In Conversation with Tracey Rowe

How does a girl who grows up in Broken Hill get to travel the world directing commercials?

My childhood was spent loving all that the outback offered. Freedom and a primitive beauty, it was harsh and challenging but so inspiring and beautiful. I’ve always loved photography and I’d collect all the family snaps and make special albums. In my early teens my parents bought me my first SLR camera, a Pentax K1000. I’d walk Broken Hill taking pictures. That love of photography was enriched in High School when my art teacher inspired me to do photographic silk-screen prints as my major work for HSC. So a photographer is what I wanted to be, and I prayed for a place at RMIT in Melbourne, at the time they had one of only a few courses that taught you how to make money out of photography and they focused on the advertising business.

After graduating, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Photography, I then moved to Sydney and became an assistant to advertising photographers. After a few years I decided I had the confidence to go it alone and became a Sydney based photographer. A few years later I moved to London and worked there as an advertising photographer.

Moving back to Sydney was the real start of my new career as a Director and I have never looked back. I love my job, I get to travel the world making commercials for so many different countries. I’m extremely lucky.

What inspired you to become a TV Director?

It wasn’t something I was even thinking about, one day I was asked by a friend, a director and producer, if I would like to be a director with his company. He thought my photographic style would translate well to television commercials.

So I had no more training than being a photographer. It helps when you have an enthusiastic producer who nurtures you and helps you through those very hard first years.

How did you get your first break?

My first real break was an Optus commercial. A well-known director had quoted the job and was over the budget. Being a young director I was keen to be lean and creative with how we used our budget. I wanted something beautiful for my showreel and was extremely enthusiastic with my directors’ treatment and quote. I was lucky to be awarded the job.

What paths have you taken to get to where you are today?

There are so many facets to film-making, it takes years to understand them and master them. I’m lucky that I’ve had different paths. Early in my career, I was given scripts that required CGI work. I learnt quickly how to plan and shoot for special effects, but I also spent hours in the post production houses watching how it all came together. I’m fortunate now as I can work out different ways to shoot scripts that require lots of CGI work. As budgets are challenging I can easily talk with the post house and come up with great solutions that put the creativity on screen for the clients.

I’ve also been very lucky to work all over the world. Experiencing those cultural differences has given me an insight as to how advertising works in specific countries. Most of the time I don’t shoot in a country that the commercial is going to be shown. I’ve become good at being able to ‘slot in’ as a director anywhere in the world.

One of the key paths that I chose was to try to stay true to ‘my eye’. We of course are influenced and swayed by images we see online or at the movies or on TV, but staying true to what naturally comes out of me has made me more unique.

What advice about the do’s and dont’s would you give to an aspiring director?

I would have to say that ‘keeping true to your own style’ is key. It will give your career longevity.

As a director you will win some creative battles and lose others, that’s just the way it is. You need to learn to pick your battles.

Get an amazing producer!

Tell us about the campaigns you’re currently working on?

I’ve just completed two very different scripts for an old client Darbo, from Austria. Both scripts were full of CGI work and complicated set design and specialized wardrobe and styling. They are always extremely creative and challenging, something I love. Finding fabulous solutions with challenging budgets is something I thrive on.

The most recent project is Moccona ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for M&C Saatchi, Sydney. We filmed in Italy. It was one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve had in a long time and one that I’m extremely proud of.

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