I moved to the UK in 2004, which wasn’t my plan at all. I left Australia to live in North America, and came over to Europe to spend summer travelling around in a (too small) van with six friends. After the summer I ran out of money and ended up in London. I had three hundred pounds to my name, so I did a fair share of couch surfing and working three jobs at once.
To be honest, when I first came here I couldn’t think of anything worse than living here. I got my UK working holiday visa before I left Australia as a last resort, to earn some emergency cash to keep travelling. But there’s a charm here that you don’t anticipate, and it draws you in. And then there is meeting your English husband, and having an English baby.
Now I’ve been here for nine years. I’m half head honcho at Design/VFX studio Blue Spill. I work predominantly as a designer for theatrical feature documentaries, in the UK and US. I arrived in London with a commercial motion graphics background and moved into visual effects. After spending some time as a freelance Flame artist, I started working in feature documentaries, and a fork sprung in my career path. I was offered a full time Flame position at one of the leading post houses, but I followed my gut and stuck with documentaries. It was a risky choice, but it’s definitely been the right one for me.
My husband Anthony and I worked together as Flame artists several years ago, and since then had been helping out on each other’s jobs. We realised that joining forces made sense for everyone, us and our clients. We opened Blue Spill earlier this year. Running our own business has been fantastic! And I say that with a big smile and gritted teeth simultaneously. Without a doubt it’s been challenging setting up. As a freelancer you’re immune to a lot of the business side of things then suddenly you’re in control of rent and bills and making sure there’s biscuits for clients. It’s also incredibly rewarding, working on larger projects and bringing in freelancers, dealing with clients and projects in a more inclusive environment. We feel very excited about where we are and where we’re going.
Last year I fulfilled a significant designer dream wish list by designing the 50 year anniversary Bond film, Everything or Nothing. It was a pretty big undertaking, as Bond fans are renowned for being a touch on the obsessive side. Particularly, designing the opening gun barrel sequence was met with trepidation but it went down really well with fans, so that was a big relief. The film was such a pleasure to work on, and a great excuse to work my way through a rather hefty boxset.
I love working in feature documentaries. Every film is so different, and there’s an importance which doesn’t often come around in commercial design work. I love getting the film at rough cut and working with the director to form a style. It’s those early designs which are the most difficult but also the most rewarding. Over the years I’ve worked on some amazing films, including nine Sundance films, three Academy Award short listed films and a Grierson award winner. This year I designed four films at Sundance, which has been pretty exceptional!
I think Australians are drawn to the UK because in career terms, it’s one of the Everests. Being successful in places like London and New York is quite lucrative, and that challenge is very appealing to undertake. Combining that with the world’s travel at your doorstep, and it’s a no brainer! However, if I were doing it again I would be more aware Australian experience is largely overlooked in this industry. I thought having three years doing commercials for Channel Ten would have bode well, but I may as well have been working at a bakery. Londoners want you to have London experience. That was difficult at first, but once I had my first job then it was smoother sailing. Be prepared to go backwards a little before going forwards.
I don’t miss much at all about Australia, until I think about questions like what do I miss — then I miss everything! I miss my family and friends, foremost, and then I miss the landscape. I grew up around the bush and as a child was always in it, so I miss that a lot. I love cycling here, and the green countryside. There is so much happening, and you can see amazing artists easily and regularly. The Saatchi Gallery is overlooked by most visitors, it’s free and incredible, and offers something totally different to the usual ‘gallery/museum’ trip. Secondly I’d recommend the London Fields Lido. I’ve swum in a fair amount of pools around the world and this is without a doubt my favourite.
Weirdly, I now love London, because I’ve tried so hard to hate it, but for all its grey skies, I really do love it. Living here was much better than I expected, I thought everyone whisked about in shades of grey, under a perpetually grey sky, whinging about a sun they’d only seen once or twice. But the weather here becomes incidental as time goes on. Like everything in life, you adjust.
My husband’s family has a beach house in Devon so we head there as often as possible when we need to get out of London. Otherwise we’re in Western Europe — such short flights to amazing food and beautiful sunshine. I realised recently my two year old son has been on five trips abroad – that’s something you’d be hard pressed to be doing from Australia!
For more information on Blue Spill see Bluespill.co.uk.