, this is … I'm talking about my perspective. It's … It would, it would go forever. I'd, I'd fiddle and fuddle and …

Jonathan Doyle: Build a bigger pyramid.

Serge Ou: Yeah, absolutely, and just keep going and I think there has to be a point where you say, "That's it, it's out. It's gone. The baby's born and it's out in the world."

Jonathan Doyle: So how do you make decisions in that environment?

Serge Ou: I think, again, money and time make those decisions for you. You have sets … set amount of time, the idea that something has to be delivered on this budget at this time for this purpose. It has to be done.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, what do you bring into that because a lot of people in creative production businesses have the same problem.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: You guys are still in business and you're growing.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: You've got to be bringing something to that decision making moment that's working.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, I think some back end processes and other ways of doing things, I think that have been sort of evolved and re-engineered and re-engineered and re-engineered. The idea is you've got to sort of mechanism that you can put that idea into and then have something produced. The idea that you sort of have a workflow, you have, you have ways of doing things.

Serge Ou: You have sort of … a, you know, process to me is really important in terms of creativity and I talk to a lot of writers and a lot of writers say, "You know, I get up at 5:00 AM and I write from  5:00 AM to 11:00 AM, then I break, then I come back for an hour. Then I break and I'm, and I don't get back to the typewriter or the computer until that time tomorrow morning." This idea of … It's interesting, you talk to some song writers and song writers say, "Oh, I have to sit, I have to sort of block out my day and I have to go and write to be creative."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Some people say, "I'm on a bus and the idea comes and I've just got to grab a guitar." You know.

Jonathan Doyle: So a-are you saying that having some form of discipline or structure around the creative process … Eh, ah, I-I-I'm trying to think of listeners in terms of their business journey, too, like what are your filters? I mean you … At one level, you're just saying, "Well, it's just time and it's just budget." I get that but …

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: But you're still making …

Serge Ou: I'm not being flippant, yeah, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: No, not at all, but you're still making day to day, moment to moment decisions.

Serge Ou: Yes, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you … What's your filter? How do you do it in the moment?

Serge Ou: A-again, being mindful, I think is …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Is one thing. I think absolutely being mindful, being in the, in the process is really, really important. I think, your thinking about how each decision affects what you're doing right now. It's a funny business, ours, you know we sort of talk about … It's almost like a 40 season, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: A project is like a 40 season, you don't go out hard on your first game. You know, the first week of production, you don't give everything.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And then sort of fall over three weeks in and not be able to sort of finish this season. You've got to pace yourself, you've got to make the right decisions at the right times. You've got to think about what early decisions, how are they going to impact later decisions. I, it's such a complex, complex beast. I mean I often think, to digress for a moment, it's insane what we do, the complexity of what I do …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: As a job is insane. I sort of come to that ephemeral thing we might talk about a bit later on but this idea of so much effort, so much thought, so much industry is put into these things that are very ephemeral.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: When you look at it, it's absurd, if you like. (laughs) You're making … So why did you do all that for that? It goes to air, it's gone and we're talking about the next thing tomorrow. You know, this idea that we sort of have to think about how, how all these things fit into this space. Am I making any sense at all, Jonathan? (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: You are, my friend, and what I'm trying to ask, what I'm interested … This occurred to me in your notes and what you just said then.

Serge Ou: Hm.

Jonathan Doyle: I wanna talk to you about how … You've communicated that in this business, you create a piece of work.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And then it's gone to the client or it's gone and you  have to re-tool and move on very fast.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So what I'm curious about and what I thought about was you know, the Sistine Chapel.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: It's not as if he just knocks that up and goes, "Right, next chapel."

Serge Ou: No. (laughing) Right.

Jonathan Doyle: But how do you create something so visually beautiful that you're very proud of …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And just, "Next?"

Serge Ou: You have to learn to do that. You have to learn … I think it's something that I talk about with a lot of young practitioners who are very interested. They put their heart and soul into everything as you should. I really do believe that you should inject yourself into it but it shouldn't be the definition of you. The artwork should not be the definition, definition of you because it will kill you.

Serge Ou: Because what happens, it goes out into the world and everyone's talking about it for 24 hours and then they're talking about something else 24 hours later. This idea that what we do is incredibly ephemeral … The Sistine Chapel is still there.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm-hmm.

