fbpx
Tag

Australia Archives - The X Gene

Fanny Bullock Workman with her explorer gear, ropes, and face that means business

Go Out Of Your Way

By | Producing, Purpose | No Comments

Our producer Simon J Green talks about going out of your way to find more women.

If you’re a man, you’ve got some options. The history of cultures and societies, spanning centuries, has put men on top. We ruled over vast monuments in ancient Egypt, we covered the earth in global war, and we went to the moon and stars. That whole time, we were absolute pricks to women, keeping them down with every dirty trick we could invent. Now, finally, in the least 50 years, we’ve been trying to see humanity as a whole, not as two sexes.

With all these impressive feats of humanity, you’d think going out of our way to bring about equality would be easy. Certainly down at the pathetic level of being an artist or screen practitioner in Australia, the stakes are so low, the rewards so paltry, the barrier to equality should be thinner than a male artist’s skin.

When you’re a producer or director, you have a contact list with names you regularly draw on to help you create. Favourites and preferences. I have such a list, organised into at least 5 of each category of skill I need. My 5 editors, graphic designers,  web developers, directors, motion graphics artists, soundies, camera operators. Each of them has been tested on a job first, proved to be reliable, professional and talented before being added to my list.

When a job comes up and I need to send a quote or ask a question, I consult my lists. Each person has strengths and styles that exclude them from some jobs or make them prime candidates for others.

I started these lists years ago, and one day when I looked at them, I realised they were mostly men. About 90% of the names were dudes. I’ve written before about my failure to include women on the front page of my company website. In this list was the proof men were being chosen over women, because women weren’t even in my default consideration. I sucked.

So, I went out of my way to change it. I sought out women who were talented, reliable and professional in each of the categories. The men weren’t removed—the only time anyone is removed from my lists is if they’ve changed careers or states—but instead, my lists swelled to much more useful and flexible sizes.

Doing this gave me better access to more talent, better suited teams for individual jobs, and led to some of the best freelancer relationships I’ve ever had. I’ve also gotten jobs because of my diverse crew. All because I went a tiny little bit out of my way to equalise my lists. The culmination of that effort came in the stellar reviews we got for Night Terrors, a production that had ten women and two men. 83% women.

It also helped me see which parts of the screen and design industries are garbage at bringing up women. I’m still short on ladies who love:

  • Motion graphics
  • Camera operating
  • Directing
  • Editing
  • Gaffing
  • Sound

Feel free to reach out if you are someone who does these things. I don’t do as much video work any more, but I recommend my list to other producers and directors a bunch.

Thing is, men, go out of your way. A tiny little bit. Look at your list, your group, the people you draw on the most. Do they all have penises? Then go out of your way to find women with the same set of skills and traits. They OF COURSE are out there, you just haven’t bothered to look. And if you say you have but couldn’t find any, then you didn’t look hard enough and gave up too quickly. In fact, I have a bunch for you right now.

We ruled over the pyramids, started world wars and walked on the moon. By comparison, equality in Australian arts should be easy. One thing men can do is go out of their way.

Lots of crew faces with 'YOU?' over their eyes

Co-create stories with us!

By | Design, Narrative, Research | No Comments

We want you to sign up for our co-creation workshops, so you can help us make dangerously fun stories you’ll love. We’re pioneering a new technique in making theatre, film and virtual reality. We call it audience-centred storytelling, and it’s all about getting our audience in before a word is written, and testing our ideas with you. Ultimately, we want to create stories you’ll love, and the easiest way to do it is to ask! http://eepurl.com/lF2O9

The usual way to make a piece of art is to have an idea, and then use a huge amount of physical and emotional effort to make it. Then, once it’s finished, hope the world wants to see it. Most of the time, sadly, the world is a cruel butthead and does not want to see it. So we took the big fat brains of smarter people in the worlds of human-centred design, lean, agile and design thinking, smooshed their techniques together and created audience-centred storytelling.

We have an idea, and we take it to a diverse group of people who will ultimately be our audience. We show you our idea in its embryonic form, and seek your feedback. At the same time we find out what you, our audience wants, likes, needs from entertainment. We use that feedback to reiterate or redraft our idea in its simplest form. Rinse and repeat until we’ve developed a concept we know you like and will watch. We continue to advance the concept stage by stage with our audience until it’s released.

Why go to the ridiculous amount of effort making movies, theatre and virtual reality unless we know you wanna see ’em? So, let’s find out what you think is dangerously fun. Sign up to our list: we only ever use it to offer opportunities to co-create with us.

If you have any questions, ask Simon J Green via simon@thexgene.com or Messenger (voice messages welcome!)

THE X GENE CO-DESIGN SIGNUP

* indicates required



I want to co-create:

A bull asking you to be bullish from www.freepik.com

Does Australia Lack Innovation Backbone?

