Profile Richard Coburn
Richard can you please give us a little of your backstory?
While I started as a bit of a one-man-band type of professional, making corporates with Final Cut Pro version 1 and a Sony 3 chip Mini DV camera, I gravitated to a post position and have been with KOJO for over 15 years. I started there as an Avid editor cutting TVCs and everything under the sun but my role there has included VFX, motion design, CGI and animation.
Now I’m predominantly a writer/director who shoots on my own Red Epic Dragon. I largely shoot when the budget doesn’t allow for someone better, or the job is something that I really want to have a crack at. I love the nuts and bolts of the process and often, when I’m shooting, it’s the chance to do something that I’ve never done before or will improve my skills. (Pic: Rich shooting at the Gov.)
What did you do when you decide to further your career?
I’ve always found that personal projects have been the key to improving my career. I’ve won the Master’s Chair at the AADC awards twice, once for animated opening titles for my own film festival and once for a Hilltop Hoods music video I shot and directed the week a Red Epic I bought had arrived. The camera purchase was also a milestone for me at a time when the 5D and 7D were having such a huge impact on budgets. It was a commitment to myself that my work needed to be high end at this time in my career and over the last four years it’s totally changed my role. (Pic: Rich on set on Hill Top Hoods "Exit Sign" music video.)
What’s the best advice you ever received?
I can’t remember who said it to me but someone once said, “you wouldn’t call yourself a painter if you never painted” which I took to mean that you just have to keep making stuff and if no one is giving you the opportunity, create your own. Back when I was trying to make shorts as a director, this really hit home, as trying for funding meant that I was lucky to make one film a year and had a hard time calling myself a film maker.
Another great piece of advice was when I was once talking about some teaching I was doing, and how free with information I was. This could be seen as giving away all my secrets to potential competitors but a friend said, “people will probably only remember about 15% of what you say but they’ll always remember you as the person that knew.” I’ve taken this to mean that it’s always better to be as free with information as possible.
Who do you look up to in the industry, did you have any mentors?
I’ve always placed a massive importance in mentors. Showing people your work and finding the right people for constructive criticism is invaluable. I have worked closely over the years with a number of people that I’ve been able to learn from and aspire to. (Pic; BTS oh Hill Top Hoods shoot.)
Working with established legends like Kent Smith, Aaron Gully, Russell Marret, Joanne Bouzianis-Sellick, Anna Howard, Miles Rowland and you as well as exciting youngsters who I’ve seen grow including Ben Dowie, Maxx Corkindale and David Parkinson, to name a few that I’ve worked closely with over the years. There are many more outside the field of cinematography, like producers, directors and post specialists too as I’m a firm believer in expanding your view of the industry.
What’s the best thing about working in our business?
Where else can you get paid to do some of the things we’ve been able to do? It’s also an industry where most people are really excited to be there and have a work and team ethic that makes shoots and projects that particular blend of hard work and camaraderie that you don’t find everywhere.
How do you approach shooting a new project?
I’m a firm believer in working to the budget. As most of my projects see myself as the director or creator as well, I believe in an approach that works with what we have in terms of coming up with an idea/creative that’s achievable and then using that as a base to take the project to the next level.
My work is also based around a holistic approach where the style of the imagery fits the edit and concept as a complete piece. On top of this I’m always looking for times when it’s possible to do things I haven’t done before as I’ve realised over the years how essential this is for growth.
Where you think your future lies? Is it in camera, directing or perhaps editing?
There’s something in my DNA that finds it hard to pick one future. I really enjoy the process of working with a crew as a director and collaborating with someone whose cinematography skills far surpass mine. The work is always better to be honest. But I have a love of coming up with an idea and doing all the bits to make something like some sort of digital Lego creation.
I’d love to direct long form content down the track but for now, just being able to make stuff and challenge myself to create hopefully world class content is very satisfying. (Pic: BTS on State Theatre shoot.)
Do you have any advice for other young people getting started in our industry?
Learn from everyone you can. My experience has been that SA has a bunch of older, amazingly talented DPs who are still excited about the industry and it’s possibilities. They are also very willing to share invaluable knowledge. You have to respect that. Perhaps the best thing is the most obvious but make as much stuff as you can. I’ve always best learnt from doing and failing at things before I’ve seen any success. The more mistakes and experiments you make, the more you grow in confidence as a professional.
Do you have any advice for the established, older generation in this job?
Work with the younger generation to help them learn the right ways, such as on set behaviour and good work ethic, etc. Freely give them advice and at the same time watch them. They will experiment and show us new ways to do things that we may not have considered. Enthusiasm is contagious and the stronger our industry is, the better it is for everyone.
If you could change anything in this industry what would it be?
I think that SA people are reasonably good when it comes to diversity but it doesn’t hurt for everyone to ask themselves, can we do more? Not just for crew roles but casting as well. I don’t think it’s enough to just say we hope for a change and I know it’s hard for anyone to get into this industry but we are probably in a time where an extra effort on our part will help create a more equal future for the talents to come.
Rich, tell us something about yourself that not many people know, do you have any hidden talents?
In my mind, I play soccer better than any of my film related talents.
Thanks Rich, as a first time entrant it was great to see you do so well at last year's Awards, well done!