“They say once you get out there the Red Dirt always stays with you, and that’s absolutely true.”
Immersive storytelling at it’s finest. Michael is no stranger to capturing all walks of life through a lens, and through his own eyes. From spending 2 years in the remote Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia and a month in Qatar- to creative agility in the face of pandemic border closures, this guy does what it takes to capture authentic moments.
Over 10 years’ camera in hand, he’s clocked up credentials working with the likes of Nike, ABC, Intrepid Travel and Australia Post. But it’s not all big brands- “I love to tell personal, human stories. Small things that can have a big impact.”
Real talk, real people. That’s definitely our thing. Michael, you’re one of us for sure…
Immersive storytelling at its finest. We love that you’ve spent so much time in locations you’re capturing content for. How does this influence your shooting style?
I’ve always felt pretty lucky to be shooting on location so much of the time, and it definitely teaches you a few things. You have to really be aware of your surroundings and be ready to capture off the cuff, unscripted moments, whilst also realising how those locations inform the overall narrative in terms of what’s important to capture, and what can be left out. Filming on locations has really influenced how I try to visually ground a place through my shots, and how those locations can be another character. I love the naturalistic element of shooting on location, moulding available light and leaning into the nature of where you are shooting, and I’m sure that has translated into all of my other work.
You spent 2 years filming in a tiny community, in the remote Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia. We’re intrigued! Tell us more? What was it like and what were you capturing?
I worked as the Film and TV Coordinator for NG Media, an aboriginal media organisation operating in one of the remotest regions in the country. I was based out of a community called Irrunytju/Wingellina, right near the tri-state border of WA, NT, and SA, yet we would work as far as 700km west to communities like Cosmo Newberry. Whilst there, I worked with local Yarnangu to produce a variety of content such as local stories, short films, mini docs, music videos and cooking shows that eventually found a home on SBS/NITV. We organised the first ever NG Lands Short Film Festival, where prior I spent a few weeks on the road visiting communities and helping storytellers there map out some short films to make. It’s an incredible part of the world that I feel very fortunate to have lived in, at once harsh and beautiful, full of really fascinating people and stories. They say once you get out there the Red Dirt always stays with you, and that’s absolutely true.
A month spent in Qatar filming for Weill Cornell Medicine must have been a stark contrast! How did you adapt to this different style of work?
Completely different! I guess the only similarities would be the heat, and filming in desert locations! Apart from that it was wildly different. This was a concentrated, highly produced campaign where I was supported by a full camera team from Lebanon, along with a great director and assist from Australia. Shifting from a run and gun style approach to a tighter, more scripted shoot where you can’t just immediately button on and off as you have a 20kg camera rig on your trolley can take a bit of time, but with the bigger productions you have enough time in pre to wrap your head around it. With something like the Qatar shoot, you have to really hone in on the kind of shots that represent the treatment and narrative, and so everything you capture is emblematic of that.
Given that you’ve travelled for work so much, how have pandemic border closures impacted your creative work?
It’s weird. There was a period of my life where I was so sick of planes and airports and all the associated struggles of travelling with film gear, and now I would absolutely love to be amidst that chaos again! I’ve been pretty lucky to have enough local work through this period, but the pandemic has definitely changed things. Even locally, I was just about to head up to Queensland to shoot and direct a trailer for a new Australian podcast when the 2nd wave hit and the border was closed. You have to adapt. We quickly found a local crew, fixed our talent up with a crossing permit and had everything re-arranged within a couple of days. Directing remotely is certainly not without its challenges, but we were able to get it done and it turned out really well.
What would you love to capture in the future? Go big here…we never know what project will come our way next!
Prior to 2020, I probably would have gone big with answering this question! Shooting content for tourism in Aus or around the world would have been up there. But I think after last year, I would love to tell more personal, human stories. Something small that can have a big impact. Mini Docs on really fascinating and inspiring people. I often say the best part of my job is you get to capture so many different industries and learn about things you otherwise would never have found out about. So telling stories that bring me closer to understanding the lives and world views of others would be top of my list now for sure.