Chimney’s APAC MD talks LBB’s Adam Bennett through her move to ‘the dark side’ of advertising, the dangers of boredom and how Singapore is changing
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether you’re reading Camilla Andersen’s LinkedIn page or an atlas. Chimney’s APAC MD has worked in New Zealand, the UK, Germany, South Africa and now Singapore, across a plethora of different creative disciplines.
That career has taken Camilla from making self-funded travel documentaries in her native New Zealand to her current role in Singapore, via a stint in music where she produced the live APAC shows for UB40, founded the Ragamuffin festival and led Vodafone’s music sponsorship programme back home.
A self-described ‘eternal optimist’, Camilla is now leading Chimney Group’s vision in the APAC region as the production house looks to cement itself as one of the world’s leading companies in its field.
To talk through it all, Camilla spoke to LBB’s Adam Bennett.
LBB> Growing up, what was it that made you realise you wanted to work in film?
Camilla> I guess when I was growing up I always wanted to tell stories. In fact, my first ambition was to be a journalist. Really, my career started from that ambition to meet people and tell their stories in order to understand the human condition. So at the start of it all, my career was in documentary-making for television, before crossing over to - as it was called - ‘the dark side’ of advertising!
LBB> So at the start, would it be fair to say your first big break was ‘Julian and Camilla’s World Odyssey’?
Camilla> Haha, yes I think that is fair to say. I mean, I’ve flitted around all the different creative industries - I’ve worked in the music industry, client-side with Vodafone and now for Chimney. But yes that show was a big turning point. And that was something that was actually self-funded. We had this idea of something we wanted to make, and maybe we were a bit young and stupid… but we went out and made the first series which then got sold and distributed to the travel channel and that prompted a whole lot more after that because they really liked it.
LBB> And do you think ‘Camilla’s World Odyssey’ is a good way to sum up your career after that?
Camilla> Haha, probably yes - I have found myself in lots of different places. I really like new challenges and the worst thing I can imagine is getting bored in a job. When that happens it’s not good so yes, I like to move and I like learning new things. And quite often that involves new places.
LBB> So making the move to the business side of the company at Chimney, was that a challenge that came naturally for you?
Camilla> It does feel natural, yes. Before working for Chimney I ran my own small company [Camilla Inc Ltd] which had its own projects and I ran the business side of that, and also managed the people and the crew. So it’s not too different from that although this is a project that has no end, it’s just my everyday life. It definitely excited me because I like building and leading teams and that’s something I’ve done throughout my career. So when Chimney offered me the opportunity to do that every day in a really exciting part of the world, that was fantastic.
LBB> And you’ve now been working in Singapore for two-and-a-half years - how do you find it compared to the other places you’ve worked?
Camilla> It’s very exciting from the point of view that you feel like you’re in a place with incredible opportunity. It’s a little like being in London or in New York, a place where you know that people are there to do and try new things. It’s a place where every time you walk around you see opportunities and there’s a lot of big companies set up so you know there’s money and budgets here. So from that point of view it’s very exciting. On the flipside, everybody knows it’s a little bit of a bubble, it’s in a place where it’s very small.
The other thing which I think Singapore is trying to resolve is that it doesn’t have a reputation as the most creative place. All the other countries around it maybe have better ‘creative credentials’ and people think that Singapore maybe plays a bit more by the rules. So trying to inject a bit of creativity into everything we do is a big challenge for us right now.
LBB> And do you think it’s just a matter of time before that changes and Singapore becomes seen as a creative hub?
Camilla> Yeah I think so. I think Singapore has no choice but to make that happen. Before living in Singapore I lived in Berlin and it was quite obvious that the plan to bring the city up from reunification was to make it cheap and get all the artists and creatives to move in and before you know it it’s been gentrified and the city is too expensive!
So I think Singapore has realised that this needs to happen in order to grow a city and also that you just need creative problem solvers. Even if you’re working in banking you need to offer some creative problem solving skills so it’s not just in our industry as well.
LBB> And working in the APAC region, are there any challenges that you encounter from being a woman in a leadership role?
Camilla> I don’t think of myself as a ‘female MD’, rather just as an MD. But sometimes I do secretly enjoy a look of shock on some people’s faces when I tell them what my role is. There’s this moment where… maybe ‘disbelief’ is a bit strong but a bit of shock perhaps. That’s less in Singapore but in other parts of Southeast Asia.
LBB> You’ve had so many different experiences in your career - is there one project that really stands out as especially defining or important?
Camilla> I’ve never had a project or a job where I’ve not been able to see both the pros and the cons. But in terms of a moment where I just felt ‘I love this, this is me’, it probably was making the travel docs. I just had such a buzz out of getting to meet different people every day and getting to understand them and their world. And learning that technique of bringing out vulnerability on screen was so important.
LBB> And what about since you’ve been working at Chimney? Is there a project that stands out in your mind as especially important so far?
Camilla> One I was really proud of was making this beautiful animated short for the new terminal that opened at Changi [Singapore International Airport]. The airport is seen as the jewel in the crown here in Singapore, and when they were building a new shopping mall there they were looking for a partner to create something in the Pixar-realm, a beautiful story.
So we worked with a local agency here, who had this great idea and they came to us to execute it. So we were in there, taking photos, getting architectural drawings whilst also making this animation for the building. So a lot of time was spent getting the shots exactly right and we were so proud of what came out of it. It doesn’t feel like advertising that’s being rammed down your throat, it just feels like a little film.
LBB> Is there a piece of advice that you wish you’d heard sooner in your career?
Camilla> I guess the advice I always remember is when someone taught me how to bring someone on board by making sure their advice is important to you. You can forget when you’re dealing with people, especially when you’re in a hurry, to make them feel like you value their input and advice. We all have so much to learn from the people we work with, and asking them for advice is probably the best way to build a great working relationship with someone that’s mutually respectful.
LBB> Finally, do you have any creative heroes?
Camilla> Well definitely at the start of my career it was Louis Theroux. He was so important when I was doing the travel documentaries and journalism. But also the artist Peaches, who is absolutely amazing, especially live. I’ve seen her play about nine times and I love how she messes with the audience. I remember the first time I went to see her I was totally won over. She has this way, again, of getting the audience to completely buy into her and follow her every move. It’s almost like a religious leader, having that ability to get people to follow them. There’s definitely a lot we can learn from her in this industry.