Melanie Horkan is a producer who works across drama and documentary productions in Europe, Canada and Australia. Her most recent credit was as Associate Producer with Polar Star Films on Google and the World Brain, which premiered at Sundance 2013. Her film, Redskin, won the 2003 Cinevex Best Narrative Script Award and the Ian Potter Emerging Artists Award.
I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie through a mutual friend of ours who lives in Sydney, Australia. When I told our friend about my plans to try and change my career she immediately thought of Melanie and said that the both of us should meet. Melanie happened to be making a visit to New York, so we met for coffee one Saturday afternoon. I immediately liked her. Her approach to life was admirable and relaxed – someone you felt like you had known for years already (It’s the Aussie way!) even though you just met. It was very clear that she had devoted time to constructing a life for herself that was on her own terms – leaving a stressful life in the hustle and bustle of the advertising world to pursue a life that allowed her to be reflective and connected to the subjects and stories that she was passionate about. I knew I could learn more from her, so asked if she would speak with me for Chapter Be…
I know you are currently very busy – what are you working on at the moment?
We (Fathom Film Group) are just getting ready to pitch Saving the Enemy in Toronto at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. So, I’m flying there next week. We got accepted into this thing called Deal Maker, in which they selected 50 films from around the world to participate. It’s kind of like matchmaking for filmmakers. So we are meeting with the BBC and lots of big North American broadcasters. Then we are also doing this interactive 2-day workshop with the Mozilla Foundation. We’re going to be running around Toronto madly making this interactive project over two days! The workshop is looking at how interactive technologies and the Internet can help us source more stories.
One of the things we thought was really cool about our documentary’s story was that it talks about two enemies from a part of the world where there has always been fighting and always been conflict. So, how do two enemies become lovers or two enemies become friends? It’s looking at redemption and healing – at those very intense emotions, and that there’s a very thin veneer separating anger and love and hate. But – the main project is to get the film funded. We are also going to be presenting it in Sheffield, there’s a big documentary film festival there in June. It’s a similar type of thing where we are meeting with broadcasters and we are going to try and get the documentary funded.
How long have you been working on this film?
Just since November. We had a film in Amsterdam at the documentary festival there and we had lunch with this journalist and he told us this story. I instantly just got goose bumps and thought, ‘You know we have to do something about this.’ It’s a pretty amazing story with two really incredible guys. It is kind of mind blowing they met up randomly in Canada, all that time ago.
So, let’s backtrack a bit and have you talk about your background. I know you did go to school for film, but didn’t necessarily get to apply what you wanted to right away. So, it would be interesting to hear about your history and how you got to where you are now – creating and then selling documentaries at various international film festivals!
I went to Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), and studied editing. While I was there, I was getting really interested in what was happening in interactive technology. I was there in like 1999, and when I emerged, the dot com boom had kind of happened and so I worked for a company called Tribe Online in Sydney. I thought it was really exciting because it was bringing together everything that I was interested in, which were these new emerging technologies as a way of telling stories. So, I worked for them for two years and part of that was that we did a deal with APTN (Associated Press Television and News) in London and we made a whole series of documentaries around the world based on youth affairs. And, we covered everything from an underground club in Berlin, to artists who were working in New York creating visual statements about the homeless condition under Mayor Giuliani. That lasted for two years, and then the dot com bubble burst. And, I found myself working in advertising. I think that every film student, when they emerge, thinks that you can use advertising as a way to earn a lot of cash that you can then use for your passion projects. Instead you just end up working crazy hours and getting burnt out.
So, I went to work for a couple of big advertising agencies in Sydney, and part of that was really great because I learned how to work really fast and work with a lot of exciting interactive technologies as well. I found myself in Sydney just making videos about fridges, white goods, cars, etc. and that wasn’t the reason I went to film school. I kind of knew at the bottom of my heart that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So, I ended up taking a break. I had always dreamt of living in Barcelona, because I just thought the city was incredibly beautiful. I decided to go have a short holiday in Barcelona, learn Spanish and just reconnect with what I wanted to do again.