By | Innovation | No Comments

We talk a lot about innovation here at The X Gene blog, and most of it is about how to be innovative and think differently. But I won’t lie when I say we often get frustrated with the lack of desire to innovate. One of my biggest personal hobbies is researching how and why Australia isn’t as forward thinking as other countries. I came across a story that really summed up a component of this problem.

At a tech startup meeting we were about to film, I was speaking to one of the presenters. This man had done what a lot of those the room dream of: he’d built a successful business in Silicon Valley, grew it over the years, and then sold for a lot of money. He had come back to his home country of Australia to try something new, because he wanted to bring what he had learnt and apply it here. This man had form, and he had a strong idea, but what he was struggling to find was people who would work with him. He needed developers, people to do the coding work that is fundamental to these sorts of projects. They needed a few key skills that he didn’t have, typical of an entrepreneur. Building teams is crucial. Because he was operating at a higher level he couldn’t use the freshly graduated and needed a more mid-level group. Unfortunately, anyone who fit the criteria was so used to an 80,000 dollar plus full time wage in a conventional corporation that when he approached them they loved the idea but demanded similar payment. He tried explaining, as he did to me, that this simply wasn’t how it worked in startup land, and that he would be giving these people something that, in his eyes, was more valuable: a percentage in the company. While a lot of these developers understood the value, they had all been so used to the wage they were on and now had mortgages up to their eyeballs and expenses through their families, that even if they wanted to take the pay cut and take the stake in an idea they thought would be worth more later, they couldn’t. They had hemmed themselves in.

What I took from this conversation was a deep concern. If a proven track record in an even bigger market isn’t enough to dislodge talented people in a field, and have them take a little bit of a risk, then what hope is there? It’s true that this business owner might need to take some risks on younger staff himself, but constantly relying on the newest batch of talent is difficult because that talent doesn’t get to learn from more experienced minds. We have this problem at the moment, a disconnection between a small group of visionaries and a large group of Australians very much stuck in old patterns that seem unsustainable in this dynamic climate. We are not talking about changing wages or any of that nonsense, instead we are talking about a mentality to try. Where is that in the Australian culture? Is the lack of risk-taking backbone an ingrained characteristic that is holding us back? If we don’t start breaking out of old habits we will lose big opportunities. The presenter I was speaking to lamented that if he couldn’t find people soon he would have to go back to California where he knew there were plenty of skilled practitioners ready to take a calculated risk. Australia constantly loses talent overseas. If things don’t change it will simply continue, and our nation will miss out in the future.

Banner designed by Freepik.com

A lion asking you for bravery designed by www.freepik.com

Fear and Bravery in Agency Land

By | Advertising, Innovation, Inspiration, Marketing | No Comments

I’ve been thinking about creative bravery. I’m on my way to an event to launch a fun fashion initiative by Porter Novelli. Hosting the night is Mandy Griffiths (who, incidentally, is one of the speakers at This Digital Life). At the event, a collection of communications and agency folk will be there. These are the people that create and execute the marketing, advertising and general communications strategies big brands need to make you know them and choose them.

These people are the key to groundbreaking, clever, brave, innovative, creatively thrilling content. We need those strategies and influencers to tell their clients to be BRAVE, try new things. Another fantastic woman, Richenda Vermeulen, said a very similar thing in her company’s birthday blog post.

Richenda is right: brands in Australia need to take risks, try different things, seek to be different. Digital is excellent for that because it can shift and change. Best of all, you can measure the success of a brave digital campaign with real numbers and clear pathways from the creative to the BUY NOW button.

I implore our strategy aunts and uncles – please keep pushing your clients to embrace the exciting world of digital. Work with specialists in their fields, find channel suppliers who can give you bold new ideas, then sell them with vigour up the chain. That’s what I’ll be asking the people I meet tonight – how are you guys pushing your clients to be BETTER. Different. Brave.

Lancers charging

How a FREELANCER Can Get Work with The X Gene

By | Freelancer, Innovation, Video | One Comment

If you’re a freelancer in the film, TV and video industry, you may have come here via this blog post, FREELANCER TIPS: Advice To Camera Operators. We get a lot of emails enquiring about whether we have room for full time or part time employees. We also gets lots of enquiries from freelancers. Very glad to help where we can, and we add your details to our files because we’re always looking for new talent. We love talking to you and sending you in the right direction, and are delighted with the popularity of our blog posts in your direction. The X Gene hates closed, locked doors.

We all have a lot of hassles finding work in the business. Going full time freelance is daunting enough, but once you take that leap, you’re now committed to finding enough work every week to keep you eating. All the folks at The X Gene have gone through this stage. Simon was a soundie and editor, Britta worked her way through film studios as an editor and Adam’s been camera opping for years. So we feel your pain.

