Cast your mind back to when you were just 17 years of age … You might have been working at the local café or milk bar, helping your father with the family business to muster up enough cash for your first car, and like most people of that age, making a few ill-informed decisions along the way.
In the case of an ambitious photographer and videographer however, TAFE graduate and Bellingen local Willow Driver captures immaculate moments of driven individuals through his passion for the creative industries.
Rewind about six years, the catalyst for Willow’s interest in film-making stemmed from a desire to understand how older materials of the profession worked.
“My interest in digital media and film-making began when I was about 10 or 11. One of my friends and I began mucking around with my dad’s old camcorder and began editing material in Windows Movie Maker. After a while, I became serious in understanding more (about the profession) and started to develop material that I entered into competitions like Tropfest; Australia’s most prestigious short film competition and the largest short film festival in the world.”
Willow enjoys creating a “wow” effect and outlines the joy in seeing the smile on people’s faces once a project has been completed.
“I love making people think, ‘How do you do that?’ I enjoy the problem solving that comes with finding a way to make anything possible on the screen. Another aspect that particularly interests me is the psychology of cinematography. For me, that’s what makes a great film.”
Fast forward to today, and after completing a Certificate III in Media at TAFE NSW whilst still wrapping up his Year 11 school studies, this 17-year-old outlines the value in the skills he acquired through his course, coupled with the mentoring from his teacher and a local industry expert.
“Last year, I learned the specialised techniques of the photography, film and digital media areas under the guidance of my TAFE teacher Brendan Ray. Coupled with the practical skills I acquired, the most benefit I received from TAFE was being around like-minded people and making great connections. For me, those links are what really transformed film-making from a hobby into something I can now pursue as a career.
“The industry is quite flexible; one minute I can be in the classroom learning the software that allows me to change the lighting of photos effectively, and the next, I can be out with clients shooting material for their next marketing campaign.”
While this budding entrepreneur is only starting out in his career, Willow has already made his mark across the Coffs Coast and Bellingen Shire.
“Since completing the course with TAFE, I shot the material for Denise Knight’s most recent mayoral campaign, produced short films for the Rec Ya Shorts film event and filmed promotional videos for local blueberry and barbering businesses.”
Not just developing content as a side project or to meet the requirements of his TAFE studies, Willow now offers his specialised skills and services as a freelancer.
“I have started my own business (Willow Media), and am getting paid for what I love to do. The industry is forever evolving, with new technology for cameras becoming more readily available. Having an income here and there helps me to acquire the latest technology for producing my content. From purchasing new lenses to ensuring I have the best quality camera fitted to a drone, the profession can become quite expensive.”
Given the competitive nature of the creative industries, high quality material can often be produced by a team of people, each with their own niche areas of skills and expertise. Willow however, aims to bring a different approach to producing content, often being the single point of contact for everything.
“I have always been a bit of a one man band. I have never completed a project with more than one other person helping me behind the camera … This has allowed me to become pretty versatile. I do everything in my projects, from writing to directing, sound, editing, visual effects and even music.”
Brendan Ray (Willow’s former teacher), details the bright future ahead for this young individual.
“Willow has shown a real passion for the digital media industry and is already reaping the rewards by strengthening his network of contacts in the local area. The work he is producing is of a high calibre, exemplified through the repeat business from his clients.”
Willow hopes to further his success in the industry and strengthen his connections while in the meantime, outlining that he has a good problem to have.
“I definitely want to pursue a career in the digital media industry, but my problem is narrowing my skills down to one area. There is such a huge variety of jobs on a project, but I enjoy every part of the production process. It all depends (in the future) with the opportunities that I’m presented with.”
TAFE NSW offers a range of courses aimed at fostering the talents of people in the creative industries. Anyone interested in completing a digital media course led by industry professionals is encouraged to visit www.northcoasttafe.edu.au, call 1300 628 233 or drop into TAFE NSW at the Coffs Harbour Education campus.