Serge Ou: What we do vanishes, it's almost like a Facebook feed nowadays. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: So I'm fascinated by that, because how do you bring yourself to that, how do you bring … 'cause you put a lot of work into this, not just systems and processes and then work.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: But passion and energy and creativity.

Serge Ou: Yes, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: And insight, how do you … The more I listen to you, it's more like there's these two aspects of you, like you've got the creative and the pragmatic, creative and the pragmatic. Don't you kill off part of yourself when you just go, "Next project, that's done?"

Serge Ou: You have to. You have to. In a sense it's … I mean I, I think of visual artists, I know a fair few of visual artists and the idea is they paint these incredible works, and then they get put up in a gallery, someone buys them and they disappear, and they're gone and they're not yours anymore.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You don't have that connection with that piece of art anymore, so you have to learn to kind of … It has to build you. It has to nurture you. It has to give you something but you have to be able to let it go and you have to be able to move on to the next one. Otherwise, you'd be paralyzed. You, you, you could not move to the next project.

Jonathan Doyle: Fascinating. Yeah. Can I just check … How, how long have we been talking?

Serge Ou: Oh, sorry, I don't know how long have we been …

Jonathan Doyle: Have been going an hour?

Serge Ou: An hour, I don't know, have, what's, what is …

Jonathan Doyle: Well, this is an hour but it feels like …

Serge Ou: Not know … (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: I don't know, it feels like it's been about 20 minutes.

Serge Ou: Yeah, it feels like to me, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: So I by, I have to press through my buttons, ladies and gentlemen, 'cause I'm just … We normally keep them to about an hour but I'm enjoying myself  here, so …

Serge Ou: I can go anytime you want to.

Jonathan Doyle: That's right, that's right. Now I'm fascinated. This is great. So let me ask you, ah, we often talk about what you don't love and this comes up for almost everybody, which is the HR question.

Serge Ou: Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: So one of Dante's circles of hell involved HR office …

Serge Ou: (coughs)

Jonathan Doyle: You mentioned that we, it's a relatively small town [inaudible 00:57:08] …

Serge Ou: Yes, yup.

Jonathan Doyle: And not only is there a small talent pool, I' curious, do you notice when millennials and people coming through, what are your takes on that? We've had other people that think they're wonderful and they're down here making great. What's your take on the talent pool and who's coming through?

Serge Ou: It's a different world to when I began and that's fine. That's like, part of this evolution we talked about earlier, this idea of how it sort of grows a society and I think, ah, it's a different world. I think people are … I can only talk about it from what I try to I suppose develop for them, more than anything else. I can't talk about them per se because they have a different perspective.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I don't want to im-impose my old man (laughing) back in my day, things used to be really tough.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, people just need to let the spirit of the Monty Python, ahm …

Serge Ou: (coughs) Mm, the box, the box.

Jonathan Doyle: The focus Monty Python, ah, the skit …

Serge Ou: Shoebox.

Jonathan Doyle: The shoebox, was it?

Serge Ou: Yeah, mm.

Jonathan Doyle: They won't believe 'ya.

Serge Ou: (laughing) I, I think this idea that all I try to do is … a-and then I know Millennials are not interested in sort of, you know, working over five years in the same company or anything like that.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure.

Serge Ou: And want, have had diverse career path and do different things. All I try and do is set up some sort of, I suppose pathway through our business so that while they are with us, there's some sort of pathway that they can evolve, they can develop, they can have opportunities, so if they stay, they stay and we've been very lucky.

Serge Ou: We've had a lot of people that have been 10 plus years in the company with us and still with us some close to 20, that's fabulous but, a, I understand everyone has their own journey and that's what they have to do, so I try and at least have a pathway for them within the company so while they're here, that's what I can give them.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, it's interesting listening to you, it sounds quite similar to what we were just discussing which is the letting go of the project.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Is that you invest in it, you invest in it, you invest in it, you give it what you can and then you just let it go …

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: And it's almost a little bit similar with the pathway for young staff through a creative business [crosstalk 00:59:06] …

Serge Ou: Absolutely, absolutely, it is and it is … you know, and we don't … There are different sort of attractors, the people have. They want to live in bigger cities. They want to … You know, the year 21, you wanna …

Jonathan Doyle: But I went out …

Serge Ou: (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: And look outside, it's …

Serge Ou: I know. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: Just pass that Polar Bear and look at how beautiful weather so …

Serge Ou: Exactly, (laughs) no, but you know, there's different, there's different, um, motivation for different people, I think, but all … a-as I said, all I can do is actually sort of create some sort of … some pathway within what we do.

