Misery & Melancholy

Holly Melancholy
Anna Jackson from Transmedia NZ talks to artist and creative entrepreneur Tanja Jade (AKA Misery) about her latest adventure, Holly Melancholy: The Interactive Game.


Anna Jackson from Transmedia NZ talks to artist and creative entrepreneur Tanja Jade (AKA Misery) about her latest adventure, Holly Melancholy: The Interactive Game.

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Tanja Jade (Misery) is well known as an artist and entrepreneur with a unique vision and a lively imagination. She has created a distinctive ‘storyworld’ – to use a transmedia term – inhabited by an endless assortment of weird and wonderful characters, spanning creative and commercial outlets ranging from street art to fashion, toys and other merchandise and animation.

Now Tanja has teamed up with InGame to bring her characters to life through an interactive animated video game, and they’re using the new Boosted crowdfunding platform to raise the funds to get the project off the ground.

I asked Tanja Jade a few questions about crowdfunding, collaboration, being a creative entrepreneur and what the future holds for the world of Misery... 


What have been your most important lessons in terms of matching your creative vision with entrepreneurial ambition?

Not compromising what I do, my values and ethics for a short-term fix. Being thoughtful and careful of who I collaborate with.  Having a great team is important. Only doing what I believe in 100% in. Having good contracts in place. 

Creatively, I have always been interested in creating strange little characters and developing the worlds they exist in. I try to show and tell their stories in as many ways possible. It usually comes back to collaborations, I have been fortunate to have met and collaborated with the right people at the right time.

The game is a very exciting one for me. I have always loved the idea of seeing my babies in a game. Renee Tanner, manager of Boosted introduced me to Stephen Knightly from Ingame as she knew how much I wanted to develop a Misery game... not knowing anything about gaming I had no idea how to make it happen. Turned out that Stephen liked my artwork and is also the chair person of New Zealand Game Developers Association, so knew many amazing young up and coming game developers and animators that were keen to get on board with the project.

The Misery brand and your characters are very much built around you as an artist and persona. You even had an exorcism in 2010 to send Misery back to Misery land and re-launched yourself as Tanja Jade.

But I have a strong feeling you’re not just a one-woman band. Alongside every great woman etc...

Yeah, in 2010 it all got a bit too much for me and I felt a bit swallowed up by Misery to the point I wanted to kill her or have a bit of separation from her at least. So the exorcism felt like a the best solution as I could cast her away for how ever long I needed and bring her back when I wanted to. Misery has a strong brand following, I don't feel it is really possible to kill Misery. My grandfather still calls me Misery! As do most of my fans. 

I feel content painting and creating work as Tanja Jade Misery and also having the Misery brand for product and commercial collaborations. I have incredible support from my amazing family and friends that help me very much.

How important is collaboration to your work?

Collaboration is very important to me, especially when it comes to brand collaborations. I rely on collaborative brand projects to feed my art in to new networks that may not be familiar with what I do. It also sets the standard of my work. My favorite collaborations commercially have been G-shock, Blue Q -Serato and Piaggio.

My husband Tom McMillan and I have formed collaborative art partnership working on installations, large paintings and projections together we are called 'Callamityville' and make artwork about vegetable gardens. I love working with other artists it brings a whole new adventure to making the work and developing the ideas. Tom and I are working on our first big exhibition together for early 2014 and will be working closely with Xanthe White, landscape designer.

What’s the secret to successful creative and business partnerships/collaborations?

Find the right people or brands to work with and make sure they share and trust your values, work ethics and creative vision and vice versa.

What does the process of developing Holly Melancholy into a game involve? 

We are still in the early stages of developing the game. The project has come together rather quickly from simply being an idea on my 'must do in this lifetime' list, to actually happening, which is totally amazing.

Our team includes Stephen Knightly - InGame, Lianne Booton – animation, and James Lambourne - game developer. 

Currently I am working on story boards the background art work for the first couple of levels and characters and discovering the best way to apply the aesthetics of my work to a game, what's going to work stylistically and look beautiful and enchanting and reflect the way I paint. It is important to me to keep the environments looking as close to my painting style as possible; I expect there will be a bit of experimenting to get this right.

I have no experience making games or even animating so I'm lucky to have such a great team that really know what they're doing. We meet once a week or so to discuss and brainstorm the levels, characters and plots.

At this point we need to raise funds to allow us to go further. Boosted has been an excellent platform to help raise money for me to create the work and get the animation happening. We still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful as I believe in this project so much.

You have a loyal group of Misery fans who are passionate about your characters and the world they evoke, so crowdfunding seems like a natural fit.

The Boosted campaign has been running for a couple of weeks now. What has your experience of crowdfunding been like so far? 

Crowd funding works, but you have to be up for the challenge to make it work. I think many crowd funding platforms seem to work well because of the reward system, make a donation receive a print or tee-shirt something like that. Boosted is purely philanthropic which is wonderful. I feel it is vital to engage your audience and make them feel involved and part of your journey in making your project a success. Blogging and posting your progress through social media is very important... something I need to get better at as I'm much more a hands on kind of person. 

I have a few events coming up in the next month which I hope my donors will be able to attend including a new Tanja Jade Misery exhibition opening May 9th at Ponsonby Central and an exclusive Holly Melancholy video game demo evening to test out what we've done so far. So yeah, keeping your audience excited and interested is key.

What is your ultimate dream for Holly Melancholy and her friends from the world of Misery?

My plan is to make Holly Melancholy a star, I feel like her agent, haha! I think she has what it takes. The game is huge for Holly if we can make it happen. I want to spend some time now developing her stories and adventures. I can see her being animated and having her own collection of children’s books and toys.

The current plan is for the game to be a platform game for mac and pc. I would really like to develop it for iPad and phone apps too. The possibilities for Holly Melancholy and Miseryland are endless.


Check out Tanja Jade’s Boosted Campaign for Holly Melancholy: The Interactive Game. The team has 32 days left to reach their $50,000 target. (Your donation is eligible for a tax rebate).

Written by

Transmedia NZ

17 Apr 2013

Interests Transmedia NZ supports the ongoing development of New Zealand’s Transmedia production community, creating opportunities for collaboration and innovation, and the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

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