15 Jun 2014

Karl Sheridan's Monster Valley

From Standing Room Only, 1:45 pm on 15 June 2014

Monster Valley

Star sign: Leo
Age: Twenty Something
Occupation: Filmmaker and director of arts agency Monster Valley

Karl Sheridan doesn’t believe in star signs but he’s courteous enough to advise me that he reads them just for fun. ‘You’ll be figuring out where you fit best in a situation,’ is recent advice gleaned from a local rag. Not that he needs it, because Karl seems to have perfected that art of ‘fitting in’ and being adaptable to whatever situation has been thrown at him.

In terms of success, his dad has had the most impact on him and he’s never needed a mentor. “He taught me the fundamentals for being successful in any line of business: Hard work, punctual, polite; and to take initiative and seek opportunities.”

Karl certainly has his head screwed on and in fact embodies the aforementioned qualities—he knows how to use his time to get things done and when I meet him I get the feeling that no matter what, even under pressure he’ll always have a smile on his face. He’s approachable, charismatic and engaged—as one of his collaborators says, “…people just want to do things for him.” When he has his eyes on the prize, creativity tops his list over status and money, “because without creativity,” he says “it’s impossible to collaborate with others if you can’t understand them—creativity will gain you a status which may have some financial benefit”.

Considering there’s plenty of healthy competition around, with numerous graduates coming out of film schools around the country, he’s not the least bit phased. For Karl, the key to success is collaboration and maintaining ties with the arts community. Running his own creative arts agency, Monster Valley, keeps him more than busy. The agency specialises in still and moving image, events and creative collaborations, and he fits in his own creative projects around major commercial contracts which include; Westfield, Air New Zealand and BMW.

But that doesn’t mean he’s ‘sold out’ as an arts practitioner. “I feel there is a missing link between some creatives and some corporates. We are trying to bridge that relationship and make the whole process understandable for both parties. They often need each other to survive!” And of course picking up a client like BMW is a big deal… so did he do a fist pump when he got the contract?

“Possibly… ha ha. Fast cars and a race track are pretty sweet!” he says.

Karl does have an eye for edgy, underground arts though, and making films like his New Zealand street art documentary Dregs a couple of years ago, helps to further his interest in the local arts scene and expand his growing list of collaborators, many of whom have worked on his most recent event The Monster Valley Experiment which was a cross collaboration of artists from different creative fields, running over the course of a week at The Basement Theatre.

For Karl, the joy was in seeing these diverse arts practitioners come together in one space. It is events like this which enable this young filmmaker to keep his energy and ideas fresh, and ultimately assist him in the commercial world. But his primary love will always be ‘filmmaking’ with Jurassic Park being the inspiration behind his career choice. As for the name of his creative arts agency, Monster Valley, the name comes from his old studio which was based on Valley Road in Mount Eden.

“Every Monday, I decided to screen ‘Monday Mystery Monster Movies’ from a projector on a white wall in the studio. I’d invite friends, artists and collaborators to pop up and check out an old B-Grade monster flick. Someone nicknamed the studio ‘Monsters on Valley’ which soon abbreviated to 'Monster Valley’, which stuck, all the way though to officially registering the company.”

As Monster Valley continues to grow, Karl tells me that delegating is a lesson he’s had to learn quickly because everyone has a slightly different process. Being grounded helps of course – and what keeps him grounded? Gravity, (the guy has a sense of humour!), his partner, friends and family.

There’s no denying that life is on the up for Karl Sheridan but it’s also non-stop. “It’s hard to find the holiday / work balance when you LOVE what you do. I find myself with a camera in my hand or organising a gig on my ‘days off’. That way I can say that I’m paid to holiday and only work weekends!”