Jonathan Doyle: I wanted to ask you, with staff and young, and just staff in general, there's the idea that this our business, we founded this business, our staff must be as passionate about it as we are.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And, well, my take from listening to so many people is you can't, really should we expect that of people.

Serge Ou: No.

Jonathan Doyle: You could get them close.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Close-ish.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you lead and encourage your people? How do you … What are … What are the some of the things that you think work with helping people to see a vision and work effectively?

Serge Ou: Well, I hope that people are attracted to what we do, our values. I mean we do have company values. You know we talk about … I won't spout them here, but you know, there are a set of values. There's, there's a certain culture. There's …

Jonathan Doyle: Define that for us, what is that for you guys?

Serge Ou: Culture? Well, I think we, we're very flat organization. We, we're not about sort of hierarchies. We're, yeah, I'd, I'd say that's one part of it. I think the idea that we're very committed to what we do. Ah, we're not cynical about it.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think definitely. As I said, I can't, I can't sort of look at the other side.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah, very, very hard for me to.

Jonathan Doyle: What's the most difficult moment you've faced in your business journey so far?

Serge Ou: Lots. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, can you think of one or two that you …

Serge Ou: Oh.

Jonathan Doyle: 'Cause I can remember, like after … I might have told this in the first podcast we did.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: But we had an office in National Press Club when we were first starting many years ago. My wife Karen walked into the office and I think spouses have this unique ability, only happens a few times in a marriage where they just walk in a room and go, "What?" I was, I had my feet crossed, the hotel realm hadn't been built and I was staring out the window after a robust discussion with my accountant, thinking, you know, how quickly could I learn busking skills.

Serge Ou: Absolutely, it's all over, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: And often we are able to survive and thrive over time. You have any moments that come back that were tough?

Serge Ou: Ah, there's been a lot of those really. It, it's been this roller coaster but I think, again, that's the rich texture of life.

Jonathan Doyle: (laughs)

Serge Ou: (laughing) This … I mean I, you know, I really can't be specific, you know.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: The, the idea has been, it's up, it's down. It's sideways. It's [crosstalk 01:01:34] …

Jonathan Doyle: Highlights so far, things you can look back on that were really memorable?

Serge Ou: Lots of them, lots of them, I can't … Again, so many to sort of, it's, it's been an, a magical journey for, for us, you know. I think we sort of had these incredible successes. We've done some really meaningful work. I think again the last 18 months to two years, we've been working on the [inaudible 01:01:53] Center.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: That is the … you know the story of the Australian ex-experience on the Western front.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: [inaudible 01:01:58] I mean you could not get more a, affecting …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Valuable experience than that, that was, you know, that, that was a really unique experience in, in a very different way, because I think, we're talking … We were telling a story I don't think is that well known. I don't think … you know we talk about Gallipolli mythology, we talk about all those sorts of things but the experience on the Western front was incredible.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think it was a time when a very young country got to play on the world stage. We had an influence in the outcome of that war.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, in our very small way, but it's also a story of ordinary people. You know, it's, it's not at a glorification of war, it's actually the opposite.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think it's ordinary men and women who volunteered to go across the world and do something and it's pr-pretty interesting.

Jonathan Doyle: What are you most proud over that work?

Serge Ou: I think that we get to tell that story to a global audience.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think that's really, really, really nice, you know. I think that's the idea that we sort of get to open that door and sort of, you know, shove a loud speaker out of … (coughs) and then sort of broadcast that idea.

Jonathan Doyle: Why bother? Why tell those stories?

