Tell us about you and how you got started in the industry?
I’m a producer and director. Mostly TV, but also lots of digital. I’m lucky – I’ve worked on everything from the MTV Awards to commercials for the F1, intriguing long form for Brisbane Tourism, and Co-Creating the ABC’s “Tonightly” comedy show (the one with Tom Ballard that made the front pages of the old media a few times).
Even better, I now get to work with a group of like-minded clever people at Production Group. We’re television-trained producers & adland creatives who genuinely treasure making complex fun stuff happen. We pull in great people, and do it for the audience: we want to move them.
I actually got my big break coming up with a way to make a bath filled with ping-pong balls explode while rockstar Tex Perkins sat inside.
A friend’s girlfriend at the time had secured a giant studio at Fox Studios in Sydney to make a short film, and I put my hand up. I was a bit useless at the start, except for this one scene where hundreds of ping-pong balls had to spontaneously fly out of a bath occupied by Harry the Hunchback. Super hard to do in special effects at the time, super easy to do with a bit of spandex and some hot-gluing.
Best campaign you’ve worked on?
The Formula One campaign we made a few years ago. No question. My boss Grant Anderson got us remarkable access to the track in Melbourne, and we had the opportunity to shoot anything we wanted. It was a beautiful piece about more than just cars going fast. Lots of heart.
While I’ve got you, though, animals! Oh gawd I love working with animals. They’re total maniacs every time, and you’ve got to have incredible patience: a recent one for RSPCA we did needed 18 different animals do exactly what we wanted in a single tracking shot. All it needed was a client and agency gradually breathing shallower, and the best stedi-cam operator in the business. Takes 1-30? Nightmare. Take 31? Boom. Keeper. Absurd fun.
How has production changed in the last 3-5 years and what do you predict the next 2 years will see in this space?
The need for great story hasn’t changed at all. In fact, if anything attention-grabbing characters and clever creative are more important than ever – audiences don’t have to watch anything: we need to fight to earn their attention: Great writing, captivating visuals.
What has changed is production has gotten faster, a little leaner, and a little more adventurous. The technology available for crews and creative teams to exploit has become so agile that we can execute incredibly complicated ideas in previously unimaginable ways, and relatively cheaply. I’m thinking more than “put a go pro on it” sort of production.
What is branded content and how can companies incorporate this into their marketing strategy?
Branded content for me is reflecting the values and character of a product. The best example going around is the British advertiser John Lewis – they’re more than ads, they’re amazing sharable films.
It all comes back to the classic Hero-Hub-Hygiene model of engagement, and thinking about your audience as the most critical part: give them something they want to watch, then key information, then finally make sure you stay in mind. It’s a pyramid, with brand-reflecting content right at the top.
How should brands approach storytelling?
It’s a great question: it needs to be honest, thoughtful, and don’t over do it: audiences can smell a sales pitch a mile away. To me it’s always about being unique, accessible, and genuine.
What comes first – the creative or the channel?
Sorry to be contrary, but I think the audience – who do you want to talk to? How are they used to being told stories? Great, so talk to ‘em there!
Does any particular channel work better than others for particular brands, and why?
Absolutely – but it always comes back to audience and how they love to enjoy their images, videos, stories: I always believe you need to think of them first, where they’re watching, and then craft your story to entertain and educate – unexpected joy in the medium and channel they’re familiar with: that’s the ticket.
Broad is broad, and that’s perfect sometimes, but I’d never recommend a TV ad campaign for a small tech brand, for instance – that sort of brand feels like something better suited to an engaging content piece sitting around the terrific YouTube series That Startup Show, or sitting across the feeds from a tech platform – and each of these needs their own thoughtful creative execution.
What are your thoughts on IGTV?
I’ve spent years of my life getting cranky at my family and friends for filming and snapping with their phone in portrait mode. Turns out I’m 100% wrong. IGTV proves that you have to think about your audience first – they don’t want to turn the screen, why should we make them?
One of the great things IGTV can do is bond an audience to an individual – the format allows you to frame a character perfectly: love that connection you can make between your star and your audience.
What are your must listen to podcasts?
- Team Effort (mostly great chat about Ash Williams’ bizarre life with Lachy Hulme, Ed Kavalee and Tony Martin)
- Pod Save America (American Democratic Politics)
- Start Up (Business entrepreneurs)
- Free to A Good Home (comedian Ben Jenkins and Michael Hing comb through online classifieds)
Advice to anyone wanting to get into production as a career?
Get out there and make stuff! Go to comedy clubs, local plays, make friends, tell stories, make stuff! There were 6 films at Sundance last year made on iPhones. Claudia Pickering made her first movie, Frisky, for $5000. It doesn’t make itself!
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