Within two weeks of me arriving in Barcelona, which was in 2009, a friend from film school visited me and she had read about a bar near where we were staying, where Salvador Dali’s lover (he’s still alive), used to come. So, we went down and then she walked in – Violeta – who was born a man and lived as a woman for many years and now frequents bars and sings and tells her stories. We sat down with her and she told me this incredible story about surviving the Franco regime, and dancing and forming all the underground clubs in Barcelona, that were illegal in the 1950’s and 60’s. And then how she had briefly gone back to living as a man and become a father and had a kid and didn’t know where this kid was. This story was stuff that you couldn’t make up, and I was really excited about the idea of making a film about it. So I approached a company here called Polar Star Films and they loved the idea of doing the film. The film was not so much about the cross dressing aspect or crazy stories that went on, but more about the idea of memory and how memory shapes who you are as a human. But because things are so economically depressed in Spain, the company couldn’t afford to pay me, so I did a little bit of free work on a film they had with BBC, Google and the World Brain, which was looking at how the internet was affecting productivity and it ended up being a really gorgeous experience.
I’d gone from from working 15 hour days in Sydney to doing what I love here. On very little money, but it felt really, really right. Google and the World Brain was another big adventure because they then sent me to Toronto and it’s where I met my current co-producer (on Saving the Enemy); yeah, so it’s one of those things where I took one risk and it’s kind of paid off. In retrospect, you can kind of see how all of the dots are connected and have come together.
I’m reading Outliers right now which talks about being in the right place at the right time. You talked about graduating when the dot com boom was happening and how it afforded you the opportunities of get involved in some really exciting work. Then, the serendipity of going to this bar and meeting Violeta and being inspired. So, how much do you think, life, work and your career path have to do with right time and right place versus really hard work?
It’s a bit of both, I think. I think the big lesson for me is when you take a risk. You have to really listen, without sounding too much like a hippie, really listen to your instincts. When I was in advertising, my instincts were just screaming at me to get the hell out of there. Having said that, there were a lot of things that I learned. I met amazing people while I was in advertising and it allowed me to save money to take the risk. But definitely, there’s a lot of serendipity involved. To get the serendipity happening, you really need to be in touch with your instincts, but from my experience, instincts aren’t always the easiest choices. Often times, I feel like it would’ve been easier, on a practical level, to stay in Sydney, working in advertising. I could have bought a house by now – that sort of thing. But you have to be true to yourself. At the moment I’m working really, really hard to try and get this film out. With the blind belief, I suppose, that if you put 100% into something, the end result might not be what you had planned, but it will be some place good.
Do you have any tips or tools, as far as balancing all these various pieces of work that you’re working on? Because it sounds like it’s quite a bit.
For someone who doesn’t have an office to go to, I have a pretty strict schedule with myself – otherwise, it would just really hard to manage. So, I get up in the morning and go for a run or a swim, and I come back and I start working. So, my client in Australia is online in the morning and the other person is in Toronto, so they come online at about 4 in the afternoon. But, yeah, it’s a very focused schedule. And, I like that way of working really intensely and then to have some time off. I mainly work from home. I had an office here, 18 months ago, but otherwise I’m working from home and it can be incredibly difficult to be disciplined, but I think when you do have that dialogue through a blog or through Skype with the people you’re working with it really makes a difference.
Taking risks and making compromises is part of ‘creating your own path’ and that is not always easy. Often I read people’s success stories and hear about people’s successes and it feels almost daunting, like it’s not something you can do personally. So, in your process, what have some of the struggles and hardships been? Some of the things that make you think, “Oh, it would be easier to go back to advertising,” but instead you continued to push through that?
I went back to Australia last year for four months and I instantly got a well paying job in advertising and it was like all these things from my old world were tempting me. You know, family was there, the sun was shining, friends were there and it’s easier because I speak the language. (You know, I don’t have people looking at me inquisitively when I open my mouth like I do here when I try to speak Spanish.) In the first two months, I was asking myself, ‘What am I thinking? Why do I live in Barcelona?’ It can be really fun, but it’s not my home and if you have a bad day or get sick or something goes wrong you can feel kind of very lonely. Last year I was feeling pretty high, because I was going to all these film festivals, but then you sort of come home and spend a lot of time on your own.