Serge Ou: Ah, look, I think there are many different points of view on that, it can get very political and it can get very personal.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I think what's fascinating about that is that it's not … and again I, I sort of disconnect the whole, the defense force idea. I, I, I sort of look at it that it's these ordinary people doing extraordinary things and whether you think it's right or wrong or fighting for the right reasons, the wrong reasons, um, it's not about that.

Jonathan Doyle: Hm.

Serge Ou: It's probably about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances doing the best they can.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: And it's a very Australian story. It's a very much a story of Australians who got in there and did it. I don't, I don't really … more than anything that. Those personal stories are just … They're really affecting and the idea that, it, it's something that is … Thankfully is resonating. I think that the development of what we did with that Center is talking to a very young audience, as well as an older audience …

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: And they're actually reconnecting with that story which is I think is f-fascinating because I think it's a story about us, really.

Jonathan Doyle: Yes, it's just such a poignant moment in world history.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: Maybe years ago, hearing about the first time the New Foundland Regiment went into action over there and not from Australia, obviously, but they lost I think 2,000 young men inside an hour.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And the impact on the demography of New Foundland …

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: But just kind of getting my head around that level of decimation and suffering, especially, you know for us now as parents, our kid's a little bit younger but what it must have been like, I mean these guys were in the peak …

Serge Ou: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Of their potential and energy and capacity and to die horrifically, ahm, in such awful circumstances.

Serge Ou: And I … you look at it … and just have to drive through every country town in Australia and you'll see a memorial, and you'll see a memorial of those boys who went from that town and that town and that family and those brothers and those neighbors …

Jonathan Doyle: And never came back.

Serge Ou: Who never came back, and again, I don't … I don't sort of don't want to get into the idea of the war and what it  meant …

Jonathan Doyle: No.

Serge Ou: But the idea that it did affect this country and I think again, a country that was new, was young, optimistic, strong, fresh, the idea that we sort of … We had a go on the world stage.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: We had … We, we did something. I don't think we've ever had that opportunity again, you know in that way.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: To sort of, uh, affect the history of the world in that, in that sense and we did in our little small part, which is …

Jonathan Doyle: I think it's crucial that you're telling the stories and they just … We, we can so easily lose the memory.

Serge Ou: Yeah, the memory and I think that we just have to sort of understand and I think it is part of who we are and who we became and I think we sort of just got to remember that and I think … We, I don't want to mythologize things, but I think just understand where we came from or who we are.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Mm.

Jonathan Doyle: And I think there's the deep human lessons of it, like I remember [inaudible 01:05:55] was reading Max Hastings book, his History of World War II, All Hell Broke Loose.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: And it's incredible reading but you know we often think of it, you know, most people wouldn't even be aware of the Siege of Stalingrad but …

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Compared to, um, some of the other sieges on the Russian front, over three million people died of starvation.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm, yeah, it's insane. Absolutely insane. Insane.

Jonathan Doyle: So I think telling these stories helps us in a very human way to think about  our current choices and decisions [crosstalk 01:06:21] …

Serge Ou: Ah, well, I would hope so. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: But it doesn't seem to be the case, Jonathan.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, no, it's the opposite. I'm sorry if,  you know, if we don't learn from history we're bound to repeat it.

Serge Ou: Yes, indeed.

Jonathan Doyle: So ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the, ah, Canberra Military History podcast with my good friend …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, I love this stuff, in fact, don't get me started 'cause I just find this stuff so interesting but, ahm, so we wanted to look … just to wrap up around some of the key learnings.

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: You've shared some interesting stuff in the notes about a, a C-list Hollywood producer who taught you early on in your career, you know, when you arrive on set the coffee should be brewed, not brewing.

Serge Ou: (laughing) Indeed.

Jonathan Doyle: And the other one was get the script, which taught you lessons about organization and preparation. Just riff on that for a moment.

Serge Ou: Indeed. I'd always … It's a very simple, it's one of those things, it was just the film seminar thing 25 years ago.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: He was a C-List Horror Producer, you know, it was one of those things, but there was (laughs) three phr-phrases that I think have stuck with me my whole career.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, he's going on to produce Shark Night Owens, like that. (laughing)

Serge Ou: (laughing) Yeah, but in that accent, you know, that New York accent.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And he was, ah, that was, should be Boston, actually, sorry.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, there were three phrases. One was brewed not brewing.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: The coffee should be brewed not brewing and obviously what he meant was, have your shit together. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Be organized, know your plan, obvious things, but I think these are things in the context were very, very important.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm.