One way we help out freelancers as well as get jobs is by being happy to help out in the parts you don’t like. Being a producer really means doing the boring and painful stuff; client liaison, sales, budgeting, invoicing, chasing and organising. Luckily, we love that stuff. There’s nothing more satisfying than being told our brief to a camera operator or editor was impeccable, or our shoot schedule meant “shit just got done.” So that’s what we can offer to the freelancer who has work but as part of a much bigger job.

Here’s how it unfolds: you get an edit job or a camera job or a graphics job, but it’s part of a much larger project, and you don’t want all that nonsense. You just wanna do your thing. Bring the job to us, and tell us what you want to do and how much you want to get paid for it. We prepare the quote, pitch or proposal and get your approval. We take it to the client, with your role securely in place within the project. They say yes, we make it happen, you fill in your end and get paid through us.

We’ve got this set up with a few of the operators in Kindred Studio with us, and the friends and associates of other freelancers. If it’s something you’re interested in, to expand what you can offer potential clients, or if you already have a job you want to fill out, let us know.

Cover image from old BandT

Cannes: ‘Move over Grandad’ (reblog)

By | Advertising, Inspiration, Technology | No Comments

The following is a rad article we loved and got us juicy. We’re one of the creative agencies nipping at the heels of the bigguns, and our work is changing the way video is done in Australia.
The article reblogged here with permission from Kevin Macmillan’s The Works, Sydney and was originally posted on B&T.com


I was very excited heading to Cannes 2013. As I pack my suitcase to head back to Sydney, I’m even more excited.

I don’t remember a time in our industry when young creative entrepreneurs have been more at the forefront of marketing.

The ordered approach to marketing we all know from the past few decades, the approach we all understood to be the correct way is crashing down around us. It was so evident in Cannes throughout the week.

Media is going through the ringer. Research is going through the ringer. Strategy is going through the ringer. And Creativity is thriving. The young creative entrepreneurs up on stage at the talks and the seminars spoke with conviction and were wide eyed about the future.

The older speakers from the old marketing world often appeared like rabbits caught in the headlights. Whether it be the boss of a big corporate organisation or the boss of a big agency, I somehow got the vibe they were merely warning us about the changing approach to marketing, rather than actually being part of it.

It’s always more interesting to hear from the creator of something. The person who made something. Not the person who was there when it was made.

Around the world, technology is allowing young creative entrepreneurs to make more ideas, deliver them quicker to market and use real live testing. So instead of “here’s what the future looks like” the Cannes festival was much more “look what I made”.

Cannes did not feel like an ad festival. If felt like an ideas festival. A place where young creative entrepreneurs could come and share creative stuff. There was a ‘Move over Grandad, you ain’t getting this shit’feeling in the air.

It confirmed what I already thought; that the marketing world would be a better place without all the marketing bullshit.  A better place if we were all brave enough to accept what marketing really is – a simple creative idea to make people love your product.

If I’m going to take one thing away from Cannes it’s going to be this; we are in the age of making ideas, not talking just talking about them. As a creative, that is unbelievably exciting.

Kevin Macmillan is founder and creative partner at The Works Sydney

Use video for magazines

Got A Brand, Magazine or Website? Produce TV!

By | Video | No Comments

After finishing up on 4WD Touring Australia, a 13-part half hour series airing on Aurora, Foxtel’s open channel, we want to make use of our fabulous production team to develop more series with you.

In particular, we’re after brand funded content. This can be media that has an existing advertiser base (magazines, websites, eBooks) or a product that ties in with something that people enjoy as part of their lifestyle.

For example, 4WD Touring Australia was first a magazine, but the owners turned it into a TV series that their existing advertisers took part in funding. The idea is to create a program people enjoy, while also giving them access to the elements of that lifestyle they’d be keen to buy or make use of anyway.

Our skill is in working with you to create a concept that incorporates your brand personality, and then planning, shooting, editing and generally executing the show. Aurora is the channel that airs the content around the nation, and they loved our work last time, keen to work with us again.

That’s as simple as we can put it, really! Please get in contact with us if you think you have an idea.

 

While we’re at it, here’s a great article about brand funded content from Mumbrella.

Adam Bennett camera operator with kit

FREELANCER TIPS: Advice to Camera Operators

By | Freelancer, Video | No Comments

Hello. I’m a producer. I work with talented, reliable video production crew. Part of my job is to look for freelancers I haven’t worked with before, test them with small, paid jobs, and then zealously hire them as my crew for as many productions as I can. Once I’ve found a good egg, I’ll happily pass their details to other producers I work with, because having a good crew is wasted if I can’t be a reliable source for the industry.