So – at the end of the four months of being back in Australia, I found myself bored, and I found myself craving a challenge. I have this sense a lot of the time, when I’m here in Barcelona, that I’m in the right place. You know? Sometimes I might feel uncomfortable or sometimes I miss people a lot – I miss my family and my friends and so on. I’m constantly having new experiences here and being tested, and sometimes it’s exhausting! I kind of agree with you, I mean you read these heroic stories of how someone made an amazing film or climbed to top of a mountain and the reality is, it’s hard and it’s not the easier choice. But, I also realized I spent 2 years working in an advertising company in Sydney, and (for the first time in my life) I was earning decent money and by society’s standards I was successful, but I think you know in your heard if something just isn’t right for you. For some people, advertising is right for them and they love it, and that’s great, but I wasn’t being true to myself.
And what did that process look like for you, coming to realize that you weren’t being true to yourself and you wanted to change that?
It took me getting sick! I had my whole immune system break down because I was working 15 hour days. So, I guess it was my body that first went, ‘NO!’ I dreamt about leaving for about a year, and then I started doing some research. The final decision was that I had been carrying around this idea of just leaving and having this adventure. I knew this adventure was going overseas and I really wanted to go [to Barcelona]. I just wanted to play for a while, you know, life had become way too serious. I felt like, creatively, I wasn’t exploring anything in Sydney, because I was just tired all the time. So, when I made the decision to move here, it happened very quickly. I had spent a year thinking about it, and I just quit my job one day. I found myself with a colleague from film school, and we had a client that made white goods (fridges, etc.) and we found ourselves shooting a commercial with all these models draped over fridges and we both just got the giggles and were baffled thinking, ‘This isn’t what we signed up for!’ So, I think I quit the next day or shortly there after, because I really didn’t want to make a career out of videos focused on white goods meets high fashion!
That was your tipping point?
Yeah, that was it! A lot of it was a process of just continually talking it out with really good friends. I think that’s the process a lot of us go through with any decision. If you are continually talking about something, then you have to be willing to do something about it. You know, like if you’re in a job that isn’t great or a relationship that isn’t great, and this theme keeps coming up again and again then it’s time to do something about it.
Yeah, you need to take action. But, I give you credit because I think with a lot of people, fear takes over and it doesn’t allow them to take that action. I think everyone has that breaking point, though, where you realize, ‘It has to be better than this!’ It gets to a point where it’s worth taking that risk. It’s a matter of really listening to yourself and taking that step. So, if there is someone in that situation right now, who is miserable sitting at a desk job, and maybe, for example, wants to start making documentaries, but they don’t even know how to go about doing that. What would your advice to them be?
The first thing I did, on a practical level – because I felt so disconnected from things that made me happy and I felt so tired all the time – was I had to think about all the things that made me happy as a kid. As silly as it may sound – and some of them were silly, like drawing every day or riding my bike. So, one of the things that I started as a part of that process was taking a photo every day. That’s something you can do in a blog or Instagram or something, and just to be cognizant and aware of the beauty of my surroundings. That’s something I did on a day-to-day or practical level. Then there’s doing something like taking a course. I mean, you don’t have to do anything as drastic as I did like move countries, but you could do a course on documentaries. Before I got into the film industry, I did loads of hanging around film sets and volunteering on projects – just kind of breathing it all in.
How did you go about finding those? For example, when you met Violeta and wanted to tell her story and film it, how did you know what steps to take first? Just through connections that you had or through research that you did? What was your process there?
So, for me it was just walking into a bar, meeting this person and asking. I was pretty amazed that no one had made a film about her. Then what happened was another serendipitous kind of meeting. I had lunch with a friend while I was in Sydney who had just shot a commercial in Barcelona and he said, ‘Hey, I know you are wanting to take a break from the industry and you just want to go and learn Spanish. But, if you do want to make a film there’s a really great company called Polar Star Films [in Barcelona],’ He had just worked with them, so that was another coincidence, I guess. If I didn’t have a name of a film company, though, I think I would just research and approach a few different people.
It seems like it is somewhat a matter of being brave, putting yourself out there and, again, taking a risk.
Absolutely. And in the case of that film, I hadn’t been here very long, and the amount of help I got was just phenomenal! From people offering me knowledge, offering me time, offering me free cameras. I think, if you really have a dream, people really want to help you make it happen. I think if you are really authentic about it, I think people will help you. I think half the battle is just being clear and knowing what you want. Often getting to that stage is the hard part – because life has so many different options, I suppose. From my experience, whenever I’m really clear about what it is that I want to do, in a creative sense, it generally comes together. You know? Yes, you have to be brave, but you ask people to help you, too.
