Each story has been a chance for us to connect with a new perspective on life and the chance to cut our teeth on new storytelling and filmmaking techniques.
The series hasn't always played by the ‘best practice’ rules of online video either. Our films frequently go over the 'optimal' 2-minute line and yet, by trusting in the strength of a good story, we’ve still managed to produce award-winning stories that also break our client's results expectations.
In truth, most of us thought this series ended a year ago, but as chance revealed, we got one last opportunity to add a seventh and final film to the set.
Manfred and Helen from Five Freedoms Animal Rescue came up early in our character sourcing for the series' second season. And from the moment we first chatted over the phone, we knew their story was one we wanted to tell for Australia Post.
The shoot took place over two days outside of Melbourne in the Wombat State Forest. Given the pitch was a baby kangaroo shelter, there was no shortage of willing volunteers to come and help. Our intern at the time, Merel, a wide-eyed dutch student, came away forever changed by the experience.
We are indebted to Manfred and Helen for opening their home to us and letting us into their reality. Their lives are some of the most unselfish I personally have witnessed for a while. Everything goes on the line in their attempt to save and treat as many injured wildlife as possible. Their personal sacrifices were a real inspiration for us as a team.
Finishing this film is bittersweet for me. The series started at a time when Commoner was going through a series of big internal changes. I could not say it was the most stable ground to be launching a big ambitious project from. There's a whole lot of people I need to thank for making it all happen.
To Katie, Kati and Ray from my team, who worked tirelessly with often very little budget 'wiggle room' to set up the scaffold for each story and play pivotal roles in bringing each to screen. To Thomas Hyland, who directed the last two films, bringing new ideas and enthusiasm to the mix. To our DP Cesar Salmeron, who always pushed for something better and happily took on every challenge with enthusiasm and grit.
To our client Australia Post and our client-side producer, Miles Fahey, who came on every shoot with us, from the beaches of northern NSW to the blistering heat of remote Western Australia. To make these kinds of intimate stories we work as a small, nimble crew, and nothing is more important than a trusting client who isn't afraid to get their hands dirty. Thank you to Miles and Australia Post for accepting our challenges and championing the work.
And to myself. I've spent my life trading on the role of storyteller, but until recently, hadn't been convinced that 'director' was the right fit. So when I took the directing reins on the first five films, each was a new and often frightening learning experience.
When this series began it was a goalpost for the kind of work that I always wanted my company to produce. Now with seven goalposts (actually eight, but that's another story...) to look back on, I am indebted to everyone inside and outside Commoner, past and present, who helped make these stories possible.
The above is a director's cut of Manfred’s film that Thomas and I worked on long after the client cut was complete. In branded content there are always compromises in a final cut, but with this story in particular, we felt there were some important story points that needed to exist.