The Brag Media
News January 22, 2024

Australian Filmmakers Talk ‘Amazing’ Journey With Ed Sheeran

Senior Journalist, B2B
Australian Filmmakers Talk ‘Amazing’ Journey With Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran’s connection with Australia is tough to overstate. It was Sheeran’s Divide trek of 2018 that smashed Dire Straits’ seemingly unbreakable record for tickets sold in one Australian tour, and, in the process set the bar at north of one million stubs.

His most recent visit, again with Frontier Touring, part of the Mushroom Group, for which Sheeran is a family member, Ed kicked more records to the curb. The 105,000 Sheerios who filed through the gates of the MCG on March 2, 2023 was an all-time record. He outdid himself the following night, with 109,500 fans filling out the stadium.

The Englishman’s record on the ARIA Albums Chart is pristine. All seven of Sheeran’s studio album have hit No. 1 on the national tally, dating back to + (plus) in 2012 and including his latest LP Autumn Variations, his second release of 2023 and sixth No. 1 debut.

Autumn Variations owes a small amount of its success to a team of Australian creatives, led by videographer Chris Elder.

Ahead of release, Sheeran sent out a search party for music video directors. The objective: to land 14 filmmakers from 14 countries to create the official music videos for each track on the LP.

Elder was the selection for Australia, charged with cutting the clip for “Amazing.”

Through his Sydney-based video production company Haus Party, Elder has built a reputation for his work with heavy acts, including Polaris, Northland and The Amity Affliction. 

With “Amazing,” he took it home with a music video conceived over 24 hours, and brought to life in a five-day shoot, primarily captured in the Georges River Council region, a picturesque spot where he spent his childhood.

To realise the project, Elder brought on board Dreamscape Creative Agency’s Chrissy McHugh as producer.

The result, a 4-minute-plus glimpse into Australian life, mateship and culture that literally kicks goals.

Since its release Nov. 28, part of a global rollout-out strategy for the album project, “Amazing” has clocked-up 420,000 views on YouTube.

The Music Network caught up with Elder and McHugh for a walk through an “Amazing” journey.

TMN. Tell me about the background to the project, how you heard about it and how did you get involved?

CE: A friend of mine who works in the music industry, Jade Vowels, tagged me on a post that Ed Sheeran put on his Instagram, announcing a competition.

There were to be 14 different songs on his latest album Autumn Variations, and he was putting the opportunity out to 14 different countries to create 14 different videos.

I filled out a competition form that was in his bio with some basic information – including preferred song name off the album. Submitted it.

I knew I wasn’t going to win if I chose the title “American Town” — for obvious reasons. So I recall picking a song title “Plastic Bag”, because I had a weird superstition that was inspired by the movie Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.

One of the scenes at the end has two characters choosing to drink from a particular cup. The man who drank from a shiny gold cup met his demise, and Harrison Ford drank from a tired looking cup, and survived.

The name “Plastic Bag” seemed like the least shiny option, so I went with that.

Anyway, I did all that and completely forgot about it.

CM: When Elder first told me about this project, we were on another shoot, about to meet with the client.

We had a mini-celebration downstairs once the shock had settled and got right back to work with our client that day.

When I was brought in, he had already put together the concept for the clip and — in typical Elder fashion (laughs) — was extremely ambitious with his ideas, but we were all determined to pull it together on a tight deadline.

The amount of work put into this project was enormous.

Elder had established his core crew, I was managing some of the pre-production in Singapore — several hours behind and with telecommunication outages.

Everyone was pulling insane hours on-set and well into the night to prep for the following days. I’ve never seen such a dedicated, talented crew – it was really something special.

There were so many key players on this shoot. Calum Riddell (cinematographer) was an absolute artist on set. Rodrigo Badoino doubled as our on-set editor and made a cameo in our eating contest scene.

We had a four-female producer team including Elisabeth Koernicke, Monique Placko and Catherine van der Rijt (excluding Elder), the amazing AJ Polios as our 1st AD, Anna Gardiner as our production designer and Elise Zeman was our incredible art director.

We ended up with a five-page list of credits of our incredible cast and crew.

Every single person on set played their part and contributed to a huge five-day project.

