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Celebrating a Life of Extraordinary Proportions in Production


Filmgraphics’ executive producer and partner Anna Fawcett tells LBB’s Esther Faith Lew why she remains passionate about a career that never stops presenting challenges

Celebrating a Life of Extraordinary Proportions in Production

Facing problems; finding solutions; embracing challenges with creativity and tenacity. And if you don’t have the solution, then you know the right people with the right answers. These are just a few key traits that define a competent producer.  

There is no one more qualified than Anna to make that observation. Anna is executive producer at Filmgraphics. She’s been there since 2000 and has become a stalwart of the Australian commercial production community. With about 30 years under her belt, Anna has weathered many storms where she has had to solve myriad obstacles on her feet and “strap herself to the mast” in seeing things through.

“A good producer can make or break a production, and the title of producer is one that is earned. A producer needs to be highly versatile and well-rounded in knowledge regarding all aspects of a production shoot, so that you know what problems need to be addressed and to go about the most effective way of finding the solutions,” says Anna.

It’s not just about knowledge as well, Anna stresses, “I apply common sense and caring in how I go about my work. I listen well and I pay attention to what is needed.” The soft skills that are required to bring everyone together for a successful production cannot be taught as much as it is ingrained in a person’s character and values. Anna upholds the value system of a generation that is grounded, unafraid of hard work, and sees things through with an unwavering commitment.

Facing challenges head-on is what Anna does best and she does not shy away from it. “Everything is evolving, and the many problems I’ve had to address over the years are not the same, and that’s what keeps me going – the evolving nature of the challenges,” she says.

Reel Moments That Define Life

It has been an “extraordinary life in production” for Anna, and the highlights of her career are intermeshed with the most challenging shoots. “The things we have done at Filmgraphics have been unbelievable. “I will always remember the Nike Air Jordan "CEO Jordan" shoot in Chicago. We were shooting in Argentina when we received a call from Wieden + Kennedy’s ECD Jim Riswold in 1997 saying that Michael Jordan was launching his Air Jordan and he wanted David Denneen [Filmgraphics founder and director] to direct the spot.

“For both David and I, it took a lot of planning, including getting a huge overage signed so we could build a set for the stadium as it was not possible to get to all the locations in the two days we had with Michael Jordan. David pulled it off as usual. It was an incredible experience to see what a star he is. When the city heard he was shooting there, 5,000 people turned up outside the town hall, and police on horseback had to manage the crowds, while people stood at their windows in all the surrounding buildings. It was such a highlight,” shares Anna.

Anna adds that pulling off a shoot like that requires a great team. “I’ve loved working with David, he’s a very resourceful and caring director who’s great at problem-solving. When you get to work with directors like that, they alleviate a lot of the stress.”

Another challenging shoot that set a personal achievement for Anna was the Qantas campaign. “I remember the Qantas shoot with Roy Meares and Rod James through M&C Saatchi. We filmed Sherpa Pertemba in Nepal who had climbed Mount Everest a few times; the women pearl divers of Osaka; the Tarahumara Indians in Sierra Madre mountains; and a cabbie in London. It was an incredible experience for all of us, and I was very proud that the shoot went like clockwork, apart from a few people who suffered from altitude sickness in Nepal. I also had to negotiate with the Tarahumara elders for safe passage where we settled on a truckload of grain as payment. 

As the industry has changed and responded to changes in technology and the wider market, Anna acknowledges that the role of the producer has grown too. “The agency and production house producers now have to deal with live action, print, digital and Covid, not to mention less staff to execute the increased workload. At the same time, budgets have diminished, but the cost of filming has increased. Trying to give clients and agencies the standard they require, and for less money, is what causes the most stress, I think.”

Technology Enables, but People Connect

Gone are the days of sending large groups from clients and agencies to on-location shoots, but the desire to be on set with a director will never go away, asserts Anna. “Even if it's just a handful of people, they want to be there. They want to experience it. And I agree with that because I think once you get a good client, an agency and a director working together and collaborating in-person, you'll get a great end result."

With regards new technology, Anna welcomes anything that is useful for filmmakers in telling their stories and which enables smoother and more cost-effective production. “Virtual production now far surpasses the green screen, which has been around for ages. We can shoot against LED walls, which not only generates live photorealistic 3D but also allows the 3D scene to be directly controlled by the movements and settings of the camera. For instance, if the camera moves to the right, the image alters just as if it was a real scene. You can see how this technology could help with location, weather and talent availability issues,” she says.

However, technology trends are not as important as the talent who makes magic from them, asserts Anna. She recounts an example to highlight this point, “Sony selected eight directors from around the globe to tell a story based on a specific topic, using their then new digital camera, and David shot a story expressing ‘Joy’. We ended up winning the Kodak Cinematographers Award for our short film because they thought we had shot it on film. We received the free film award as they thought we had done such a good job!”

Creating Awareness of Social Issues

Filmgraphics has always been involved in multiple charity projects  having worked for Parkinson’s Foundation, Amnesty, RSPCA, Racism, MSF, NAPCAN and Commando Welfare Trust.  “I think everyone in our industry is generous with their time and experience,” says Anna.  She recounts VR 360° Film: Evelyn's Story, a shoot for Oxfam Australia that highlighted a dire water shortage in Africa. “Filmgraphics hadn’t done anything like that before, but Victoria Sichler from Oxfam chose us because we are storytellers. I applaud her for going with her instincts to put the story above the technology. 

“We worked with post-house alt.vfx who suggested the right technology, and we assembled a great team to go to Africa to shoot it with director Steve Callen. We all worked on fine-tuning the script while David storyboarded it. The story was told through the eyes of Evelyn, an amazing young girl who described the journey she took to get fresh water –something we all take for granted.”

Recently, Filmgraphics bought the rights to a book titled Hope is all I Had by Glyn Scott, which tells a compelling story of surviving domestic abuse. “I received a phone call from someone who found me on the internet who told me about a lady who has had the most unbelievable life, and that we should be making a film out of it. 

“When I read her book, I couldn't believe how a human being could have gone through what she had. But she’s a survivor, and she set up a foundation in South Australia to help women suffering from domestic abuse.  She was also the catalyst that changed the law so that a man could be convicted of raping his wife. It’s an amazing story and it hits a chord because if you look at the world today, you will see that cases of domestic violence are staggeringly high,” says Anna. 

She is working hard to secure funding for the book to be made into a series. “I hope I can get it off the ground for Glyn because she's in her 70s now, and she deserves to have her story told.” 

Anna is also involved in mentorship programmes, one of which is with London International Awards. “It offers a great way of helping young people who have questions about the industry and in production specifically. Mentorship is one of the great satisfactions that keep me going; seeing the talent we have mentored and taught at Filmgraphics who have gone on to do amazing things in our industry,” says Anna, citing Ariel Martin as one of the many successful directors who started out at Filmgraphics and learnt from David Denneen. 

It is a rare find indeed, to have a professional like Anna holding values such as “selfless service”, “kindness”, and “respect” to such high standards in her life. While the production industry continues to face its storms and rainbows, Anna will, undoubtedly, be there - continuing in her quest to contribute and to give back. 

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Filmgraphics, Tue, 16 Aug 2022 11:49:12 GMT