On friday the 17th of April, an incredible experience began to unfold. After 12 months of preproduction meetings, we finally shot a massively complicated production called “Drop the Bomb” at Millmerran Queensland Australia. It involved a competition held by the Fosters Group Australia and the Austereo Network where two winners, one selected from a Carton of Carlton Draught Beer and the other through the Hamish and Andy Radio show, got the opportunity to throw a car from a plane at 14,000 ft! The Austereo Winner was selected through a process where the competitor elected their own vehicle to be the Car that would eventually be thrown out the back of a small Cargo plane. The Carton Winner won the chance to be the Bombardier while automatically winning a new car in the process. If he landed the “Bomb” on the target, he would win a further $100,000 dollars Australian! A week ago, the Austereo winner was announced, setting the stage for our crew to transport the winners car to the Gold Coast Queensland. There, Bruce Bright and his Crew stripped the car of all possible environmental problems such as Engine, fuel tanks, oil lines etc plus also making it safe for the Skydiving team to jump out of the plane with it. This meant that doors, boot and bonnet were welded shut and Glass removed and replaced with perspex. Essentially the car was as is however with a little modification to make it safe and environmentally clean. Bruce’s team had to work overnight to get the car ready and transport it to the “drop” location.
Millmerran was chosen as the most suitable spot in Australia to conduct the “drop”. This was because it was in Queensland and the Darling Downs area has the most ideal weather for this time of the year. We needed perfect wind conditions and no rain for the “drop” to be safely executed. On thursday morning, the crew began to arrive in Millmerran and we virtually took over the town. In fact, some had to stay in nearby Pittsworth. Austereo and their Crew arrived also with Hamish and Andy in tow. The fun began. Hamish and Andy are amazing to watch as they began to perform in front of our cameras. They are true gentleman, while staying incredibly witty and mischievous at the same time. Between them, Andy won the job of accompanying Bill, the Carton Winner in the plane while Hamish was to stay on the ground in the bunker with the other Winner, Gillian.
Technically the job was both straight forward and hugely complex! There were so many cameras on the scene controlled by not too many camera operators. I had a fantastic camera assistant in David Cordell from Brisbane. He and I had worked together before on a US TV show called “Time Trax” many years ago. In fact, Bruce Bright SPFX, Leigh Tait the Grip, and Sound recordist Craig Walmsley had also worked on “Time Trax” and “Mission Impossible” the TV show as well as “Movies of the week” shot in Queensland. David Cordell and his Clapper Loader/ Data Wrangler Brendan Shambrook kept 2 x Sony EX1′s, A Sony HD XDCAM 700, 2 x Sony HD Mini Lipstick Cameras, LC555 Standard def Camera, a security Camera and Transmitter, and half a dozen different decks running! As well as this, Warwick Field Operated the Arial Camera Systems supplied Cineflex Helicopter mounted camera. We also had a DV Clamshell and a Receiver in the Bell Jet ranger Piloted by legendary Pilot Jeff McTaggert. At the bomb drop site, we also had two disposable but brand new HD cameras that recorded 1080P mounted on tripods. These camera cost $369 each and are made by an Australian Electronics company called Kogan. The Austereo crew also had a Sony EX1 operated by Tim Bartley. All of these cameras recorded images that the post team had to rapidly deal with. Editor Richard Hamer and Technical Director Aaron Bickford setup a completely mobile edit suit in a Winnabego van. They had several Intel Mac Pro’s and Laptops to ingest countless number of Cards from the cameras plus digitise several DV and HDV tapes. Using a local Lan service and Raid array Aaron was able to feed Richard with Images quickly. Austereo also had their Editor, Angus Stevens hook his system into the network. He had to deliver 5 edits online by 3 pm on Friday. Considering that the drop was to take place by 9.30AM that was not a lot of time. Richard assisted him by selecting out takes from all the camera angles along the way. Their edits were uploaded via 3G USB sticks which is amazing in its self!
The job had arrived to me through Producer Jason Byrne and Sonia von Bibra at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. I had worked with Creative Director Ant Keogh and Sonia before on Australian Defense Force Commercials in the past. When Ant described his concept to me I must admit I thought this was pie in the sky but amazing if it was pulled off successfully. 12 months later and not only is it done but the experience was unbelievable. As I have already described in an earlier blog, I’m now a student Skydiving Pilot! However, what is amazing is the Ant not only convinced his Agency to go through with it but also the Client to take on both a risky venture and an extra ordinarily difficult production. To their credit, the Fosters Group marketing team had the courage to see it through, which in this day and age is very rare to see such a symbiotic relationship between a Client and and Ad Agency. A very comprehensive safety briefing was conducted by Jason Byrne, in front of everyone including the Client, highlighting all manner of hazards. With so many Aircraft and Parachutists in the air at the one time, a free falling vehicle, Farm houses, Contestants and onlookers – safety was a huge concern. The word had got out around the district about the drop, so the local police had been tasked to lock down a 25 square kilometer radius around the drop zone to make sure no one was within the tightly controlled target area.
