Funny thing happened on the way to the shoot

How many camera operators does it take to change a light bulb? None, they’ll frame it out.  To most, it’s not very funny. But it’s an example of how in-jokes are vital to keep the wheels turning on a shoot.

Every industry has its own language and its own witticisms. It’s part of what we do to make us feel that we belong to the tribe. In a family, you have your own words for certain things, in relationships; pet names and phrases are adopted very quickly (even Kate apparently calls William ‘Babe”)

Humour can be used to alleviate tension in times of stress.  From my background in journalism, the seriousness of a story could be measured in how quickly the black humour came out; usually jokes started to flow within minutes but for the more shocking news stories, it took up to a day. But, however long it took, the jokes always came. 

(Incidentally, a recent study from the Medical University of Vienna suggested black humour was a sign of high intelligence, but I digress).

The level of humour on a shoot is a sign of how well the team is operating.  Crews can be very good at skipping the so-called forming and storming stages in group dynamics and going straight to norming and performing.  There’s usually no time for individuals to push against boundaries and vie for position.  We need to get the job done. When it works, and in the majority of shoots, everyone knows their role and knows what they have to do. Respect for the other team members and their skill is key.

Recently after a day’s shoot, our presenter surmised we must have known the sound-man for years. We’d just met him that day. Matt was a great example of being confident in both his own abilities and our abilities and fitting seamlessly into the group to get the job done.  

Understanding the humour was part of that. He picked up on certain phrases we used, and, despite being from another culture, he saw how our humour was used to deal with tension on set or to issue instructions – for example, commenting that ‘it’s getting dark soon’ is a phrase we use when we want someone to just get on with it.

The humour is often offensive and personal. Once a fact is known about the background of a member of the team – for example, like the time they attended a stationery conference not to film but as a delegate (!) – it’s never forgotten and held against that team member for the rest of time.  There are endless puns that are shared and created, continual insults traded.  

Sometimes the only options are laughing or crying. A good crew will always opt to laugh – and probably at each other’s expense.




Life on the road

Our shooting schedule for our current project is around two and a half weeks; that’s a reasonably long time to be on the road. It involves three different hotels, eight flights and several hundred miles.  Although we’re just in one country, while filming, we met up with someone who was currently on her fourth country with three more to go in the same time frame.

Being on the road can be tough; however, it’s all too easy to forget what a privilege it is. We meet fantastic people, see amazing places and are lucky to be allowed a glimpse into different lives.  But we’re only human and sometimes being away from home can be hard. Here are five essential things we’ve found useful to survive:

The right to privacy

I love travelling in a team; but we are individuals. However well you get on, you always need some space and time to be on your own to recharge. You don't always have to eat the hotel breakfast together.

Be flexible

For this kind of project, pre-production is vital. Flights scheduled, hotels booked, interviewees briefed. Pages of scripts; daily shot lists and call sheets. However, things always change. So roll with it, don’t fight it. It may turn out to be the best thing you did.


Yes, it’s work. It’s very easy when filming to be overwhelmed by the project; spending every waking minute thinking about the script, the shot or the edit. But just stop for five minutes and admire the scenery. Talk about something else. You’ll be glad you did.

Be kind

Being on the road is stressful. Flights don’t go on time. Mealtimes aren’t regular. You forget to bring socks. Make a conscious decision not to buy into the stress and be kind not only to others but yourself as well.


Aside from sunscreen, humor is the most essential thing to pack for a road trip. Not constant roll-‘em-in-the-aisles joke telling, just an ability to appreciate the funny side in everything.  Because there’s always a funny side.

Be there

It’s hard being away from home and loved ones. But you owe it to your travelling companions or the people you are meeting for business to be embrace the moment. Look around the meeting room; the people there may never come together again. Make the magic happen by recognizing that.






Perfect partners

Passion is one of the buzzwords of business. Today we actually found out what it meant.

Our filming took us to the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney – to Australia’s wine country.  Making wine, as the saying goes, takes a big fortune to make a small fortune. It’s a crowed marketplace with competition from every developed market. Even the Chinese are now getting in on the act, using their deep pockets to lure some of the world’s best winemakers to the new vineyards in China.

The Mount Pleasant Winery has vines dating back over 140 years. Stretching sleepily across the valley, once a year, around January or February, it wakes and becomes a hive of activity as the fruit is picked.  A day’s delay when pressing the go button can make all the difference between a good wine and a great one.

The people that work at Mount Pleasant describe being able to work there as a privilege.  They live, breathe and sleep wine; they are passion personified. For them, it’s a joy to arrive at work each day. When the tourists arrive, it’s just an excuse to talk about what they love. Their passion is tangible. It’s not a vision, etched on the wall or framed in the boardroom. It’s real.

A sports commentator told me once how he felt so lucky to be able to go to a rugby match, talk sport all afternoon and give everyone his opinion about how the game went. That's what he would be doing anyway, he said, except he traded the pub for a commentary box.  And got paid for it.

The passion both the commentator and the winemaker bring to the job must surely ensure a better end result. That passion is found in every drop of wine, in every bottle, in every sentence uttered, in every opinion offered. They care and it shows.

We share that passion when it comes to making videos. Modern coaching methods often teach the mantra it’s better done than perfect, but when you have a fervor for storytelling using pictures and sound, it’s hard not to chase that perfect shot. Let’s just try the take once more; let’s move the camera slightly to the left; let’s fly the drone just that bit higher.

That’s why today was just such a joy; passion met passion and we embraced it. The result was a day in a million. It was also a reminder that however early the mornings, however long the days, however far we travel from home, we are doing what we love and being able to make a living out of it is a bonus.  And for our client, the passion that was generated today will translate into a video that will inspire and delight.  But let’s just send the drone up once more …  

Our heartfelt thanks to the folks at Mount Pleasant Wines and McWilliams. You rock.