From Wilfred to Twelve Summers: We chat to Adam Zwar

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Twelve Summers is the book that actor, writer, and cricket fan Adam Zwar wrote through COVID lockdowns. Zwar has been a cricket tragic since he suffered from anxiety as a child.

A psychologist recommended that his parents take him camping and enrol him in extracurricular activities, but it wasn't until he discovered cricket that his anxiety calmed.

He threw himself into the game, learning everything he could, following every game Australia played, and memorising the details about the players. The book ties every significant moment of Zwar's life to cricket, telling of 12 formative summers, the milestones, and unforgettable moments inextricably linked with the game he loves. As well as creating Wilfred; Squinters; Lowdown and The Agony series, Zwar also produced and presented cricket documentaries and Bodyline: the Ultimate Test. Zwar also hosts a podcast - 10 Questions.

adam zwar twelve summers wilfred

Why do you think cricket helped your anxiety?

It's a very meditative, calming sport. If you're in the zone and you know what's going on, your pulse will go down. I love the characters, the pace, the narrative - especially Test cricket - I love the story over five days and the structure of that. It's hard to plot bust a Test match.

How do you think Australia will go in The Ashes?

It's going to be really interesting - I can't pick a winner and especially given this weather event - it's like English conditions. Both sides have an amazing bowling attack so it could go either way.

What was your first job?

I was a dishwasher at the Cairns International Hotel and I washed dishes all around Cairns. Then apart from journalism, acting, screenwriting, film and TV-making, my other job was that I drove escorts around in Melbourne's east. It was $25 a job and it was really easy until it got really dangerous. If one of the escorts didn't come out at the appointed time you had to go in and extract them and find a way to do that. You also needed a good car.

What's the best money advice you've received?

The best money advice I've received is from my dad. He always said to me, 'you want to be an actor - keep earning', 'you want to write plays, keep earning'. I had to keep earning money regardless of whatever crazy idea I had - I was always working as freelance journo while writing plays or auditioning for plays - and I've always had that in my heart and soul. I'm not sure whether it's the Protestant side of me, but I do have a sense that even though I've chosen an artistic life I've earned money all the time. Even though I've had government funding, it's been an investment. With Wilfred, for example, we more than paid back the original investment.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

Well, I was partially involved when my wife Amanda saw a property in Lennox Head which we bought and thought we'd rent as a holiday house and live in Melbourne or LA. But when the pandemic hit we moved into it and not only was it great to have but this area has also exploded real estate pricewise.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

Any of the short films I made in the 90s. But I guess they all led me to the moment of making good short films and a good career - they were my apprenticeship. I'd spend $4000, $8000 or $12,000 a year to make the film - it was expensive then - film and cameras. At the time I was thinking they were getting better and into better festivals but one year I spent $20,000 to $30,000 and I was about to turn 30 and thought, 'I'm putting money on the fire here,' and then Wilfred happened and it was all worthwhile. I'd bought myself a career.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

It would probably be a discounted business class ticket. If it's just a little bit more expensive than premium economy, I'd take it because I travel a lot and I know the difference. If it's about something cricket related, I ensure I can watch cricket wherever I am in the world. We had [streaming service] Willow and make sure we have every possible situation covered television-wise. I don't want to be missing out on that.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

I would start to do a bit of a renovation in the place we're living in now because I think it would increase the value. There are a few things around here that could be done to turn it from faux colonial that would at least double the investment of that initial $10,000.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

Maybe buy some flour, eggs, milk, pan and a cooker and open a crepe stall - I've always wanted to have a crepe truck, where you go and buy your crepes and they have condiments and you pay $5 and they put jam, honey and syrup on the crepes. I thought that was great.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Yeah, I don't have any kids so maybe I would give it to a lost cats' home that has struggled because I do love cats - they're my Achilles heel.

What's been your best money-making career move?

Doing The Agony of... series. The way it works in TV is if you have a big production - you have to go to many forms of investors to get it across the line. For the Agony series it cost between $600-$700k and we could make it from our licence fee from the ABC. When it on-sold, the money we made went straight to the production house. The series sold all over the world - so that was probably the best.

Finish this sentence: money makes...

... me feel calmer, money makes me feel less guilty. Having it there just gives me a break.

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Julia Newbould is the managing editor of Money magazine and is one of the hosts of the Friends With Money podcast. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.