As such, I have a good idea of what is required of a freelance camera operator. I’m often asked for advice by guys and gals just starting out, or at a turning point in their careers. I’d like to share some of it with you. I hope it helps.

Get Your Showreel Cut and Get It Out There

This is number one. You’ll come up with a million excuses not to: the shots aren’t good enough, you need to transfer footage off other drives, you need to conform the media, you’re waiting for the director to give you the DVD. None of these reasons are good enough. Put together what you have and get it out NOW! You can update it later, but right now, you’re far less impressive without a reel.

We need it to see what you can do, and even a weak reel is better than no reel at all. I’ve looked at reels that were obviously just the two short films the student did at school – but the camera work showed promise. Without seeing the actual work you do, I have no way of judging where you are in your skill set. Once I’ve seen your reel, a chat will clear up all the other stuff. Your work is most important. Cut it and get it out there!

Spread it Around, You Nasty Thing

You have to promote yourself. That’s probably the hardest thing for you. You’re behind the camera. You like playing with lights and codecs and lenses. You’re Australian. You don’t like big-noting yourself. I get that, but here’s the thing: if I’m in a room with two camera operators, and I need them immediately to shoot something just outside, the one who tells me, “I’m really good,” will get the job, while the one who shuffles his feet stays behind.

It’s the same with the Internet. When producers, directors or agencies are on the prowl, they’ll go through a hot mess of reels and websites. The ones that stand out as being confident tell us that there must be talent behind that confidence. If it’s hollow bravado, that’ll be worked out very quickly anyway.

You might be worried that you’re good, but not good enough. That’s fine too, because if you’re a solid operator put out of your depth, you’ll come out better in the end. So put your damn hand up and say, “I’m a good camera operator.” Own it!

Specialise

There’s nothing less convincing than a business card that reads

Leslie Dixon
DOP, Editor, Director, Lighting, Motion Graphics, Plumber

I’m going to cut to the chase and use a cliche: jack of all trades, master of none. I’m looking for a camera operator to shoot an ad or a TV show or a corporate event. I try to work with the best, so I can provide my clients with the best. The best work gets the best pay. So I need to know you are focused only on cameras. You read about them when you’re on the train. You’re working towards an ACS. You can bamboozle me with the latest camera advances and chip sizes. You specialise in camera operating. One day I won’t be able to afford you because you’re so specialised in camera operating, you’re known as one of the best.

We all start off wearing multiple hats. I did, but at some point, you have to decide to specialise. It might seem wise to offer me both cam op and editor in the same package. Nope. If I want an editor, I’ll go find an editor who specialises in editing, because that person’s going to be better at it than you. Because you’re a camera operator.

Charge Appropriately and Objectively

When you’re about to send a producer your biggest quote to date, you feel nervous. They’re going to reject it! It’s too much! So you change it, reduce costs, take the hit on gear, or work half a day for free.

You dummy!

What to charge can be tough, but there’s a basic rule I learnt from a ring-in teacher when I was at RMIT. Think about your cost of living. Do a rough calculation of your rent, groceries, bills, all your regular expenses for a year. Now, think about how much money you’d reasonably like for fun each week. Add that to your yearly total. Now add 9% (12% now) for superannuation. What do you have? OK, that’s your ideal yearly wage.

Now say you were working four days a week as a camera operator. That’s 208 days. Divide your ideal yearly wage by 208. That’s what you should be earning.

It’s a good start, but I would mix that with research. Look up other camera operator rates online, or ask producer friends how much other operators are charging, roughly (no names!). Now, be as objective about your skill level as you can be and see how you stack up. Note: generally, most people think they’re worse than they really are.

Charge a daily rate and maybe a half day rate for you. Don’t charge half day rates for your gear – once it’s out, it’s out for the day. Stick to these figures and use them first and foremost.

When you send that large quote, stay true to your convictions. If that’s what it will cost, based on your regular rate, then that’s what it will cost. Don’t pre-empt a no. Wait for it. If it doesn’t come, you just made a great sale. If it does, negotiate! If they don’t want to negotiate, you didn’t lose all that much, did you?

Hope That Helped

I hope this is useful to you. Maybe some of it, maybe all of it. If it helps the tiniest bit, then our whole industry is the better for it. Now go shoot something, and send me your reel!

UPDATE: There’s a companion post to this one, HOW A FREELANCER CAN GET WORK WITH THE X GENE. If you found this useful, check it out.

Simon J. Green is the owner of The X Gene and a producer of six years. Before The X Gene, he ran Green Rabbit, whose office in Docklands saw a regular rotation of camera operators he works with to this day. He’s produced TV shows, corporate videos, TVCs and every niche of video in between – always relying on camera ops to do the shooting.