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Lights on with Elizabeth McPherson

Each month, we interview a prominent communication professional about a ‘lights on’ moment they’ve experienced in their career. This month we speak with Senior Producer, New Mac Video Agency, Elizabeth McPherson.

Can you describe a major ‘lights on’ moment in your career … an event, occurrence or moment in your career when you learned a powerful lesson that significantly changed your approach?

I’m not a video native, so to speak. I’m a one-time journo, turned comms professional, turned marketer that fell in love with brand-storytelling through video, so I’m constantly having ‘lights on’ moments in this industry. The pace of change and disruption is nuts. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had to pick one though it would be when our legendary Head of Production, Greg, made cheese out of insulation foam.

What was the background to your ‘lights on’ moment?

Yep. Cheese out of foam. I can appreciate that’s a bit left field so probably requires some explaining. Our clients challenge us in all sorts of ways but this one probably takes the cake.

Our client wanted to see this: young bloke in a lift, pushes mysterious button in lift, button triggers a truckload of cheese to fall on top of him. Lift door opens and chunks of cheese spill out. Bystanders shocked. Bloke’s head is just poking out above the sea of cheese. Right…

A challenging creative concept even with the biggest budget in the world. But this wasn’t the biggest budget in the world. Far from it. They couldn’t afford the props artist that this creative concept was hinged upon. Most people in our situation would have walked away at this point, but not Greg. Greg painstakingly researched cheese as a prop. Greg weighed up the texture, odour and budget implications of both real and fake cheese props. Greg drove multiple van-loads of extremely-hard-to-find yellow floor insulation from Hoppers Crossing to our Collingwood studio. Greg bought a jigsaw. Greg spent days and nights cutting cheese-like foam into cheese-like wedges. Greg’s hand contorted into a claw.

What was the major lesson you learned?

I reflect on the foam cheese a lot because I love that Greg made the seemingly impossible possible by thinking creatively and being solutions focused. Greg approaches all of his work this way and so nothing throws him or sends him into a tailspin when things pop up or go wrong at the last minute. He improvises.

How have you applied that lesson in your career and what has the impact been?

Greg’s approach is infectious so all of our production team is solutions focused. So, when I’m thrown a curve ball or put under pressure I think of the cheese. When you approach everything with a confidence that you’ll solve it somehow, it’s immediately calming. You don’t panic or catastrophise, you just work it out. In terms of the impact this has, it keeps things in perspective and also means that our clients value us for our ingenuity and problem solving.

How do you believe other communication professionals could benefit from your experience and the lesson you’ve learned?

If it’s not your default (it really wasn’t mine), just try it. Next time you get put on the back foot, back yourself to think creatively to weave through those weeds.

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