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Life Becomes Him

Sometimes you have to nearly die to be reborn – Christina Iskandar riffs with David Murrell about art, film, and love of life. Self Portrait by D.M.

DAVID, where do your roots lie?
I was born in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, and grew up in New Zealand, then Queensland and Sydney, then I lived and worked all over the world for 14 years . . . and had an amazing time! Favourite cities I have lived in are Barcelona, Paris, London, New York, Hong Kong – they all have a pulsing energy and, most importantly, contrast.

Tell us what happened to you at 34, when your like took a turn.
I was in Jakarta in hospital with dengue fever and I asked for a CT scan as six months before I had had some dizzy spells . . . and they found a brain tumour the size of an orange. I was working around the world as a photographer and director and suddenly BOOM! Life changer.

Grade 4 glioblastoma multiform and a few months to live, documented by you, what was going through your head at the time and why did you find the need to film it yourself?
What was going through my head – a giant tumour. As a director I thought, “wow this is surreal, this is going to be an amazing story that could help many people” and with my positivity and strength of character I would hopefully help others to fight life’s big challenges. By sharing an extremely difficult and intimate story with the world – combined with a bit of rock & roll – it is a story about cancer. The feedback thus far has been amazing from people from all walks of life. I picked up my iPhone and started filming myself because I didn’t have a film crew with me. Film crews and producers came later and are helping me finish the project.


A challenging journey to say the least, how has it changed you?
It has been a difficult journey with highs and lows but I am a warrior at heart and I will fight to the bitter, beautiful, sweet, happy/sad end! It has only made me stronger in mind, body and spirit. It has also made me more aware of the fragility and beauty of life.

Tell us why you chose Bali?
I had been coming here for years and thought it would be a good place to recover. I love the place.

Can you tell us a little bit about your appearance on Australian Story (a package by the national broadcaster that profiles prominent/interesting Australians) and what’s going on with National Geographic.
I have been interviewed on Australian Story and they used some footage from my documentary. The documentary itself will be aired as eight one-hour episodes in Australia and NZ going to air in March 2015 on National Geographic Channel with many more countries to follow.

The style of documentary is real – highs, lows, some rock & roll and plenty of fun. I am a candid person and have been able to laugh at myself and my experience. But there obviously have been heavy, deep moments . . . shared with family and friends.


Are you using your experience as an example for other cancer sufferers and how are you doing that?
Yes I am doing that with my film and I hope that it will open doors to allow me to speak to people about my experience with cancer. But this is just a small part of my life and it doesn’t define who I am and my future plans . . . it is just a part of a much bigger story.

Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I do consider myself a spiritual person. I believe that energy primarily is what encompasses our body and how we reflect that. How we balance and use it is a whole other thing. We all go through good and bad days but how we dispel negative thoughts and emotions with meditation/energy work etc is what helps and defines us. Fear is a useless emotion in life, as is hate. A man named Tim Strachan has helped me immensely with this practice.

Once a top fashion photographer and director in Sydney, you have worked all over the world, are you still in the same industry?
Yes and I’m still loving being creative. I am an artist by nature – I paint, conceptualise photo shoots, direct film/video . . . in Bali it may be on a smaller scale than some places I have lived but it’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night and I grab my journal and start scribbling ideas down. I always dreamed of making films but I never thought the first big one would be “Davie Wants to Live”. Bali is a great place to create – I still do a lot of personal art works and am planning an exhibition of them soon. Stay tuned . . .

What inspires you and why?
Everything. Cinema; art; literature; poetry; my beautiful family and friends; asymmetry; nature; the ocean. Why . . . one life no rehearsals. “This is not a drill,” has been my mantra for 20-plus years.

David Murrel in 10 years?
Living the dream; spreading good energy; creating art and film; surfing and riding horses . . . for starters . . .