Immigration Nation Promos challenge Engine

25 January, 2011 by IF

Press release from Engine

According to Engine EP Adam Wells the promos they recently created for SBS’ new documentary series Immigration Nation: The Secret History of Us have raised more than a few eyebrows. Wells explained, “The project came about after our CD Simon Robson (Knife Party) and I met with the team at Us Sydney. They presented four scripts for promos about a 3-part documentary series tracing Australia’s chequered immigration policy from the 1900s to the present day. With that kind of subject matter it was clear controversy wasn’t going to be far away.”


Robson took away the four scripts, one for a ‘coming soon’ promo and the others all based around specific time periods from the White Australia policy to multiculturalism and began work on developing the concepts.

Engine’s Producer on the Immigration Nation promos Amelia Peacocke said, “Immigration Nation was a thoroughly inspiring project to work on with the agency and Engine teams developing a very creative and trusting relationship on the production. One of the challenges we came across was how best to showcase the idea that the talent in each of the three episodes was holding a dark secret buried beneath their positive message about Australia's immigration policy.

"The agency came to Engine with the challenge of making the characters spin around and develop an execution that saw the talent being shot and composited so that they appeared to be the same person back to back. The execution of this idea really helped to really drive home the message.”

The Engine team had three set time periods to work with, the 1900s, 1950s and the present day – one for each episode of the series.

Robson added, “A point to note here is that the ‘back to back’ post production effect in each promo where, when the character finishes their piece, they spin 180 degrees on a turntable to highlight the two-faced and double-sided slant to some of Australia’s immigration policies also represents Australia’s alter-ego – the small print or terms and conditions that went hand in hand with the practical come one, come all message.”

For the 1900’s promo Robson and his team cast and selected talent for a dark silent film. In the 1950’s promo Robson used the same format but this time casting a post war UK cinema style ‘Walter Kronkite’ figure with a visual projected behind him ‘Hitchcock-style’, selling Australia as the land of fertility where everyone could come and build a great future. When the character flips to his alter ego the background visual burns out leaving only the brutal reality of the real terms and conditions for entry.

Robson added, “Both spots from the past were meant to cause a reaction and raise eyebrows. The modern day promo takes it one step further with a female current affairs pundit selling today’s benefits of Australia’s great multi-cultural approach only to flip as the studio environment darkens to reveal the true terms and conditions over the course of history.”

Perhaps the most impactful of the four promos was the ‘coming soon’ spot which also proved creatively challenging as it needed to deliver a very complex message.

Robson explained, “The client and agency had seen some of my past work including Taking Liberties and What Barry Says which involve interesting animation and typographical effects and wanted these looks for the ‘coming soon’ promo. This gave us great scope to create something unusual for Australian television.”

Robson creatively directed the services of top illustrator Pete McDonald and worked with the typography skills of Luca Ionescu of Like Minded Studios, brought on board by US Sydney to work on the project, to bring together a series of unique elements for the spot.

Robson continued, “This is very much the model and approach used by large international agencies – bring in the best talent for each job and work with them in-house. It worked really well with Pete and Luca’s clever images and typography helping to create a ‘moving stream of consciousness’ where Utopian messages revealed themselves in the landscape, before coming abruptly to a halt to deliver the sobering truth. As a result the ‘coming soon’ promo communicates a real Australian narrative that depicts our natural resources of wheat, meat and timber and cleverly integrates them with the mixed messages around immigration.”

Engine’s Senior Flame Artist Lee Sandiford was then tasked with doing an authentic grade for each era. As Sandiford explained, there were some particular creative challenges that needed to be overcome. He said, “We did an initial test on a basic version of the concept, showed it to the client and they loved it. Each era had a different look, feel, grade and colour. The blacks and whites were different and we had to degrade the images and footage to make them look like an old film reel that was suffering with too much light from a non-existent projector. The 180-degree turnaround effect had to be fast enough to be snappy but slow enough that the viewer can see it’s two sides of the same person.”

According to Adam Wells the SBS Immigration Nation promos are very much the shape of things to come for the company. He concluded, “This is a very good example of a complete top to tail campaign done completely at Engine. From casting, wardrobe, shooting footage and creating characters through 2D, 3D and post it was all taken care of by our in-house team. This is something that we are being asked to do more and more of and we see very much as the future of our industry.”

Immigration Nation aired at 8.30pm on Sundays on SBS One.