Serge Ou: The other one was shut up and get the script and I think that was really, really important because again, with the kind of institution we tend to talk a lot about stuff.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: To talk about, yeah, well, you know, it's going to be this, it's going to be that. We kind of … We riff and we muse and we kind of  get a bit loose with our time and our kind of structure and I like the idea of sort of knowing where you're going, what you're doing, what's the plan.

Jonathan Doyle: So how do you … I can just picture you in a meeting with somebody as … You know, maybe in flared trousers is going off on a tangent …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: How do you bring people back, ah, just from a communications point of view? How do you, you know, you know, Bill, that's a great idea but … How do you do it? How do you …

Serge Ou: (laughing) Well, there's, there will be a great idea out there somewhere. There will, it's about harnessing that and sort of, actually shaping it  and helping some of that along. I mean I'm not being cynical, please don't …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, no, you're not.

Serge Ou: Please don't misconstrue that it's being cynical. It's just this idea of, again, a-and it's all subjective, from my perspective, this idea of sort of sustainability.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: This idea of, you know, I could spend the next five years developing a script and that would be fine for some people. It wouldn't be fine for me.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I, I wanna put parameters on. I wanna keep it moving. I want momentum. I'm a shark to be honest. I can't stand still. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: Really.

Serge Ou: And you know, it's, it's, it's just I have to have perpetual motion and the idea is it's sort of … Th-there's a continuity to that, i-it's a holistic c-continuity if you understand what I'm saying. It's not just the sort of today, till tomorrow. The idea is that there's sort of … There is a pathway, there is a journey, there is … I'm not very good at the bullshit of the industry, if you put, put it that way.

Jonathan Doyle: Right.

Serge Ou: I'm really not very good at it. Another one he came up with, the classic quote that people talk about a lot when you're at seminars or conferences and you meet someone, you say, "How you doing? What are you up to?" "Oh, I've got, you know, numerous projects in various stages of development."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: Which means you're, you're doing a lot of things. (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Unemployed.

Serge Ou: Yeah, and it's kind of …

Jonathan Doyle: You're busking.

Serge Ou: Yeah, you know what they say, Dear of … Just having so … but again, please, Jonathan, this is all purely some … I'm not preaching to …

Jonathan Doyle: I, 100% …

Serge Ou: Anyone in regards to how they should do things.

Jonathan Doyle: No.

Serge Ou: But it's just the perspective of mine.

Jonathan Doyle: So we had Richard Watkins last week who from BentSpoke and he really revealed a kind of fanatical attention to detail, like … and [inaudible 01:09:48] 'cause I didn't know much about brewing … Know plenty about drinking but not the brewing part. He was like, you know the vats have to be meticulously clean.

Serge Ou: Yes, yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So I offered to help drain them. Then he's like, he's just totally …

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: So with all this kind of pragmatism that you have, and the kind of creativity and commerce, how do you deal with attention to detail? Like are you the guy they're going, we're going to shoot that again 400 times or how do you manage attention to detail?

Serge Ou: Well, it depends in which capacity.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I'm very blessed again to work with a lot of people that are very, very good at what they do.

Jonathan Doyle: Good at what they do, yeah.

Serge Ou: And very, very focused on those sorts of issues.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: In Canberra now, we've got a staff of close to 50.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Serge Ou: And then we've got Sydney and Brisbane, as well.

Jonathan Doyle: Yup.

Serge Ou: So and then you know, I'm taking around freelancers and contractors we bring in so the idea is that you can't be that guy anymore.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You can't sort of walk around and tick every box, you have to have faith in the people who work with you and I'm very blessed to have a lot of people that actually do have that attention to detail. I think that's important. I think it can be rubbish.

Jonathan Doyle: So ultimately.

Serge Ou: I don't …

Jonathan Doyle: Well, ultimately what do you bring then? What's the unique thing that you bring?

