Wed, 16 Jun 2021 08:02:42 GMT
Bec Peniston-Bird is an award winning writer and director working across film, television, documentary and advertising. Her work has screened at some of the world's most prestigious film festivals, including Berlin, Palm Springs and Series Mania, as well as on ABC Television, MTV Australia, Foxtel and Lonely Planet TV.
With a background in visual art and music, Bec has made a number of documentaries about the creative process, featuring artists such as Nick Cave, Eddie Perfect, Barry Humphries and iconic New York street artist Keith Haring.
In 2017, she undertook a writer/directors attachment on the feature film Winchester, starring Helen Mirren, and won an Australian Writers Guild Award for her feature screenplay, Petrova. In 2018, she was one of three Australian filmmakers invited to attend the Berlinale Talent Campus.
Bec recently directed second unit on the final season of the TV series Jack Irish and will direct her first feature in 2022.
She directs commercials through TRUCE Films in Melbourne.
Name: Bec Peniston-Bird
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Repped by: Truce Films
Awards: Insight Award / Best Feature Screenplay – Australian Writers Guild
Best Short Film – Sydney Mardis Gras Film Festival
Bec> Scripts with concepts that visualise a better world always jump out at me. The opportunity to connect, open minds or be a part of positive change gets me out of bed in the morning.
Combine this with a project that has cinematic potential - colour and light, music, voice - there’s nothing better.
Bec> Collaboration is key. Once a brief comes in, chatting to the agency creatives and understanding the clients’ wants and needs is imperative.
Once that is understood, I’ll spend a couple of days compiling visual references, figuring out the spot’s rhythm and bouncing ideas off my DP and Producer.
Once I have a collection which captures the look and feel, I’ll work with my DA to pull together the treatment. I often fall a little in love with these docs – so much care goes into them and with the ones that don’t get picked up, there is always a lingering sliding doors sense of what could have been!
Bec> I always do my homework and deep dive, getting to grips with the brand values, key selling points and positioning within the marketplace. Then doing the same with the target market – I learn a lot from putting myself in the shoes of the consumer.
Bec> One of the most important relationship on set is my DP. Heading up the camera, grip and electrics team, they bring a level of technical skill which is crucial to realising the vision. A great DP should also elevate the project.
Bec> A piece that offers emotional truth and humanity through cinematic storytelling always works for me.
An example that stands out is a beautiful spot for Australian bank Westpac that Garth Davis directed a few years ago. It depicts a young boy helping his parents through a family break-up.
Real life shown in a way that we can all understand, and I just love it.
Bec> I’ve done so much TVC work with kids and families so I think it can be easy to overlook my full creative range.
I’ve made (and loved making) documentaries about rockstars, digital content for networks such as Lonely Planet and MTV and directed stylish, neo-noir narrative film and TV.
Bec> I’ve worked with children on set so many times, and you never know what you might get on the day. Recently I was working with a four-year-old girl for a job involving a puppy. We had screen tested her with a real puppy, to check the chemistry, and she had knocked it out of the park.
However, on the day, our puppy was given muddy paws. And while she was great with animals, the mud really upset our young actor.. I always create an environment on set that is not stressful and, as always, patience and understanding was key. We got there in the end.
Bec> I love collaboration and I’m mindful of the fact that the script has probably already been through multiple rounds of testing and revision, so it can be a balancing act. I get a sense of the boundaries pretty early on.
Protecting the core idea is key, but I always come to a project with ideas for extending the concept.
Bec>The industry still has a long way to go in terms of diversity of all kinds. Local crews are still overwhelmingly white and predominantly male.
In the Melbourne commercials world, I’m one of only a handful of women directors who is also a parent – this seems nuts given that mums control 85% of household spending.
On set experience is the best way to learn – so I am absolutely in favour of mentoring and apprenticeships, especially upcoming female and culturally diverse directors. Representation is important.
Bec> Restrictions associated with the pandemic definitely forced us to think on our feet, on both a production and creative level. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia, and we spent a lot of 2020 under one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.
During a brief lifting of restrictions, I directed a TVC for Huggies that involved a children’s sleepover. How to show a fun sleepover while keeping children 1.5 metres apart? My solution was to place each child in their own indoor play tents. The tents added a great colourful twist to the spot.
A great upside to the pandemic is that we’ve learnt to work quite naturally with clients and agency remotely. I’ve developed new relationships with overseas creatives and agencies and this has opened up a world of new opportunities.
Bec> Clarity on the deliverables in early pre-production is crucial.
In a world of broadcast, online and various social media platforms, decisions need to be made early on, whether content needs to be shot for different formats, or whether framing shots that can work across multiple platforms is possible.
Ultimately you don’t want to lose an impactful shot, so it’s important to have these conversations early on.
Bec> I’m absolutely open to new ways of doing things and I love that the drive behind a lot of new technology is about enabling viewers to engage more deeply.
It’s also exciting to consider how emerging tech could enhance production and post-production - processes which in their current form can be pretty cumbersome and labour intensive.
This brief is a celebration of everyday creativity, relationships and diversity.
For authenticity, I chose diverse cast who actually fit this brief: a dad who learnt to operate a Janome sewing machine from his mum and now sews for his daughters. A girl skateboarder who has been dying to decorate her own board. Drag queens who devise their own fabulous costumes.
I also cast many people who were real life friends or family which helped us to capture so many intimate and spontaneous moments.
Overall, we styled and covered 40 unique scenes, with 40 cast plus dogs and chickens).
This brand spot was all about the quintessential Australian concept of following the sun. A small team of us travelled north to Byron Bay, where we street cast from locals and captured them in their natural environment.
In order to capture every sunrise and sunset, we worked long days. I, it was paramount to keep everyone enthusiastic and focused.
We ended up with so much incredible footage that the client ending up tripling the deliverables after the shoot.
A job like this one comes along rarely – one with the potential to save lives. I love that the final piece feels natural and authentic without being melodramatic, but still cuts through.
To increase the impact of the spot, I proposed that we introduce a key prop into the three set up scenes – a fishing net, a bath toy and a plastic digger – so that when we return to each of the three scenes, this time without a child, the abandoned prop signifies their disappearance.
I love the style and intrigue of neo-noir – the flip side to the sun flares and spontaneous naturalism. While the tone and aesthetic that here is different to a lot of my commercials work, the authenticity of relationships remains central.
On the back of this short, which was funded by Screen Australia, I went on to work on the acclaimed ABC TV series Jack Irish starring Guy Pearce.
view more - The DirectorsTRUCE, Wed, 16 Jun 2021 08:02:42 GMT