Did you notice if one culture was more apt to help than the other, or did you not see a difference there?
No, I think it’s kind of the same. I mean, the only thing here is that they take their siestas very, very seriously. If you suggest working between 2 and 4, they look at you like you’ve asked them to work at 6 in the morning. But, it’s what I liked about being here. I went from being at the coal face of advertising, where everyone eats at their desk and people are terribly self important. And here, the city has a great creative feeling to it, but there’s this sense that life goes on. For example, when we were shooting that film about Violeta, we’d still break in the middle of the day for two hours to have paella – which I found hilarious!
I love that! America can be such a work driven culture, especially in New York City, so I appreciate the fact that in Spain they really seem to factor in the other important aspects of life as well.
And they do! They used to look at me really oddly when I ate my lunch at my desk, because to them that time is really sacred. And I love that about the culture, but sometimes it can drive me mad. If you want to get something done, and you can’t, it can be really frustrating. But overall it’s pretty great because it means they are very much in the moment. Family and friends and the joy of eating are really important to them. And sometimes, I think, yeah, we lose sight of that in Australia and the States.
Yes, is that part of what drew you to Barcelona? That it’s a more creative city that’s more balanced in that kind of way?
Besides Saving the Enemy, two other films you worked on were, Google and the World Brain and The Defector, is that right?
Yes. So, Google and the World Brain, was the one that when I approached Polar Star Films about helping me out with my short film on Violeta, they said, ‘We don’t have any money to pay you, but if you can help us with Google and the World Brain…’ They knew I was from the dot com era and that I had quite a bit of knowledge about interactivity. And, I loved it! It was a very long process – it was two years of developing it. I worked as the Associate Producer and Cross Media Producer. So I worked with them to develop the script, and I also worked in some of the big markets like Toronto and Sheffield to get money for it. It was really interesting, because it was something I had never done before. I had always been a behind the scenes kind of person, but they made me go out and try to get money for the film, which was terrifying. But, I had to do it – Even though I’m not someone who I imagined would be someone who goes out to speak and make the big sales pitch, I could do it because I spoke about it quite passionately.
And – great experience for your own films. To be able to figure out those ways of having to ask for money, which probably won’t be the last time you have to do it!
It’s also good, because it makes me see that going into a big market like, Hot Docs in Toronto, was really great as well. You get to see the film as a product and as a market. Otherwise the danger is you end up on the creative side of it too much, and this was a good way of helping you push your films forward and also understand how the markets work.
It seems like you really do get the opportunity to diversify your interests and dabble in different things, which to me is very appealing because you don’t run the risk of getting bored in one certain aspect of the industry.
Exactly. When I was graduating from university they were really pushing us to decide – to decide what it is that you are. When I was in school, I was really interested in sound design, I was really interested in etching and I really, really wanted to direct, and I remember my teacher saying, ‘You need to decide.’ And that’s why, when I went to the Australian Film and TV School, I entered as an editing student. I thought, “Oh, well at least this is a topic that I can learn and be employed at the end of it.” But really, in the end, it is good to be able to diversify so when an idea comes to you, you are able to decide how you want to approach it.
From the outside it could look as though, “How have you done all this?” So, I appreciate that you are honest about your process and that you continue to seek out those things that do make you happy.
I don’t know if it’s a place that you get to, but it’s a process that you go through. I think it is really important to always remind yourself of that, too. For instance, a really successful film maker friend of mine, who just had a film at all these different film festivals and she said that she had a moment where she got to the top of the mountain and thought, “this is where I wanted to be for ages,” but it didn’t feel like the place she imagined it to be. I think it’s just really important, to remember that it is a process.
It’s not just getting to that destination that you dream of, but enjoying the process along the way and that can be challenging sometimes.