Serge Ou: I hope an overview. I hope a creative overview.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I can sort of help direct things. I can help sort of shape things. I can give projects momentum. I can give them, I can mentor, I can do lot … Again, this is what is love.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I love watching young practitioners come up, you know,

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Giving them opportunities that's, it's a bit out of your depth but let's go for it. You know, and helping them through that rather than, "Here you go, swim." You know the idea of actually seeing that sort of come to fruition, that that to me is really fascinating.

Jonathan Doyle: Two, two ways to look at this, if you didn't do this or in 30 odd years time, whatever, when you retire to your Tuscan villa.

Serge Ou: (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

Serge Ou: Ah, I don't think I could retire, that's the problem.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Serge Ou: I really don't.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: I really don't. I'm not … I mean driven's the wrong word. I'm just engaged.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And, and I think I've always been engaged and, and I think … I'm not very good at sitting on my ass. Let's put it that way.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so what are you like at  home? You've got a seven year old daughter.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: What are the weekends like for you?

Serge Ou: Busy?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Busy. Busy, and, and again I think we were talking about early …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: You know, the idea of spending time with them is just fantastic.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: This idea of … For me, as well, with her, it's this … She's sort of a little creative being. She doesn't quite know how to articulate herself.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: But you know this idea that, that, that's endless possibilities? Why not? Why can't we do this? Why can't we do that? You know to me that's …

Jonathan Doyle: Have you already started saying there, "But there is a budget, there is a budget?"

Serge Ou: (laughing) Yeah, there is a budget. [crosstalk 01:12:11]

Jonathan Doyle: That's right. Where's the script?

Serge Ou: (laughing)

Jonathan Doyle: Get the script, I've told you.

Serge Ou: No, but you know this idea of being, again, we talked about mindfulness earlier, you know this idea of sort of being in that, in that space is energizing to be honest.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you most enjoy about being a father?

Serge Ou: Unconditional love from her.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: There's no questions.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: It's, it's a kind of different relationship that you have to most adults and, ah, it's simple. It's simple and it's beautiful.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, that's a good thing.

Serge Ou: Well, I think that's, that's what I love about it.

Jonathan Doyle: It's nice to have one place in our lives where we can just walk in the door and just, there's no expectation of performance or excellence or …

Serge Ou: Absolutely. Absolutely, very good point, Jonathan. (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: My nine year old son is just got an obsession now with beatings …

Serge Ou: (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: And I, 'cause I, I had a background in boys' education and it's true. They hit a stage where they like to wrestle and stuff so now it's like, "Dad, let's have a beating."

Serge Ou: (laughs) So you're down, right.

Jonathan Doyle: Right, it's just like, oh, yeah. I'm just down, getting destroyed and paralyzed.

Serge Ou: (laughs) How's your back?

Jonathan Doyle: Ah, yeah, well, I'm still, I'm still walking.

Serge Ou: Yes, my daughter loves wrestling so we go to the wrestling every six weeks.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you really?

Serge Ou: Yes, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Where do they have that?

Serge Ou: Ah, it's at the Bill Conan Community Center and then they also have … at An, Antagonal, so we go and watch the …

Jonathan Doyle: She goes to watch wrestling?

Serge Ou: Yeah, it's like a sort of local WWE contest.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Serge Ou: It's fantastic, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, so good. Okay, we'll put that in the show notes.

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah, and she loves … So we have to … We have to come back and wrestle for at least two or three days after each one, yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. Oh, wow. I love it. So the last thing we often ask, if you could imagine, you walk on stage at a, at a key event, maybe the first night at Cannes or something or those … or put it this way, there's a hundred or so young business owners, creative types, people starting out, it doesn't have to be specific to the creative production industry …

Serge Ou: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: But what three pieces of advice would you give to people starting out in business because you have taken a creative instinct, but you've also had a business instinct and they're relatively rare that they survive successfully long term. Give us the three key things you think business owners and listeners should be thinking about in terms of building successful business.

Jonathan Doyle: I know you're gonna say this is just your take and that's fine. That's why you're here, 'cause you've got some runs on the board and you've built the right business so what three things?

Serge Ou: Ah, listen.

Jonathan Doyle: Yup.