On The set of “Amazing.” Photo by Declan Blackall

Recount that moment you got the green light. How did you first hear about it?

CE: About a month later, I was laying in bed just about to get ready to start my day, filming a teenage artist in a recording studio. I noticed I had received a “Congratulations” email from an Australian rep at Warner Music.

Within the email, I was told what song I had won on the album, “Amazing.”

The album had just come out, so we were able to listen to our song and all the others on the album.

I was initially surprised that it wasn’t “Plastic Bag,” but absolutely not disappointed – even after hearing the song a million times, it’s still my favourite song on the album.

Pretty unbelievable to be honest. I thought it was a scam or some spammy email for a moment. But after a few moments to digest, I had to call my friend Chrissy who was already at the studio I was going to.

After the job that day, I had a polaroid photo taken of me standing next to the screen with the email on it.

CM: I remember him relaying the news to me and I was like “Do you have to do anything/call anyone?! ” and Elder’s response literally being “We have a client upstairs – everyone else can wait.”

It’s still one of my most fond memories of this project.

Behind the scenes on “Amazing” music video shoot. Photo by Declan Blackall

Did you have any engagement with Ed himself? How did the project move forward?

CE: All of the project communication was lead by Ed’s team in the U.K. and the Australian branch of his team.

A few emails back and forth covered the fact that we could create anything at all, so long as it was within our artistic style, and it fit within YouTube guidelines

We were provided a budget to write our concept to; I finalised the video treatment, which was passed on to Ed’s team, and it was approved.

We then began the process of putting it all together, and turning this into a reality.

The video production ended up having about 100-150 total cast and crew over five days of filming.

Now that the video is live, what next? Has it opened doors for more opportunities?

CE: I’m hoping we can all use this as a springboard into the next stages of our careers. Having a name like “Ed Sheeran” in your portfolio isn’t something that is easily ignored.

After multiple print articles, and being on live TV twice, I can certainly say that the exposure has been out of this world. I’m used to being on the other side of the camera, but realise that marketing is such a big part of the artist’s journey.

This is something I came to Chrissy about just before this all blew up, because I knew it was something we had to make the most of.

I mean… I knew about this process a bit already, because my music videos have been a huge part of the journey of many musicians.

But I’d never looked inwardly.

David Fincher made music videos early in his career. Ridley Scott made TV commercials. Any words of advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to be seen, heard and make a career from it?

I was just thinking about this the other day. “Where next?” I’ve been Googling the age of Fincher and Spike Jonze, when they put out their first feature films (laughs).

Despite spending 12 years in narrative music videos, I’ve not delved into long-form filmmaking yet. Commercial is something that definitely appeals to me. I like the idea of quick turnover projects, which is why music videos have always been great.

You get to work with fellow artists, on often experimental creative projects – the perfect space for growth.

With that said, I’m sensing a shift of mindset. My next focus is most certainly more commercials, and perhaps some short films…in the lead up to a feature, one day.

As for words of advice — it’s really important to find a place that allows you to gain confidence in your own creative practice. Whatever area of filmmaking you may prefer — producing, writing, directing, camera, art department, sound, post production.

The biggest obstacle is yourself, and those self doubts.

Surround yourself with like-minded people that you can collaborate with, and use any opportunity you can to create. Even if it “sucks” at first — which is subjective, and a stepping stone, regardless.

Once you have these creations, share them with people. At first, it’ll help your self-esteem, finding pride in your work, which fuels you to make more, but it’s also a self-promoting industry. Your work is always seen by others, which promotes you as an artist.

Then just be visible in the places where people that make the hiring decisions are found, whether that’s social media, or industry events.

Determination, consistency, and persistence, is definitely something that will be a deciding factor. If you give up because things are hard, you won’t get to the level where it can become your full-time career.

Be prepared for it to take 10 years, if it has to.

Don’t be afraid to tunnel vision and become obsessed with the process of creation – it’s that discipline that will get you the furthest for sure.

But lastly, just be kind to others.

This is something that so underrated in our industry – and probably the most important to me.

You can always find talent, but when you’re working with so many people on a daily basis, being a good person goes a long way.


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