On Friday, after having performed several test runs with the Short Skyvan Cargo plane, fully loaded up with a Ford Laser Car, several skydivers, Myself, Andy Lee and the Contestant Bill, took off to commence the bomb run. The Skyvan Pilot Craig Jones and Load Master Phil Onis went through the motion of the count down that opened the narrow window where Bill could give the go ahead to throw the Car out the back! He had just 10 seconds at 14,000 ft where it was safe to do so. After which, Phil and Craig were to call “Shutdown” to stop the process continuing. Our Skydivers are some of the best anywhere. Nir Davidson organised the crew from the Melbourne Skydiving Center based at Lilydale Airfield in Victoria. His crew included too many to mention here but I have to say they were some the nicest bunch of young radicals you have ever met! I will mention Ossie Khan who ended up leaving the Plane moments before the Car was dropped. His Cameras, which were strapped to his head, captured some of the most exciting footage of the day! However all the Skydivers gave myself and anyone who had to face the terror of throwing themselves out of a perfectly good aircraft the best encouragement and advice possible. In the end, I think I did three Tandem jumps with Nir and I loved everyone of them. I got used to hearing as I stepped aboard the plane “were going for another tandem mate!” My job at this stage, was to record interviews with Bill and Andy as they threw the Car out the back. Additionally, I had to turn on Kino Lighting Tubes strapped to the ceiling by Michael Smith and Leigh Tait via a battery and Inverter that had been setup by my feet. These only lasted for about 15 minutes so they need to be saved when not required. I wanted a security Camera mounted to the Car, connected to a high powered transmitter so that we could record a point of view from within the car as it fell to earth. However, it also had a limited battery life and needed to be switched on only moments before the Car fell. A Receiver in the Aircraft also needed to be powered up, as did the Clamshell that recorded the image. Because there was not enough room for a sound recordist, I was also managing the Audio levels via a handheld microphone which Andy used. As a result, I was relatively busy inside that aircraft, while also mentally preparing myself for the big step off the back door! Somehow, it all went to plan. Bill gave the go ahead and Nir and his guys threw the Car out the back on his command. The Plane, jolted violently for a moment as Pilot Craig found a new equilibrium. I kept recording until Andy witnessed the successfully impact of the Car onto the target! After a joyous few minutes, I put down the camera, stopped the now dead signal from recording on the Clamshell Recorder and switched off the Receiver. As the Plane circled around the target, I readied myself for a skydive! Firmly strapped to Nir, we walked off the back step in to the big blue!
Hurtling towards the ground with my eyes wide open, I watched in awe at the huge target which was directly under me. A massive 1 kilometer diameter target with a 20 x20 meter Bulls-eye with a Carlton Draught logo on it. Inside the perimeter of the target was the Car! Successfully landing ourselves, Nir and I waited for the others to drive up to the completely flat Ford Laser. I filmed them arriving. All in all, it was quite a morning!
Later that morning, Jason Byrne and production manager Elizabeth Rocka stood in front of the Hangers at Millmerran, when all of a sudden, the perfect weather was shattered by thunder. Seconds later and the heavens burst with pouring rain. We laughed a sigh of relief that the job was completed safely and on time for the Austereo guys to upload it to their website!
In summery I have to say that this was quite possibly one of the strangest jobs I have ever finished and yet one of the most interesting. After completing hundreds of Military jobs, many jobs that required the use of Aircraft, highly technical equipment, difficult locations and situations that placed me out of my comfort zone – this production managed to do it all, but I loved it! Working with Ant Keogh again was also really special. I have seen him grow over the years to be one of the best Ad Writers in history. I truly believe this. For those that I haven’t mentioned, please accept my apologies. There were so many crew members involved from both Queensland and Victoria that I haven’t mentioned in this article. There simply wasn’t enough room but these guys also contributed in such a profound way that resulted in a very successful shoot that ended in a safe way. Thank you.
If you get the chance, have a look at what went to air Online only hours after the event from remote Queensland. Please visit www.hamishandandy.com.au to see their Videos and Galleries. There is also a Youtube edit (not featuring Hamish or Andy) available to view below. My second Skydive is online below also for what it’s worth!! Enjoy!
Here is a link to the HD Camcorders made by Kogan