David Nobay teams with Colin Friels and Warwick Thornton on ArtBreaks

Ad-man David Nobay, formerly creative chairman of Droga5 Sydney, has launched the Sydney branch of boutique Paris outfit Marcel with a series hawking nothing in particular.

ArtBreaks is a series of eight experimental shorts made with some of Australia's biggest names, such as John Waters, Warwick Thornton, Colin Friels and Josh McConville.

Each of the eight, which launched on iView at the beginning of the month, is based around a poem written by Nobay himself.

"It's how I stay sane", Nobay said. "I'm not good at doing nothing, historically."

The award-winning creative director wrote a play, Moving Parts, that starred Colin Friels at NIDA in 2013.

With Friels on his back to work together again, Nobay showed the actor his poems, and Friels narrated the first of the shorts, Snared.

The connection with iView came when Nobay met Adrian Swift, then the ABC's head of programming, through a mutual friend.

"We had a really interesting conversation about how hard it is in the creative industry, whether in programming or in advertising. In Art Breaks everybody comes from very different camps, but we all connect over this frustration of not being able to do our thing."

"I came up with the name Art Breaks because they're not ad breaks, and the ABC is peculiar in that it doesn't run ads. So we both thought it was an interesting fit. And from the ABC's point of view, it's a nice way of saying: this is how we approach the arts. This is how we support the arts and artists in Australia."

Nobay briefly panicked after Swift left the ABC to head up programming at Channel Nine, but says the transition to working with Mandy Chang, with whom he agreed on the tagline "art comes to life at the ABC", has been seamless.

Alongside executive producer Holly Alexander, Marcel's head of content, Nobay set out enlisting collaborators, with the carrot that they would have complete creative freedom.

"I think the thing that people find most bizarre about this project is the quality of people that I've managed to attract given that essentially there's been no budget", Nobay said.

"I actually think that's a very interesting story about where the creative industry is in Australia. There's obviously an enormous desire. The conversation I had with all of them was the same: I've got this project. The downside is there's no money, the upside is it's jazz, you get to completely improvise. You shoot it where you want to shoot it, when you want to shoot it, read the lines the way you want to."

Nobay singles out Warwick Thornton's Ancient Eye as his favourite of the films. So was it an uphill battle getting a Camera d'Or winner on board?

"The reality is we didn't have to scream a lot to get people to do this. Warwick actually called me up and said, 'I've heard about this project, it sounds really interesting, is there any chance you could write a poem for me? I'm up in the Top End for three months, and I'm shooting all sorts of things, and I'd love to get involved'." 

More films are on the boil for iView, which is perfect for this kind of experimental project, Nobay said, because "it doesn't contain us to any format." 

Nobay is also in talks with Chang about another project, and has various Art Breaks films commissioned: one to be shot in LA, one on the Hawkesbury, and one in Sydney's botanic gardens.