Last year more than a few people noticed an internet Kickstarter - a book called ‘The Promised Land’.
The book turned into a sensation which went viral on Buzz Feed, The Dominion Post, BBC, Teen Vogue, Upworthy and The New Zealand Herald. Many people have now heard about the book itself but few know the story about the authors and friends who wrote it together. Pals Chaz and Adam collaborated on an original idea, leading to their Kickstarter, which found their book concept celebrated worldwide for a revolutionary idea of a picture book for kids in which two boys fall for each other in a fantasy kingdom. However, when the Queen remarries, her sinister new husband seeks control of the Enchanted Forest and the land the farm boy's family are responsible for protecting. The book raised an astonishing $43,000 (all of which went on producing it).
WHO ARE THE AUTHORS AND WHERE ARE THEY FROM?
Chaz is from the UK originally, from a town the size of Wellington south of London in the countryside. He admits that being gay and coming out wasn’t a pleasant experience and that he didn’t know what it was to be gay until things took a more sinister turn. “I didn’t have a very good time at school. From age 12 onwards I was bullied and I didn’t know I was gay until I was called it” says Chaz. “You have negative connotations with being gay before you even know you are. That’s really terrible when you think about it.”
After seeing Jurassic Park, Chaz developed a lifelong love of films and storytelling. After some extensive seeking out of a connection by his family, at 16 Chaz experienced working on a film set (for free) on a film starring Alan Rickman. His first job was to drop him pastries. “It was before he was Snape - but still, it was like ‘Wow, Alan Rickman’”. On the film set, Chaz persistently set about asking everyone who would put up with him nagging whether they had been to university. “I was having doubts that going to university would be right for me” admits Chaz. After finding most of the film crew had not, Chaz decided to get as much practical work experience as he could on films. He worked with film production companies, including Miramax in London.
It was around this time ‘The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King’ was released. After watching the DVD extras, Chaz was captured by the enthusiasm of Richard Taylor talking about filmmaking. He decided to chase that the passion that he thought was diminished in London and made bold decision to move across the world to Wellington.
From the moment he arrived, Chaz felt right at home in Wellington. Since then, he has worked on an array of projects. “I’ve been working on web series which have done quite well,” Chaz says. “‘101 Dates’ is one and it was in the LA Web Festival and won several awards. Also, ‘End of Term’ which was on TVNZ on Demand last year.” On top of this, he works on his own scripts and series developments. During the day, until last year, Chaz was working as a project coordinator. He now is a full-time freelancer.
Adam, by contrast, was born right here in Wellington and grew up in Papakowhai. He then moved to Tawa, where he went to Tawa College. Adam admits that he had a true passion for filmmaking growing up, and used to use his father's camera to make short films (a highlight being making a film where his friend's sister gave birth to a cat). He left school and intended to do a gap year. Adam found himself at IRD for the next 4 years before deciding to at last go to film school after competing in the 48-hour film festival. “I felt like I might actually have some talent. It gave me the confidence I needed” he explains.
HOW DID THEY MEET?
The pair were introduced at Adams graduation from film school, where Chaz was introduced as a producer. The pair hit it off and have worked on many projects since, apart from ‘The Promised Land’.
HOW DID THEY MAKE 'THE PROMISED LAND' HAPPEN?
Adam had the idea for a children’s picture book while on the bus. “I thought that it would have been so much easier for me coming out and knowing my sexuality if I had had a book like that growing up. A children’s book where it wasn’t centred about the coming out but being gay was inclusive and normal” He mentioned it to Chaz who sent a 5-page email of ideas back. They decided to brainstorm together, which turned into a book treatment. “With gay media, it can be all about just the sexuality or tragedy. We wanted to make a book that was not centred around these repeated stories. “My life isn’t a plot point” explains Chaz. “I’m just gay - why can’t it just be a mainstream story that is inclusive of gender and sexuality?”
After they’d developed the book and commissioned an editor, Chaz and Adam decided to run a Kickstarter to raise funds to make it. Christine Luiten Illustrated the book and the backgrounds were done by Bo Moore. It required serious amounts of work to coordinate, and was almost like a film. “We were having almost weekly meetings” explains Chaz. “After we launched the Kickstarter for the book at ‘Out In The Park’ last year, TV One did an article on us which helped to give us major press coverage. The highlights for Chaz and Adam were being on popular culture websites BuzzFeed and Upworthy. Ultimately, they raised over $40,000 after Kickstarter fees, a huge achievement for any project.
The exposure on international websites meant that Chaz and Adam were able to produce the book in hardcover instead of paperback and produce an audiobook narrated by Geraldine Brophy and set to a fully original score composed for the book by Tane Upjohn-Beatson. Their first edition was released on 14 February 2017. Since then it has been a case of keeping up with the logistics and production of the book.
“There has been a conservative backlash, but lots of it doesn’t make sense” Chaz explains. “Like ‘Kids shouldn’t know about sex’ or ‘It will turn kids gay’ which is mad because there is no sex in the book and I was exposed to 99% heterosexual material and it had no effect on me turning out gay.”
There have also been less expected disappointments along the way. “We haven’t been picked up by mainstream authors, despite the publicity,” says Chaz “I just think don’t think they want to go there. They don’t see that diversity is the story. Our book has magic, sword fights, good and bad - it isn’t just an allegory or ‘Tom has two Dad’s’. That’s not a story. This is two humans who are men falling in love.”
WHAT DO CHAZ AND ADAM DO TO CHILL OUT?
“We are always working on projects,” say Chaz and Adam. Despite this, Netflix and Pizza rate highly, unsurprisingly. “I like a big range of TV like '30 Rock', 'Parks and Recreation' and then my guilty pleasure - 'Nashville',” says Adam.
“It is one of the few unique place in the world where it is easy to get creative people to assemble to make creative things happen, ” explains Chaz. “In my film work, there is no barrier in our freedom to move, and there is a real willingness to get stuck in, even if there is no money. You can still find a way to make it. Even if you have no funding, there is always a way through.”
You can meet Adam & Chaz at Armageddon in Wellington, 3-5 June or get their book from www.promisedlandstore.com and all good bookstores.