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The Making of Drama Downunder

The Making of Drama Downunder – Go behind the scenes


As a followup to my previous post on the Drama Downunder campaign and why it is Aust longest running sexual health campaign, today we go behind the scenes on the making of Drama Downunder.

Virginia Cummins is a Melbourne based commercial and editorial photographer with an extensive portfolio of work for advertising campaigns and magazines both in Australia and overseas. She is represented by agent Miss Bossy Boots. Virginia has worked on the campaign from the very beginning, all the way through to the new 2015 campaign. I recently had the opportunity to interview Virginia and ask about her work on the campaign.

The Making of Drama Downunder

1. Tell me about your approach to the photography when you were first briefed on the campaign and how you brought the creative strategy to life.

Colin Batrouney from the Victorian Aids Council (VAC) and I first met when I was shooting his portrait. Early on we talked about photography as an art form and when we began work on Drama Downunder this was how we approached the campaign – as an art project. I wanted to give the images a softer atmospheric look, using daylight in my studio. It was a point of difference to the general super-sharp, flash-lit look of most advertising at the time.
That set the style for the whole campaign really. At the start it was just me and Colin working together. For the very first image we set various cardboard shapes alight, to create the flaming undies, in the garage underneath the VAC. It was thrilling! We’ve always had a lot of fun.

Dram Down Under

2. What is your most memorable shot from the campaign.
We’ve never sourced stock images for this campaign, everything you see has been photographed….including many animals.
The most memorable shooting day for me was when we had to capture images of the budgies and the giant albino python who would, in post, emerge out of Frank Bonnici’s undies. We had to make sure we scheduled it so the birds wouldn’t smell the snake and get agitated.

The Making of Drama Downunder

By then there was a sizeable team on set, my assistants and I had built a bird enclosure in the studio out of netting. I was inside it, shooting on as the bird wrangler released the budgies over and over again. They flew straight at me, which was great for the shot, but they were hanging off my hair and crapping all over my shoulders…..much to everyone’s delight! Needless to say, shooting the snake later that day presented it’s own problems.


3. Let’s talk about the 2015 campaign. How is it different from the previous material in the campaign.

Our approach to this year’s campaign was quite different, after so many years of running images of Frank he has become the recognisable face of the campaign. This has given us more freedom to change the style of the images.

This year my brief was to create seasonal nature scenes in the studio as a setting for Frank in his undies. We had a big team collaborating, including talented stylist Andi Plowman who sourced all the props. She stole the grass from vacant city blocks and ran through the streets collecting Autumn leaves. The butterflies arrived flat in the mail and had to be injected with hot water and ‘cracked’ into an open winged position. We always work with Ross Goddard from Counterfeit who does a great job with the retouching, but these images required very little post production work. I’m proud to say we did everything in-camera, even the rain.


Here is a behind the scenes look at the making of the 2015 campaign.


by Konrad Markham

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