When I was 13, me and my mates would go surfing all the time. My dad had bought a one-pixel holiday cam that I would take to the beach. One day the surf was really big and I was too scared to go out, so I said I’d stay in and shoot some pics to avoid getting shamed. We all loved the action shots in surf mags and DVDs, so I was trying to recreate those.
After a while I started to think ‘this is kinda fun’. One of the boys would get some air and I’d try to capture it. Every time they did something awesome, they’d run in, dripping all over the camera, saying let me see! Soon, I was flooding Myspace with thousands of bad surfing photos.
I used to work in a café in Copacabana and I begged the owner to let me put my surf shots on the wall for sale. One day I printed out a whole lot and sat out the front, selling them for $10 each. They weren’t very good, but they sold out.
A little bit country
There was a guy called Duncan Toombs — one of my closest friends to this day — who’d come into the café and play live music. He’s a great country guitar picker and used to make music videos for his muso friends.
The café owner told me Duncan was looking for someone young and keen to come help make music videos with his business, The Filmery. I met Duncan properly just before I sat the HSC and started with him the day after I finished it.
He had an old warehouse as a studio, and we’d build crazy things in there — houses and forests and dirt roads. We’d paint the walls and ceiling. We travelled the country. It was amazing.
It was just me and Duncan when I started at 17 and when I eventually left at 24, there were seven of us. I learned how to run big racks of lights (I got a massive electric shock once), to frame and edit, to direct, to drive all night fuelled by coffee, and to work until the job was done.
We used to have this thing called ‘throwing sparks’ where, as a director, you’d do all you could to get a great performance out of the talent in front of the camera. It’s ironic that The Being Group has a spark in its logo, representing energy and inspiration. I’m still throwing sparks!
I also learned so much about running a place on love, having a good time with your team, and working with people who are your friends.
Two friends I knew from way back in kindergarten worked at The Being Group (our former Head of Creative, Chris Croker and our Copy Lead, Emily Newberry). They kept asking when I was coming to work there too. Eventually I texted, I’m ready, and got a call 10 minutes later.
My pitch was a full-blown photography and video department for The Being Group to add to its service list. I joined almost exactly four years ago.
For the first year I spent a lot of time googling acronyms I heard for the first time in meetings — it was a big learning curve. But about a year later we landed a tender for a big TAFE video job, and that was when it all really kicked off.
I’m not a film buff, which is probably weird. I’m much more of a doer than a theoretical thinker. I get a kick out of planning, directing, solving problems on the fly, getting up early to catch the sunrise, and making sure we’re telling the client’s story beautifully. That’s what I love.
I also thrive on winning new work off the back of work we’ve done. That give me enormous satisfaction.
I’d love to make the next cinematic masterpiece, but you probably won’t hear me saying things like: This video references the nihilistic moral systems of the classic French noir school.
I’ve realised that for the last 16 years I’ve touched a camera at least once a week. I love the way a camera can move on a dolly or crane to make an incredible shot and tell an interesting story.
I’m not a huge nerd on the new equipment. It’s just a tool to tell a story. New technology makes things easier, but there’s nothing we need right now that would make the final product better.
The only tech I really adore is lenses. If I could afford a Ferrari wouldn’t buy one. I’d get a set of vintage Zeiss lenses that would cost more than $100,000 — and they’re just glass and metal. But they create a unique, old-school, slightly imperfect look I love.
On the road again
I can’t choose a favourite job with BEING because I love everything we do, but I do enjoy being on the road and meeting authentic people where they live.
When we turn up in the branded LandCruiser, in our black BEING t-shirts, with all the gear, the locals know there’s something going on. You chat to them at the café in the morning and again at the pub at night. They always say: How’d the day go? What are you guys doing?
It sparks so many great conversations. Hopefully we always leave a good impression.
The next big thing
There’s a growing interest in capturing live-streamed virtual or hybrid events, which is something we’re doing for clients, but I think there are important fundamentals that won’t change, and they’re the things we do really well.
It’s not sexy, but I want to make sure we’re known for getting all the details right. Things like public liability insurance, or that we’ve done everything to be on the right panels to be selected for jobs, or that we’ve nailed all the details that make clients confident, especially in government. Compliance is key.
That’s what builds a good reputation. It’s not necessarily having the most expensive cameras — although we do have some high-end equipment.
I’ve got the best of both worlds here. I have security and the autonomy to run my own business unit how I like.
All I think of is how to do things better tomorrow. I feel I have a stake in it. That’s pretty special.
Josh has just run a 50 km ultramarathon after months of training and is studying for a Bachelor of Business (Management) to learn more acronyms.