When the worlds of Mitch Green and Louis English collided, in a high school art class, they had little idea that they were fated to play a massive role in each other’s’ lives.
“We were pretty different kids; I grew up in the country and Louis grew up in the city. Probably the only thing we really had in common was that we both loved painting and drawing and by the time we met at high school on the northern beaches we’d both been surfing for a while,” recalls Mitch.
These days, the pair can often be found working tightly on set as a dynamic director-DP duo. They’re repped by Australian production company Filmgraphics and they’ve brought their nimble, creative rapport to BMW, Ducati and Tourism NSW and have even bagged a few awards for their collaborations. Back in school, though, the two lads viewed each other as competitors.
“We had a full on unspoken rivalry – Mitch definitely got more brownie points from Mr Nelson because he could write about art theory for days, while I had a very different experience of arguing whether my drawings were done by me or my dad, who was an incredible painter. I was bought to tears a few times,” laughs Luke.
“He was by far the better draftsman,” offers Mitch, gamely – a sign that the pair are far more aware of their complementary skillset these days. Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t art that forged their friendship, but the call of the sea. During school hours. “Soon enough we started wagging class to go surfing so it didn’t matter anyway.”
After school the pair went their separate ways, heading to film school and art school and taking the first steps of their filmmaking career as solo artists. Louis headed to Los Angeles where he found himself drawn to the craft of cinematography, and developed himself as a DP. At that time Mitch was traipsing all over the world, shooting documentaries on a year-long project – and that’s where he found his flair for directing. Their mutual love of surfing and the fact that both found themselves working mainly in the fashion and documentary game gave them reason to stay in touch.
When life brought each of them back to Sydney, Louis reached out. “I thought it would be a good idea to collaborate and just test out how we would work together on a smaller scale job. We knew each other so well so the shorthand was already there as far as communication,” he explains. “We loved it and the ball started rolling.”
The first commercial job the pair landed was a dramatic departure from the surf, fashion and lifestyle world that they’d grown up in. Instead it was a charity ad about a young boy with cancer. “It was a very humbling experience that taught us both a lot about working sensitively with people and provoking performances from non-actors,” says Mitch.
Children's Cancer Institute 'Declan' from Tourist on Vimeo.
The pair collaborated under the name Tourist and their work style is fluid enough to pool their creative brainpower while also drawing on each of their specialist skillsets.
“We co-direct in terms of treating and pre-production, it’s amazing having a partner to bounce ideas and references and form an approach and I get the benefit of the DP being involved from the very beginning,” explains Mitch. It allows the pair to really max out the creative potential of lighting and lenses, bringing an extra layer of creativity and photographic finesse to their work. “Our ideas then have plenty of time to ruminate, rather than the DP only jumping in a few days before shoot.”
However, to avoid confusion on set, they tend to divide labour more strictly. “On set we tend to keep it a little more traditional – Mitch will wear the director’s hat and I will operate the camera, but we’re always a sounding board to one another from the start of the production to final cut,” explains Louis.
Crust "It's Not Pizza, It's Crust" - Tourist from Filmgraphics on Vimeo.
One recent job that they’re particularly proud of is a playful piece of pizza publicity. A tarantella through the streets of Naples (ah, international travel – remember that?), it’s a spot for Crust Pizza that pulls on the pair’s flair for working with non-actors and allows them to really let go and have fun – and it reveals a really earthy, comedic sensibility. Mitch and Louis reckon it’s a real levelling-up of their advertising reel.
“Probably the most defining project we’ve worked on was our most recent for Crust Pizza.
Our EP at Filmgraphics Anna Fawcett introduced us to the Head of Production at 303 Mullen Lowe, Meredyth Judd and the ECD Scott Huebscher,” says Louis. “We clicked with them, and off we went to Naples. We were a tiny crew and we spent every second immersing ourselves in their culture and street casting from people we met as we explored. The spot captures the local’s energy and personality which is what we like about it most.”
It’s also the first project Tourist has ever submitted to the ad award circuit and it’s been recognised at Australian shows at AWARD and ‘The Work’ for direction, editing and casting.
“Which was nice. Awards are nice,” says Mitch. “We’re really comfortable in that doco / advertising cross-over space so it’s heartening to get recognised. Pretty much our whole reel is working with non-actors – even on the more visual spots. It’s amazing that we’re telling real stories and I think we know how to ensure we’re getting the narrative beats while allowing enough room for spontaneity and personality that makes these kinds of projects really shine. We’ve dipped our toe into automotive and tourism and even comedy, and I like to think we can bring that authentic feel to all these categories.”
Visit NSW 'Hunter Valley' from Tourist on Vimeo.
Tourist have big ambitions. Like most commercial directors, 2020 has been more challenging than they expected. Australia’s lockdown was fast and hard and put the kibosh on many live action commercial productions. Now that things are opening up, however, the pair are looking forward to taking their next steps. Interestingly enough, now that Australia has opened up its film sets, Filmgraphics has been working remotely with agencies in the US that are still struggling to shoot locally. So while a directing collective like Tourist might traditionally look to work with their local market, advances in remote filmmaking that have been accelerated by Covid-19 has opened them up to other markets.
“Ideally our next step would just be to apply what we do now to larger scale projects with bigger budgets that allow us more room to be creative,” says Mitch. “Ultimately, we’d love to work on features one day, even in long form documentary but we’re very happy in commercials for now.”
IGA 'The Fredericks' from Tourist on Vimeo.
As lockdown lifts, crews are being kept small and nimble, which actually suits Mitch and Louis. As a director/DP pair, they’re unusually self-sufficient.
“We tend to work with smaller crews, sometimes literally just us two and in the past we’ve felt like it meant we were inferior in some way but this year has really proven how important it is to be able to work as a nimble unit or work outside the box,” says Louis.
“It’s exciting because it feels like the industry has recently recognised that amazing work can be made without the same old cavalry having to be called in, whether that’s the size of the crew or who’s getting approached to be involved for projects,” agrees Mitch. “It’s good to see people starting to think differently.”
Find out more about Tourist here.