Serge Ou: First thing is listen. Listen to the people who give you advice, who mentor you, who, who are going to help steer your journey. I think it's really, really important. I think that is key to it. Again, we were talking earlier about the sort of arrogance of youth, and you know being sort of all gung ho and go, go, go, go, but I think we were very privileged to have a lot of people spend a lot of time with us. The advice was just solid gold, to be honest. Every time, and we listened, you know, and I think that's really sort of part of that. I think you can … You think you have all the answers, you don't, you don't.

Jonathan Doyle: My brother used to say, there's no such thing as a good young lawyer.

Serge Ou: (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: When he said that when he was a young lawyer.

Serge Ou: Can I use that?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: And y-y-you know who taught him that was a former supreme court judge. Um, I don't remember his name, he's died but he was at Malisons 25 years ago and the judge taught him, "Always remember there's no such thing as a good young lawyer."

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: That's why I get scared … and I'm not gonna say which party it is but even in Canberra there's some incredibly young people going for pre-selection on 2021 and, friends, sorry, I'm sure there could be some outliers but sometimes you've got to be …  you've got to have had a few of your edges knocked off, you know.

Serge Ou: Yes, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: So listen to the key people, to mentors.

Serge Ou: Mm, mm-hmm.

Jonathan Doyle: Number two.

Serge Ou: Love what you're doing. Love it. If you don't, don't do it. I think because it's going to be hard. It's …

Jonathan Doyle: So how do people find that 'cause that's exactly what Richard Watkins said. That was his number two last week.

Serge Ou: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: So did you always know that, how do people find that?

Serge Ou: I think I had a pretty good inkling it's what I wanted to do, but as you do it, you'll know pretty quickly if you like it or not.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think work that out very quickly and if you don't, like kid, get out.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Do something else, honestly, because it's gonna take a lot of energy. It's gonna affect you physically, mentally, financially.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah,  yeah.

Serge Ou: It's gonna do all those things too, so be prepared and if you don't love it, well … and you need those things.

Jonathan Doyle: It's like that great line, you can't pay me enough to hate my life.

Serge Ou: Yeah, absolutely. (laughs) Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: I love that, I love that line. 'Cause there's a speaker, people you like, "Ah, will, will you come and speak at this event?" Yeah, what's your … Whatever it costs and, ah, you can't pay me enough to hate traveling to … you know, whatever.

Serge Ou: No, no. Yes, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: So listen to the mentors, listen to the people guiding your journey. Love what you do for the reasons you've shared. Number three?

Serge Ou: Share what you've learnt, I think.

Jonathan Doyle: Contribution.

Serge Ou: Yup. Give back, I think that's really, really important. I think it's part of your, it should be part of your ima … it should be, it should be expected of you.

Jonathan Doyle: But a lot of people don't do that. Why, why do it?

Serge Ou: I think people get scared. I think people get scared about sort of people cutting their grass or the next phase through or whatever it is. I think it's about evolution. It's about evolution of what we do. How do we get better? How do we get better? How do we get better at being, you know, real estate agents or being mechanics, how do we … We do that by sharing knowledge.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And I think you need to share and I think you need to sort of … It's book end of listen, then share.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Have your journey and share.

Jonathan Doyle: Receive from the mentors early in the game and then that's what Glen Keyes was about, too, the contribution factor so …

Serge Ou: Yeah, very important, I think.

Jonathan Doyle: So to finish, what's the future hold for you guys? Where do you want to see this go? Just keep growing into more diverse, interesting work?

Serge Ou: I think we were talking earlier about the idea, the sort of fragmentation of the business and …

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And how the industry is going and I think it's kind of strangely frightening but strangely incredibly exciting.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, chaos theory.

Serge Ou: To be honest, you know and I think to see what happens in the next five years, I think the next five years is going to be fascinating.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Honestly.

Jonathan Doyle: In what way, what's coming down the line?

Serge Ou: Well, I think in the way that the industry's going to change, I think that the shift in what the mechanisms are, how we sort of consume, maybe, how we do all that. I think is absolutely fascinating. Whats happening and thing like augmented reality. Fascinating stuff, the way we tell stories is shifting.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Slightly, which is really, really interesting. I think there is an opportunity there to sort of evolve what we do in a very interesting way.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, let me ask you on that. Just to add some final value for listeners is for business owners, one of the, I mean one of the things is being able to get your story out, right? There's all these tools where once you had two or three platforms which were enormously expensive high barriers to entry.

