Open Colleges TVC


TVC’s are often fun to work on but when you add documentary elements such as travel, one take shots, real life subjects and collaborating with awesome people; then they become a great experience. I recently did a job for a sydney Agency Called Yolo where I got to work with the Fantastic Mr John Brawley. The shoot was for a new Open Colleges Campaign, which included a TVC and a bunch of online content-as most jobs do nowadays.


The idea was to tell the story of a Mature Age student who had made the decision to do a course through Open Colleges, for Monica this meant studying and working while still being a Mother and a Wife. Graduating was both a huge achievement and turning point in her career and the aim of the TVC was to throw her a surprise graduation ceremony to celebrate her achievement.

We filmed over two separate weekends at Monica’s house, in a rural setting about an hour outside of Brisbane. The entire shoot had to be kept a secret until the big reveal, which would then be filmed in one take, there would be no second chances.


I was initially asked to come onboard for the first half of the shoot and film interviews with Monica’s family and friends. I had recently worked with one of the producers, Warren Keuning, on another job and was stoked to be working with him again. I flew up to Brisbane with my Sony F5 and Schneider Cine lenses and met with the director Jane Manning. We then spent the weekend filming interviews in Monica’s home and surrounding houses. We used an Interrotron (which I hated seeing up) to project the director’s face onto the lens so the people being interviewed could look straight down the barrel and talk to Jane while being interviewed. It’s a great technique for drawing out emotion, relaxing nervous subjects and keeping kids focused during interviews but it’s time consuming and fiddly to set up, even with camera assistants. Plus I have a tendency to get precious about lots of junk being attached to the camera. The best interviews where with Monica’s twin boys who were very cute and cheeky, her husband who became quite emotional and her daughter who we filmed in the backyard with their blue cattle dog, backlit by the late afternoon sun.

The interviews would be used for both the TVC and online content as well as played on the big screen at the secret graduation two weeks later. At the end of the weekend I flew home tired but happy after filming some lovely interviews.


John Brawley was already attached to DOP the graduation night and so two weeks later I was asked to fly back up to Brisbane and Camera operate with him and Jessica Clarke-Nash. Monica had been sent out on a day of errands while the entire crew moved in and transformed their back garden into a graduation party for Family and friends. The team from Yolo and already cut a video package of my interviews to play on the big screen so all that was left was to shoot B-roll with guests and rehearse the big moment where Monica would arrive.

We were filming hand held on two Panasonic Varicams and a Canon c300. John had the Varicam LT while I had the bigger Varicam 35 with a monitor, motorised follow focus and a Zeiss 70-200 cine lens. It was a seriously heavy rig that took a couple of cameras assistants to lift. We all had Teredeks attached so the director, producers, agency and client could monitor all three cameras, occasionally I’d pass someone in the crowd of people holding a monitor looking at my footage and I’d wonder who they were. Its always a little nerve-wracking to shoot on a camera you’ve never used before, especially for a one take TVC. I remember thinking there’s an awful lot of crew and resources being thrown at this and I really don’t want to be the one to screw it up. So of course twenty minutes before Monica is due to arrive the camera freaks out and we have to do a factory reset on it. Luckily we got it working again, I managed to dial the peaking and zebras back in and be on my mark filming through the front window as Monica arrived, phew!

Both John and Jessica were wonderful to work with. neither had met me before but they made me feel welcomed and confident straight away, which helps so much on these types of shoots. John’s calm, confident demeanour throughout was inspiring and it was wonderful to watch him work with natural light. All through setup the sun had stayed hidden behind the clouds and then right on cue, just as Monica arrived it sunk low enough to break through the clouds and back light the whole scene in lovely warm tones. Its always nice when everything comes together.