The choice, as a twenty-something, to live and work in Adelaide is one that people from bigger Australian cities don’t tend to understand. To most, Sydney and Melbourne offer “more” – more job prospects, more touring bands and more things to keep you occupied in your spare time. From a filmmaking perspective, Sydney and Melbourne offer more courses, more consistent work and more chances to network with the “who’s who” of the Australian film industry.
Living here and trying to make a career in film is a choice I’ve made, although it probably wasn’t a conscious one at first. I’m an avid traveller and had lived overseas for a sixth of my life by the time I started uni, but Adelaide was always a great base to come home to. However, after experiencing what Adelaide has to offer me as a filmmaker, I’m actively choosing to stay here, at least for the immediate future. Here’s why:
At the risk of sounding like a tourism commercial, we have a pretty incredible mix of landscapes all within a 5-hour drive from Adelaide. Beaches, rivers, salt lakes, orange orchards, farms, vineyards and the amazing Flinders Ranges are all easily accessible, and working on shoots has given me the opportunity to see them all, sometimes living on location for up to three weeks at a time. It’s hard to complain about an early start when you get to see the sun rising over Wilpena Pound on your way to work.
SA’s locations are often a drawcard for international productions, which has led to me working on Oranges and Sunshine in Arkaroola, a Japanese TVC in the Riverland, a US/UK commercial on Lake Gairdner and a Russian ad on Kangaroo Island, among others.
Then there’s the opportunity to learn from people who are genuinely among the best in the world at what they do. I’ve worked under multiple Australian cinematographers who are now shooting on a global stage, and even spent several days loading film for two-time Oscar winner Robert Richardson ASC on an SA Tourism commercial directed by Scott Hicks. I doubt it’s normal in any industry to get the chance to work with people at the very top of their game, especially when you’re first starting out. Adelaide’s smaller crew-base and world-class productions have allowed me to fast-track that aspect of my career, and learn a huge amount by doing so.
This is a huge one. I live in Parkside, about five minutes’ drive from the centre of Adelaide, in a (slightly run-down) three-bedroom house with a huge backyard. We had friends from Sydney stay with us last year, and discovered that they rent they each paid for a room was almost as much as we paid for our whole house.
Having made the choice to move from cinematography into producing, the ability to work on my own creative projects without worrying about the cost of living is paramount. I love that Adelaide allows me to balance what I want to do with jobs that pay the bills, and that both aspects of my work are in the film industry. I can work on a feature film or a few commercials as a camera assistant, and then take time off to produce films that inspire me. I couldn’t maintain this balance without the cheap cost of living that Adelaide offers, and neither could anyone else I work with on our “love” projects. If we lived in Sydney, Wastelander Panda would simply not exist.
An Awesome Film Community
Adelaide’s small size means that pretty much everyone making films knows each other, or that there’s unlikely to be more than 2 degrees of separation between us. This not only creates a community in which everyone is willing to help each other out, but allows us all to learn from each other and share ideas.
Living in a smaller city also means that there can be dry periods where people have to jump into other crew roles for a while, take on corporate work to get by, or spend the time developing their own projects. It’s a climate that feels unique to South Australia, and in my opinion it’s leading to more multi-talented practitioners, and some fantastic projects coming out of the state.
Three of my favourite teams at the moment are:
- Closer Productions [Life in Movement, Shut Up Little Man, 52 Tuesdays]
- Dinosaur Worldwide [Danger 5, and Italian Spiderman under their former name]
- Studio Sunkie & Young Black Youth [who create amazing music videos & more]
It’s great to live in an environment where people are willing to share ideas and offer their time to make other people’s projects happen.
Supportive Film Organisations
I can only speak from personal experience, but the support of the Media Resource Centre to emerging filmmakers creating their first projects; the trade nights, networking and collaboration encouraged by the Australian Cinematographers Society; and the willingness of the South Australian Film Corporation to look at non-traditional funding models for digital projects have all had a hugely positive impact on my career. I’ve also seen the Adelaide Film Festival‘s progressive thinking and funding assistance make a big difference for others.
So Why am I Here?
I’ve only been working in the film industry for five years, so it’s difficult to make comparisons, but it feels like something special’s happening in SA right now. Ten, or even five years ago, I may not have made the choice to stay, but in a time where you can learn almost anything you want to online, hold meetings with people all over the world on Skype, and fly to Sydney or Melbourne in under two hours, it definitely seems like the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
What About You?
If you’re in SA, why are you still here? Are there other advantages? What do you feel like you’re missing out on? If you’re in other states, do you feel like you have the same advantages? What do we not have that you do? I’d love to hear others’ responses.