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Now they're in your hand and they're furry. Do you interview today, Sanja, he's going to open a brilliant restaurant and I love what he's doing and I'm gonna … I'm actually going there for dinner at 5:30, looking forward to it. They got a great business, I love what they're doing but they need to get that story out and they're doing it.

Serge Ou: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: But for any business people listening, what do you think are some of the key elements getting their story out?

Serge Ou: That's really hard for me to say, 'cause I'm a terrible self publicist. (laughing) but, ah, ahm, I'm the quiet one in the business.

Jonathan Doyle: You're the quiet one.

Serge Ou: Yeah, ahm.

Jonathan Doyle: What are the, what are the elements, what do people need to think about to go from, I like my business, gee, I hope somebody buys something today to …

Serge Ou: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: You know what, this is a great business and I want to tell people about it.

Serge Ou: Yeah. Yes, brook it, I don't know, whatever, eh, depends what sort of industry, how you can sort of talk to people about it but look, I think if you're excited about your business and I think you talk to people, they're going to be excited about your business.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Serge Ou: Honestly, again that comes back to that passion. I think that's the number one kind of driver.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: People know pretty quickly if you're into what you do.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: And you know, that's a good advertisement.

Jonathan Doyle: And I think the other one that's  come through in recent weeks has just been having a really good product helps.

Serge Ou: Yes. Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle: You know, having BentSpoke come in and they brought samples.

Serge Ou: (laughs)

Jonathan Doyle: God bless you, Richard Watkins, long may you flourish. Ahm, but yeah, often we said, last week, that if you've got a crap product, you, you've got nowhere to hide.

Serge Ou: No, no, no.

Jonathan Doyle: Sooner or later.

Serge Ou: No, no, you'll be, you'll be found out pretty quick.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Serge Ou: Yeah, so I think …

Jonathan Doyle: Well, my friend, Serge Ou, thank you so much for making time. I've enjoyed this. We've covered metaphysics, Greek philosophy, ah, war history, ah, parenting, so people you got value for money today, we're gonna have WildBear's links in the show notes so if you're listening to this in, ah, bigger private enterprise, government, please come and check out their website. They've been around long enough to have many runs on the board and they know what they're doing and they can be trusted to tell your story, too, so please check them out.

Jonathan Doyle: So that's it from us this week, Serge Ou, thanks so much for coming in.

Serge Ou: Jonathan, thank you. It's been a great pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Jonathan Doyle: It's been good fun. Thank you, my friend.

Serge Ou: Thank you.

Jonathan Doyle: Hey, guys, Jonathan once again. You enjoy that one? How good was that, huh? It was, ah, just a great pleasure to, to have that time with Serge. You know, one of the great things about this podcast is just meeting so many interesting people and I just think he shared so much insight and wisdom with us. You know, what I do is, I, I do these recordings and then after, and I'll just be thinking about them for days just, just insights. It kind of builds up.

Jonathan Doyle: So, Serge, if you're hearing this again, my friend, thank you so much for making time for us out of your schedule. Ah, people wouldn't know but it was actually the first day of his, ah, of his break. He's, ah, he was on holidays and made time just to sneak in and then, and share it with us, so really grateful for your time, my friend, and thanks for sharing with us.

Jonathan Doyle: So everybody, I hope you got a lot out of that and I hope you can share with people, hope you've subscribed. I want you to go to the show notes and maybe check out WildBear, look at what they do. You know if you need help in your business or in government with building a story, building a narrative, creating content, then you really wanna  check these guys out, so go to the show notes. Check 'em out on social, check out their website and find out how WildBear can bring some value to your business or government department.

Jonathan Doyle: That's it, my friends. I'm, ah, out of the studio now. I hope you enjoyed this one. I love doing these. Reach out to me if you want a little particular guest you'd like us to try and get on the show, but for now, thanks so much to Serge and the guys at WildBear. Thank you for sharing your time with us on the Canberra Business Podcast.

Jonathan Doyle: Ladies and gentlemen, we're gonna have another podcast for you next week.