Careers Talk AUS | Tom Montefiore | Careers Talk AUS
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Tom Montefiore

Tom Montefiore, Three Point Films

What inspired you to want to work in your profession?

Movies, as well as other forms of media, were a central part of my upbringing and early education. I used to watch hundreds of films with my dad.

We’d watch everything, from ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘Citizen Kane’ to ‘Zoolander’ and ‘Austin Powers’.

I remember in highschool trying to work out what profession would make me the happiest person I could be and trying to decide between Earth Science and Philosophy.

I ended up thinking the thing that makes me the happiest, and the thing that I knew the most about, was film.

Also I like the educative aspect of media and how it is able to combine multiple disciplines. For instance if you are interested in science or philosophy, make a video about it. That’s how I saw it.

What activities did you participate in whilst you were at school to build your career and who inspired you through your schooling years to explore your passion for your profession?

I was mainly interested in watching films and discussing them which was very accessible, as opposed to making them through community based competitions and festivals which was not as accessible.

So the main way I participated in building my career, was by immersing myself in movies by making sure I was always watching new and interesting films.

I had/still have a book called ‘1001 films you need to see before you die’ and I just began working my way through that.

Once you completed school, what were the steps you took to pursue your profession?

I looked into university degrees in media and communications. Broad degrees that taught both theory and practical knowledge.

I went to UNSW and studied media and film studies. In retrospect probably should have looked at a TAFE. However, I loved film studies.

I also volunteered and went on to be employed by the university to run the YouTube channel and a large team of 40 volunteers, teaching them how to use camera gear (I hardly knew how to myself at the time).

I also actively seeked internships. I interned at MTV Networks for 3 months where I learnt more practical knowledge in editing in that time than I did in my entire degree.

Again I had never edited anything in my life and was asked to cut together the MTV news that had to broadcast at 3pm that day. YouTube tutorials helped.

I found that if you put yourself in scary scenarios, you learn very quickly. Comfort was something I tried to avoid.

What was the best piece of advice you received to encourage you to pursue your career goals?

One great piece of advice I often hear is to pick the profession that you would choose if money was not an option.

Another piece of advice that I have been given in the past is to “burn your boats” like in the trojan war.

I tried to not allow myself to have a “backup plan” so it would force me to try extra hard at what I was mainly focused on.

What have been some of the highlights of your career journey so far?

I had been working at a small advertising agency for about six months as a producer and I was given the opportunity to produce by myself a huge campaign for Telstra where I had to try and figure out how we would send the new Samsung S6 into space, connect it to a 4g network (breaking a world record) and then film the whole thing.

I was running half a dozen teams of people from air balloon experts to engineers 3D printing space ready capsules.

It was one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences of my career. The whole project ended up getting cancelled a week before the shoot because of external issues but nonetheless it was a big step for me and definitely a highlight.

When I started my own agency with two friends and moved into our office. It was a great feeling of freedom knowing that we could direct our business however we wanted and the fact that we had built something that could sustain itself was very rewarding.

When a YouTube channel I started with a friend reached 200 000 subscribers. It was a goal we had been working towards for a long time so it was a great mile stone to reach.

Keeping in mind that careers are constructed over your lifetime, what are your career goals and plans for the future? 

I feel as though I am currently at one of what I’m sure will be many cross roads throughout my career.

My micro plans for the rest of the year are that I am going to start doing a lot more work for NGO’s and brands that I personally feel are doing good work through my agency.

I am going to continue working in radio and see what opportunities come from that, and I will continue to work in the digital media space.

I also would like to go back to university and finish my honours degree and pursue postgraduate research.

So It feels like I have several potential paths to go down and it is difficult to know which to take and focus my efforts on.

Some young people who are passionate about the film/television/digital media industries don’t pursue a career after school in these fields, as they are concerned they won’t have a secure career.

What advice can you offer young people who are thinking about pursing a career in these fields? 

I would say that digital media is a huge industry that is rapidly growing.

Television is certainly declining, but media is not going anywhere, whether it is on the internet or wherever.

It is correct that some parts of the industry aren’t secure, like my own career is full of uncertainty, but a lot of the industry is quite secure.

I think the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is misleading.

I have never been to any networking related events or tried particularly hard to involve myself in the industry, but if you are friendly and work hard, networks will grow organically.

For me it was mainly people I met at university and then in my first agency job. The larger your network, the more security you have.

I would also say that from a financial point of view, if you freelance in production, you may not be working everyday which may seem strange to parents or anyone who works full time.

However, like all freelancers, the skilled work you do (even if only one day a week) will be worth a lot more than most professions.

I know people that only need to work 10 days a year and be on a 6 figure annual income.

The film industry in Australia however is a bit of a worry in terms of work. However more and more productions are being shot in Australia and also production skills aren’t localised.

There are many film industries out there (Canada is growing very fast at the moment) and lots of opportunities if you are again friendly and work hard (might need to do some real networking to get involved in film).

There is a saying that ‘if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life’. What do you find to be personally fulfilling about your career and how have you kept motivated to pursue your career goals

I honestly never wake up feeling that I have to “go to work”. Work/life balance is a difficulty I have but that is because it is very difficult to actually work out when I am working.

I personally find the problem solving nature of my work very fulfilling.

Trying to work out how you can do something with a limited amount of money and make it work really well or how to manage a group of people in an efficient way that keeps them happy and also produces great work on time.

I spend a lot of my time writing comedy for a YouTube channel, and I have always been very interested in humour from a theoretical standpoint.

So I think I have been motivated by wanting to know what people find funny, what works and what doesn’t.

I also find the “influencer” nature of my work quite interesting. I find it fulfilling writing something which I think is important for people to know and knowing that through humour, I can engage a large group of people to listen to that idea.

My whole family are teachers and I really feel like they contribute through education and I think some of my writing is similar.

A lot of my writing is also incredibly crude and potentially offensive (but hopefully funny).. So who knows.

I have kept motivated by throwing all of my eggs into one basket in the sense that the work I do, is very much a part of my life. So if I’m not motivated to be working then I’m not really motivated to be doing anything.

Any other comments or advice you can offer young people considering a career in film, television and digital media? 

Throw yourself into very difficult scenarios and if you fail you learn and if you succeed you also learn… especially in this industry.

I can say from experience, that if you mess up doing something that you aren’t really ready for, it can be embarrassing.

But once you’ve done it and been screamed at by someone for costing them thousands of dollars, chances are you are going to make sure that you never make that mistake again.

So succeed through failing in scary scenarios. The next time you do it, it won’t be scary and you probably won’t fail.

Three Point