The Big City


Roen Davis

I started as a trainee video editor in 1981 under the very fine mentorship of Brian Hicks at a small independent, Image East. Brian, the engineer and occasional editor, convinced the management that as the son of an artist and a scientist, I was ideally suited to a future in video: the intersection of art and technology. Image East was the first video post establishment in Australia to have 4 x 1 inch C-type open reel video decks with a computer edit controller and a 2 ME Ross vision mixer. I had no idea at the time how significant that was. After 2 years there, I managed to land a junior position at VTC. Another few years on I was convinced to leave there and join ECV, soon to become Pro Image Studios Sydney (an awkward acronym!) and then Apocalypse.
At VTC and ECV I worked on TV ads for everything from dodgy to blue-chip as well as music videos and tv programs including work on the channel 9 Sunday Show and then Business Sunday, Burke's Backyard and so many more. In 1989 I went freelance. I continued work for Apocalypse, particularly on the weekly Sunday Telegraph commercials - I think I ended up doing Sunday Tele for about 8 years as editor, occaisional director and various roles assisiting the agency in production. I also started doing freelance work for other big post houses: Videolab, Zero1Zero, 20/20 and others. I also started doing work for Audience Motivation, an events/business theatre company that gave me the opportunity to travel, for extraordinary events, to the Australian Gold Coast, Singapore and, in 1994, Beijing, to manage the video side of the biggest exhibition of technology that IBM had ever undertaken outside the United States. The audience for that event was the Chinese government. Around this time I also started working at Visualeyes Productions.
I was beginning to question what I was doing, for whom and to what end. My time at Visualeyes had a big impact on me. I had previously worked on tv commercials, corporate videos and music clips. There were the occasional documentaries but my early days were spent at the great Australian pioneers VTC and ECV: they were not really affordable to a tight doco budget. Visualeyes, through the 90’s and early naughties, became a powerhouse of documentary post production. I met fantastic, committed film makers and discovered that I was able to utilise what I had learned in the commercial world. At the same time I felt I was earning back a little virtue that I had lost or soiled while working on tv commercials for dodgy financial products or “how-to-sell” videos for real estate salesmen. In short, I had realised that I would sooner make diabetes awareness videos than commercials for sugary soft drinks.
In 2005, after having been freelancing at Visualeyes for about 12 years and learning that Visualeyes would be closing its doors, I broke a rule that I had set myself when I first started to work in video: never buy gear and tie yourself down. Samuel Johnson would have said that I was demonstrating a “triumph of hope over experience” as I had observed so many post companies fail. That is because post production is a volatile industry and, as passionate as I had become about the moving image, the facilitating technology has been, until recently, prohibitively expensive and pretty well obsolete every few years, requiring constant reinvestment.