It’s challenging all the time! No, it is and that’s why you need to be really aware of what your chills are. So if you chills are yoga and meditation, you have to make sure you do that and be kind to yourself. I think the important thing is to just try; And to forgive yourself if you don’t get to exactly the place you thought you were going to get to. I used to treat films like relationships. I would fall in love with a film idea and all I could talk about would be that, and all I could think and dream about would be that. But, actually, it is a business. Sometimes, you might have the best idea in the world, but there’s not money for it because people aren’t buying that kind of film. For instance the BBC recently told us that they weren’t buying a certain type of film that we were trying to sell. That isn’t to say it wasn’t good. So, I think if you can develop different creative projects, and have several on the go at once, is great.
You are a creative person and there are probably many different ways that you could direct your creative energies. So, why documentaries? What is the underlying passion that drives you toward this work?
I think with documentaries, it’s incredibly exciting. I just want to learn as much about life and people’s stories and share stories. I guess my passion is when you are given an insight…for instance, when I made the film about Salvador Dali’s lover. It’s this incredible privilege to delve into that world and suddenly become immersed in the 1950’s and 1960’s underground cabaret bar in Barcelona and get that person’s perspective. So, it’s story telling, I guess. I grew up in Ireland, which has a very strong oral tradition of storytelling, so it’s kind of in my blood. It’s also, as a human, learning about other people’s journeys. The more documentaries and films I do, I think a lot of the things that motivate all of us – the desire to be loved, the desire to try and make a difference, the desire to leave an imprint on the world – are universal. The things people react to are quite similar.
It’s something that does help you feel connected to the world in a very real way.
Yes, otherwise I think it can feel really daunting. Five years ago, I went to the Australian National Photography Awards, and there was this photographer who did all these beautiful portraits. She was a friend of a friend and she had just won this big national award. My friend told me that 3 years prior she had never held a camera or taken a picture. So, I wanted to know how she did it on a really, really practical level. I talked to her and she said, ‘Yeah, I always wanted to be a photographer, so one day I asked myself, “what can I do to make that happen?”‘ She broke it down into these really practical steps. That day she enrolled herself in a course and then the next day she borrowed a friend’s camera and started taking photos. Then she aligned herself with a mentor. What I loved about her process was, it was practical and she wasn’t doing this whole thing about spending time on her own to figure it out, she was asking for help and she was enlisting other talented people with knowledge to help her on her journey. I think for me, a lot of the time when I’ve been struggling with how do I get from A to B in terms of making films, I’ve spent a lot of time on my own trying to figure it out. Now, I know you have to enlist people, you have to talk, you have to ask as many questions, no matter how dumb they are.
So – you have to be okay with asking for help and making yourself vulnerable in that way?
Exactly. That’s the key – knowing you have something to bring to the table and having strength in knowing that, but also being vulnerable with people. It’s not a weakness. Vulnerability and weakness are very different things.
If you could go back 10 or so years, what’s one thing you know now that you wish you could tell yourself back then?
I think to be braver. I say that, but the reality is, 10 to 15 years ago, I would have been quite broke, so on a practical level I wouldn’t have had the money to take the risk. But, I would’ve been braver on an emotional level – I should have just gone out and made more films and be clearer with myself on what I wanted to do. I think, 10-15 years ago, I was caught somewhere between wanting to be a successful person, in terms of having a job and that sort of thing, and not trusting my creative self enough.
How’s your idea of success changed over the last 10 or so years?
Hugely! Hugely! I think the people I admire are people that take risks and are brave. I think that is success. I don’t think success is someone who has money in the bank, but is not happy and only can wish for the day that they could do the thing they want to do. I’ve never been – I’m not from a materialistic family, so having money has never been hugely important to me. I think the idea of growth and the idea of taking risk – finding some sense of peace within yourself and knowing that it’s going to be a process and you’re not going to know all the answers.
Society as a whole has a certain definition of success. Have you found that you have had to battle with that at all in your professional or personal life?
Yeah, definitely. I think one of the things I love about being in Spain is they don’t, and maybe it’s just all in my own head too, but the feeling I get here is that they just like me for me. In North American and Australian society by a certain age, you have to have obtained certain things. When I go back to Sydney and I’m out socially, and people ask you how you are, and the answer that seems to denote that you are successful is to say “Oh, I’m so busy, I’m so busy.” It’s always struck me as being really odd. Great that you are busy, but are you having time for you? Are you spending time with your friends? Are you spending time with your husband? So, I think success in our kind of society is often just in the professional realm, but for me it’s also into the human realm. Are you a happy person? Are you learning from people?
You start to learn who you want to gravitate towards more, too. You can learn things about people that you didn’t know before when you go through the experience of making a life change for yourself.
It’s interesting to watch who you are gravitating towards as well. For instance, since I moved here, I’ve found the people that I’m gravitating towards aren’t necessarily in the creative industries. They are more in the realm of a yoga teacher, or a language teacher or the people that kind of moved here for work, because they also need something kind of different, I suppose. Maybe because those people validate your decisions as well. You can ask each other questions and you can help each other through it.
How do you maintain a professional community and network of people you can call upon?
I supposed I’ve really been fostering that for the last two years. So for instance, when I was working on Google and the World Brain, I went to Toronto for a workshop called Doc Exchange. It was a 2 part workshop in Denmark and Toronto and they brought together the Canadian tradition of really great cross platform projects with the European tradition of storytelling. I met a really great producer there, Ann Shin, who was the director of The Defector. She’s just a really talented and really great person and we’ve been trying to work together for the last two years and then this project (Saving the Enemy) came up. So I feel like over the last couple of years I’ve started to kind of have a network of people in Canada and Barcelona, where we can work on a single project together, but the idea or the feeling is that there is longer term stuff behind it. You need to have good people around you. Creatively, you need to have people you can trust and who are good at what they do and who are passionate about what they do, too.
You are very grounded. You did take a risk, but you’ve been very smart about the risk.
Yeah, I think you’ve got to have a sense of your framework. So even when I moved to Spain – I did take a big jump – and most people thought I was crazy, my parents included – but I think the thing I jumped to was booking myself into a Spanish course and that sort of thing. So it’s a combination of listening to your gut and creating a practical path for yourself, too. Doing your research. I mean, I have moments when I think “Well, what the fuck am I doing?” But, as I said, you don’t get to a place where it is ever going to be all rose tinted glasses. But I think there’s a certain strength you get with just going for it.
NOTES of Reflection:
- Patience & Resilience. Making documentaries (or films) is a very long process from the beginning point of the initial idea to seeing it on the big screen. It takes a lot of time, energy, money, dedication, commitment, etc. to not only make the film but also then find someone to distribute it. The daunting task of finding a distributor depends on many outside factors that the creators have little-to-no power over. Does that stop them from making the film and bringing their idea to fruition? No. If they allowed these hurdles to stop them from creating, then documentaries would never be made. Don’t allow the inevitable hurdles stop you from creating and exploring your ideas. “The important thing is just to try.” What are you doing to ensure that you just try?
- Find your “chills.” As Melanie says, these are the things that allow you to “be kind to yourself.” We are more likely to be in tune with our “gut” or intuition when we make sure that our lives are balanced with things that we just simply enjoy or that bring us some peace. That could be yoga, running, fishing, knitting – it doesn’t matter – just make space for it. How are you ensuring that you are taking time to factor your “chills” into your weekly schedule?
- Sometimes after being in a job or a life situation that has sucked you dry, it can be difficult to identify what it is that you are passionate about. If you are having trouble reconnecting to your core interests or figuring out what it is that you want to devote your energies to, try to remember what it was that you loved to do as a child. It might not be as cut and dry as – I liked to build things, so I should be a carpenter. It could be that you have very fond memories of baking with your grandmother, so you decide to start baking something different every Sunday or volunteer at an after school program that teaches students how to bake. The point is to just start playing with these ideas and allowing yourself the time to explore. You never know what the action of just exploring could lead to!
- Stop saying “I’m so busy” and start making time for other things in your life. Being busy doesn’t = other people being impressed. It’s a lazy excuse. It is our own responsibility to make sure that we are factoring in time, and that might mean making the choice to let something else go. What will you let go in your life to make room for things outside of what is making you so busy?
- Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland
- The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami
- Stasiland and All that I Am by Anna Funder
- Light Years by James Salter
- Love: Selected Poems by e.e cummings
- Collected Poems by W.B. Yeats
- The Leenane Trilogy by Martin McDonagh (plays)
- The Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
- Kieslowski on Kieslowski by Krzysztof Kieslowski
- The Arrival by Shaun Tan
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
- Breath by Tim Winton
- Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
- Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
- Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
- The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
- The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
- Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg (play)
- The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
*Images via Melanie Horkan